One of the most legendary places we have ever been to is the Galapagos Islands. This chain of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador is home to some of the most unique biodiversity on earth and is a truly amazing place to visit. That said, the Galapagos Islands are not a cheap destination, so budget backpackers tend to skip out on the destination in favor of cheaper alternatives.

If you are in search of some pro tips on traveling the Galapagos on the cheap, you have come to the right place! In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know in order to see these beautiful islands without taking out a second mortgage.

How to Get to the Galapagos Islands

galapagos on a budget san cristobal island

The Galapagos Islands are located around 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from mainland Ecuador. The only way to get there is to first fly into either Quito or Guayaquil. You can then choose to fly into one of the two airports on the islands, Baltra (Santa Cruz) and San Cristobal. 

Baltra Airport is by far the most popular option to fly into, as Santa Cruz is the most developed island in the Galapagos. That said, it is a bit of a mission to get from the airport to the main town of Puerto Ayora. First, you’ll take a bus from the airport to the water taxi station. Then you’ll hop on a water taxi and cross from Baltra Island to Santa Cruz. Once on the main island, you can choose to either take a taxi or a bus to Puerto Ayora, which takes around 45 minutes to one hour.

We recommend flying into San Cristobal Airport (which is what we did). This airport is literally a 15 minute walk from the main town on the island of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, so getting to your accommodation is MUCH easier.

Which Islands to Visit in the Galapagos

galapagos on a budget beach on santa cruz

The Galapagos are made up of 13 major islands and more than 60 smaller islands. If you are planning a budget trip to the Galapagos, you will likely be staying on the islands themselves. If you are planning to do a cruise, make sure to check what islands the cruise will be stopping at. While each of the islands in the Galapagos has something to offer, these are some of the best islands you should visit during your trip.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the most populous and second-largest island of the Galapagos. It also acts as the main tourist hub and has the busiest town in the region. In Santa Cruz, you’ll likely be based in the largest town, Puerto Ayora. Puerto Ayora is the location of the famous Charles Darwin Research Station, where you can see cute hatchlings and young tortoises. Of course, you can also find adult tortoises here, but we’d say the best place to see those famed giant tortoises is at the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, located inland, a short taxi ride away from the town.

Besides the tortoises, Santa Cruz has some gorgeous beaches around the island, the most famous of which is Tortuga Bay, which is also home to marine iguanas and brown pelicans, among other amazing wildlife. Los Gemelos, the twin pit craters, are also worth a visit.

San Cristobal

galapagos on a budget dolphin

San Cristobal was our favorite island in the Galapagos. We got engaged here, so we might be a bit biased! This easternmost island is the second-most populous island, with Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of San Cristobal. This charming town hosts the Interpretation Center, a fantastic spot to learn about the islands’ history, ecosystems, and conservation efforts. Plus, it’s a great place for a walk and discovering hidden snorkel spots.

One of the main attractions in San Cristobal is La Lobería, a beach home to a large colony of friendly sea lions. Here, you can snorkel alongside playful sea lions, which is honestly a top-10 experience for us. For bird enthusiasts, a visit to Punta Pitt is a must, as it is one of the few places in the Galapagos where you can see all three species of boobies.

Another must-visit is Kicker Rock, which is perfect for diving and snorkeling with hammerhead sharks, rays, and an abundance of colorful fish.

Isabela

The largest island in the Galapagos is Isabela. However, you might be surprised to know that Isabela is also one of the most remote islands despite its size. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find good wi-fi here, so it’s a great place to unplug and unwind.

One of the island’s main attractions is the Sierra Negra Volcano, which boasts one of the largest active volcanic craters in the world. The island also boasts more types of giant tortoises than the other Galapagos islands, so this is a great base to get to know these gentle giants, especially if you head to the Tortoise Center.

Beyond that, one of the biggest draws to visiting Isabela is the wildlife. While you’ll see marine iguanas, sharks, and various bird species, here, you can also hang out with Galapagos penguins and flamingos! Other attractions include the sobering Wall of Tears and Las Tintoreras islet.

Floreana

The most remote inhabited island in the Galapagos is Floreana. In fact, this small island only has a population of 150! This is a very calm place to visit and is perfect for those wanting to get off the main tourist path and explore a less-discovered part of the islands. The main town of Floreana is Puerto Velazco Ibarra, which is where you’ll find only 4 hotels on the island. 

Floreana has many of the same draws as the other islands in the Galapagos, such as world-class snorkeling, diving, bird-watching, and hiking. That said, one of the most unique things to do on the island is to visit Post Office Bay. Here, you’ll find one of the coolest mail systems in the world! Since the island doesn’t have a standard post system, residents leave their letters in this box, and whenever tourists or supply ships come to the island, they take letters with them to their final destination.

Other Islands

There is no shortage of islands to visit in the Galapagos. While the four islands above are what we recommend, here are some of the other amazing islands to visit. You really can’t go wrong!

  • Baltra
  • Daphne
  • Fernandina
  • Santa Fe
  • Pinzon
  • Darwin
  • Española
  • Bartolomé
  • Wolf

How to Get Around the Galapagos Islands

galapagos on a budget sunset on santa cruz

Obviously, you’ll likely want to see more than one island during your trip to the Galapagos. There are regular daily ferries between the four inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabella, and Floreana). Santa Cruz acts as the hub for getting between the different islands, so all ferry routes stop in Santa Cruz. For example, if you want to travel from San Cristobal to Isabella, you’ll stop in Santa Cruz, change ferries, and then head to Isabella. 

To get around the interior of the islands, your best bet is to take taxis, though you can also take buses in Santa Cruz or ride a bicycle (beware of the steep hills!). The good news is that the main towns of each island are easily walkable, so the only time you’ll need to take a taxi is when exploring the remote areas of the national park.

In Santa Cruz, you can also take water taxis to get from the main port to other parts of the island, such as Las Grietas or Tortuga Bay.

How to Travel the Galapagos Islands on a Budget

When we first started planning our trip to Ecuador, we thought, ‘There’s no way we’re going to be able to afford the Galapagos.’ But after some research, we discovered that it is actually relatively easy to travel to the Galapagos on a budget! After much intensive research prior to our trip and our 10-day stay on the islands, here are our top tips for traveling the Galapagos Islands on a budget.

Skip the Cruise, Stay on the Islands

First things first, skip the cruise! The main reason why we, and so many others, thought the Galapagos to be an expensive destination is that most tourists visit the islands via cruise. Of course, there are some major pros to taking a cruise, as you’ll be able to explore remote areas and visit many uninhabited islands. But if you’re on a budget, you can stay on the islands themselves for a fraction of the price and have just as great of a time. While you may not necessarily see the more remote corners of the archipelago, you will see the highlights, and you’ll still find yourself on the most stunning beaches surrounded by wildlife and next to zero people.

Finding Budget Accommodation in the Galapagos

When staying on the islands, you have a limited variety of accommodations to choose from, but don’t worry; most are relatively affordable. The cheapest option is to book a hostel, which is ideal for a solo traveler.

However, we found that the best way to travel to the Galapagos is to go with one other person with whom you can share a room. That way, you can easily split a nicer (but still economical) room between two people, setting you back around $20 to $100 USD per person per night!

Here are some great budget accommodation options in the Galapagos islands (ranging from around $20 to $65 USD a night per person):

Consider Volunteering!

While we personally did not do this, we met quite a few travelers who were funding their time in the Galapagos with the help of volunteering. You can find some pretty cool volunteer gigs on sites like Workaway and Worldpackers. On these platforms, you get free accommodation and food in exchange for about 20 hours of work a week. Work can range from beach clean-ups to working at a hostel. Pick whatever you fancy!

Eat Affordable Local Food

If you love seafood, you’re going to be in heaven in the Galapagos. Think: tuna steaks for every meal. Yum! While there is certainly lots of expensive food catered to tourists in the Galapagos, if you eat locally, you can eat for as cheap as $5 USD per meal – especially at lunchtime! Dinner can be more expensive but still fairly priced.

To save money, we booked accommodation with a kitchen. We generally had lunch out and cooked dinner ourselves by buying produce and fish from the local markets.

Shop at the Local Markets for Fish and Produce

On that note, if you are planning to cook some at home, shop at the local markets for the best price! The actual shops and “supermarkets” mark up their items, so to save money, go where the locals go. By shopping locally, we even managed to score two giant slices of fresh tuna steak to cook at home for $5!

Don’t Book Activities Ahead of Time

galapagos on a budget humpback whale

You might be tempted to book your activities before your arrival, but DON’T! Tours and activities are more expensive online than in person. Instead of booking ahead, we recommend spending the first day walking around town and comparing prices. You’ll find that you won’t need to book anything more than a day or two in advance!

But Definitely Book Flights Ahead of Time!

One thing you should definitely book ahead of time is the flight, of course! There are a limited number of flights going to the Galapagos, so make sure to book this ahead of time to ensure you get to the islands. You’re also way more likely to book flights with a more reasonable price point if you book ahead of time rather than at the last minute!

Negotiate Prices for Tours

The other advantage of booking your activities in person is that you can haggle the price—especially if you book more than one tour with the same company. Negotiating prices for tours is very common in the Galapagos. Or, in our case, we simply booked a tour at the asked price and then haggled down the price of snorkel equipment rental for a simple day on a local beach. Either way, it’s a money-saver!

Travel in a Group

If you are traveling with at least 2 others, you can easily negotiate even cheaper prices for booking tours in a group. Plus, when you travel in a group, this makes transportation cheaper, which is a huge plus, since you’re likely to book transport for a day to get around to more remote beaches and spots around the island you’re staying in.

Visit During the Shoulder Season

When you visit during the peak tourist season, you’ll be hit with higher prices for tours and accommodation. But if you visit during the shoulder season, you’ll still get the lovely experience of being on the Galapagos islands at a more affordable price point. The high season for the Galapagos (mind you, there’s no true “high” season at the Galapagos, as there is only a limited number of tourists allowed so as to not disturb the wildlife) is December to February and mid-June to early September.

Visiting anytime between the two high seasons may be more cost-effective when it comes to accommodation, tours, and even cruises if you want to ball out a bit more!

Take Advantage of Free (and Cheap) Activities

galapagos on a budget el chato ranch

While the tours are a big draw, and you should definitely take advantage of them during your stay, there are also plenty of free activities to keep you busy. We ended up only doing 4 tours during our 10-day stay in the Galapagos. And the rest of the days we simply filled with free (and cheap) activities!

Here are some examples of free activities you should do on the main islands.

Free things to do in Santa Cruz:

  • Visit Tortuga Bay
  • Check out the Puerto Ayora Fish Market
  • Check out Los Gemelos and the lava tunnels ($5 + transport)
  • Go to El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve ($5 + transport)
  • Swim in Las Grietas ($10)
  • Go to the Darwin Research Center

Free things to do in San Cristobal:

  • Visit Tortuga Bay
  • Snorkel at Tijeretas Bay
  • Go to Playa Punta Carola
  • Swim with sea lions at Playa Loberia
  • Check out the Puerto Ayora Fish Market
  • Check out the Galapagos Islands Interpretation Centre

Free things to do in Isabela:

  • Snorkel at Concha de Perla
  • See the Wall of Tears
  • Check out flamingos at Flamingo Lake
  • Check out the tortoise breeding center, Centro De Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza

Bring Snorkel Equipment with You

Snorkel equipment can easily set you back around $5 to $10 a day, depending on whether you only need the mask or also want fins. This can easily add up, so we recommend buying some snorkel equipment beforehand. For example, this snorkel set is $40, so you would get that money back and more if you snorkel for at least 4 days. Or, if you want something even more budget-friendly and are a confident swimmer, you can get this snorkel mask for around $25!

But keep in mind that most tours will provide you with snorkel equipment. However, with that said, the snorkels provided by tours were not the best quality, so it’s worth bringing your own equipment anyway!

How to Book a Galapagos Islands Cruise on a Budget

galapagos on a budget san cristobal beach

While the cheapest way to travel the Galapagos islands is to stay on the islands themselves, there are tips you can use to book a cruise on a budget. Galapagos cruises will generally set you back thousands upon thousands of dollars, but you can save significant money by keeping these tips in mind!

Save Money with a Last Minute Cruise

While we did not end up doing a Galapagos cruise, we were told time and time again by travelers and locals that the best way to save money on a cruise is to book last minute. If you like to book ahead of time and know your travel plans, this can be a bit of a pain. But if you want to save money, a last-minute cruise is the way to go. To do this, simply rock up to Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz and ask around for deals!

Go During the Shoulder Season

The busiest seasons in the Galapagos also happen to be the most expensive. So, if you can, avoid going from December to February and June to August in particular. If there are fewer people on holiday, cruise ships are less likely to jack up the price and be more responsive to haggling attempts.

Reach Out to Cruise Ships Directly

Another trick for finding an affordable cruise is to contact the cruise ship directly. This way, you can avoid any agency or website fees you may encounter when booking through a travel agent.

What to Do in the Galapagos (That Won’t Cost a Fortune)

galapagos on a budget garrapatero

Once you’re at the Galapagos, you’re not going to want to sit around and do nothing. But you also don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a cruise or activities, so what should you do? Don’t worry; there’s honestly SO MUCH to do in the Galapagos that are free or simply won’t cost you an arm and leg.

While what you do is going to differ depending on what island you’re on, you should be able to find the below activities wherever you go.

For island-specific information, head up to our section on free things to do in San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela.

Go Snorkeling

The coolest budget-friendly activity you can do while in the Galapagos is snorkel. You can rent snorkel gear from any tourist shop for around $5 for goggles and another $5 for the fins. Or, you can bring your own. Once you have your gear, you can ask where you can head to on the island for the best snorkeling. In our experience, the tourist centers we rented oour gear from had the best information and recommendations.

Here are the snorkel spots we recommend:

  • Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz)
  • Las Grietas (Santa Cruz) – $10 to enter
  • Tijeretas Bay (San Cristobal) – Free and our favorite snorkel spot
  • Playa Baquerizo (San Cristobal) – Difficult to get to, but worth it!
  • La Loberia (San Cristobal)
  • Puerto Chino (San Cristobal)
  • Concha de Perla (Isabela)

We have enjoyed snorkeling all over the world, but snorkeling in the Galapagos is really something else. Besides all the gorgeous fish and turtles, you’ll have the opportunity to swim alongside very friendly sea lions who want nothing more than to make eye contact and swim around you. It’s a pretty incredible experience!

Head to One of the Many Beautiful Beaches

This kind of goes hand in hand with snorkeling, but another free activity you can enjoy no matter where in the Galapagos you are is lounging at the beach. The Galapagos have some of the most stunning beaches. Some, you can reach by foot. We have walked up to an hour to get to more remote beaches. However, for others, you will definitely need to organize some form of transport to get there and back.

If you are heading to a more remote beach you cannot walk to, organize a day trip with a taxi driver so you can knock off several spots on the island in one go. Or have the taxi driver drop you off and arrange a time for them to pick you up again. Don’t forget to take a picture of the license plate so you don’t forget who your driver is!

In addition to the beaches I’ve already mentioned above for snorkeling, here are some other spots you mustn’t miss out on:

  • Garrapatero Beach (Santa Cruz)
  • Playa Mann (San Cristobal)
  • Playa Punta Carola (San Cristobal)
  • Puerto Chino (San Cristobal)
  • Puerto Villamil Beach (Isabela)
  • La Playita (Isabela)
  • La Playa de Amor (Isabela)

Explore the Towns

galapagos on a budget santa cruz fish market

The wildlife may be the main attraction of the Galapagos, but you’ll be spending some time in the towns themselves. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the towns in the Galapagos. Plus, you’ll find plenty to do within the towns themselves.

In Santa Cruz, you can:

  • Go to the Charles Darwin Research Station
  • Try out different restaurants
  • Check out the fish market
  • Look at baby sharks from the dock
  • Enjoy a night out

In San Cristobal, you can:

  • Visit the Interpretation Center
  • Hike to Cerro Tijeretas
  • Take pictures of the many sea lions casually lazing around the town
  • Have lunch at one of the food stalls by Playa Mann
  • Check out different restaurants

In Isabela, you can:

  • Have fish at the local restaurants
  • Drink at the bars by the waterfront

Go Hiking

There are a couple of different hiking spots on the main islands. If you’re a hiker or simply want something different to do other than go swimming and snorkeling, these are the best hikes on the Galapagos islands that are easy to do without a tour:

  • Hike from Bellavista to Cerro Crocker (Santa Cruz)
  • Hike to Playa Baquerizo (San Cristobal)
  • Hike to the Wall of Tears (Isabela)
  • Hike to El Radar Viewpoint (Isabela)

Do a Self-Guided Tour

galapagos on a budget tijeretas

We say “self-guided,” but you will need to pay for a taxi to do this (budget around $90 to $100 for the taxi). Reach the further parts of the islands you wouldn’t be able to get to. Plan a day out with a taxi – a taxi driver will be able to help you plan out an itinerary.

In Santa Cruz, we took a taxi with another couple we met on the island to split the cost. And we ended up going to the following destinations:

  • Los Gemelos craters and the lava tunnels
  • El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve
  • El Garrapatero Beach

While we ended up not doing a taxi tour of San Cristobal, this is the standard tour most tourists do with the help of a taxi:

  • Laguna El Junco, a freshwater crater lake
  • La Galapaguera Tortoise Reserve
  • Puerto Chino Beach

Spot Some Wildlife

galapagos on a budget marine iguana

Some days on the islands, all we did was sit and watch the wildlife pass us by. The Galapagos has the most incredible wildlife that you’ll see dotted all around the islands. Here are some of the animals you should try to spot:

  • Sea lions
  • Marine iguanas
  • Frigatebirds
  • Galapagos penguins
  • Galapagos finches
  • Galapagos albatrosses
  • Lava lizards
  • Sally lightfoot crabs
  • Green sea turtles
  • Flamingos
  • Giant tortoises
  • Galapagos boobies (blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca)

Visit Local Markets

We always love to visit supermarkets whenever we travel to new places. The Galapagos islands definitely lack on that front, but the towns do have markets you should go out and explore! Plus, when you visit the local markets, you can buy some of the produce and fish the locals bring in, which can help you save even more money.

In Santa Cruz, we frequented the Mercado Municipal. Hot tip: Right around the corner from the market, you can have the most INCREDIBLE empanadas you’ll ever have at Empanadas Galapagueñas Milenita. Do yourself a favor, and do NOT miss this place!

In San Cristobal, our market of choice was the Mercado Municipal San Cristobal, which had much cheaper prices and fresher produce than anywhere else on the island!

Do a Day Trip

galapagos on a budget kicker rock

Now, this may not be the most budget-friendly activity we’ve got listed here, but you’ve made it all the way to the Galapagos, and you can’t not do a day trip of some sort! Snorkeling and/or scuba diving are a must during your time here, so budget accordingly. We spent around $100 per day trip, but prices can range from $60 to $200, depending on your tour company, the type of tour, and how well you haggle.

Here are some of the most incredible tours you’ve got to do during your stay:

  • 360 Tour (Rosa Blanca, Punta Pitt, Bahia Sardina, Cerro Brujo, and Kicker Rock in San Cristobal)
  • Kicker Rock Snorkel Tour (San Cristobal)
  • Española Island Tour (from San Cristobal)
  • 180 Tour (Santa Cruz, Pinzon, and Daphne)
  • Bartolome Island Tour (from Santa Cruz)
  • North eymour Island Tour (from Santa Cruz)
  • Isabela Island Tour (from Santa Cruz)
  • Sierra Negra Volcano Tour (Isabela)
  • Los Tuneles Tour (Isabela)
  • Las Tintoreras Tour (Isabela)

As mentioned previously, you’re likely to find much better prices when booking these tours in person. But if you would prefer to plan out your trip beforehand, check out the tours below:

Best Time to Visit the Galapagos

galapagos on a budget sea lion on san cristobal

There’s really no bad time to visit the Galapagos. Each month promises something different. So, when you go will be up to you and when you want to travel. The main thing to note is that the Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons: the warm and wet season from January to June and the cool and dry season from July to December.

But note that since the Galapagos Islands are on the equator, the “cool” season is still warm and “wet” means sporadic heavy showers rather than constant rain.

Here’s what you can expect month by month:

  • January: Temperature range: 21 to 29°C. Afternoon showers. Sea turtle nesting season.
  • February: Temperature range: 24 to 30°C. Afternoon showers. Penguin migration and iguana reproductive season.
  • March: Temperature range: 24 to 32°C. Afternoon showers. Swim with penguins and high bird activity.
  • April: Temperature range: 22 to 31°C. Sunny overall. Sea turtles and iguanas nesting.
  • May: Temperature range: 22 to 28°C. Sunny overall. Blue-footed booby mating season and green turtles and iguana eggs hatching.
  • June: Temperature range: 21 to 26°C. Misty mornings. Humpback whale and dolphin sightings.
  • July: Temperature range: 19 to 26°C. Misty mornings. Humpback whale and dolphin sightings and sea lion breeding season.
  • August: Temperature range: 19 to 26°C. Sunny or overcast. Peak season for humpback whale and dolphin sightings and baby sea lion and fur seal spotting.
  • September: Temperature range: 19 to 26°C. Sunny or overcast. Humpback whale and dolphin sightings, baby sea lion and fur seal spotting, and active Galapagos penguins.
  • October: Temperature range: 19 to 27°C. Slightly overcast or sunny. Blue-footed booby chick spotting and great snorkeling.
  • November: Temperature range: 19 to 28°C. Slightly overcast or sunny. Active sea lion pups and green sea turtle breeding.
  • December: Temperature range: 21 to 29°C. Slightly overcast or sunny. Galapagos tortoise hatching season and Galapagos green turtle mating season.

Are the Galapagos Islands Safe?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, the Galapagos Islands are probably one of the safest destinations in South America. It’s a haven for both tourists and wildlife, with the Ecuadorian government and Galapagos National Park authorities working hard to ensure safety for all. We personally did not have any issues and did not feel unsafe at all – no matter the time of day.

If anything, the only thing to worry about is the sun. As the islands are located on the equator, expect some pretty intense sun, so don’t forget to bring sunscreen to protect yourself! In addition, while most of the animals can be quite docile and won’t mind your presence, you may still come across some territorial males and protective mothers. But at any rate, you should always keep a safe distance from all wildlife and do NOT ever touch them!

When traveling to the Galapagos, don’t forget to get travel insurance! No matter how careful you are, you never know what may happen, and it’s good to be covered just in case. We use SafetyWing, as it’s cheap and easy to use. Note that if you plan to go diving during your trip, you’ll need to get the adventure sports add-on!

How Much We Spent: Complete Galapagos Price Breakdown

galapagos on a budget giant tortoises

So, how much did we spend on our 10-day budget trip to the Galapagos? We were very pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to have a relatively cheap trip without shelling out thousands of dollars each on a shorter trip on a cruise, which wouldn’t have boded well for Mia’s severe seasickness anyway.

Let’s break down everything we spent on a 10-day trip for 2 people in August 2023.

Flights

Flights total: $568 USD

Flights to the Galapagos are not cheap by any means, especially considering it’s a domestic flight. You’ll need to fly from Quito or Guayaquil. We flew from Quito, which set us back $131 USD each, to San Cristobal. Then, we shelled out another $153 USD each for a flight from Santa Cruz to Quito.

Entry to Galapagos

Entry to Galapagos total: $240 USD

At the airport, before you check in for your flight, you will need to head to the Government Council of the Special Regime of Galapagos, located at the departure terminal of both Quito and Guayaquil airports. Here, you will need to get a Transit Control Card or TCT, which costs $20 each. Hold onto this card, as you’ll need it to exit the Galapagos as well!

After your flight, we had to pay a park entrance fee to officially enter the Galapagos. This entrance fee was $100 per person, which could only be paid in cash.

Disclaimer: Park entry will increase to $200 ($100 for children under 12) per person from August 1, 2024.

Accommodation

Accommodation total: $736 USD

We work online, and we continued to work during our time in the Galapagos. So, for us, it was important to find accommodation with strong Wi-Fi (which is incredibly hard to find on the islands). For this reason, we had a slightly higher budget for accommodation than what we could’ve gotten away with. As previously mentioned, you can definitely find accommodation for much cheaper on the islands (as low as $20 per person!), especially if having a strong internet connection is not a priority for you.

Quick note: If you work online, too, you might be interested in Ecuador’s digital nomad visa!

We spent 4 nights in San Cristobal and spent $226 USD on accommodation. Then, we went to Santa Cruz and spent $511 USD for 6 nights of accommodation. That’s around $37 USD per person per night. Not bad, if you ask us!

Transportation

Transportation total: $144 USD

When we first arrived at San Cristobal Airport, we took a taxi to our accommodation. We arrived in the heat of the day and couldn’t think of anything worse than trudging along for 15 minutes with our backpacks (our trusty Osprey Fairview/Farpoint backpacks), so we took a taxi. The taxi only set us back $3 in the end, and most taxis around town on the island really shouldn’t cost more than $5 absolute maximum!

In San Cristobal, we walked to Loberia beach, but in the heat of the day, we couldn’t fathom walking the 35 minutes back to town, so we ended up taking a taxi, which was $4.

After spending 4 nights in San Cristobal, we took a ferry to Santa Cruz, which cost $35 USD per person.

We also got a taxi for a full day while in Santa Cruz, visiting Los Gemelos and the lava tunnels, a giant tortoise reserve, and a beach, with a lunch stop in between. This self-guided full-day tour set us back $90 for the taxi. But we made friends on our other tours in the Galapagos, so we split the cost with another couple. So, in the end, we spent just $45 for the whole day with the taxi.

Finally, another transportation cost was getting to the main Galapagos airport from Santa Cruz. This was a bit more of a trek that involved a shuttle ($5), then a ferry ($1), to another shuttle ($5). That’s a total of $11 per person to get to Baltra airport from Santa Cruz, a journey that lasts about 90 minutes!

Food

galapagos on a budget food

Food total: $250

Thankfully, the food costs in the Galapagos were really surprisingly affordable. While food costs more than in mainland Ecuador, we still found it cheaper than even Mexico!

Lunches were very consistently $5 to $8 each. We took advantage of the menu del dia or almuerzo, a meal deal offering a starter, main, and juice. A few of our lunches were covered when we did full-day excursions, which we’ll get into more below.

We cooked most dinners and all breakfasts at home. We saved a lot of money buying produce and fresh fish from the local markets. We brought over some dry ingredients from the mainland to save money. Over 10 days, we spent around $60 on groceries. The Galapagos Islands are heaven if you love to eat fish and seafood. Whenever we would “ball out,” we would spend $5 on two hefty tuna steaks or $5 for a big bag of fresh shrimp.

Whenever we had dinner out at local restaurants, we would spend $8 to $12 per person. In addition, we had one nice meal out at Isla Grill, which was a short boat ride away and a great place for a romantic dinner and to see some baby sharks. Our dinner here set us back $93 total for a starter, two mains, and several cocktails.

Tours and Activities

galapagos on a budget diving

Tours total: $800

We spent most of our days doing free activities, but, of course, we couldn’t resist fitting in a few day tours. Over 10 days, we did just two day tours and one diving tour (three tours in total). But keep in mind the diving tour was for just one person.

Our first tour was the 360-tour in San Cristobal, which we HIGHLY recommend. We still talk about this tour to this day! It was a great welcome and introduction to the Galapagos Islands. This tour can range in price, depending on who you buy it from and how well you bargain. We spent $140 per person, which included snorkeling equipment, lunch, snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks.

In San Cristobal, we rented snorkel equipment for 2 days with the same company that booked our 360-tour. We spent $10 per day on two snorkel masks and one snorkel fin.

We also did the Daphne Mayor snorkeling tour from Santa Cruz, as we really wanted to swim with manta rays (it was incredible, FYI!). This tour was $140, which we managed to haggle from $160, as we also booked a diving tour with the same company.

We also haggled down the price of the Daphne Minor diving tour. In the end, we paid $190 for a two-tank dive trip. We probably sound like a broken record by this point, but this dive trip was the most incredible diving experience!

For our self-guided taxi tour, in addition to the taxi itself (which we’ve highlighted in the Transportation section), we paid $10 entry to El Chato Tortoise Reserve and $5 entry for the lava tunnels.

Total: $2,738

Again, this was the total for 2 people for a 10-day trip to the Galapagos. That’s $1,369 per person.

To put this into perspective, a budget to mid-range 10-day cruise to the Galapagos will set you back around $2,000 to $4,000 per person (not including flights). Not including flights, we spent $1,085 per person!

Hopefully, this gives you a clearer picture of roughly how much you should budget and highlight how possible it is to spend some time in the Galapagos without selling an arm or leg.

The Galapagos on a Budget?

While certainly not the cheapest travel destination in the world, the Galapagos can be done on a semi-budget, especially if you stay on the islands themselves. With the tips and tricks we’ve highlighted above, you should be well on your way to planning your own trip to the Galapagos without spending thousands of dollars. The Galapagos are probably some of our favorite travel destinations that we’ve been to over the years, and we already can’t wait to go back!

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