Galapagos Islands Budget Tour, One Week for $975

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Countries, Ecuador | 9 comments

Summary: Instead of spending all of your budget on an expensive cruise, here are a few tips that will help you plan an affordable trip to the Galapagos.

While the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are known for being extremely expensive, we have figured out a way to enjoy the stunning views and wildlife on the Galapagos Islands on a budget. In this post, we aim to share our experience and design a tour that can be done in one week without breaking your budget—and that allows you to enjoy most of what the Galapagos can offer.


Marine Iguanas in Santa-Cruz

Transportation to the Islands ~ $500 by plane


View from the plane

You may want to consider buying Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands (Country Guide)

The fastest flight to the Galapagos leaves from Guayaquil. We booked our tickets and paid $500 each upon our arrival into Guayaquil. We then left the next morning. You can get a good bargain if you book in advance or from the United States—some manage to get tickets for as low as $400.


The boat fron Baltra to Santa-Cruz

All flights leave in the morning—only—and take two hours. There are three local companies that you can fly with: LAN, Tame, and Aerogal.

Puerto Ayora—the capital of Santa Cruz—is located on the other side of the island. You have to take a boat (because you will land in Baltra with the free island service) and then a local bus ($1.80 one way) to cross the island. The ride takes 45 minutes.

Park Entrance Fees ~ $110 (including the visa)

Before checking your bags and heading to the Galapagos Islands, you will need to pay for the Galapagos visa, which costs $10. You can get it at Guayaquil airport. Note that you will need to scan your bags before checking in for your flight. This is done in the same place where you get the visa (it was beside the check-in counters).

See also ~ Things to do in San Cristobal: Check out 4 San Cristobal Attractions

Then, upon your arrival at Santa Cruz—or any other island—you will pay $100 (the National Park entrance fee) in cash and US dollars only.


Tortuga Bay

Accommodation ~ $60 for six nights



The door of our apartment

In Santa Cruz there are a lot of different types of accommodations, from the big budget killers to the hostels where you’ll have little more than a good mattress and a door. You can even rent an apartment or share a room with someone—or, if you prefer, you can camp on the beach.

Disclaimer: Camping is permitted in certain places, but not everywhere.

We stayed in Santa Cruz for two months and made a deal with a hostel for the first month. Then we rented a flat for the second.


Our room in Santa-Cruz

Nevertheless, we had to spend three nights at three different hostels because we arrived earlier than planned. We easily arranged a deal for $20 for a double room with private bathroom, which is $10/person.

Food and Water ~ $80 based on two meals a day with snacks

Santa Cruz is well known for its restaurants and bars. It is the most inhabited island in the archipelago, which is why you can find different types of restaurants that suit different tastes. There is also a wide variety of local restaurants that serve the locals, and the prices in these restaurants are sometimes half of what you will pay in the tourist restaurants. This will save on your budget and allow you to enjoy the tasty cuisine of the Galapagos.

See also ~ Galapagos On A Budget – 11 Sites and Activities


Coco Fish in Santa-Cruz

We cooked most of our own meals, as we were in apartments or hostels equipped with kitchens. But even if you prefer to dine out for lunch or dinner, it won’t cost you more than $11 a day, including snacks.

Breakfast starts from $2.5, lunch costs around $3.50, and dinner is typically $5.

The tap water in the islands is salty and not drinkable, so you have to buy mineral or purified water. There are different sizes of bottles, and the best option for your money is the four-gallon refillable bottle that costs $2. This option requires you to leave an $8 deposit, which you will get back when you return the bottle.

Sightseeing and Tours ~ $225 including 10 sites and tours

Being in Santa Cruz allows you to enjoy the variety of sightseeing options that are for the most part free. You will only have to pay for your transportation to some places. To visit the other islands, you can take day tours.


A blue footed booby

Here is what you can do in one week:

    • Charles Darwin Station: A free half-day tour. No transportation is needed.
    • Tortuga Bay: A free half-day tour. No transportation is needed. Best time to visit is early morning around 6 AM or late afternoon around 5 PM.
    • El Rancho Manzanillo and Los Gemelos: Half day. Includes a $3 entrance to El Rancho Manzanillo, but Los Gemelos is free. The round trip cab for both costs $30.

A land turtle

    • Isabela Island: Requires a day tour starting at $70 that includes lunch, snacks and water. Best time to book is late afternoon to get a better bargain.
    • La Playa de Los Garrapateros: A free half-day tour. Round trip cab costs $30.

La Playa de Los Garrapateros

  • San Cristobal Island and Kicker Rock: Requires a day tour starting at $70 that includes lunch, snacks and water.
  • Las Grietas and La Playa de Los Alemanes: A free half-day tour. Can be reached by water taxi round trip for $1.20 ($0.60 each way).

Taxi ride inside towns costs $1 for the cab and not per person.

In addition, you will find many other free attractions at Puerto Ayora like Las Ninfas mangrove laguna, the pier of Puerto Ayora (which is very active) and the fish market.

We did all these activities and had a great time in the archipelago. We saw almost all the wildlife of the islands, land and marine turtles, sea lions, blue-footed and masked boobies, iguanas, pelicans, fregatas, herons and a lot of other birds. We swam with sea lions, marine turtles, sharks and even a hammerhead. It was absolutely incredible.


A pelican and a Sea Lion near the fish market

The beaches and landscapes are terrific—you just need a good camera, a hat, sunscreen and good walking shoes.

If you want more information about the Galapagos Islands, please check our related posts.

Do you think it’s affordable to visit the Galapagos Islands? Is it in your bucket list?


  1. What a wonderful island, it’s been always on my bucket list, wonderful experience, indeed!
    Agness recently posted…Macau Food Porn: Heaven in My MouthMy Profile

    • Hope you can make it there one day 🙂

  2. Thanks, an excellent guide. I’m planning to do it this way when I visit for a week in May 14 as part of my trip around South America.

    • Hi Mat,
      Thanks for your comment. Don’t miss San Cristobal and the Kikers rock, while you’re there you’ll love it! Enjoy you trip.

  3. Hi – Thanks for your blogs on Galapogas. I’m trying to decide if we can afford this trip and your blog is helpful. Do you have names of day tour operators from Santa Cruz that you would recommend?
    Safe travels!

    • Thanks Karen, glad you liked the tips. Unfortunately we don’t have recos regarding tour operators in Santa Cruz, but if you asked around you will find plenty on different budgets and different programs. We did most of our trips on our own from Santa Cruz except one. The problem is not the tour operator as much it’s about who is your guide!

  4. Hi There,
    You mentioned free half day tours to a few places. Did these have to be set up prior or it is available when you arrive?
    Thanks, great information you have!

  5. Hi Guys,

    thanks for your blogs on the Galapagos. I enjoyed to read it. I am in Olon, Ecuador since two months now and I am going to the Galapagos in two weeks. I cant wait to visit 🙂 its my dream!
    How is france?

    the best regards from Ecuador


    • Hi Ricarda, thanks for the feedback 🙂 we’re happy for you, Galapagos was one our best in our trip, you will love it!

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