The Galapagos Islands really don’t need an introduction – sea lions, turtles, penguins, flamingos, white sand beaches – you name it, Galapagos Islands have it… So it’s really no surprise that they are on the top of many peoples bucket list. Unfortunately a large proportion of people are discourage from visiting the Galapagos Islands because of the extremely high prices set by tour and cruise companies.
I am here to tell you that this perception of needing a tour company could not be further from the truth. When my partner and I were planning our South America trip, the Galapagos Islands was on the top of our list, being marine biologists this is no surprise right!?! Luckily one of our good friends was living in Galapagos Island during our trip so she was able to assist us with planning our trip and getting a locals view of this amazing place (HOOORAYYYY!!).
1. Know the flight schedule
Only three airlines fly to the Galapagos Islands, namely LAN, TAME and AeroGal. They only fly out of Guayaquil or Quito (Ecuador) and do not fly every day. TAME is the cheapest of the three airlines. You can book your ticket online – the price is almost halved though if you buy your ticket in store (woohoo!!).
If you are like me and prefer certainty in knowing you are getting on a plane to Galapagos Islands on the day you want, you can book ahead. I highly recommend doing a multiple destination booking with LAN if there are certain parts of your travels that are planned.
This worked out really well for us and we ended up saving so much by booking all flights together at once that my Galapagos Island flights were essentially free (e.g. I booked my flights from Australia to Chile, Chile to Colombia, Colombia to Ecuador, flights to/ from Galapagos etc). A quick tip, I jumped on sky scanner first to check the cheapest days to fly between my given destinations (Guayquil-Galapagos) and then booked them with LAN (who were also the cheaper company to fly from Australia to Chile, our first South American destination).
2. Book all activities once you are there.
This is the best tip that I can provide you with and one that will save you an absolute tonne of money. When we were planning our trip I had researched the companies that had the best reviews on Tripadvisor and was going to lock them, because, well, FOMO. I am SOOOO glad that our friend advised us against doing this!!!
Once you arrive in the Galapagos Islands you will notice the hundreds of tour operators that specialist in the exact same tours offered for four times the price online. You can simple walk into the store and negotiate a price that suits – it’s that simple!!
Let me explain why… Because there are so many tour companies, and most people are visiting with pre-organised tour guides/ cruise companies, most of the time tour companies always have a few free spots they like to fill in order to make the ‘trip’ more profitable. So for a quick negotiation you will find yourself on a tour wining and dining with people that have paid significantly more than you have (cheers, I’ll drink to that!!!). This is mainly targeted at activities that you cannot do yourself (SCUBA diving, boating to another location to snorkel etc), which brings me to my third and final point.
3. Many of the activities are free, so why pay for them?
The Galapagos Islands are packed to the brim with inquisitive wildlife and incredible scenery. The islands are not large so you can literally walk or catch a taxi to your destination. Going with a tour company is great because it supports the locals who also organise your transport and meals, however, if you are happy to pack your own meals just do it yourself, its much cheaper. I have put together a guide on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela that lists many of the activities (free and tours) that you can do.
4. Book your first nights’ accommodation before you arrive
I am always a slightly cautious traveller so I will always book my first night or two’s accommodation before arriving in a new place. I don’t like the idea of wandering from place to place in a new city (with my large bag) trying to negotiate a nights accommodation, chances are you are tired and just want to put your bags down and get into exploring the new place. Unless you are a seasoned traveller i recommend booking your first nights accomodation (this is my advice in every country not just Galapagos).
Once I am there it allows me to gauge how I like where I am or if I have seen/ heard of better accommodation elsewhere. It also allows me to decide how long I would like to stay in each place. All other nights on other Islands you can pretty much book that day. We visited the Galapagos Islands in June (apparently busy period) but we always found a place to stay that exceeded the ‘Britney Accommodation Test’.
I LOVED every single minute of my time in Galapagos Islands. I hope this has helped give you the motivation explore the Galapagos Islands yourself without a tour company 🙂
What do you think of this post? Do you have you own tips on travelling Galapagos Islands without a tour company?