Informal traveling tips, what to pack, etc.
You’ll need a current passport that is valid for six months or longer than your planned travel. If you already have a passport, check its expiration date. If you don’t, don’t put off applying. US passport information click here
- Vaccinations are recommended. Check with your doctor. Ecuador is a pretty clean third world country, but it is a third world country and particularly if you plan on traveling to the mainland coastal or Amazon (orient) regions, get your shots. The Ecuadorean authorities won’t check your immunization record. Who will check it are many European countries when they see on your passport that you took a trip to Ecuador. Without the proper vaccinations before entering Ecuador, they may not let you into their country. Check with your doctor and local immunization clinic. Vaccination information click here
- Water and food: Bottled water, that’s what you drink. Do not even brush your teeth with tap water. Generally in the Galapagos and maybe even in the finer hotels in Quito you might be able to get away with brushing your teeth with their water, but why chance it? You’re on vacation. You HAVE to take care where and what you eat. Your guide is sensitive to this. The last thing he or she wants are any of his charges being sick during their Galapagos travel.
- Make a color photocopy of your passport and all important documents you will have with you, including credit cards AND the emergency number to call if they’re lost or stolen. Keep these in a separate place than those documents. This is just a precaution.
- Communicating with the world back home: Internet access is readily available both in the Galapagos and on the continent. There are many locations where you can make international calls on land lines fairly inexpensively. We advise that you give your loved ones or business associates our contact information in case of an emergency. Your guides check in with us frequently and we communicate with your hotel staffs as we track your where abouts. Recently cell phone communication has improved to the point where travelers are arriving with phones that enable them to make calls within and out of Ecuador
- The currency of Ecuador is the American dollar. Traveler’s checks are more trouble than their worth. Few stores accept them in the Galapagos. You will have to go to the bank to cash them. There is only one bank and you can expect to spend an hour in there no matter what it is you want to do. The atm machine out front accepts cirus and plus atm cards. Just like the US. You stick your card in the machine and it spits cash back at you. If your atm card is not linked to the cirus or plus system, you can take your visa card into the bank for a cash advance. Do not bring hundred dollar bills. The easy solution to counterfeiting here is to issue alerts. All hundred dollar bills that begin with the letters CB (for example) will suddenly no longer be accepted. Also, Ecuador is a country without change. Some stores and restaurants just don’t have it or keep it. They expect that if you’re trying to buy something you will of course have brought the right change. Few locations in the Galapagos accept credit cards and if they do, they’ll tack on an extra ten percent. Bring a bunch of small bills and stash them in various locations.
- Far and away the best book to date covering the Galapagos is a BBC publication titled, “Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World” by Paul D. Stewart, highly recommended reading before your Galapagos travel.
- Tipping is recommended to the level you feel served. If you are traveling with us the majority of your services will have been paid for so a rough guide might go something like this. Restaurants, fifty cents to a dollar per person, boat charter Captains for a whole day maybe twenty dollars, your National Park guide, the cruise tours have a card they post in the rooms of their clients that direct them to tip the National Park Guides $10 per day per person if they felt they were well served and if not to complain to the management. I would complain to the management about the card. That being said if you’re traveling with us your guide will have been taking care of your every need 24/7, not just being a naturalist. They have to be psychologists, babysitters, snorkeling instructors, life guards and often we’ll call in an extra if someone is a weak swimmer or there are special needs. You will likely have met their families and friends and they will have taken you to those secret little spots only a local can know about. Follow your heart with regard to tipping them.
What to Bring:
Bring your smile and someone you love.
- If you’re planning on spending some time in or around Quito, you may want a light sweater and a rain repellent jacket shell.
- In the Galapagos I wear shorts and t-shirts year round, sometimes a collared shirt with my shorts, long pants only for formal occasions. A light pair of long pants might be good for sun protection. It can get a little cool in the highlands, but the clothes you wore to keep yourself comfortable on your air conditioned international flight will likely be warm enough. If you’re unaccustomed to plane flights, they can be cold sometimes. When it rains we just get wet. No one has a rain coat. Actually I have one, but have yet to use it.
- Insects. In the hot season we do have some mosquitoes. Bug repellent of your preference you might want to bring. I don’t use it. I don’t like it and the few mosquitoes we do have here are relatively benign as opposed to the mosquitoes they have on the continent. Here you get a bite; it mildly itches for four hours and goes away. You will have more problems with mosquitoes in the high sierra mountains of California.
- Foot wear is critically important. You’ll likely be doing a fair amount of walking often over sharp, uneven lava rocks. I go through a good pair of tennis shoes every six months. A good pair of flip flops or Teva’s is also highly recommended.
- Do not forget swim wear, sunscreen.
- Snorkels and fins can be provided, but I always like to take my own when traveling, they fit better and are more hygienic. I also pack my own beach towel, I have some favorites. Some people who wear glasses may want a dive mask with their prescription.
- Hats and again, sun screen are important. Galapagos travel means you’ll be directly under the Equatorial sun.
- You will not need high heels.
- You will need sun glasses.
- Binoculars can be bulky, but very entertaining. Your guide will have a pair to share. I like having my own.
- Medicines you’ll need. There are drug stores, but they won’t likely have what you need and even if they do, it’ll have a different Spanish name and I’ve yet to find a reliable English/Ecuadorean Spanish medical dictionary. Allergy medicine, motion sickness pills etc. bring your own.
- Condoms, if you use them, bring ‘em. They have them here but they’re completely unreliable.
- If you can live without your lap top, good. They can help with kids and long flights, but tend to get dropped, lost, stolen and maybe it’d be good for both of you to spend some time apart.
- You must bring a digital camera. All of the pictures on this web site were taken by us (ourselves, family or friends) and we are neither good photographers nor patient nature stalkers. You’re going to get a bunch of remarkable photos. Click here for photos of Marine Iguanas, Giant Tortoises and Galapagos sharks.
- You will need a small back pack/day pack.
- Do not bring jewelry unless you absolutely must. Please leave the diamonds at home. They get lost, attract attention, change the prices of things you want to buy, make people envious, give people the wrong impression… The list goes on. Buy some beaded bracelets and necklaces when you get here. Makes for nice photos.
- There are very few books in English. I may have the largest English library on the island. I have about a hundred and fifty books, which if you know books, is not very many. Bring your reading material with you. I also recommend starting every book you’ll bring to see if you’ll want to finish it. There’s nothing more frustrating than hauling around a bunch of books you don’t like. You probably won’t like the book titled “Galapagos”, by Kurt Vonnegut. There are a number of copies of that here, left unread.
- Pack light. Think comfort and practicality over style. We are a little remote but in a pinch, there are stores and we can generally find what you need.
- Divers bring your prescription mask and your favorite dive trunks. All the other equipment is available here, wetsuits etc.
- Birders bring your cameras and stocking gear
- Surfers bring your board. Don’t worry about being under gunned, it’s not likely and if it does happen, we’ve got a few good boards that rarely get used. Bring a spring suit and rash guard, wax and some reef booties (lava rocks), stickers for the local kids.
- Snorkelers bring your prescription mask, your favorite fins and maybe a spring suit if you’re arriving May through November.