Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos

When traveling to a new country, we always have questions that pop up at the last minute. Important stuff that we forgot to ask or that we didn’t know to ask. In this blog you’ll find everything you need to know before traveling to Ecuador and Galapagos.

Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos

Getting in:

Health Insurance
As of May 1st, 2018, all travelers that plan on visiting the country of Ecuador (and Galapagos, by default) will be required to have and show valid proof of health insurance that covers their time in the country.
Visas
If the purpose of your trip is tourism, you will not be required to acquire a visa beforehand. Once you enter the country, you will be granted a free 90-day tourist visa. As long as your passport is valid (see below), visitors can stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days.
Passport Validity
Ecuador requires that all travelers entering the country have passports that are valid for up to six months from their departure date. This means that if you are travelling to Ecuador from the 10th of March to the 25th of March, and your passport expires in 6 months starting March 23rd, you will not be allowed to travel. Ask one of our Destination Experts about your passport’s validity and make sure it’s up to date before your trip to Ecuador.

Remember to check your passport's validity. Photo credit: JPMatth on Flickr

Remember to check your passport’s validity. Photo credit: JPMatth on Flickr

Proof of onward travel
In order to prevent illegal immigration, Ecuador softly requests that visitors have proof of onward travel. Note: Not all immigration officials will choose to enforce this rule by requesting to see proof of onward travel. However, in many cases, this responsibility is passed on to the airline. Consequently: Be sure to double check with your airline before travelling to Ecuador on whether not you’ll need to show them proof of onward travel.
Galapagos: Things are a little stricter when it comes to travelling to the Galapagos Islands, as the mandatory Galapagos Transit Control Card (TCC/INGAL) explicitly requires that you provide proof of onward travel out of the Galapagos Islands that also falls in line with your 90-day tourist visa.
Are vaccines required when travelling to Ecuador?
No. Vaccines are not needed for your visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos, unless…
You are flying in from Brazil, in which case you will a vaccine to enter Ecuador.
All travelers arriving from the country of Brazil will be required to show proof of their yellow fever vaccinations. Even if you are only stopping in Brazil as a layover, anyone flying through/from Brazil to Ecuador will be required to present and show certified proof of their Yellow Fever Vaccination.
What type of currency will I be needing/using?
Ecuador uses the American dollar! Strange, but true! The country changed its national currency (the Ecuadorian sucre) to the American dollar, after a big economic crisis hit the country in the year 1999.
Ecuador's old currency, the Sucre. Photo credit: pingnews.com

Ecuador’s old currency, the Sucre. Photo credit: pingnews.com

Headed to Galapagos? Here’s what you need to know before traveling to that part of Ecuador

How big are the Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands consist of an area of approximately 7,900 square kilometers (3,040 square miles). This is an area that’s similar in size to the state of Mississippi.
How do I get to the Galapagos?
Tourists can only access Galapagos via air. Airlines only fly out to Galapagos from the main Ecuadorian cities of Quito and Guayaquil. There are no international, direct flight to Galapagos.
What’s the best time to travel to the Galapagos?
There’s never a bad time to go to the Galapagos islands, as they are a year-round destination!

The Galapagos are a year-round destination!

The Galapagos are a year-round destination!

Weather in the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons. From January to June you will experience the hot season, which is when the islands experience their sunniest and greenest of days. During the dry season, from June to December, the Galapagos turn dry and less colourful, but the undewater world fills up with life and movement. However, when it comes to observing wildlife, there is no better or worse time to visit the archipelago. Life is present all year-round!
What’s the best itinerary?
There really is no “best itinerary” itinerary when it comes to Galapagos. It all really just depends on how much time you have available and if there’s any specific place or animal that you’re hoping to see. Otherwise, you will get great, if not the best island and wildlife coverage, in the Galapagos on any single one of our itineraries. In fact, if time permits, we highly encourage you to combine itineraries back-to-back to get a better sense of the Galapagos!
How many days should I visit the Galapagos for?
We encourage our guests to stay in the Galapagos for as many days as they can (never exceeding the 90-day limit, however!), but the minimum recommended number of days that anyone should visit the archipelago for is 5 days. Keep in mind that you will lose half a day getting in and then half a day getting out of Galapagos. When it comes to exploring the Galapagos aboard an expedition vessel, your first day aboard will involve an afternoon visit, but on your last day, you will have to get ready to leave in the morning. The more days you stay, the more chances you will have to see all the iconic Galapagos BIG15 species and the numerous and diverse islands throughout the archipelago.
How’s the terrain in the Galapagos? How difficult are hikes in Galapagos?
The terrain in the Galapagos varies from island to island and from one visitor site to the other. At some visitor sites, guests will find man-made trails made of dirt, cement, or wood that make for easier hikes, but amount to less than 5% of the trails. All other sites maintain their natural terrain which is usually composed of lava rocks, gravel, sand, volcanic boulders (on which you have to watch your balance and try to jump from one boulder to the other as if on a river), and lava flats. In general, most trail range from an easy- to moderate-level of difficulty. What type of shoes do you need trek across all these properly? Keep on reading!
Fernandina Island

Fernandina Island

What kinds of shoes do I need for hikes in the Galapagos?
Because the Galapagos are islands, visitors usually (but erroneously) assume that sandals will be enough to move around. Keep in mind that the archipelago is of volcanic origin which, as we mentioned before, makes for an incredibly rugged and otherworldly type of terrain. Even though aboard our boats and at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel we offer walking sticks that our guests can take with them for hikes, we strongly suggest bringing hiking boots, with good traction or grip on the soles in order to protect your feet and ankles. If they are high cut hiking shoes, even better! That way you’ll avoid running the risk of accidentally twisting your ankle!
How long are the hikes?
No hike in the Galapagos is longer than a mile. The reason trails are measured in miles is because the United States Department of the Interior oversaw the design of the trails, making them friendly enough for all visitors. The only hike that is longer than a mile is at Tortuga Bay, which is a mile and a half (a part of which is along a paved path).
When can I see sea lion pups in Galapagos?
Most sea lions are born during the peak of the dry season (August and September, sometimes as late as October). We call them “pupping months.” Sometimes, during explorations, guests are lucky enough to see a sea lion giving birth!
Sea lion pup

Sea lion pup

Are the Galapagos suited for people with disabilities?
No. Due to the geography and terrain of the islands, they are not suited for people with disabilities pertaining to mobility.
Are Galapagos boats accessible for people with disabilities?
No. Our boats don’t have elevators and are not suited for people with disabilities pertaining to mobility.

Planning on visiting Ecuador properly? Get acquainted with:

Weather in Quito
Quito is best described as spring-like all year round. However, that means the weather can be a little “indecisive” in the sense that it can go from warm and tropical to cold and chilly in just a couple of minutes. We suggest dressing up in layers and bringing a raincoat just in case.
Weather in Ecuador
Being on the equator, Ecuador has no seasons. Instead, it’s divided between a rainier and drier season that alternates in the highlands, the coastal region and the Amazon basin. The coast is known to have a generally more humid and warmer weather, much like the Amazon basin to the east and the cloud forest to the west of the Andes. The highlands are colder at night and usually sunny during the day.

Weather in the highlands is cooler than in the coastal region. Photo credit: Nathalie Moeller

Weather in the highlands is cooler than in the coastal region. Photo credit: Nathalie Moeller

Should I stay more days on the mainland before going to the Galapagos?
Ecuador is full of wonderful surprises that will leave you breathless. Even though the Galapagos are what Ecuador is famous for, and they are well worth the visit, Ecuador’s unique geography makes it the home to mind-blowing landscapes and unbelievably rich flora and fauna. Check out Casa Gangotena and Mashpi Lodge and decide for yourself!
What’s the best time to travel to Ecuador?
Ecuador is a year-round destination!
What’s the occupancy at Mashpi Lodge?
Mashpi Lodge has occupancy for 48 guests.
 

Did we forget anything? Be sure to mention it in the comments section below!

 
Extra:
1. Don’t underestimate the equatorial sun!
Ecuador is on the equator (you guessed right! that is where its name comes from), which means it’s also one of the places closest to the sun. Even though the weather might feel nice and cool, for example on the highlands, or during a cloudy day at the beach, remember to wear sunscreen at all times! Don’t get bitten by the painful teeth of the equatorial sun!
 
 

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Nathalie Moeller is of Ecuadorian and German descent. As a child she spent her summers in the Galapagos Islands, where her mother grew up, and from a very young age learned to love the beauty and uniqueness of the archipelago. She studied Journalism and Humanities in Barcelona, after living in Madrid and Germany for a couple of years. This gave her a culturally broader view of the world, which is reflected in everything she does. Blogging gives her the opportunity to combine her passion for travelling and writing.

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