Flights to the Galapagos
Ummm, AEROGAL SUCKS! This is one of two airlines that flies to the Galapagos Islands. Aerogal and Tame both have daily flights leaving Quito and then Guayaquil to Baltra near Santa Cruz or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal. All flights begin in Quito and make a stop in Guayaquil to unload and pick up more passengers (which takes about 45 minutes). The total flying time is about 3 hours.
We were delayed for 6 hours leaving Quito because the engines were broken. We were given no truthful updates on the state of the plane, they promised us a new plane and then reneged, lied to us, yelled at us and caused a huge uproar from passengers that had spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on cruises that were taking off without them. Once we finally left Guayaquil we had to return to the city after dumping all of our fuel because our wing flaps were no longer working. Then we aborted our take-off in Guayaquil because gas was flying out of the wing and passengers were hysterical. 60 people got off because they had lost confidence in the safety of the aircraft (which was over 30 years old). Aerogal had 2 emergency landings the weeks prior because of engines catching fire while in flight! AVOID THIS COMPANY. But beware, I had problems flying with TAME before too as they had a broken computer and couldn't fly the plane for hours, causing more undue delays.
When I complained personally to the manager of Aerogal she refused to offer me any reimbursement for the flight or for the missed time aboard my cruise (a whole day equalling around $200). Instead she offered me 2000 miles despite the fact that she knew I didn't live in Ecuador and wouldnt be traveling on their local airline ever again, by my choice or not. They were HORRIBLE!
to and around Galapagos...
The flight from Quito costs about 400$ and from Guayaquil about 50$ less. The plane lands on Baltra, a flat barren island, and then you can catch a bus-ferry-bus combination to Puerto Ayora. In case you are in a prearranged tour a member of the Agency will meet you and see you do the right thing. If you are in a cruise you will probably have a short bus ride to your boat in Baltra.
If you fly to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal island you can walk to town.
There is a flight from Baltra to Villamil on Isabela if you want to see the island independently.
If you decide to stay more TAME extends your ticket for no extra charge.
Here you will pay 100$ for the entrance to the National Reserve. I only hope the money does go for the right cause...
2 more photosRelated to:
- Family Travel
don't be afraid to make a fuss
There is only one realistic way to get to the Galapagos Islands and that is to fly. Only two airlines are allowed to ply this route so again your choices are limited right off the bat. They seem to be in cahoots with regard to prices. That said, many people seem to prefer AeroGal over TAME. We chose the latter as our guidebook was evidently dated by saying AeroGal did not fly from Cuenca to Guayaquil which is where we got our flight to the Galapagos from. This led to our having to sit around in the airport while AeroGal's passengers sped off to the islands an hour or so before us. Warnings about overbooked flights are infamous so I re-confirmed the flights in every city I went including Puerto Ayora just a day before our flight back to Quito only to have one of the biggest flight fiascoes in my long travel history.
We arrived at the airport a good two hours before our “scheduled” flight only to be told that that flight only runs during the “season” and that we missed the check in for the earlier flight. Hmm, I wondered why they not only sold me this ticket not two weeks earlier but also reconfirmed the flight just the day before. The fact that the plane was not on the runway only added fuel to my growing fire. I demanded to be put on the flight but was told that we could fly the next day at no extra charge. I lied and told them our flight to Miami was the next day and they said it was not possible. I asked to be put on AeroGal's flight that was just getting ready to board but they said it was not within their abilities. I insisted, they said to buy a ticket from them and get a refund for my TAME flight in Quito. My voice grew louder and angrier. They asked me to step into the office. We went over everything again, them insisting I was in the wrong with me insisting their booking agent in not only Cuenca but also Puerto Ayora had either lied to me or was totally incompetent. They made calls, my wife acted like she was about to faint. They allowed us back outside when they thought they had me calmed down but once back in the public eye my fury increased ten fold. I yelled, I threatened, I cursed like an angry sailor. They tried to get me back in the office and I pranced around like a rooster with my head cut off and screaming bloody murder. I admit it. I made a bloody fool of myself but rather than let every gringo in the AeroGal line watch me any longer, they quickly bought me a ticket on their flight with the refunded money they now magically could offer. About this time another couple comes walking up for the flight they were also scheduled for. Luckily for them, I had already showed them how to run an airline and they were offered the same deal I had painstakingly fought for. Lesson one, confirm the flight, confirm the flight, confirm the flight. Lesson two, don't be afraid to make a jack ass of yourself when you know you are right.
Ok, the particulars: Flights from Cuenca to Guayaquil to Santa Cruz to Quito on TAME was $435 per person. It was shoulder season, certainly not high season but not off season either. Flights from Quito are more money as they go via Guayaquil and run 3 ½ hours. From Cuenca to Guayaquil wasn't even an hour. Though the flight was pricey, it saved us a lot of time either backtracking to Quito or a very long bus to Guayaquil. If one is going to do San Cristóbol it would be best to fly either into there or from there on the way back to save backtracking. Unfortunately, San Cristóbol's airport was closed while we were in the Galapagos which pretty much eliminated our going there due to lack of time. Evidently the airport is closed there often and shows how travel around the Galapagos is not only restricted but also honed into what the travel agencies want-everyone going to the same places and doing the same things. Same, same, easy, easy. So, make sure to inquire about San Cristóbol's airport even if you aren't going there!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park
the skinny on the particulars
Once you arrive in Baltra, the small northern island off Santa Cruz where the airport is located you'll need to hop on one of the free buses that takes you to the small ferries that shuttles people across to Santa Cruz. It's all pretty small scale and impossible to get lost. I guess you could get on the wrong bus but they are all going the same way and if they ask for money that's about the only way to tell the difference between the buses. Once you get to the small ferries you just hop on and wait for someone to come around and collect the money (80 cents). On the other side, there'll be buses waiting that will take you to Puerto Ayora for $1.80. It's all really straight forward and this is one herd you pretty much can't avoid unless you want to take a taxi if you want to pay considerably more. The ride across the island is a bit disappointing though you do see a big change in vegetation as you go. The one advantage of the taxi is you could stop and see the twin craters of Los Gemelos though my guess is your cabbie will want more money to do so.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
you'll need to get used to boats
Getting from island to island is what makes the Galapagos not only expensive but a challenge. Inter-island flights are very expensive for the small distances covered but there are reasonably priced small boats that make the three hour journeys to both Isabella and San Cristóbol on a daily basis for $30. If the seas are calm it can be a pleasant ride especially if there are few dolphins tagging along. We had a very nice trip to Isabella but the trip back was pretty rough. Some might say it was exciting. That it was for about a half hour. After that it was just pretty rough and I think everyone on the boat was happy when the excitement was over and we finally arrived back in Santa Cruz! We unfortunately did not get to go to San Cristóbol due to time restrictions.
Some island cannot be reached without either doing a tour or hiring not only a boat but also a private guide as there are park restrictions on landing on the islands. This is probably a good restriction as one can imagine what would happen if everyone could just run around stopping on islands whenever it hit their fancy. Since doing this independently would be quite expensive most either do cruises or opt for much less expensive day trips. While it is true that many of the day trips are quite long and much of your day is spent in transit, there is lots to see while out on the water and I found the time spent on most of the islands was enough. One advantage of a day trip is you have a new group every time out. With a cruise you are stuck with the same people which can be very good if you like the group and not so great if you don't. We found the people on the day trips were quite a mixed bag, from backpackers to Ecuadorians finally realizing their dream Galapagos vacations. The trips were all under $100 and always included a good lunch and one time we even got breakfast as it was a particularly long trip. I'll provide more detail when I describe an individual island.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Transfers from the airport on Baltra
If you stay at the Royal Palm hotel you will be met by the representative as you come off the plane. You are then ted to a private air conditioned lounge area you have a welcome drink of your choice while your bags are located and carried to a waiting car by hotel staff. Galapagos Islands entry fee paid for you (with your $'s). You will then be wisked away in the car across Baltra while everyone else is still getting there luggage and boarding huge buses.
At the Baltra/Santa Cruz dock you are ferried away to Santa Cruz where a hotel van carries you to the hotel. We were across the canal (about 1/2 mile) and driving away before the first bus had arrived at the dock on Baltra. See the Baltra side dock in the picture. Just so you know you DO NOT travel in the little boat on the left!!! haha
The return trip to the airport is just as pleasant. Hotel staff will dirve you, check your baggage, escort you throuh private security screening and you'll wait in the private lounge area just steps from the plane loading area. This service is provided at no additional cost to all guest of the hotel.
The best part of staying at the Royal Palm hotel is the amazing accomodations themselves and expert staff. See other tip on the hotel.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
On the morning of departure, we were met at the airport in Quito by an agent from Ecoventure for our flight to to San Cristobal. AEROGAL tickets were given to us at the counter upon check-in for the flight .
We all had a badge for the various boats we would be on and by the time we landed we already knew a few of our future ship mates.
We were happy we travelled light as One checked suitcase (maximum 44 lbs.) and one carry-on are allowed per passenger.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Lack of transport options??
There is only one way to get to the Galapagos Islands and that’s by plane from mainland Ecuador and it’s around 1 ½ hours from Quito. There are 2 planes per day arriving and 2 leaving. Once at the airport, the tour operators pick you up and take you straight to your boat. I didn’t see any evidence of taxis but I’m sure you could pay to hitch (or walk!!) into the main town.
The only way to get to the other islands is by boat.
take a hitch on the cargoboats
If you do the independent budgettravel to the Galapagos, try getting in contact with the captain of the port and ask if he can bring you in contact with the ships captain. Most of the time it's possible to hitch a ride towards another island. They'll tell you the hour you'll have to be at the peer (when the ships personel gets back on board). Heared it's possible to hitch a ride from Guayaquil (didn't do this myself) for about 40 Euro (airplane ticket bout 300 €)Related to:
- Budget Travel
Tour the Galapagos on the Beluga
The only way to really experience the Galapagos is by cruising among the various islands. There are several different classes of boats and an equal number of itineraries from which to choose, but I honestly can't imagine having a better all-around experience than what is offered by the M/Y Beluga, a 16-passenger cruise ship. The Beluga's eight-day itinerary includes stops at nine of the islands, each of which is unique. The cruise starts in Baltra, which is a rather uninspiring island that is best known for its airstrip and dock. Next is North Seymour, with nesting frigatebirds and Blue-footed Boobies, among other creatures. After that is Espanola, which features a sea lion colony at Gardner Bay and nesting Waved Albatross and Nazca Boobies at Punta Suarez. Floreana is next, with a flamingo lagoon and Post Office Bay. That is followed by Santa Cruz, which is home to the Charles Darwin Research Center and highlands best known for Giant Tortoises. Isabela follows with a lava walk at Punta Moreno, Land Iguanas at Urvina Bay, and amazing snorkeling. Fernandina is next, with Punta Espinosa and its large colonies of Marine Iguanas and Flightless Cormorants. After that is Santiago, which features a fur seal grotto and more fabulous snorkeling. And finally, there is Bartolome, which offers the islands' best panoramic views. Throw in excellent service and food, and a knowledgable and personable guide, and you have the makings of a near perfect experience.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Sailing and Boating
Cant get anywhere with out your rubber zodiac dinghy, now can you ? (Modern day whaling vessel...)
Note the arctic gear that everyone has one... Though you are right on the equator, the antarctic currents around here keep the water pretty cold all year round...
This is the little airport on San Cristobal. There's no luggage carousel or anything fancy. Right now (Oct '05) they are building a new airport on Santa Cruz that was promissed to have been ready even when we arrived in September. If you are staying on land (which I recommend), you'll have to endure a 2.5 hour transfer by speedboat to Santa Cruz from here unless the airport is finished. Not fun :(Related to:
- National/State Park
Flights to the Galapagos Islands
Most Galapagos Cruises leave the island of Santa Cruz, which also has the island's main airport. There are two airline that fly to the Galapagos Islands:
TAME - website: http://www.tame.com.ec
TAME is the national airline of Ecuador. TAME runs two daily flights to the Galapagos islands, leaving from Quito, stopping in Guayaquil, and landing at Baltra Airport. The flights leave during the morning, all weekdays.
AeroGal - website: http://www.aerogal.com.ec
AeroGal is a private company that has five weekly flights to the Galapagos (no flights on Saturday and Monday), leaving from Quito, stopping in Guayaquil, and landing at Baltra Airport. The flights leave during the morning, and the flight from Guayaquil is a bit cheaper.Related to:
- National/State Park
It is possible to do day trips out of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, but the sailing time to some of the places you will want to visit can take hours each way. There are also land-based island hopping trips where you stay at hostels on different islands, but then you have to pack up from day to day to make the transfer. By far the easiest way to see the islands is on a tour boat. The boat serves as your hotel for sleeping, eating, and hangiing out between island stops.
We sailed on a dive boat called the Daphne Yacht. The Daphne runs trips both for divers and for simple island hopping land-visits, plus snorkeling.
Crossing to Santa Cruz Island (to Puerto Ayora)
If you are going to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, you will need to take a short ferry ride across the channel running between the islands.
Once you are on the ferry, a crew member will come around to collect the fare--about $1.00.
After disembarking from the ferry, you will most likely board another bus and spend the next 45 minutes to an hour traversing the island.
The ride is quite nice, since you travel through a number of "micro-climates" as you go along--lush, green forest to arid, drab-looking landscapes. Notice the mostly sunny skies in the photo; when I visited in October, the weather became drizzly and cooler once we crossed the highest part of Santa Cruz and began to descend into Puerto Ayora.
Galápagos Islands Hotels
Barrio Punta Estrada S/N, Puerto Ayora, 00000, Ecuador
Good for: Business
Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador
Good for: Solo
Before coming to San Cristóbal I had read in my guidebook about Hostal Casa de Laura and it seemed...more
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