How I Only Spent $600 on The Galapagos Islands

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One of the most asked questions after I came back from the Galapagos Islands was, “How much did it cost?”. As Galapagos is one of the top destinations in South America, I understand why people have the idea that the final price is more than what they are willing to pay; it’s basically the same idea for Machu Pichu and Patagonia. However, if you are willing to do a little more research and hard work, you will see that (just like any other place) there is a way to do the Galapagos Islands on a budget. I was there for 7 days and I managed to spend around 600 USD in total (including the 100 USD entry fee and 20 USD fee for the Transit Control Card). Curious on how I did it?

Personal disclaimer
Seen at Santa Cruz

Before we continue, I think it is important to point out that Galapagos is one of the world’s top destination and guarded tourism site. That being said, do not expect to get the same budget prices that you will find in mainland South America. Also, this break down does not include the flight tickets. Why? Because flight tickets vary from time to time. I went there during high season, because I specifically wanted to celebrate New Years in the Galapagos Islands (best decision ever!), and my flight ticket from Guayaquil to Baltra came out to be 400 USD.

Cruise or DIY tour
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Tortoise breeding centers are definitely budget options!

There are 2 main ways to explore the Galapagos Islands: cruise/organized tour and a DIY tour. If you pre-book a cruise, chances are the prices will be around 2000 USD and for 5-6 days only. However, if you are willing to arrive in Quito or the islands directly and book a last minute cruise, the prices will be lower and you can get the best value. But…that wasn’t my style.

I took the second option; I DIY-ed my one week trip, and I would definitely recommend the same for you. The main reason to this is the ability to stay on any island you choose, for as long as you choose. I spent my week in Isabela and Santa Cruz. Why did I choose these islands in particular? Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago, but it has the least amount of population. Therefore, less people and more animals. Santa Cruz was the main island, and by staying there, I got to see more of the commercially local side of Galapagos. I was also there for the New Years celebration; had it not been the New Years, I might have skipped that island altogether and stayed in San Cristรณbal instead.

Accommodation and food
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Isabela reminds me of my home country.

There are plenty of hotels and hostels to stay in during your travels in the Galapagos Islands. For me personally, I stayed in shared bedrooms in hostels. The average price that a traveler might get for a shared room in the Galapagos is 12-25 USD. For my hostel in Isabela, called Posada del Caminante, I payed 15 USD for the shared room. As for the one in Santa Cruz, Hostal Gardner, I payed 22 USD for a shared bedroom, but it also included a nice breakfast. I met travelers who actually paid cheaper for their rooms, but I was happy with what I got. If you’d like a more budget friendly option, you can go around and ask the prices. Who knows, maybe there are better offers?

When it came to food, I always tried to stay on a budget and ordered los menus (consisting of soup, main dish and juice). In Isabela, menus cost 5-7 USD. In Santa Cruz, there are menus for 4 USD. Note that the budget friendly food in Santa Cruz are mostly located in a street called Los Kioscos. As for Isabela, there is not as much options for food compared with Santa Cruz. So, I tried to buy ingredients and cooked at my hostel some of the time.

Side note: If you stay at Santa Cruz, head to the ice cream on Los Kioscos. You can get an ice cream for a dollar, and I swear it’s worth it. To the 3 guys that introduced me to that ice cream shop, if you’re reading this, thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

Things to do in the Galapagos Islands
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Beautiful beaches that you can go to

When I was doing my research, I searched for the free things I could do on the islands. It turns out that there are many activities that you can do for free on each island! Some days I would rent snorkel gears for 5 USD, other days I would just walk around to lagoons and beaches. During my whole trip, I only took one organized tour to the lava tunnels (los tuneles) in Isabela, which cost 120 USD. It was an amazing trip, because I got the chance to see penguins, sharks, sting rays, etc. Anyways, what I’m trying to point out here is that there are many budget friendly options and being in a tour is optional (unless you are there to scuba dive, maybe).

Now you know

Based on my experience and experiment, now you know that doing the Galapagos Islands on a budget is indeed possible. So, don’t let the price tag scare you! Go and explore this magnificent archipelago, because it will be one of the most amazing experiences of your entire existence. I hope this article helps, and as always, happy travels!

Un abrazo,

Bethanny

P.S.: Have you been to the Galapagos and have other tips? Comment below!

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75 Comments

  1. I like DIY trip and also want to try some ice cream on Los Kioscos too.๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

  2. Good to know that this can be done on a budget and possibly even cheaper! Even by sticking to a budget it looks like you had an amazing time and your pictures are awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a new and truly interesting island for me!Your story and guide is just wonderful and it’s amazing how you budgeted your travel money properly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great tips. I have heard that the Galapagos can be super expensive, especially for the cruises so there’s some really useful information here. Glad you enjoyed your NYE celebrations there too. What a great spot for it!

  5. Wow, what an amazing price! We really want to experience this part of the word but the prices have put us off until now! It sounds like an amazing place and i bet the Lava Tunnels were just incredible!

  6. Wow!! That is so great that you did it for so cheap. Your budget guide is so detailed as well. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I’m bookmarking this for future reference

  7. I have always thought (like many people) that it is an expensive destination. It looks stunning especially the gorgeous nature and animals and I would love to visit it one day. Almost every place can be done on a budget with some research and planning. And with time you get experienced in planning and budgeting.

  8. I was just at the NY Times Travel Show and they were talking about Galapagos being such a hot spot right now. Nice to know there are budget friendly options as well. My best friend did a super expensive cruise there and after 8 days, was bored to death. I’m glad I didn’t spend that much money just in case. Great suggestions. Thanks!

  9. How awesome! You really don’t need to spend a lot of money to travel and have a good time. The photos look beautiful.

    1. There are tons of budget options in Latin America. Galapagos was known to be one of the more expensive side, but it turns out it’s still doable on a budget!

  10. Good to know that you can travel there on a budget, the rooms are much cheaper than I thought they would be. The tortoise breeding centre would be a place that I would definitely head to while there.

  11. Wow, this looks amazing. Those turtles!!! I would love to visit one day, but in the meantime, I’ll live vicariously through your beautiful photos!

  12. Great post. I love how you DIY your own trip that makes sure you get to do everything on your schedule and don’t have to was time doing things you don’t want too. Not to mention it saves so much money.

  13. Wow, $600 for that amount of time is a great deal. I would love to be able to visit a country on such a great budget. I will definitely keep this in mind for when I’m searching for new locations to go to!

  14. This is an excellent way to trip to galapagos. Thanks for sharing it out. DIY trips definitely help save more. It was not only economical for you, but it was fun as well, Isn’t it?

  15. This place looks lovely and the best part is you spent with a budget ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ… I should start doing this history for my next trip ๐Ÿ˜Š

  16. It is a great post with great tips. I loved the idea of DIY and the tortoise picture. Galapagos islands are beautiful and you seriously nailed the place in budgeted amount.

  17. Galapagos Island is my dream ever since I saw a documentary on the same. It had always seemed like a super expensive experience. I am amazed to know that you have made it to here on such a low budget. Encourages me to plan my trip.

  18. Wow the Galapagos Islands look incredible and now it seems more affordable than I thought. These are great tips to help such a trip fit in to budget travel. I’ve been on less cool trips that costed more.

  19. This is the post I’ve been looking for! Planning a trip next year and need to do it on a serious budget. Thank you so much for your great advice. Pinned for later!

  20. This is great to hear! I’ve wanted to go to the Galapagos but hadn’t really researched it as it seemed crazy budget wise. Now, I know it can be done! Thanks so much for sharing.

  21. Wow! I had just heard of the Galapagos islands in my biology books. It would be really interesting to visit here. When do you think we should visit? Is there a specific cuisine of these islands?

    1. Best seasons would be the low seasons. But visiting during the New Years was a worth it experience as well. Definitely try lobster there, $15 for a whole lobster. And sopa marinera (seafood soup)!

  22. It is nice to know that you can do the islands on a budget. For me, however it would still need a lot of money to fly from India to there. Food looks to be quite cheap.

  23. great article… how did you source accomodation? is it easy to just go there and find something or need to pre-organise something at least?it is on my list will definitely take some points from your article

    1. Hi Hassan, I actually went on booking.com and googled here and there. I was worried because it was high season and that all rooms would be full but it turns out that they weren’t as full as I thought. So going there without an accommodation is possible and you can look on the spot. However, the Ecuador government does require you to give accommodation details before boarding your flight to the Galapagos.

  24. The Galapagos is so high on my bucket list, aaaagh. This just made me want to go even more. I had no idea you could do it on such a budget either!

    Also a side note, I LOVE your header image.

  25. Such a beautiful write-up! I will definitely save this for my future trip to South America with Galapagos side trip. For now, I will save more to afford such an expensive trip! How do you afford to travel there as a student? I am an Asian student myself, so maybe we can share some tips! Message me ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. So now I know where to head to when I crave for beaches but with a light wallet! The DIY trip sounded very clever and I do agree that in DIY trips you get a chance to look around and explore more, in comparison with guided tours.

  27. I wanted to go there a few years ago when I was in Ecuador but didn’t think I had the money but this is actually suprisingly affordable. I really wish I had have known this then. But I’m back in Ecuador this year so this is really good to know!!

  28. I never thought of going to South Africa but if I should go I would surely wanna visit Galapagos. I was just thinking prior reading your post how to budget myself at least $1000 on a vacay in Jamaica.

    I guess it can be done after all.

  29. Galapagos islands are stunning. Would love to visit someday. Thanks for sharing all tips and info. Btw how much was the flight cost ?

    Need to find a deal from Europe

    1. Hey Swati! I booked my flight from Chicago and it cost me around 400-500 USD to get to Quito, Ecuador. From there you will have to book another flight to Galapagos which could range from 100ish-300 USD. All depends on which season you go ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. This is a good reminder that traveling does not always come with a hefty price tag! Galapagos sounds really tempting right now! Thanks Bethanny!

  31. Hi Bethanny
    just to let you know I’ve nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award as one of my favourite travel blogs! I was recently nominated and the purpose of the award if you haven’t heard of it is to recognise each others efforts, encourage one another and grow partnerships between bloggers.
    If you wish to accept it, take a look at my most recent post!
    http://thewanderingwelshie.com/2017/05/12/blogger-recognition-award/
    All the best,
    Sarah x