Here you will find all the relevant information on travel times, immigration, infrastructure and regulations in Ecuador and the Galapagos, all provided first-hand from our Galapagos travel specialists.
The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador are a year-round destination. Temperatures in the tropical regions rarely fall below 15º C (59º F), and in the highlands, nights are hardly ever colder than 10º C (50º F). Ecuadorians have no heating in their homes.
That said, travelers to the highlands would be well advised to include a warm sweater and raincoat in their luggage. In the Andean highlands, you can experience all four seasons in one day, any day of the year. Mornings are like spring, cool and clear with good views of the volcanoes. By noon, the weather is generally warm and summery. The day becomes cloudy in the afternoon, and it can rain. Evenings are deliciously cool but not cold. It is again dry with clear, starry skies.
On the coast, in the Amazon lowlands and in the Galapagos Islands, a rain jacket can double as a windbreaker. In the rainforest on the other side of the mountains, the weather is warm and tropical all year round.
On the Galapagos Islands, there is a distinction between the warm and cool seasons. The tropical equatorial climate does not hold there on account of the cool Humboldt Current and the effects of the southern trade winds. Despite the distinction between the two seasons, the temperatures vary only slightly over the course of the year.
The months of December to May are known as the warm season on the Galapagos Islands. There can be heavy rain in the coastal regions. The weather conditions are tropical, with maximum temperatures averaging 29º C (84.2º F) and water temperatures averaging 25.5º C (77.9º F). Visitors can also expect more than seven hours of sunshine a day, with a chance of about four days of rain per month.
The warm season is followed, from June to November, by what is referred to as the cool season. Cooler air moves upward from Antarctica, resulting in lower temperatures and fog on the Galapagos Islands. The highs fall to an average of 25.7º C (78.3º F) and water temperatures recede to an average of 22.8º C (73º F). Tourists who come this time of year should still expect about six hours of sunshine a day. Due to the low amount of precipitation, this time of the year is also known as the dry season.
One of the biggest considerations when deciding when to visit the Galapagos Islands is the choppiness of the water. This has a significant impact on the choice of suitable ships. From December to May, the waves are generally weak in the ocean, whereas during the remaining travel period, you should definitely have sea legs for a cruise on a smaller ship.
Up until a few years ago, travel in Ecuador was tedious and complicated, but ever since President Correa took office, the country has seen great progress in its infrastructure. Its transportation connections have been almost completely revamped. Quito has a new airport just outside the city and boasts the longest runway in South America. The country’s largest city, Guayaquil, has a new airport terminal. The national and provincial highways are in excellent condition. For some time, cars have been equipped with navigation systems. Train connections are being revived in many places.
Progress is being made in the transport methods themselves. The country’s airlines are flying with new aircraft. There are currently three airlines in Ecuador: Aerogal (a subsidiary of Colombian airline Avianca), LAN Ecuador (a subsidiary of LATAM) and TAME, Ecuador’s national airline. All three now fly new Airbus or Embraer aircraft to the Galapagos.
The intercity buses have also become very comfortable. Taxis also remain a comparatively safe and inexpensive option.
The country’s tourist infrastructure has also improved considerably over the past ten years. Charming little hotels and lodges are springing up like mushrooms. In many places, you can now find a creative restaurant scene. The old train from Quito to Guayaquil is now a tourist attraction. The Amazon lowlands have opened up to tourists with river cruises and lodges. The Amazon lowlands in Ecuador are also quite easy to reach by bus or plane. For example, it takes just four hours to drive from Quito to Tena, making the Amazon much easier to reach than in other South American countries.
On the Galapagos Islands, there have also been positive developments in the tourist infrastructure. New, small hotels have opened under the national park authorities’ existing regulations. Baltra Airport has a new energy-neutral terminal, and the primary road across the main island of Santa Cruz has been renewed. Environmental protection regulations are closely monitored.
Visitors will find some mobility between the islands of San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana on uncomfortable speedboats (lanchas). The airline Emetebe also offers propeller plane flights, which take about 20 to 30 minutes. Please note that the exact departure times for these flights are only published one or two days before the flight. The best is to ask at the front desk of your hotel in the Galapagos.
In general, departure times and excursions in the Galapagos can vary, as the natural park pays close attention to current natural conditions. All shipping companies and Galapagos PRO make every effort to find suitable alternatives, so that you get the holiday of your choice regardless.
Tourism in the Galapagos Islands evolved only gradually in the 1960s. At this time, there were no major tourism companies in Ecuador. Foreign investors still did not have their sights set on the country. First came air day trips to the islands with the travel agency Metropolitan Touring. The agency followed in 1968 with the first yacht, the Lina A, for island cruises in the Galapagos archipelago. In the 1970s, the national park authorities worked together with tourist companies to create the Galapagos experience: exploring the island by hotel ship.
Today, a total of 88 ships are permitted in the Galapagos Islands. The ships hold at most 100 passengers and travel pre-defined routes through the islands. The categorization and classification of the ships is based on local criteria. Every ship is different.
In recent years, there has been a wave of modernization, meaning that some ships can be in dry dock undergoing renovations or rebuilding at certain times. This product renewal is important for the survival of the Galapagos experience by ship.
A cruise is an essential part of a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Ships are the only way to reach the uninhabited islands, which make up 95% of the national park. If you don’t take a cruise, it’s almost like you haven’t seen the Galapagos Islands. Even though some vendors offering island hopping promise otherwise, you only have a fraction of the experience with the impressive wildlife in the main visitor places. Thus, Galapagos cruises are the bottleneck for every trip to the archipelago, as the ships do not travel to the ports every day.
Galapagos PRO ensures the cruise is at the center of your planning. We offer the right ship based on your needs. After a multi-day cruise, you should be sure to enjoy a few days of paradise in the Galapagos on solid ground. For this, we recommend Isabela. Here is a Galapagos trip structured this way.
Please note that given the limited capacity of the ships (about 1,850 beds are available on the ships per week), there are special booking and cancellation conditions for cruises in the Galapagos Islands. You can find them in our terms and conditions of travel.
Traveling in the Galapagos Islands is a very relaxing experience. After your trip, you will feel fully recovered.
Both on the ship and on the islands, people generally wear light casual clothing and sportswear.
- T-shirts or long and short-sleeve blouses and shirts
- Shorts or long pants
- Light tennis shoes (trekking sandals are good for land excursions)
- Insect repellent (Note about insects: There is a Galapagos wasp on Isabela that is attracted to yellow clothing and conventional insect repellents. That said, the guides will let you know to not to use repellent and to wear a different color of clothing during excursions where wasps are present.)
- A small backpack
- Potentially you own water bottle
- Complement your wardrobe with a windbreaker and light sweater.
- We recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear. Borrowing is generally not a problem.
- Medicine for seasickness is important. You can buy it in Ecuador at the airport.
Luggage: Only 20 kg of luggage (in addition to hand luggage) are allowed on the flight from the mainland to the Galapagos. You can leave all remaining luggage at your hotel in Quito. If you will be flying Emetebe between the islands, only 12 kg per person are allowed. Any extra baggage can be left in your hotel on the mainland. Excess baggage on site costs around USD 1.50 per pound.
Anyone going to the Galapagos Islands must travel via Ecuador. The archipelago has belonged to Ecuador since the 1830s.
Tourists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland only need a passport that is valid for at least six months to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival, you will receive a stamp allowing you to stay for three months. This is free of charge.
It is the responsibility of each individual traveler to ensure that he or she has the necessary entry documents.
For the Galapagos Islands, travelers fill out an INGALA Transit Control Card, which currently costs USD 20.00. This allows tourists to spend up to 30 days on the islands. A visa is required for longer stays. When arriving in the Galapagos Islands, you must also pay a USD 100.00 park entry fee in cash. Note: It is important to bring cash from the mainland. ATMs in the Galapagos are few and far between.
With some of our collaborating shipping companies, we offer advance completion of the arrival formalities (INGALA and park entry fee). In this case, you pay the USD 120.00 up front as part of the trip price. Advantage: This eliminates the wait times, which are often long.
For more information about entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of Ecuador in your country, e.g. the Embassy of Ecuador in Berlin (Joachimsthaler Str. 10-12, 10719 Berlin, tel.: +49-(0)30-800969500).
On October 20, 2015, the German Foreign Office published the following information on travel to Ecuador:
There are no safety issues for the vast majority of visitors to Ecuador.
Nevertheless, you should trust your common sense and not try your luck. We recommend leaving your jewelry in a safe at home. Take enough cash with you, and whenever possible, leave most of it in the safe in your hotel. Always keep a copy of our passport with you and leave the original in the hotel safe.
On this topic, the founder of Galapagos PRO always says: “The only time I ever got my wallet stolen was at H&M in Darmstadt.”
Please consult the updated medical guidelines from June 7, 2016.
The flight connections from Europe to Ecuador have improved considerably in recent years. There are direct flights from Amsterdam and Madrid. From Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there are connecting flights stopping in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Madrid.
Feel free to ask us for flights from other countries as well. We would be happy to book them for you.
Your expert travel agent or Galapagos PRO can also book the international flight and add it to the itinerary upon request. That has some very significant advantages for you as a traveler:
- The international flight becomes part of the guarantee certificate we issue as a guarantee of your trip.
- You do not have to pay for the entire flight up front but can pay an installment in line with the payment terms, settling the amount shortly before departure.
- Any rebooking, passenger name changes, etc. are free of charge until shortly before departure.
You can also decide to book your flight yourself or have your travel agent arrange the booking. Please note that such flights are not covered by the guarantee certificate we issue you.
As a result of improvements to the transportation infrastructure in Ecuador, it is now very easy to explore the country by car on your own. Ideally, you should book your car in Germany before your trip. All major car rental companies are present in Ecuador. Galapagos PRO offers very good rates. Particularly to small families and experienced travelers we recommend exploring the mainland with a pre-planned rental car route. Check out our combo trip including a rental car tour here.
The wildlife in the Galapagos Islands is thrilling for adults and children alike; however, we recommend that children be at least eight years old before traveling there. It is important that the children be good swimmers and know how to snorkel. They should be mature enough to respect the animals and understand the national park rules. No matter how cute the animals are and how close they come, you are not allowed to touch them.
Young families should make sure to select a larger ship for the cruise, giving children enough room to move about. When traveling with children, we also recommend a shorter cruise followed by a longer stay on an island, so that the kids have plenty of room to play and run.
The Ecuadorians are a very peaceful and hospitable people. One of the country’s ten wonders is the peaceful nature of its political revolutions. German travel publisher Reise Know-how produced KulturSchock Ecuador, a special travel guide all about the country. In the description, it says:
The small Andean country on the equator fascinates visitors with its spectacular scenery, cultural diversity and the friendliness of its people. Ecuador is the perfect destination for newbies to Latin America, because its small territory contains the typical geographical particularities of the content. Just as the landscape is full of contracts, the ethnic, cultural and social diversity of the Ecuadorian people too is very diverse. This book helps you understand the views of locals, makes travelers aware of Ecuadorian particularities and protects against the occasional faux pas.
We recommend this book (in German only) to every Ecuador traveler.
KulturSchock Ecuador: ISBN: 978-3-8317-1414-8 / Pages: 300 / 4th edition / 2014.