5 things no one tells you about Galapagos (and the best tips for planning)

The Galapagos Islands is a bucket-list, dream trip for many travelers, especially those who have long been planning a trip. Not only does it have insanely beautiful, indigenous wildlife species you can’t find outside the islands, as well as one-of-a-kind natural attractions, it’s important for the theory of evolution. But have you tried planning a trip here? It’s not so easy, so here’s our best Galapagos planning tips.

The islands of Galapagos are one of the trickiest destinations to plan. You’ll find chockfull of information online on basic planning (when to go, where to stay, etc), but there are a few important things every travel planner overlooks.

This is where Travelbinger comes in. Rather than give you dozens of tips you can read on any website, we decided to give you crucial tips nobody ever talks about. Did you know you have to pay to enter? Did you know you can visit without booking a cruise?

You’ll definitely want to keep our tips in mind when you’re booking a trip here since they can actually sway your decision on whether or not you want to visit. After our recent trip to the wonderful islands, we highly recommend you take plenty of time researching first since there’s so much to do. Use our best Galapagos planning tips to get you sorted.

5 things NO ONE tells you about Galapagos, and the best tips for planning a trip.

1. There’s a $100 cash fee to enter the Galapagos.

Once you step foot on the islands, you have to fork over $100 at customs for the Galapagos National Park entrance fee. Unless you wear an invisibility cloak, no one is exempt (kids 12 and under pay $50).

When I was in line at customs, several passengers were like WTF, so definitely be prepared. This is cash only, baby, so get thou to an ATM before you arrive. Yes, there is an ATM here, but once you go to get cash out, then you gotta get back in the long line just for this little trip up.

Iguana chilling out in Galapagos.

2. You do NOT have to book a cruise to visit Galapagos.

My, my… things have definitely changed in the past decade. For the longest time, the Galapagos was pretty much only explored via cruise ships, which meant you had to book a cruise to even visit, but a number of hotels have popped up all over the islands in the past ten years.

This means you can book a hotel, then navigate land and water (via tour companies) with excursions.

Pool at Pikaia Lodge.

The best hotel is Pikaia Lodge, unarguably the most luxurious resort on the island with only 10 rooms. It’s the only five-star lodge in the islands and it includes gourmet meals, outdoor pool, stunning design integrated into the landscape, a spa and views for days.

Room at Pikaia Lodge.

You also have personal tour guides in small groups (not herded like cruise ships) when you stay here. Obviously, this is a huge luxury, but if you’re going to do Galapagos, one of the most exotic destinations in the world, don’t you want to splurge? Even if you don’t, one thing I always hear from readers is that they had no idea they could actually stay in Galapagos. This makes staying on the island one of our best Galapagos planning tips.

Spa at Pikaia Lodge.

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3. Even though you can now book hotels, decide whether you want to do it.

Here’s the thing about booking hotels in Galapagos: You will spend plenty of hours just getting around. It really depends where your hotel is located, but it’s a guarantee you will spend up to 4 hours a day just commuting to an attraction, whereas on a cruise ship, you’ll just pull right up to it. Do you even love cruise ships?

There are pros and cons for both ways to do Galapagos (cruise or hotel), but decide what you’d prefer.

We loved staying in the lodge because the food was better than cruise ship food, there were more amenities, we had huge rooms, an outdoor pool and we could bike around at our leisure.

Planning a trip to Galapagos.
Galapagos tour group.


However, you will likely be herded with big groups if you do the cruise. The advantage? You have easier access to attractions with a cruise.

4. Galapagos is set up like a safari, if you’re into that.

You wake up pretty early to go on these treks to see animals in their natural habitats and surrounding landscape. We’re talking 4 am, 5 am and 6 am wake-up calls. So, to be honest, you have to be a morning person if you’re going to Galapagos. It’s not like you can go see the animals whenever you want. You’re on the guide’s schedule, so remember that for your Galapagos planning tips.

But you will see TONS of animals, and you’ll love it. You’ll even see animals in the least suspecting places, like this sea lion in a market.

Sea lion in Galapagos.

Also, note that most tourists visiting Galapagos want to see the animals, so everything revolves around that. If you don’t like safaris or animals, you may not like Galapagos. This is crucial to know if you’re planning a trip to Galapagos.

Tortoise family in Galapagos!

5. The WIFI totally sucks.

The Galapagos islands are in the middle of nowhere along the equator, so you know the WIFI is going to suck, especially if you visit on a cruise ship, which is worse.

Even on land, we rarely got good WIFI (it’s more like dial-up). This goes for cell signals too, which goes in and out. This sort of became a problem for doing Instagram stories or whatnot, but I loved the fact I could just focus on being in Galapagos and experiencing the nature and animals rather than taking photos all the time.


Don’t expect stellar WIFI, and you’ll have a blast!!


Don’t expect to upload photos right on the spot in Galapagos… the WIFI/cell service is slow!

For more Galapagos planning tips, check out Peru For Less.

Are you planning a trip to Galapagos? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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