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Here is our guide on travel in Ecuador and the Galapagos to provide you with everything you will need to know before your trip, including information on weather, visas, what to pack etc. If you need any additional help or advice please just let us know.

See our weather charts for weather in the Galapagos Islands to help give you an idea of what weather to expect during your holiday:

galapagos islands weather chartWeather in the Galapagos:

Although temperatures in the Galapagos Islands remain warm throughout much of the year due to the islands proximity to the equator, there is a distinct "dry season" from late June until December, and a "warm season" from January through the late May when climate is more humid and tropical but with a higher chance of rain.

Like much of South America there is no "best time to visit the Galapagos Islands". The Galapagos Islands are a fascinating and wonderful holiday destination all year round. However factors such as climate, wildlife watching opportunities, and tourist numbers, can play a part in decisions on when to travel.

The Galapagos Islands have their warm season roughly from late December or January through until late May. During this time of year the weather is more tropical and the climate can be hot and humid with daily temperatures frequently exceeding 30 degrees centigrade. The ocean temperatures are warmer during this period which can make water-activities such as snorkelling, swimming or scuba-diving more enjoyable. This time of year also coincides with higher levels of rainfall, and the skies can appear more overcast and cloudy.

The dry season is from June until December when daily temperatures are warm, skies are a beautiful turquoise shade of blue, and rainfall still occurs but is at its lowest. The Humboldt Current, the cold-water current that flows from southern Chile northwards past Peru, flows into the Galapagos Islands during this time which means that water temperatures are therefore colder (but swimming and snorkelling is still perfectly possible). This time of year is when sea-mammals and land-birds are usually most active.

The US dollar (USD, $) is legal tender throughout Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador producers its own "centavo" coins (with denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos), but notes are from the United States.

ATM machines and cash machines dispensing US dollars are found throughout Ecuador, in particular in the major cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. Cash machines can be found on the Galapagos Islands themselves in the major cities of Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, although depending on the type of holiday you have booked it was may not always be possible to visit a cash machine (for example you might transfer directly from the airport to your cruise vessel) so it is always advisable to take cash with you from the mainland.

Most restaurants, hotels, cruise vessels, and other businesses will accept payment by Visa, Mastercard and American Express, although check before you make your purchase.

Inform your bank of the dates and destinations of your trip prior to travel. We recommend you save a copy of your credit card details and the international contact number to telephone in case your card is lost, stolen or damaged during your trip.

It is advisable to take some cash with you when visiting the Galapagos Islands, particularly if you are travelling on a cruise. Although some cruise ships will accept credit cards this is not always the case, and although food and excursion costs are included you may want some small funds to cover alcoholic drinks from the cruise bar, snacks, souvenirs or to tip the staff on the cruise ship if you wish.

We highly recommend you visit a medical professional before your holiday and inform them of exactly when and where you will be travelling to make sure you are given the correct immunisations and / or medication for your trip.

It is also important you carry with you any of your own medication you may require during your trip, and it is recommended you also carry some form of suitable medication to ease headaches and upset stomachs.

Be aware that much of Ecuador is at altitude including the capital city of Quito. To reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness and to help you acclimatise as quickly as possible stay hydrated by drinking water, avoid alcohol at least for the first few days at altitude and try to avoid energetic activities. If you are concerned about this further we recommend that you discuss your travel plans with your doctor prior to travelling.

Be aware that parts of low-land Ecuador in the coastal region and Amazon basin east of the Andes are malaria risk areas and anti-malarial tablets are usually recommended by medical health professionals. Seek advice from your local GP or travel health clinic. At the time of writing the major Ecuador cities of Quito and Guayaquil, as well as the Galapagos Islands, are low malaria risk and anti-malarials are not required, although check for updated information prior to travelling.

The Zika virus has been reported in countries across South America, and if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant we advise that you speak to your local GP and / or travel health clinic and seek professional medical advise before travelling.

The NHS travel website has further useful and helpful information: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

We are not medical professionals and medication should only be taken following professional medical advice.

Spanish is the official language of Ecuador and is spoken throughout the country. The Ecuadorian mainland also has additional indigenous regional languages such as Kichwa and Shuar.

Spanish is the most abundant language spoken on the Galapagos Islands, but as this is such a popular tourist destination English and many other languages are understood and widely spoken by hotels, cruise ship staff, and tour guides.

We recommend that you try to learn at least a few basic Spanish words prior to your trip to increase your enjoyment of your holiday and to help immerse you more in the culture of South America.

At the time of writing UK nationals with a British passport do not need to apply for a visa in advance of travel to Ecuador and will be issued with a tourist visa upon arrival, however always check the current situation prior to travel. Some nationalities will be required to apply for a visa in advance of travel and we recommend you check with your local embassy before travelling.

Upon entry to Ecuador you will complete an Andean Immigration Card which will be stamped and returned to you, it is important you keep this document with your passport at all times as you will need it to pass through passport control when you exit Ecuador. If you have lost this document you may be required to pay a fine.

If you are travelling to the Galapagos Islands then you will be required to pay an entry tax, the Galapagos National Park Entry Fee, in cash on arrival at the airport or your point of arrival. At the time of writing the entry fee cost is $100 per person for adults.

Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the completion date of your trip. We also recommend you take a photocopy of the photo page of your passport.

Please note that in some instances will make certain reservations for your holiday linked to your passport details so it is important you do not renew your passport or any details on your passport (including your name) after booking but prior to travelling. If you have any questions regarding this please just get in touch.

For all nationalities, including if you are travelling on a British passport, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation to ensure you can enter Ecuador and all other countries included in your holiday.

Ecuador's cuisine varies depending on which region of Ecuador you are visiting. Food in the Amazon jungle regions includes things like river-fish stews and fruits and salads, in the Andes regions including Quito meats such as chicken and beef are popular with potatoes and Andean staples such as quinoa, and in the coastal region such as Guayaquil seafood and ceviche are typical dishes.

In Quito the central area around the main plaza in the UNESCO World Heritage old-town city centre has a good choice of top restaurants serving up a range of modern, Ecuadorian and western foods. Good restaurant choices in Guayaquil are a little less easy to find, with most tourists exploring the famous Malecon 2000, a long river-side promenade which is dotted with eateries and restaurants.

Food on the Galapagos Islands is a mixture of global and European-style meals such as warming stews from the Andean highlands, roasted chicken, and more traditional sea-food dishes using typical Galapagos ingredients including ceviche, sea-food soup, shrimp, lobster and other delicious and fresh ingredients. All means on the Galapagos cruise are prepared by the yacht and included in your holiday, with filtered water and tea and coffee always available.

Avoid drinking any tap water in Ecuador and avoid asking for ice in any cold drinks ordered in restaurants or bars unless you are certain these have been prepared usintg bottled or sterilised water.

Never travel without suitable travel insurance. Suitable and appropriate travel insurance is a requirement of our Booking Terms and Conditions and it is your responsibility to ensure you have travel insurance applicable to your personal circumstances and holiday. Advise your insurance company of any pre-existing medical conditions and ensure you are covered for all activities included within your trip.

We recommend you take a copy of you insurance policy and a copy of your policy and terms and conditions with you on your holiday.

We are able to provide the contact details of a Travel Insurance company if required.

The main things to bring on your holiday are your passport (we also recommend you email yourself a copy of the relevant pages as backup), money, suitable luggage including a day-sack, your camera and memory cards, and your flight e-tickets.

Deciding what clothes to pack really depends on which region of Ecuador you are visiting. In the highland regions including Quito during the dry season the days are very sunny and sun hats and long-sleeved clothes are highly recommended to protect your skin from the harsh Andean sun, while in the evenings can be bitterly cold due to the altitude. During the wet season there is a higher chance of rain so a lightweight waterproof jacket is advisable. In the coastal regions, including Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands, the weather is usually either warm or sunny, and the humidity if particularly warm in Guayaquil, so shorts and t-shirt are advisable. In the Amazon regions rain is common so waterproof clothing is required and long-sleeved lightweight clothing is always advisable to reduce the chance of insect bites.

Other items we recommend you pack include a suitable personal first aid kit, binoculars, a torch with batteries, an electricity adaptor (a typical international plug converter is usually suitable), toilet paper (carry a small amount with you at all times on your trip as some restaurants and cafes in South America don't always provide toilet paper), a travel guide book, strong sun lotion (the sun can be very harsh particularly in the highland regions), sun hat and sun glasses, insect repellent, plastic bags (to keep things dry), earplugs, strong insect repellent, a lightweight towel, toiletries, and an alarm clock.

If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands some additional items to consider taking include underwater / waterproof covers for your camera if you wish to photograph the beautiful sealife, sandals to wear on the cruise ship and an additional pair of shoes / trekking sandals that you can use for the wet-landings for the daily excursions, and swimming shorts / swimming suit for the snorkelling sessions. Wet suits are normally provided on the cruise yachts.

When you book we provide you with a full packing list in our Welcome Pack.

South America is a relatively safe continent and the vast majority of people that visit South America travel without problems. However South America does have lower standards of health and safety than some countries and it is a poorer continent than some parts in the world and opportunistic crime can occur, so an element of common sense is required to reduce the chances of you having a problem. Always stay within tourist areas and try not to stroll along quiet streets or away from the tourist areas of towns, particularly at night. Also avoid carrying large amounts of money with you, only carry what you need for that particular day, and ensure money and other valuables is left in the safety deposit boxes in your hotel. Keep the personal possessions that you have with you during the day, such as your bag or camera, on your person at all times and avoid leaving them on seats or under tables at restaurants.

Although tipping is entirely discretionary for tourists tipping a small amount (5-10% of the bill at the very most) is quite common in restaurants, and some moderate and high-end restaurants might include a service charge on your bill (so check before tipping).

Tipping tour guides is common right across South America, although it is optional and you should never feel obliged to tip. Only consider tipping if you feel your guide was good at their job, spoke clearly with good English, was engaging and passionate about the destinations you visited etc. For a typical half-day tour a tip of the equivalent of around £2.00 per person is a good starting point.

If you are travelling on the Galapagos cruise it is common to tip the guide, chef, crew and support staff that have worked on the cruise ship during your cruise. As a guide an amount of around $20 per tourist per day (depending on the length of the cruise) is a typical amount.

Tipping is optional so you should never feel obliged to tip.

In our holidays all excursions, accommodation, transfers and domestic travel including flights are all included, so really the only additional costs you will incur when in Ecuador will be for things like drinks or meals that are not included, tips, and other costs such as souvenirs. If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands you will need to pay the Galapagos National Park Entry Fee on arrival, which is currently $100 per person.

Ecuador is a more expensive country to visit compared to some countries in South America, however it is still good value compared to travel in UK or Europe.

We include breakfast for you every day, and some excursions (such as the Galapagos cruises) include all meals as well, so check your itinerary to see what meals are / are not included. In the mainland cities, such as Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil, it is possible to find a good restaurant serving moderate food and pay around $10-$15 for a meal, slightly more if you order more than one course or drinks. Alcohol costs around $3 for a bottle of beer, slightly more for a glass of wine. Food and drink costs in hotels, particularly the more luxurious hotels in places like Quito, are slightly more expensive than the restaurants and bars nearby.

Ecuador is a popular and good value place to shop for souvenirs and you can pick up a bargain in the stalls in and around the old-town city centres of Quito and Cuenca, or on the Otavalo market excursion. Shop around and compare prices before deciding to ensure you are paying a fair price for your souvenir.

Unfortunately not all airlines operate the same luggage requirement standards, so it is difficult for us to specifically advise what the luggage allowance will be for your holiday.

Typical luggage allowance for international flights is 20kg or 23kg depending on your airline, and this can be confirmed by checking the relevant airlines website. Please bear in mind that your holiday may involve a number of flights with a number of airlines, including domestic flights within South America, so it is important you comply with the airline that has the lightest requirements to avoid issues. Certain domestic airlines within South America do have lighter luggage restrictions (as low as 15kg for check-in luggage) so it is worth checking with your airline before travelling to avoid fares at the airports. Your airline will be listed on your booking confirmation documentation, and if you need assistance with this please let us know.

For flights to the Galapagos note that usually only one check-in bag is permitted per passenger.


The information on this page is intended as a helpful guide only. If you have any further questions regarding Ecuador or the Galapagos please contact us - we are always more than willing to help.