Why Is it So Expensive to Travel to Galapagos?

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When researching a trip to the Galapagos, the price tag that potential visitors tend to see on their tour packages usually raises some eyebrows. It’s not all that irrational to wonder why the Galapagos Islands (a part of Ecuador) is all that expensive when it’s situated inside of a developing country. However, the fact of the matter is that there’s a whole lot more to that, and it goes well beyond the fact that the country uses the US Dollar as its official currency. By no means is the Galapagos an exclusive destination or a site that’s meant for only the wealthiest in the world, it’s simply a victim (for lack of a better word) of its own location and label as a World Heritage Site. These two things work together as both a passive and active tax, respectively, that manages to add to the price of a trip to the archipelago (on top of airfare). In this blog, we invite you to gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to the elevated price of travelling to the Galapagos.

Expensive Factor #1: The Galapagos National Park Itself

There are those who say that with great power, comes great responsibility. The Galapagos is no exception to this rule, especially when you exchange the word power for unique species and pristine landscapes. The Galapagos National Park (commonly abbreviated as GPS) is the guardian of such “power” and as a result, they put a tremendous level of effort into maintaining and conserving the Galapagos Islands as much as possible.

floreana island sunset

These efforts don’t come cheaply, however. The fast pace of human development in concentrated areas (be it as a result of immigration, tourism and trade) have all increased the chances of there being introduced and/or invasive species on the island. With this in mind, the multiple controls and amount of supervision needed to maintain the Galapagos in as much of its pristine state as possible involves constantly working against the tide of this human influx. Since 2007, numerous strict measures were implemented by the GNP to tighten supervision, one of which involves the requirement of GNP certified guides on every visit outside of the inhabited areas (aka. The National Park).

unique wildlife galapagos

In the end, such circumstances led to the creation of two important and obligatory fees. One is the INGALA Transit Control Card ($20) that helps the Galapagos keep track of who is coming and going. The GNP fee (adults $100, children $50) contributes to the wellbeing and conservation of the park. For the curious, the following is a breakdown of where the funds go:

  • 10% – INGALA (Galapagos Immigration)
  • 5% – Ecuadorian Navy
  • 10% – Consejo Provincial de Galapagos
  • 25% – Galapagos Municipalities
  • 5% – Galapagos Marine Reserve
  • 5% – Inspection and Quarantine Services
  • 40% – Galapagos National Park

The Galapagos National Park specifically states that:
“Funds from the entry tax for tourists are used to finance the conservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna, terrestrial and marine, and benefits the local community by improving basic services, education projects, sports, health, environmental sanitation, environmental services and services directly related to tourists.”

All in all, transit and park agencies work together to help preserve the pristine magic that the islands are a source of, along with the incredibly unique number of species that it is home to. It might seem rather high, but find some peace of mind in knowing that it’s going to the right cause. And what’s more? A vacation in the Galapagos ultimately becomes not just a matter of enjoying an incredible vacation, but also of providing funds to the conservation efforts at work here.

Expensive Factor #2: Isolation & Logistics

The Galapagos Islands are located 926 km (575 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, covering an area of almost 8,000 km2 (3,030 mi2). The archipelago is made up of 19 islands, 13 of which are major visitor sites and 4 of these are inhabited by permanent populations. It takes an hour-and-a-half flight to reach the islands from Guayaquil, and two from Quito.

isolation galapagos

But it takes a boat 2-3 days to make it to the Galapagos from the mainland, and this is where things start to get pricey. Transporting things like goods, fuel (which isn’t subsidized like it is on the mainland) and services to and from the archipelago is incredibly expensive. Additionally, every item that heads to the archipelago must screened before arriving to the islands and, as a result, products in Galapagos become rather expensive to acquire.

The isolated nature of the islands also makes it tricky in terms of agricultural self-sufficiency (only 3% of its entire area is capable of having any form of crops for a population of approximately 25,000). Floreana and San Cristobal Islands have permanent sources of fresh water, but other islands (including Santa Cruz) depend on desalinization plants that prepare water taken from grietas or fissures in the lava rock.

Isabela Yacht Galapagos

Isabela Yacht Galapagos

In the end, these are all factors that play a role in contributing to the relatively higher-than-expected price of travelling to the Galapagos. But the silver lining is that you get top-notch service and experiences when you invest in the right kinds of tour packages. Yacht Isabela II Galapagos cruise offers exactly that, and is sure to offer you the best experience possible in the Galapagos at an impartial price.

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