“Just in case” packers often bring things they will never use on their trip. “Minimalist” packers may encounter times when they wish they would’ve considered bringing a particular item. No matter what type of packer you are, make sure your bags have all the essentials for Galapagos Islands travel. Reference this helpful Galapagos packing list with all the key items for a comfortable, seamless vacation.
Table of Contents
- Luggage Recommendations
- International Essentials
- Clothing and Travel Accessories
- Wildlife Sighting Equipment
- What Not To Bring To The Galapagos
Last updated by Melissa Dreffs in September 2020.
The luggage restrictions on flights to the Galapagos are the same as those for most international or domestic flights worldwide. In general, travelers can bring one checked bag weighing up to 50 lbs (23 kg), plus a carry-on and personal item.
However, keep in mind while packing for the Galapagos that there is limited storage space in cruise cabins. If you can limit the number and/or size of the bags you bring, you will save some precious space in your sleeping quarters. Because of this, we recommend:
- A duffel bag or backpack that you can unpack and then roll up to store. Alternatively, one small suitcase per person is ideal.
- A collapsible daypack for excursions, preferably made of lightweight, waterproof material that can also be used as your carry-on. A side pocket for a water bottle is a plus.
If you would like to bring a large suitcase, consider upgrading your cabin to have more space.
- The most important item on this Galapagos packing list, a passport is essential for international travel. Your passport should be valid for six months after the date of your departure from Ecuador.
- Citizens from most countries do not need a visa. Most travelers can enter Ecuador and stay for up to three months with only a valid passport. Learn about visas in South America and check if you will need an Ecuadorian visa.
- Proof of travel insurance is not required to travel to the Galapagos. However, we highly recommend purchasing travel insurance and bringing any necessary documentation on your trip.
- If you booked a scuba diving tour, do not forget your diving certification. All scuba divers must be PADI or SSI certified. Some difficult dives also require a dive log with proof of a certain number of dives. Make sure you organize any diving excursions while planning your trip to the Galapagos.
Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar. The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and there are only a few ATMs. Some establishments accept credit cards, but each transaction may have a surcharge of up to 10 percent.
Cash is king in the islands, so withdraw the amount you’ll need before you arrive.
- Mandatory National Park Entrance Fee: $100 USD per person or $50 for children under 12
- Recommended Tips: $20-30 USD per person per day to be divided between the guide and crew. You should pay tips daily for island-hopping packages or once at the end of your cruise.
- If you plan on shopping in the Galapagos, bring along some smaller bills. It’s a good idea to take denominations smaller than $20, ideally in $5 and $1. Sometimes smaller businesses won’t have adequate change or simply won’t accept a larger bill to avoid counterfeit money.
- For add-ons or in-trip services like Wi-Fi, wetsuits, alcoholic beverages, kayaking, etc., you can pay at the end of your trip with cash or credit card for most cruise ships and hotels. However, we recommend confirming this ahead of time with your Travel Advisor.
- Travelers prone to seasickness will want to bring the appropriate medication to the Galapagos. Some seasickness pills cause drowsiness, so research the different options and pick the one that’s right for you, or consult your doctor.
- Consult your doctor if you have any health conditions before traveling and don’t forget to pack any personal medications you might need. Given the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands, access to medical care is limited. Most cruise ships offer basic on-board medical attention and some may even have a trained nurse or doctor.
- Snorkel masks with prescription lenses are a great way to see underwater. If you have one and have space in your luggage, bring it along!
Technology and Electronics
- The Galapagos Islands are online, but internet connections are unstable and can be frustratingly slow. Hotels in port towns often have some Wi-Fi, and some cruise ships offer limited Wi-Fi for an extra cost. Plan to spend around $15-20 USD per day for connection on cruise ships. Note that most ships charge for the whole stay and you cannot pay for just one day. If you plan to use the internet, pack your devices and their chargers.
- Although you may not be using your smartphone to regularly check emails and update social media, you may still want to bring it on your trip to the Galapagos Islands. The alarm clock, for example, can be useful for waking up on time for an early morning excursion.
- Electricity in Ecuador and the Galapagos is 110-120V and uses plug types A & B. This is the same voltage and electrical outlet used in the United States. American visitors will not need an adaptor for their electronics or chargers. Travelers coming from other countries should bring the appropriate adaptor to charge and use their electronics.
Clothing and Travel Accessories
Knowing what kind of clothes, shoes, and accessories to add to your packing list for Galapagos Islands travel is crucial. Check out the best personal items to bring below.
The best way to stay cool in the Galapagos’ heat and humidity is to wear clothing made from lightweight, breathable material.
- The sun’s rays are really strong, so pack a few long-sleeve shirts and pants to protect yourself from sunburn.
- Windbreakers or light sweaters are nice to have in the evenings and the cooler months, but leave your winter gear at home.
- One or two bathing suits to wear under your wetsuit or on their own.
- If you are also packing for Ecuador, anytime you pass through Quito on your way to the islands, it’s advisable to bring a warmer jacket because its high mountain climate can get chilly.
Most cruise ships and hotels in the Galapagos Islands have a casual dress code. While the attire is informal, some people choose to dress up for dinner, wearing skirts, dresses, or trousers with a nicer pair of sandals or flats.
Shoes for Galapagos
Deciding what shoes to bring to the Galapagos can be tricky, particularly for a “just in case” packer. It’s a challenge to forecast the actual conditions of daily excursions and there’s also limited space and added weight issues to contend with. However, pack these shoes to ensure your feet are taken care of.
- Amphibious shoes might be your best option for exploring the Galapagos comfortably. They are perfect for walking on the sand, into the ocean, on dry land, and on uneven hiking trails in the Galapagos.
- Alternatively, pack a pair of sneakers or hiking boots. Sneakers are sufficient, but bring along whichever is most comfortable.
- Lastly, bring a pair of water shoes and/or flip-flops for wet landings. Flip flops are also nice for walking around the ship or hotel premises.
Here are some items to add to your Galapagos packing list. “Minimalist” packers should read this section carefully as some of these products may not be for sale in the Galapagos Islands, or if you find them, they could be double the price.
Some important Galapagos essentials include:
- A wide-brimmed hat, preferably with a string under the neck so that it doesn’t fly off when it’s windy.
- Sunglasses, ideally ones that are polarized.
- A reusable water bottle. Cruises and hotels will provide filtered water for their guests to fill up and take along on their daily excursions.
- Sunblock and lip balm with SPF 50+ to protect your skin against the strong sun. Reef safe sunblocks are preferred, but not required.
- Aloe vera gel or another sunburn relief treatment
- Insect repellent. While bugs in the Galapagos aren’t oppressive, a few sprays of repellant can help particularly during excursions through mangroves that harbor mosquitoes. Your naturalist guide will let you know when to use the repellent.
- Of course, don’t forget any toiletries that you’ll need during your trip, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, contact solution, etc. Sometimes cruise ships supply their guests with soap and shampoo, but it’s best to check before your departure. If you bring your own, consider bringing biodegradable versions.
Capitalize on Wildlife Sightings
The Galapagos Islands have become a place of pilgrimage for travelers wanting to explore some of the world’s most unique wildlife. It’s necessary to plan ahead and pack the right equipment if you want to make the most of the experience. Smartphones, more often than not, aren’t adequate for capturing photos of animals in motion or those that are far away.
Here’s a list of some basic equipment that can help enhance your wildlife exploration in the Galapagos. You can decide what specific equipment and accessories to bring that best compliment your travel itinerary, personal interests, and photography skills.
- Binoculars. Small ones are a lot easier to carry on hikes. Have a good time observing the Galapagos wildlife while keeping your distance!
- Digital camera, ideally with a long-range lens or zoom lens attachments, and extra memory cards
- An underwater camera (or underwater case), perfect for capturing the wildlife oddities while snorkeling or scuba diving
- A sturdy waterproof bag to carry equipment on excursions
- A GoPro for capturing video footage on land and water tours
Check out our blog for more Galapagos travel tips.
What Not To Bring To The Galapagos
Now that you know what to pack, there are also a few things you should not bring with you. Be sure to leave behind:
- Valuables. In accordance with casual attire, it’s best not to pack expensive jewelry and watches. Also, there’s always a risk of losing these items in the water, so do not bring anything that would be devastating to lose.
- Fruit, vegetables, or anything that could invade or offset the delicate ecosystem.
- Walking sticks. Hotels and cruises will have these available to borrow.
- Makeup. As you are getting in and out of the water several times each day, we do not recommend bringing or expecting to wear much makeup. Of course, this is up to each traveler.
- Hair dryers. Cruise ships and hotels in the Galapagos provide hair dryers to their guests.
There are two ways to explore the underwater wildlife in the Galapagos: snorkeling or scuba diving. All cruises and hotels will have what you need for free or for a small fee. Therefore, it is not necessary to bring:
- Snorkeling gear. While you can rent all you need on the islands, feel free to pack your own mask/snorkel if you don’t want to use a loaned set. If you have a prescription mask, we recommend bringing it along. However, don’t waste the weight and limited luggage space bringing your own flippers.
- Wetsuits. Most ships will lend you a wetsuit and while it may not fit perfectly, it’ll usually do the job. You can bring your own, although most wetsuits are bulky. They are pretty much mandatory to swim comfortably in the Galapagos waters during the cool season from June to November. Water temperatures range between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during this time. You may not need a wetsuit to snorkel or scuba dive during the warm season (December to May), but this depends on your sensitivity.
- Diving equipment. A dive trip with a boat company or land-based diving outfitter will supply all the necessary equipment: regulator, mask, fins, weights, oxygen tank, etc. Diving is only available for people with the correct certification and who have scheduled a dive while planning their trip.
Going to the Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be sure to pack what you need following this Galapagos packing list to ensure a seamless trip. If you haven’t started planning your trip yet, contact our team to plan your customized itinerary to the Galapagos.
Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.