“Just in case” packers often bring too many clothes and travel nicknacks on a trip. “Minimalist” packers may encounter times when they wish they would’ve considered bringing a particular item. No matter what type of packer you may be, don’t let procrastination get the best of you when planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Ensure your travel bags are filled with all the essentials by referencing this helpful list.
Clothing and Travel Accessories
What to Wear
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 don’t forget to pack some long-sleeve shirts and pants to protect yourself from a potential sunburn. Windbreakers or light sweaters are nice to have in the evenings during the cooler months, but leave your winter gloves at home. Anytime you pass through Quito on your way to the islands it’s advisable to bring a jacket because its high mountain climate can get chilly.
Many cruise ships through the Galapagos Islands have a casual dress code. If you’re not sure, just ask your travel advisor or refer to your planning documents. While the attire is informal on many ships, some women do wear travel skirts or dresses with a pair of nice flats to dress up. Men might wear trousers at dinner. In accordance to casual attire, it’s best not to pack expensive jewelry and watches because not every ship cabin is guaranteed to have a safe.
How to Dress Your Feet
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.
Pack a pair of hiking boots or sneakers (whichever you prefer), plus a pair of water shoes and flip-flops. Amphibious shoes are perfect for moving from the sand into the ocean and onto dry land and hiking trails in the Galapagos.
Accessorizing for the Galapagos
Here are some items to add to your 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 collapsible daypack for excursions, preferably made of lightweight nylon that can also be used as your carry-on, side pocket for a water bottle is an added plus
- Sunblock with SPF 30+ to protect your skin against the strong sun
- A wide-brimmed hat, preferably with a string under the neck so that it doesn’t fly off when its windy
- Sunglasses, ideally ones that are polarized
- 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.
Of course, don’t forget any toiletries that you’ll need during your trip: soap, comb, shampoo and conditioner, 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.
- Binoculars, small ones are a lot easier to carry on hikes
- Digital camera, ideally with a long-range lens and extra memory cards
- An underwater camera (or underwater case), perfect for capturing the wildlife oddities (like ocean going lizards!) 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 of the Galapagos
You can decide what specific equipment and accessories to bring that best compliment your travel itinerary, personal interests, and photography skills.
Preparing for Water Excursions
There are two ways to explore the underwater wildlife in the Galapagos: snorkeling or scuba diving. If you’re planning on swimming in these clear waters, don’t forget to pack a few bathing suits!
Snorkeling gear is supplied by most cruise ships. Sometimes this gear is provided free of charge, while other boats may charge a small fee. You can pack your own mask/snorkel if you don’t want to use a loaned set, but don’t waste the weight and limited luggage space bringing your own flippers.
Diving is only available on designated boats for people with the correct diving certification. A dive trip with a boat company or land-based diving outfit will supply all the necessary equipment: regulator, mask, fins, weights, oxygen tank, etc. Make sure you organize any diving excursions before traveling to the Galapagos.
Wetsuits are pretty much mandatory to swim comfortably in the Galapagos waters during the cool season from June to November when the Humboldt Current flows up South America’s Pacific coastline from the Antarctic. 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. 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.
Don’t forget to pack your passport!
Citizens from countries in North America and Europe can enter Ecuador for up to three months with a valid passport. No special visa is required. To be sure, ask your travel advisor or check with the Ecuadorian embassy in your country. Your passport should be valid for 6 months beyond the date of your final departure from Ecuador.
Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar. It’s a good idea to take bills less 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.
The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and there are only a few ATMs. Cash is king in the islands and withdraw the amount you’ll need to pay for park entrance fees and tips before you arrive. Only a few establishments accept credit cards and each transaction may have a surcharge of up to 10 percent. Travelers’ checks are a thing of the past, and are not widely used.
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.
The Galapagos Islands are online, but internet connections are unstable and can be frustratingly slow. Hotels in port towns often have Wi-Fi, and some cruise ships have limited Wi-Fi.
Although you may not be using your smartphone to regularly check emails and update your Facebook status, you may still want to consider bringing it on your trip to the Galapagos Islands. The alarm of your phone, for example, can be useful for waking up in time for an early morning excursion.
Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America in 2013 and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.