With very, very rare exceptions, travelers come by plane to the Galápagos Islands. Tame (tel. 02/3977-100; and Aerogal (tel. 1800/2376-425; now offer daily flights to both Baltra Airport (airport code: GPS), right off Santa Cruz Island, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (airport code: SCY), on San Cristóbal Island. Note, however, that there are sometimes last-minute changes to flight schedules owing to inclement weather. Always check and double-check with your airline and the cruise company to confirm the airport that will be used for your particular itinerary.
Round-trip fares run just under $400 (£267), including local taxes and airport fees. During the low season (mid-Sept through mid-Dec and mid-Jan through mid-June), flights are sometimes a little bit less expensive.
Upon arrival you must pay a $100 (£67) fee to the National Park ( which is good for the duration of your stay. This fee must be paid in cash, so be sure to plan ahead and have it ready. Children under 12 pay $50 (£33). There is also a new $10 (£6.65) "transit tax" that you must pay at a special booth in the airport before checking in for your flight to the Galápagos.
If you booked a boat tour before you arrived, the airfare and ticket booking should already be included. You can usually expect someone to pick you up at the airport and escort you through the logistics of arriving in the Galápagos and finding the way to your ship. If you're traveling on your own and you have a choice of flights (and airports), I don't recommend flying into San Cristóbal; there is very little tourist infrastructure here. There are a handful of hotels on the island, and you can book last-minute tours and day trips from its port city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. But if you plan to base your touring out of a hotel on land, or if you're looking for a last-minute berth on a boat, the place to be is Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz, which is accessed from the Baltra Airport.
All flights from the mainland originate in Quito and stop in Guayaquil. If you plan on flying to the Galápagos the day after you arrive in Ecuador, I recommend spending the night in Guayaquil. Most flights to the Galápagos leave Quito early in the morning and then stop for more than an hour to pick up passengers in Guayaquil. You can have a more relaxed morning, and gain precious sleep time, if you board the plane there.
In addition to the two airports mentioned above, a small airstrip on Isabela Island is used for provisioning and inter-island commuter traffic.
Ship or Shore? - For many, the most important decision to make when planning a trip to the Galápagos is whether to take a cruise or visit the islands from a hotel base on land. The standard advice is that those prone to seasickness are better off staying on land. This may be true, but if you plan to take day trips from Santa Cruz Island to any of the other popular island sites, you will most likely be doing so on a very small boat. Conversely, if you book a cruise on one of the larger ships, you will be on a boat that is much more stable in rough seas, and most of the travel is done at night, while you are hopefully asleep, or, at the very least, supine.