Flying to the Galapagos
People often ask about airlines to the Galapagos, both in terms of which airline to fly and weight limitations, especially important to divers. So hopefully, what you'll have here is a flight guide that answers all questions. To see 2016 flight prices, click here. To see Avianca's flight schedule for 2016, click here.
Arriving into Ecuador:
You can arrive into either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). Unless you are arriving on a red-eye into Guayaquil, you must overnight in one of these two cities upon arrival. We always recommend that if you are simply flying into the Galapagos with no mainland tours, Guayaquil is more convenient. Most flights from Quito route through Guayaquil. It is a bit closer and the price is a bit lower.
The new airport in Quito is incredibly inconvenient, especially upon arrival. It is 90 minutes outside the city. So if your flight arrives around 11PM, as so many do, you would arrive at your hotel around 01:00 AM at the earliest. If you have an early departure...say the 7:40 AM ... and need to be back at the airport by 6AM, you are going to have 3.5 hours in a Quito hotel at best. If you end up in rush hour, transfer times could be as much as 2 hours. In Guayaquil, all hotels are within 10-15 minutes from the airport. In short, we advise you to avoid Quito if you are not planning on spending time there prior to your flight to Galapagos. Delta is the only international airline that doesn't fly into Guayaquil. There are now inns and small hotels near the airport which you can find on google, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Priceline, etc.
On the other hand, if you wish to do some sightseeing on mainland Ecuador, Quito offers so much more than Guayaquil. You can visit cloud forests, take a quick flight over to the Amazon jungle (far better than in Peru), visit one of South America's most famous indigenous markets 2 hours away in Otavalo or simply tour Old Quito which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are haciendas to enjoy and snow capped mountains to climb. You can ride horses in the Andes, go river rafting and so very much more.
Quayaquil is a city on large rivers, so even though, on a map, it looks like it's on the coast. The closest beach is about an hour away. Yes, the Malecon is a nice river walk for tourists and I must admit, night time at Las Penas is fun, but I'd stick with Quito for mainland activities.
Flying To Galapagos:
Unless you are arriving on a red-eye, after an overnight in either Guayaquil or Quito, you should arrive to the airport 1.5 - 2 hours in advance. Before you even check in for your flight, you must first purchase a transit control visitor card and receive your Galapagos customs form. Two pieces of the bottom of the customs form are detachable. 1 has a hologram of Galapagos wildlife with your name on it and can be used as your ID in Galapagos so you don't have to carry your passport around. The other stub you must store away somewhere safe as you will need to present it at departure. We recommend slipping it into your passport. So again, upon arrival, go to the Consejo de Gobierno window before going to your airline counter or you will simply wait in line only to be sent back to the Consejo de Gobierno window.
In Quito, the Consejo de Gobierno window has signage and is located immediately to your right after you enter the first door upon arrival to the airport. In Guayaquil, the Consejo de Gobierno window is updstairs just to the left of the airline counters. At the window, they'll ask you where you are staying or the name of your boat. You pay $20 in cash (unless you prepaid on Galapagos Sky) and they give you the customs form. You'll be advised to retain both bottom sections, one to hand in as you depart and the other to serve as your ID in Galapagos.
Next, they run your bag through an X-Ray machine and may decide to inspect it for organic material. You may transport most processed foods that are sealed, but things like some raw nuts, fruit, bulk items that are not sealed, etc are not permitted.
After that, go to your airline's counter for check-in and boarding passes. They don't usually ask if you have an aisle or window preference, so if you do, best to let them know when you present your passport. Typically, they don't ask for your e-ticket, just your passport. Please note that if you may have to pay any additional fees (extra weight or if prices rose since you purchased your tickets).
Upon arrival, you will go through a Customs Line at the airport. You present the form you received at the mainland airport and pay your National Park Entrance Fee (currently $100 pp) in cash. You will receive 2 parts of the form back. 1 has a hologram of Galapagos wildlife and may serve as your ID while in Galapagos so you don't have to carry around your passport. The other form you need to present when you depart Galapagos, so put it somewhere safe and accessible. I recommend slipping it inside your passport. Your carry on bags will be checked for organic goods and then you go collect your luggage.
You are allowed 2 checked bag that weigh a combined 23 kilos, approx. 50 pounds, plus a carry on up to 10 kg / approx. 22 lbs. Excess weight is charged at the following rate: $20 plus 12% sales tax/IVA of $2.40 for a total of $22.40 for up to 23 kg/50 lbs. So if you have 2 checked bags at 50 lbs each, you will pay excess weight fees of $22.40. If your bags weigh a combined weight of over 100 lbs, this is the additional fee table: 51-70 lbs / 23-32 kg - $30 plus tax; 70-99 lbs/ 32-45 kgs $40 plus tax. Size restrictions are in line with most airline restrictions for incoming international flights.
Which Airline to the Galapagos?
Galapagos Sky, Humboldt Explorer and Galapagos Master depart from San Cristobal (SCY). The Aggressor, the Astrea and Nortada depart from Baltra (GPS). Avianca, and LAN service San Cristobal, however only Avianca flies into SCY on Monday, the day both the Humboldt and Master depart. All 3 airlines fly to Baltra daily. Avianca is an international airline, so you may be able to book yourself all the way to Galapagos and save money over booking an international flight to Ecuador plus a domestic flight to/from Galapagos. American Airlines partners with LAN, so the same may be possible through them.
What are the differences? Well, in terms of the flight itself, I don't think there is much of a difference in service. If you do book your own flight...just be sure you fly into the correct airport!!
Galapagos Flights Booking Recommendation: