Trips to Galapagos Islands Cheap
People flock to the Galapagos for its colorful, strange wildlife. (Photo: Meerechse auf Galapagos image by KatrinW from Fotolia.com )
Ecuador's remote Galapagos Islands are among the world's premiere destinations for wildlife viewing, both on land and at sea. Yet in general, one thing travel to the Galapagos cannot be called is "cheap." Travel to the islands is mostly by air, and for non-Ecuadorians the price tag for the 2 1/2- or 3-hour flight can be steep. However, if you can afford to be flexible about your itinerary, there are ways to get the costs down.
Flights to the Galapagos originate in Quito and stop in Guayaquil before proceeding to their ultimate destination. Fare research for May 2010 revealed that round-trip flights from Quito ranged between about $480 and $600, while those flying straight from Guayaquil were a rock-solid $480. Ergo, if you will be exploring Ecuador before heading to the Galapagos and can find a good way to end that part of your trip in Guayaquil, you may be able to fly at a considerable discount for your trouble.
Note that citizens and alien residents of Ecuador receive a 50 percent discount on airfare to the Galapagos. If you have dual-citizenship with Ecuador, it's your lucky day. If you are studying in Ecuador and therefore in possession of a student visa, make inquiries about this discount.
According to Lonely Planet and backpacker forums, a military C-130 transport plane makes regular flights to the Galapagos every other Wednesday and accepts foreign passengers if there is room. This is not an especially reliable means of getting to the Galapagos; but you can determine availability with a simple inquiry, and the ticket price is lower than the least expensive ticket on the regular airlines for non-citizens or residents. Make inquiries in person at Avenida de la Prensa 3570, just outside of Quito airport.
Unsold Tour Slots
While flights to the Galapagos are booked out for weeks or even months in advance, this is because Ecuadorian tour agencies buy up blocks of tickets. As tour slots are often unsold, these agencies frequently find themselves with leftover flight tickets they will part with cheaply. However, they sell these cheap seats only on the day of the flight. This approach leaves even more to chance than trying to hop aboard the military C-130 flight, as you will need to linger in Quito until a seat opens up. Still, if you have the backpacker's ability to trade time for money, this is your best bet for a truly cheap flight to the Galapagos.