Hey there my Steemit friends. I recetly spent almost two weeks on the Island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos. Today I'd like to get share some great strategies on how to do the Galapagos on a budget. With over 11 years of living out of a backpack on often a thin budget I've gotten real good at figuring ways to keep my expenses down.
I was almost hesitant to come to the Galapagos in the first place as I knew this is one of the more expensive places to visit in South America. I've been doing so well on Steemit lately not only was I able to afford the added expense of this trip I looked at this visit as a reward for my hard work; and an opportunity to bring this very cool place to my followers!
Knowing that it would be a bit of a challenge to stay on budget actually got me excited. I was looking forward to see how I would naturally find ways to cut expenses. I say naturally because at this point with all my experience it just comes natural to me. I see things differently than a tourist, who is here for a week then working back in the states for the rest of the year.
To maintain my travel lifestyle for over a decade I've had to adapt my habits and strategies to keep my expenses down. So for me finding a deal simply is now second nature. So in "Travel Pro" fashion here are some key "Travel Pro Budget Tips!" that can keep your expenses down too when you visit the Galapagos.
For starters try to be flexible with your flight. If you are as flexible as me (which not too many people are), take advantage of the super saver dates and fly from the nearest location. That being the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador; the second best option is Quito, the capital of the country. Since I already was in Guayaquil this worked out well.
I checked the two domestic airlines for dates and prices; Latam and Tame. It turned out Tame was offering a $237 round trip from Guayaquil if I left on the 29th of January and came back on the 8th of February. If I chose dates before or after the price would have gone as high as $425 dollars. So being a little flexible with your travel dates is key.
Another thing you're just going to have to deal with is the 20 dollar "travel card" which is just a made up fee to get more money out of you. Everyone has to buy it at the airport before you board the plane to go there. Also once you arrive they charge you a whopping $100 "entrance fee" at the airport to enter the national park; as all of of the Galapagos is considered a national park.
However if you are Ecuadorian or a permanent resident this $100 dollar fee drops all the way down to six dollars! Being "Travel Pro" I actually am a permanent resident of Ecuador. That's a long story; but as all my fellow Americans were in the tourist line reaching deep into their pockets I was in the "nationals" line and only had to pay six dollars upon arrival. That was really nice!
Before I left like usual everyone including my father who's used to me traveling for years asked "Do you have your hotel booked? Do you know where you are staying?" My answer is almost always the same. "Of course not!" This is best way to commit yourself to a bad deal! I almost never ever book a hotel in advance.
You shouldn't either if you want to save a lot of money on your trip to the Galapagos. The same exact room in the same exact hotel I would have had to pay more than double if I booked it online. That tip alone is worth how much? Seriously don't book ahead unless you are so scared to travel and are so worried about where you will be staying that it's worth the extra expense. If you are that scared and worried, you probably shouldn't be traveling in the first place.
From San Cristobal Airport don't waste your money on a taxi into town, unless you over packed and can't carry what you have. It's only a 5 minute walk into town. You can walk right to Grand Hotel Paraiso Insular and get a room there for $20 USD a night after a little negotiation.
Food is expensive in the Galapagos. To keep this expense down, don't eat on the main strip where all the expensive tourist restaurants are. San Cristobal is a town of almost 10,000 people. The entire town is loaded with restaurants with local prices. Being on average between $3-6 dollars a meal. So simply eat where the locals do and you'll save a ton of money.
Besides that, the hotel I stayed in came with air conditioning and a fridge! That's right, and only for $20. I ate fruit for breakfast which I stored in the fridge, and didn't buy water once as the hotel offered free water and coffee in the hotel lobby.
Further more around 6:30 PM a guy wanders around town selling the best humitas I've ever had for $1.75 which is like a cheesy corn bread. They are totally filling and could be dinner for under two dollars. I spoke to him in Spanish he said the tourists are often afraid to approach him and his main clientele are the locals but he said when the tourist do try his humitas they are always very happy.
Around 4pm on the western most side of the main street near the beach is woman that sells freshly backed cheese filled casava buns called pan de yuca. They are my absolute favorite. I of course was the only "tourist" purchasing from her. They were fifty cents each and some of the best I've had in all of Ecuador. For two dollars it's enough for a meal.
One more food strategy if you travel South America with a pot and a burner like I do, you can always go to a local grocery and buy ingredients for a "Travel Pro Hotel Cooking Meal" I made a nice chicken vegetable soup one night. It was fantastic and healthy. One last food tip in the evening you can wander around town and they'll be people grilling and and other meats you can buy for cheap.
Let's recap; I believe we've got food covered very well. Getting here, check. Finding a hotel, yep. What's left? Let's have some fun and explore the island! First you should know people come here to be in nature, see the animals, and hike the trails.
If you want partying, luxury resorts, swimming pools, and fancy cocktails go to Cancun or Aruba. Since nature is what the Galapagos has to offer, you are going to be pressured and enticed by the simplest google search to shell out big bucks for a tour. This is totally unnecessary and often a waste of money.
The Islands in the Galapagos are full of places you can visit on your own, "self tours". No need for a guide at all. So I highly recommend just exploring the island on foot. All of my adventure posts were self tours. There's beaches and nature trails all around the main town where you'll be staying. They are all free to explore, offering great views, hiking, and animals to see.
There are also great water activities you can do that won't cost you much. There are spots to go snorkeling around the coast walking distance from town. Snorkels can be rented in various shops for just three dollars a day. Galapagos is also famous for it's surfing. If you know how to surf you can rent a surf board for just a few dollars a day as well. There are beaches like Playa Carola which are known to have perfect waves for this activity.
There are two main airports in the Galapagos one on San Cristobal Island and another one for Santa Cruz Island. If you want to take a ferry between islands it's thirty dollars each way. But then you often will be flying out of the island you flew in on, so you'll be spending 60 dollars and 7 hours on a boat in probably somewhat rough seas. If you're staying in the Galapagos for over 10 days it's probably worth seeing more than just one island.
However if you want to save money and go at a little slower pace like I do, you can just stay on your one island. There is plenty to do and see in both locations. You certainly will have a Galapagos experience no matter where you stay. Now getting around the islands itself is a whole other situation.
On the Island of San Cristobal most nature trails you can walk to or take a three dollar taxi to right from town. There is also a public bus that will take you to Junco Lake which is a dormant volcano now filled with water. The same bus on Sundays goes all the way to the end of the main road on the island. This brings you to Puerto Chino Beach.
The bus is only $2.50 to go all the way, 25 kilometers to Puerto Chino. You also pass the tortoise breeding center which is a great place to check out. If you just hire a taxi to take you to these place it's about 25 dollars each way! Cha-Ching! Money saved! Here is the bus schedule. (Note El Progrso, this is the only other town on the island, it's ver small but buses frequent there more often.)
One last tip for transportation. If you must take a taxi you have two strategies to get a good deal. Buddy up with some other people to the destination so the cost can be divided among more people. Or walk up the main road leading out of town. When a taxi comes by with other people, they'll likely pick you up and charge you only five dollars to go along with them.
So this is pretty much all the budget travel info I was able to figure out during my 10 days in the Galapagos. I was able to stay under budget of thirty dollars a day. I was comfortable, ate well, and really enjoyed myself while there. Everything was good except the terrible internet. But I already did a post on that!
So don't think you can't afford the Galapagos now you know how to do it "Travel Pro" and keep the expense down. Until next time -Dan "World Travel Pro!"
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With over 11 years of travel experience I answer travel and international lifestyle questions. Leave a question in the comments and I may make a Steemit post just for you!