Travelling To and Around the Galapagos Islands

by on 7th June, 2024

Travelling to and around the Galapagos Islands

You’ve booked your cruise or land-based trip to the amazing Galapagos Islands. But you still have a few questions about how to fly there and what you need to do at the airport before you check in for your Galapagos flight.

This guide to travelling around the Galapagos Islands will tell you everything you need to know about getting to and around the archipelago. It includes information on flying from the Ecuadorian mainland to the Galapagos and what you need to do at the airport before you check in for your flight.

If you have a few days either before or after your cruise, read more about how to get from the airport into town on arrival and how to travel from one island to another.


How do I fly to the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are around 600 km/370 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands, so you will first have to fly to either Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador. Flights to the Galapagos Islands leave early in the morning, so you’ll most likely have to overnight in Quito or Guayaquil before boarding your flight early the next day.


Is it better to fly to the Galapagos Islands from Quito or Guayaquil?

You can fly from either city, but whichever you choose, it is a good idea to leave a buffer day on either side of your flight to and from the Galapagos Islands.

We also recommend spending a night in Quito or Guayaquil on your return from the Galapagos Islands. You could arrive back on the mainland in the afternoon and take your international flight the same evening, but there is a connection risk should your flight be delayed.

If you have time, we highly recommend spending some time in Quito before you head for Galapagos.


Visiting Quito before travelling to the Galapagos Islands

Quito, located at 2,850 metres above sea level, is one of the oldest cities in South America. It is also one of the few cities that has preserved numerous monuments and artistic treasures of the Spanish colonial period. The colonial centre of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.


Colonial Squares Quito


Some key places to visit:

  • Quito Cathedral
  • Church of La Compañia
  • Plaza de San Francisco and its church
  • El Panecillo Hill

See our blog about doing a self-guided walk around Quito’s old town.


Which airlines fly to the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador?

These are the airlines that fly to the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador:



If you have booked a Galapagos cruise, the boat operator will usually buy your mainland to Galapagos flight tickets for you. If you prefer to buy your own tickets, there may be a fee for not using their flight ticketing service.

If you have booked a land-based holiday, we can buy Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos flight tickets for you, or you can buy them yourself. Check your itinerary carefully to make sure you arrive on and leave from the right island to pick up your tour.


How long is the flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands? 

There are some direct flights from Mariscal Sucre Airport in Quito to the Galapagos (a little over two hours) but most have a short stop in Guayaquil airport to pick up passengers.

Quito to Guayaquil flights take about an hour, and Guayaquil to Galapagos takes another hour and a half. In total, Quito-Galapagos flights that land in Guayaquil take around 3 to 3.5 hours.

You can fly into Baltra Airport if your land trip or cruise starts on Santa Cruz Island or San Cristóbal Airport on San Cristóbal Island if your trip starts there.


At the airport: What is the process for flying to the Galapagos?

Every traveller must complete a few steps before they can check in for their flight to the Galapagos Islands.

Sometimes, queues can be long at each of these counters, so it is recommended that you arrive at the airport two and a half to three hours before departure.

At either Quito or Guayaquil airport, go to the domestic departure terminal, SALIDAS NACIONALES. Before you check-in, you must first get your Transit Control Card (TCT) and have your bags checked at the SICGAL control counter.

TCT Transit Control Card

First, go to the Transit Control Card desk. Here, you need to buy a Transit Control Card/TCT to enter the Galapagos. This costs $20 per person in CASH. The TCT can be completed in advance online, but you will still have to queue at the airport to get the actual card.


SICGAL control

Next, you need to have your luggage checked at SICGAL control, the inspection and quarantine system for the Galapagos Islands. In addition to standard safety screening, your luggage will be checked for prohibited items, such as seeds and plants, etc., that might threaten the islands’ delicate ecosystems.

Airline check-in

Once you have completed these two steps, you can proceed to the airline check-in desk. Anyone who does not complete these steps cannot check-in or board their flight to the Galapagos Islands.

Keep hold of the $20 TCT transit stub as proof of payment because you’ll need to show it on arrival at the Galapagos. Lose it, and you’ll have to pay $20 again when you leave Galapagos.


What do I do on arrival at the Galapagos?

There are several more straightforward steps to pass before you can reclaim your luggage and join your Galapagos trip. Remember to carry enough USD cash, in small denomination notes, to cover your expenses both on the islands and to pay for inter-island travel.


How do I pay the Galapagos Park entry fee?

On arrival in the Galapagos, present your passport and TCT card and pay the Galapagos Park entrance fee, again in CASH: $200 for adults and $100 for children from August 2024. It is $100 for adults and $50 for children before then.


What happens on arrival at Baltra or San Cristóbal Airport?

Then, collect your luggage, which will be checked by sniffer dogs before you can remove it from the belt.

The airports are small and friendly, so you can take your time to get your bearings once through the baggage area.

Remember to reset your watch and phone. The Galapagos Islands are one hour behind mainland Ecuador.


How do I get from Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz?

If you are booked on a cruise or a land-based tour, you will be met at the airport and accompanied to either the boat or to Puerto Ayora.

If you arrive at Baltra Airport before your cruise or land-based trip starts, you can make your own way to Puerto Ayora:

  1. Take the bus from outside the airport to the Itabaca Channel, $5 per person, 10-15 minutes.
  2. The bus drops you off at the pier for the 5-minute boat ride across the Itabaca Channel, $1 per person.
  3. Plenty of taxis (white pick-up trucks) are waiting on the other side. They will take you into Puerto Ayora for around $25 per vehicle. The trip to town takes around 45 minutes.
  4. There is also a bus which costs around $5 and takes 1 hour to Puerto Ayora.
  5. The whole trip from the airport to town takes about 90 minutes.

If you decide to stay on the Galapagos Islands after your cruise or land tour ends, do the same in reverse.


How do I get from San Cristóbal airport to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town?

San Cristóbal Airport is only a five-minute drive from the small town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You can either arrange a transfer, which will be waiting for you when you arrive or take a taxi.

NB there may not always be a taxi waiting.

If you don’t have much luggage, you could walk; it’s only a couple of kilometres, but beware of the strong equatorial sun.


How do I travel from one Galapagos Island to another?

There are two ways to travel between the different inhabited Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, Floreana: public speed boat ferries, and flights.


What are the Galapagos speed boat inter-island ferries and how do they work?

The inter-island ferries are, in fact, speedboats that seat around 30 people. They cover these routes twice a day in each direction, usually with an early morning and an early afternoon departure time. The journey time is around two hours.

  • Santa Cruz >> Isabela
  • Isabela >> Santa Cruz
  • Santa Cruz >> San Cristóbal
  • San Cristóbal >> Santa Cruz

There are less frequent ferries between Santa Cruz and Floreana.

Inter-island speed boat, Galapagos Credit: Prof Bob

A one-way ticket on any of the routes costs between $35 and $40. Seat layout varies depending on the boat, and there is no seat assignment. Demand can be high, so we recommend booking a day or two before you plan to travel, either online or at a local travel agency or supermarket.

  • Santa Cruz to Isabela ferry: $35
  • Santa Cruz to San Cristóbal: $35
  • Santa Cruz – Floreana: $40


How do I get from San Cristóbal Island to Isabela Island by boat?

You can’t get directly from San Cristóbal Island to Isabela Island. You must first take the San Cristóbal – Santa Cruz speed boat and then change onto the Santa Cruz – Isabela boat.

You can do this in one day if you take the 7am speed boat from San Cristóbal to Santa Cruz  and then the 3pm boat from Santa Cruz to Isabela. If you are planning to travel from Isabela to San Cristóbal , then take the 6am speed boat to Santa Cruz, and the 3pm boat from Santa Cruz to San Cristóbal.


How do I board the inter-island speed boat?

You should be at the dock about 45 minutes before your departure. Your luggage will be searched before boarding. Then, you take a water taxi to the speed boat.


How much are the dock fees and water taxi fees?

Everyone needs to pay $1 for the Santa Cruz Dock fee (on arrival and departure) and $1 for a water taxi for each journey between the speedboat and the dock.

When you travel to Isabela each water taxi fee is $1.50, plus there a one-off $10 dock fee, payable on arrival.

Currently, no dock or water taxi fees are payable when travelling to or from San Cristóbal Island.

It’s a good idea to have some low-denomination USD notes/coins handy.


Water taxi in Galapagos

What are the Galapagos speed boat ferry crossings like?

The journey between islands can be very bumpy, so take sea sickness tablets if you are concerned about this. We recommend looking for a space in the covered area of the boat and avoid the seats at the very back which are not under cover and can get wet.

You’ll be provided with a life jacket and should wear it throughout the trip.


What about Flying between the Galapagos Islands – is that possible?

There are flights between three of the Galapagos Islands: Baltra (for Santa Cruz Island), San Cristóbal and Isabela.

The only airline offering inter-island flights is Emetebe Airlines. Its planes seat 5-9 passengers and fly between Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela Islands.

  • Santa Cruz>> via Isabela>> San Cristóbal  (twice a day, early afternoon)
  • San Cristóbal >> via Isabela >>  Santa Cruz (twice a day, early morning)



The San Cristóbal – Isabela route is a great alternative to the speed boat since it connects the islands directly. If you go by speed boat, you will need to change at Santa Cruz.

A one-way ticket for any of these routes starts at around $160, and round trip costs from $260.

Depending on your ticket type, the luggage allowance is between 15-35 lbs/6.8-15.8 kg per person. Your bags will be checked before boarding.

You need to pay a $10 p.p. airport tax on arrival in Isabela.


How do I travel to and around the Galapagos Islands?

So, in short, it’s easy to travel to and around the Galapagos. There are many direct flights from the mainland, and then ferries and flights between the islands once you’re there.

You’ll need to take some USD cash, pack light and follow a few steps to protect the fragile environment but we think you’ll agree it’s worth it!

Get in touch with us, and we’d be happy to help you plan an amazing trip.

See our range of Galapagos cruises and land-based holidays.



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