Why is Galapagos “So Expensive”?

A visit to the Galapagos Islands is a trip of a lifetime, the dream of millions who have seen the Galapagos on television or in the IMAX theater. The fearless animals, the clear blue water, the sandy beaches and the fascinating natural history of Galapagos draw visitors from around the world.


Yet, when they go to book, often they’re dismayed to learn that their Galapagos dream vacation will cost more than they had thought. It’s a common question put to tour agencies around the world:

Why is it so expensive to visit the Galapagos Islands?

There are several answers to that question: here are some of the most important factors in the relatively high cost of a visit to the islands.

They’re Very Remote

Remote Galapagos

This is probably the top factor in the cost of the islands. They’re terribly isolated: they were unknown to mankind before their accidental discovery in 1535. They weren’t even considered worth settling for another three hundred years or so.

To reach the islands, you need to fly: they are three days by ship from the mainland and in any event there is no passenger service by sea. The flight from Ecuador is currently about $350 round trip: add in a flight from wherever you are to Quito or Guayaquil and you’re looking at a lot of money just in airfare.

The remoteness of Galapagos does not only affect visitors flying back and forth: many things needed in the islands must be flown or shipped there as well.

The only industries on the islands are tourism, fishing and agriculture: everything else, from electronics to bed linens, from construction materials to silverware must be shipped. It’s expensive, and hotels pass the cost on to visitors.

Galapagos Regulations

Galapagos Tourist

The Galapagos Islands are a very special place, and the Ecuadorian government has taken steps to insure they’re protected forever. This means a cost for visitors, however. The most obvious manifestation of this cost is the $100 park entry fee for visitors, which goes to support the park and conservation efforts.

Also, there is a long list of things that are not permitted in the Galapagos Islands, including several species of fruits and vegetables: it is feared they could take root and spread if brought into the islands. Therefore, many tour operators rely on local produce, which can be more expensive due to high demand and low supply.

Another Galapagos regulation is designed to help the residents of the Islands find work. In Galapagos, you are not allowed to hire someone from abroad or even from mainland Ecuador if there is someone from Galapagos who is qualified to do the work. Therefore, the whole workforce, including everyone from dishwashers to waiters to crewmen and guides, must be from Galapagos.

Because there are a limited number of islanders looking for work, labor has become quite expensive.

Is it Really so Expensive?

Galapagos Masked Booby

A quick comparison with other “dream vacations” shows that Galapagos is perhaps not as expensive as you may think.

A trip to Antarctica including cruise, hotels and airfare costs at least twice as much as Galapagos. An African Safari is also expensive: a mid-range accommodation will cost some $400/night, in addition to airfare, park fees, etc.  This is comparable to an elegant cruise ship in Galapagos.

A day of sightseeing, a nice dinner and a decent hotel room in Rome will cost over $100 and may approach the $175/day or so that the most economic of Galapagos cruises cost.

Although Galapagos can be expensive, finding last-minute deals and choosing slightly less expensive hotels and travel options can minimize your costs. Our trip advisors can answer all of your questions and help you save big on your Galapagos trip!

About galapagosexpert

A free lance writer, diver, photographer and citizen of the world, based in the Galapagos Islands.
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