Saturday 27 February 2016

Frequently Asked Questions: How Should I Pack for My Galapagos Trip?

Packing for Galapagos can be something of an art form depending upon how long you are staying and some of your personal preferences. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you get started:

Know how your day is likely to be arranged on a typical Galapagos cruise. Your day will generally be:
  - breakfast
   -a land-based activity, usually a hike but sometimes in Santa Cruz or        San Cristobal
   - lunch
   - snorkeling
   - another hike
   - a briefing and dinner

  • You are traveling on the Equator, the sun is high in the sky, Whatever time of year you come, it will be hot. (See my post that will tell you about the Galapagos weather for more information.) Though you usually do not get dirty, you are likely to sweat. You need to bring enough clothes to account for time for clothes to dry and as many clothes changes as you deem necessary for yourself. 
  • You will be exposed to the sun; there is very little to no shade. Because of this, you might want the clothes that you intend to wear on your hikes to be quick-drying, wicking fabric of the type used for exercise. Clothes that already have sun protection factor in the fabric are an added bonus.
  • In the months of June-November or during a period of El Nino, it is likely to rain for some period of time during the day and your excursions will take place at an assigned time regardless of the rain. 
  • On your land excursions, you will want your hands free to take photographs, but you're also going to want items with you such as sunscreen, water and more depending on your personal preference.
  • On wet landings, you may get a little wet.
  • The boat is always casual.
  • There is likely to be ample, but limited, space in your cabin for "extras."
  • Most boats do not have laundry facilities.
  • There are weight limits for bags coming into Galapagos that are less than those for domestic flights and you will be limited to 44 pounds (20 kilos). Of course, on the domestic side, as many travelers have learned the hard way, airlines are charging for heavy or extra large luggage, something you may wish to keep in mind. 

With all of those factors available to guide your personal preferences, here's a suggested list of items for a seven day cruise excursion.

CLOTHES (bearing in mind that sun protection is key)
  • Three - four pants or shorts for hiking activities, long or short is up to you. There are a few visitor sites where you might encounter mosquitoes, but your guide likely will warn you about this before you hike in such areas. If you don't want sun exposure, long pants are preferred. Whatever you bring, make it a light color, not black or navy. If you buy pants that you can rinse out and line dry, that's helpful. You definitely do not need something newly clean every single day.
  • Five - seven (or even more) tops for hiking activities. Again, long or short sleeves are up to you. Personally, I find that long sleeves do not make me any hotter than short, especially if they are made with SPF and reflective or wicking fabric, both of which provide sun protection. I have some guests who change into fresh shirts every morning and afternoon. 
  • Some shorts and tops for lunch time. When you come out of the sun after a morning hike, you might want to take a shower and change into something comfortable for a few hours while you have lunch and a brief rest before afternoon activities. These clothes will serve you equally well at night.
  • Clothes for the evening or just hanging around on the boat should be casual shorts, pants, t-shirts, polo shirts, sundresses or the like.
  • Shoes - you will always wear different shoes when you are on and off the boat so that you do not carry dirt or other materials from one island to another. The idea is that the flora and fauna of each island is unique, so we work very hard to avoid cross contamination. That means the shoes you wear hiking will be left on the boat deck each time to you return from an excursion. Here are the basics:
    • Comfortable walking or hiking shoes with good soles that are not slippery. You''ll sometimes be walking on rock or hot lava - don't try breaking in a new pair of shoes on vacation.
    • Tevas or similar water shoes for wet landings; these also can be worn on some of the easier hikes. Shoes that have toe protection are best. 
    • Shoes or sandals for when  you are on the boat (some people never wear shoes on the boat at all) and when you go into town
  • Underwear - bring plenty. The athletic companies even making special wicking underwear now.
  • Socks - again, bring enough.
  • Sun hat with a wide brim - at least one. Make sure it has a strap otherwise when you are on a panga and it starts moving, you are going to lose your hat to the ocean. 
  • A rain jacket and a sweater. The nights can get chilly and it might rain during an excursion. You won't be sorry you brought a cover up.
  • Bathing suit - at least one that will fit well under a wetsuit. If your boat has a jacuzzi or you are someone who likes to bask in the sun like an iguana, bring a suit for that purpose as well. These days, swim tops and even pants are being made with built-in SPF to protect you even while you're snorkeling or kayaking. 
  • Cash in American dollars is a must. The Galapagos National Park Service charges a $100 per person entrance fee upon arrival, to be paid in cash. Check with your cruise company to see whether this amount was included in your tour payment; that does happen on occasion, but it is not the norm. You will also be charged $10 per person for the INGALA Tourist Control Card in Quito or Guayaquil before you depart. And bring a little extra for a cerveza or tapas at a lovely little cafe during your stop in Santa Cruz or Porta Ayora. Many boats want you to pay for extras such as wine with cash; ask your tour company about their particular policy in advance. You also will use cash for tipping; how much is up to you, but I suggest you read my blog post on tipping to help you plan ahead.
  • Travel documents. Don't forget your passport, any pre-paid vouchers, reservations and itinerary, and travel insurance document! You will have a safe in your cabin for storing these during your cruise.
  • A backpack for your hikes. This should not be a gigantic pack, just a small day pack so that you always have water, sunscreen, an extra battery for your camera, lip balm, and a towel for when you have a wet landing. You might want to supplement your pack with a belt that holds a water bottle so that you have the water easily accessible at all times.
  • A water bottle for your backpack. Because of Galapagos conservation, you will not be provided with bottled water except on day one. Then, you will refill that bottle during your cruise from purified drinking water. If you would rather use your own water bottle, then by all means bring one with you. 
  • Sunscreen - lots of it. You will apply sunscreen many times a day and you do not want to run out. It costs much more to buy it on the islands than it will at your local Costco or Sam's Club.
  • Sunglasses and extra regular glasses and contact lenses for those who wear them.
  • Optionally - bring insect repellant
  • Do you get seasick? Bring seasickness patches, wrist bands and ginger tablets to help you out.
  • Don't forget any special medications that you take.
  • Also optional are a flashlight and binoculars. A flashlight usually does come in handy.
  • DO NOT FORGET all of your chargers for all of your electronics.
  • All of your personal toiletries, as you would on any vacation.


    The pictures you take will be your lasting memory of Galapagos. But with a camera comes paraphernalia that you don't want to forget. Here's my list of what to bring with your camera:

    • Plastic bag or other similar protection for your camera while you are in the panga and getting in and out of it. I've seen too many cameras ruined and pictures lost. It's so easy to slip the camera into some water proof protection. Bring a few extra plastic bags for wet clothes as well.
    • Extra memory cards
    • Extra batteries
    • Extra lenses. A zoom lens may be a wonderful asset, but only if you know how to use it and don't mind carrying the extra weight.
    • Video camera or capability
    • Underwater camera equipment, disposable or other
    • Your iPad or tablet outfitted to download the great photos you take every day, though you will not have internet service


    You don't have to bring any snorkel or scuba gear or equipment with you because the boat will provide wetsuits, masks, snorkels and flippers. But, if you do have your own wetsuit and goggles, by all means bring them. I suggest that you bring your own goggles too, including prescription ones if you have them. Don't bother packing your flippers just because they are bulky and unruly in a suitcase; but if you have little booties, pack those for comfort. During El Nino the water will be warm and you will probably not need a wetsuit at all.


    The only thing that you will never be able to do without is a feeling of joy, adventure, pleasure and intellect. Bring it all, and love every moment of your journey to our Paradise!

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