Travel to the Galapagos is expensive. There’s simply no other way to put it.
Once you add mandatory National Park fees, hotel fees, tour fees, cruise fees, transportation costs, you may find your travel budget strained.
So hopefully this travel hack saving hundreds on airfare I discovered on my trip to the Galapagos this month will help alleviate some of your pain. I know it did for me.
How to get to the Galapagos
There’s only one way to get to the Galapagos as a tourist in 2021, and that’s flying.
- You can fly from Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE), both of which have international flights
- You can fly to/from San Cristobal (SCY) or Balta (GPS), the two most populated islands in the Galapagos
I always recommend booking directly with the airlines – especially in Covid-19 times.
It’s so much easier to re-book, modify, or cancel your itinerary this way. Otherwise, you end up in a horrendous cycle of the travel agency telling you that you need to contact the airline, and the airline saying you need to go through the travel agency.
Fares typically run for $200-250 each way, plus about $25-50 for checked bag fees. If you’re checking a bag, I recommend just selecting a high fare class – especially with Avianca, where the upgrade is about the same cost as just checking in your bag.
Mix and match tickets: 2 methods to save money on your flights
The best method to save money without possibly encountering issues is by mixing and matching flights on the two airlines and between different destinations.
Method 1) Fly the cheapest airline in each direction
If you want to be as frugal as possible, you should compare one-way fares in each direction on both airlines to/from the Galapagos to round-trip fares. You’ll sometimes find that they are cheaper than sticking with just one airline.
For example, you could fly on Avianca for $138 from Quito (UIO) to Baltra (GPS):
And return on LATAM for $169:
This results in a total roundtrip fare of $307. This pales in comparison to the normal roundtrip price of $469.
Method 2) Fly to/from different airports
Something not everyone knows about the Galapagos is that there are actually 2 airports; Baltra (GPS) and San Cristobal (SCY).
You might have a better and easier time by starting your trip in one airport and finishing out of another! There are plenty of ferries running between the islands, and this may end up being more convenient if you’re planning to see more than just the main island, Santa Cruz (connected to Baltra/GPS via bus and ferry).
International airlines fly to/from both Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE) on the mainland, so you can also experiment starting and ending your trip from different places.
This next itinerary starts in Quito (UIO) with a flight to Baltra (GPS). The return is from San Cristobal (SCY) to Guayaquil (GYE).
Here, you’ll save another $32 for the same travel dates – and get to see even more of the Galapagos.
But there’s an even more lucrative, slightly risky way to save money on flights to the Galapagos…
How to save money flying on LATAM to the Galapagos in 2 simple steps
Disclaimer: Please note that this is at your own risk. You could be charged foreigner fees one-way or both-ways, which could (but shouldn’t) exceed the price difference.
Normally, airfare from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos is $200 or more each way, as you can see here where it’s $238 for the earliest flight to the Galapagos:
But there’s a hack that allows you to select cheaper fares. For the same exact travel dates, same exact flight, you can save over $50 each way – at just $177 for the same flight!:
Step 1) Select the Ecuadorian website on LATAM
Click on the country at the top of the website, and change it to Ecuador. Alternately, this direct link may work for you. Just for added assurance, I recommend using “Incognito mode” in your browser – typically by hitting Control+Shift+N on your keyboard.
Step 2) enjoy cheaper LATAM flights (in Spanish)
The LATAM Ecuador website functions the same exact way as the English-version of the website, so if you need help translating, you can open another Incognito tab (again, Control, Shift, and N at the same time on the keyboard) with the English version alongside it.
I have found that autofill works on the Ecuadorian-Spanish version of the website, reducing any of the confusion when purchasing tickets.
Just note that you could be charged a fee, erasing all savings (or more) at check-in. I have heard mostly success stories; it is up to you. I always recommend packing only a carry-on, checking in online and heading straight to the gate.
How to save even more money flying on Avianca to the Galapagos
Disclaimer: Please note that this is at your own risk. You could be charged foreigner fees one-way or both-ways, which could (but normally don’t) exceed the price difference.
If you’re like me, you like mixing and matching flights to get the ultimate cheapest airfare.
You’re in luck.
This same exact method works just as well, if not better, than anything else. Here’s the same example of a flighton the US versus the Ecuadorian websites:
How you can switch to the Ecuadorian Avianca website
It’s just as easy to switch to the Ecuadorian Avianca website to save money on your flight to the Galapagos.
Step 1) simply select the country and language on the top next to the giant Avianca logo
It will default to whatever your country and language is based on your internet provider. For me, it initially shows “United States – English.”
Thereafter, you must select Ecuador from the menu. Espanol is unfortunately the only language available.
Step 2) enjoy much cheaper airfare on Avianca (in Spanish)
Perhaps with the help of a Spanish-speaking friend, Google Translate, or the google website translator app, you’ll have access to deeply discounted fares to the Galapagos.
Again, you could be charged a fee at check-in for using this method, usually (but not always) not exceeding the initial price difference, but it is very unlikely. I recommend to check-in online when possible for convenience.