Dive The Galapagos
People often ask about airlines to the Galapagos, both in terms of which airline to fly and weight limitations, especially important to divers. So hopefully, what you'll have here is a flight guide that answers all questions. To see 2016 flight prices, click here. To see Avianca's flight schedule for 2016, click here.
Arriving into Ecuador:
The new airport in Quito is 70-90 minutes outside the city. So if your flight arrives around 11PM, as so many do, you would arrive at your hotel around 12:30 AM at the earliest. If you have an early departure...say the 7:40 AM ... and need to be back at the airport by 6AM, you are going to have 4 hours in a Quito hotel at best. If you end up in rush hour, transfer times could be longer. If you have only one night, it's best to stay near the airport.
If you wish to do some sightseeing on mainland Ecuador, Quito offers much more than Guayaquil. You can visit cloud forests, take a quick flight over to the Amazon jungle (far better than in Peru), visit one of South America's most famous indigenous markets 2 hours away in Otavalo or simply tour Old Quito which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are haciendas to enjoy and snow capped mountains to climb. You can ride horses in the Andes, go river rafting and so very much more.
Most areas around Quito are at 9,000 ft and above altitude. That altitude will make you feel a bit tired until acclimated. If you suffer from altitude sickness, please do fly into Guayaquil.
Guayaquil is a city at sea level on large rivers, even though, on a map, it looks like it's on the coast. The closest beach is about an hour away. The Malecon is a nice river walk for tourists, the iguana park in the city is interesting and I must admit, night time at Las Penas is fun, but I'd stick with Quito for mainland activities.
Airport Hotel Recommendations in Ecuador:
We don't book mainland hotels because you can get the same price, or better, online than we can get for you. We are more than happy to answer any questions and assist you with deciding which hotel, but below are our recommendations if you are simply flying in and flying out to Galapagos.
Quito: The UIO Airport is located 70-90 minutes outside of Quito.
Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel - new hotel with nice rooms that are reasonably priced. It is 2-5 minutes away from the airport and offers transfers to the airport every 30 minutes.
Casa Jimenita -very comfortable hacienda style accommodations 20 minutes away from airport.
Rincon de Puembo - nice hotel 20 minutes from the airport.
Quito Airport Hotel - simple, inexpensive, good breakfast, reliable transfers and 20 minutes from the airport.
Casa Puembo - another inexpensive option 20 minutes from the airport.
Guayaquil: All hotels we recommend are 5-15 minutes from the GYE Airport.
Hilton Colon Guayaquil: Large Hilton located 10 minutes from GYE with all the usual amenities of a Hilton.
Holiday Inn: There is a Holiday Inn located very close to the airport. They offer regular airport shuttles. If you're arriving late and leaving early, it will be the most convenient.
Hostal Macaw: A hostal in Ecuador indicates the number of rooms and is not the same as the backpacker association many have with the word. It's more of a small inn. Husband/wife owner. He was one of the first ever dive guides in Galapagos and has amazing stories. 3 blocks from the Hilton Colon. Breakfast included. Transfers available at an extra charge.
Hotel Continental: High rise in downtown across the street from the famous Iguana Park, a small city block sized green space chocked full of land iguanas. Has a 24 hour diner that features tipico food, popular with the locals. Especially good coffee and juices. Breakfast Included. Good weekend rate and free airport transfers.
Unipark: 151 room hotel across from the Iguana Park and Hotel Continental. Sleek, modern décor and a fitness center with whirpool and sauna. Owned by the more expensive (though fairly aged) Oro Verde. Transfers available at an extra charge.
VERY IMPORTANT: Taxi crimes exist in Guayaquil. No matter where you opt to stay, it is quite important that you arrange your airport transfers directly with the hotel. And no worries, they all speak English if you don't speak Spanish. Be safe and only use pre-arranged transportation. Some charge for the transfer while others offer it for free.
Flying To Galapagos:
Unless you are arriving on a red-eye, after an overnight in either Guayaquil or Quito, you should arrive to the airport 1.5 - 2 hours in advance. Before you even check in for your flight, you must first purchase a transit control visitor card and receive your Galapagos customs form. Two pieces of the bottom of the customs form are detachable. 1 has a hologram of Galapagos wildlife with your name on it and can be used as your ID in Galapagos so you don't have to carry your passport around. The other stub you must store away somewhere safe as you will need to present it at departure. We recommend slipping it into your passport. So again, upon arrival, go to the Consejo de Gobierno window before going to your airline counter or you will simply wait in line only to be sent back to the Consejo de Gobierno window.
Next, they run your bag through an X-Ray machine and may decide to inspect it for organic material. You may transport most processed foods that are sealed, but things like some raw nuts, fruit, bulk items that are not sealed, etc are not permitted.
After that, go to your airline's counter for check-in and boarding passes. They don't usually ask if you have an aisle or window preference, so if you do, best to let them know when you present your passport. Typically, they don't ask for your e-ticket, just your passport. Please note that if you may have to pay any additional fees (extra weight or if prices rose since you purchased your tickets).
Upon arrival, you will go through a Customs Line at the airport. You present the form you received at the mainland airport and pay your National Park Entrance Fee (currently $100 pp) in cash. You will receive 2 parts of the form back. 1 has a hologram of Galapagos wildlife and may serve as your ID while in Galapagos so you don't have to carry around your passport. The other form you need to present when you depart Galapagos, so put it somewhere safe and accessible. I recommend slipping it inside your passport. Your carry on bags will be checked for organic goods and then you go collect your luggage.
Which Airline to the Galapagos?
What are the differences? Well, in terms of the flight itself, I don't think there is much of a difference in service. If you do book your own flight...just be sure you fly into the correct airport!!
Galapagos Flights Booking Recommendation:
It is basically an insurance policy to have us book your flights because: 1)Your liveaboard knows exactly where you are so no one will be in the dark, thus minimizing any confusion. 2) If something changes that necessitates a change in your flights, we're on top of it even while you're away and out of signal range. 3) If you need any last minute changes to your flights, we take care of it for you with zero hassle for you.
Having said that, Avianca does offer prices on their website lower than we, or the liveaboards themselves, can obtain. So, if you are booking your own flight, you might be able to get substantial savings by booking your entire itinerary via either Avianca or LAN websites, but PLEASE fly into the correct airport and please use the official flight information below as a guideline for arrival times:
Aggressor: Avianca Airlines
Thurs : Flight AV1684: Departs Quito at 10:25 AM. Departs Guayaquil at 12:00 PM. Arrives Baltra at 12:50 PM.
Sun: Flight AV1636: Departs Quito at 09:00 AM. Departs Guayaquil at 10:40 AM. Arrives San Cristobal at 11:30 AM.
Mon: Flight AV1630: Departs Quito at 10:10 AM. Departs Guayaquil at 11:50 AM. Arrives San Cristobal at 12:40 PM.
Nortada: TAME Airlines
Fri: TAME Flight EQ 193. Departs Quito at 09:00 AM. Departs Guayaquil at 10:30 AM. Arrives Baltra at 11:30 AM.
Flight Departure Taxes:
Most arrival/departure taxes are included in your ticket unless you purchased your ticket a long time ago, prior to the implementation of any new airport taxes. If new taxes become regulation, you may need to pay extra at the airport as the airlines do not grandfather pricing.