The Galápagos Are Open to Travelers: Here’s What You Need to Know
The Galápagos Islands are once again open to travelers! And what a great time to visit this exhilarating destination, with the islands and all their iconic species—sea lions, tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, flamingoes, and more—almost entirely to yourself.
To ensure that they can welcome travelers safely, ships, hotels, airlines, naturalists, and guides have made important changes to their policies and practices. Here’s what you need to know.
The islands closed to tourism on March 16, 2020. Galápagos National Park reopened on July 1 the same year. Commercial flights to the islands, cruises, and island hotels resumed business shortly afterward. Face masks and social distancing became compulsory. Yachts such as the MV Theory and MV Origin reduced the number of people—guests and guides alike—per each Zodiac excursion and La Pinta reduced the number of guests per cruise to allow more space onboard. Land-based accommodations, like Galápagos Safari Camp instituted daily health checks for staff along with social distancing and new cleaning protocols.
With only 30,000 inhabitants, the islands set out in April 2021 to get the entire population vaccinated, aiming to achieve that goal for eligible adults by the end of May 2021.
What is the Experience Like Now?
Early action and collaboration between residents, government, and the tourism industry resulted in a successful vaccination program and widespread adoption of safety measures.
Vaccination: All staff for the boats and properties GeoEx works with in the Galápagos are now fully vaccinated, as well as all island residents aged 18 and up.
Distancing: Activities in the Galápagos take place largely outdoors, which is helpful for social distancing and other safety measures. Yachts continue to limit the number of passengers per Zodiac for activities, coordinate with other vessels so that trips ashore are one group at a time, and/or reduce capacity onboard. Galápagos Safari Camp offers private dining on the terrace of your tent or staggered dining times in the main lodge, and public areas such as the pool and observatory seating have been laid out with social distancing in mind. Larger vehicles are being employed, to allow for more distance between travelers.
The number of visitors to the islands is the lowest it’s been in 20 years, and guides are reporting high concentrations of wildlife, offering plenty to see without crowding.
Face masks: It is compulsory to wear face masks at all times in public areas, per Galápagos National Park.
Cleaning: All accommodations, including ships, have ramped up their cleaning protocols while also maintaining environmental sustainability. The MV Origin and Theory are using products approved by the Galápagos National Park that are effective against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. La Pinta uses sanitization practices based on UV filters and ozone-cleaning systems.
Vehicles, equipment, and surfaces are routinely disinfected; the cruise ships that GeoEx works with are offering masks and disinfectant gel or spray to all guests. In some cabins, nonessential products such as stationery may be removed to avoid cross-contamination.
Additional hand-sanitizing stations have been installed on ships, as well as additional signage that reminds all passengers of health and hygiene protocols. The same is true at Galápagos Safari Camp.
Packing list changes: Although each ship’s snorkel equipment has always been disinfected after each use, ships now recommend that guests bring their own masks and snorkels.
Entering Ecuador & the Galápagos
Here are the current protocols for entering Ecuador and heading onward to the Galápagos. Please check with GeoEx if you are planning a trip, because these are subject to change!
All travelers coming into Ecuador must provide ONE of the following:
1) Proof of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test, taken no more than 3 days before entering the country. (Children aged 2 and under are excluded from this requirement.)
2) A vaccination card showing the traveler received a complete series of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to entry.
3) Travelers previously diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, but with more than one month since the onset of symptoms, may present a medical certificate from their country of origin attesting to their recovery and current good health.
All travelers must fill out a Health Status Declaration form and hand it to Ministry of Health workers on arrival. Those Ministry of Health workers will also check symptoms.
If a traveler presents symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival, they will need to fulfill a mandatory quarantine period and take an additional PCR test at their own expense, even if they presented a negative PCR test on entry.
With a negative test result, they may continue their journey. With a positive test result, they must complete 10 days of quarantine at their accommodation and be asymptomatic before leaving their accommodation.
Unvaccinated travelers who arrive in Ecuador without an international PCR test must undertake, at their own expense, a PCR test upon arrival (or at their accommodation) and then proceed to quarantine in temporary accommodation to await the results. With a negative test result, they may continue their journeys.
Onward Travel to the Galápagos
- Proof of negative test results, taken within 72 hours of entering the Galápagos OR a vaccination card as detailed above, is required to enter the Galápagos for all adult travelers. If you are not vaccinated and cannot get a test result in your country of origin within 72 hours of arrival in the Galápagos, talk to GeoEx staff about spending a few nights in mainland Ecuador in order to take a new test and await negative results before continuing to the islands. (Note: As with Ecuador in general, travelers age 2 and under are not required to have a PCR test for entry to the Galápagos.)
Once the above requirements are satisfied, travelers heading to the Galápagos need the following:
- A travel insurance certificate with medical coverage; this can be provided by GeoEx.
- A safe passage (salvoconducto) document, issued at least 24 hours before by the tour operator or hotel.
- The Galápagos Transit Control Card, filled out online at least 24 hours before the flight. This is included in your trip cost, and provided by GeoEx.
- A digital boarding pass.
All travelers flying to the Galápagos must pass through temperature checks and disinfection mats, and must use hand-sanitizer stations and wear facemasks at all times. Luggage is sanitized before and after its inspection by the Galápagos biosecurity and quarantine control agency.
The Big Picture
Tourism in the Galápagos provides essential support to local economies, scientific research, eradicating invasive species, and monitoring wildlife. That support is more important now than ever.
And locals say this is an ideal time to enjoy the islands, before mass tourism returns. If you’re ready to travel safely in the outdoors in a meaningful way, the Galápagos Islands are ready to welcome you.
And we’re ready to get you there. Please contact us—and we’ll get your trip started!
# # # # #