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. Galápagos National Park reopened on July 1. Commercial flights to the islands, cruises, and island hotels resumed business in August.
The islands officially reported two cases in August. Aside from these two new cases, the islands have been COVID-19 free for approximately four months.
What is the Experience Like Now?
Activities in the Galápagos take place largely outdoors, which is helpful for social distancing and other safety measures.
Face masks: It is compulsory to wear face masks at all times in public areas.
Distancing: Yachts such as the MV Theory and MV Origin have reduced the number of people—guests and guides alike—per each zodiac transfer. The yacht La Pinta is cruising at fewer than half capacity.
On land, larger vehicles are being employed, to allow for more distance between travelers.
Captains are in constant contact with other vessels to avoid visiting locations at the same time in order to avoid agglomerations.
Cleaning: All accommodations, including ships, have ramped up their cleaning protocols while also maintaining environmental sustainability. The M/V 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.
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 proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken no more than 10 days before entering the country. (Children under the age of 18 are excluded from this requirement).
- 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.
- 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 96 hours of entering the Galápagos, is required to enter the Galápagos for all adult travelers. As such, for travelers bound for the Galápagos, we recommend completing your COVID-19 PCR test in your country of origin 96 hours before boarding your flight to Ecuador. If you cannot get a test result in your country of origin within 96 hours of departure, 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 under 18 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!
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