The untouched natural landscape of the Galapagos Islands in South America proves to be one of the modern world’s greatest wonders. With society increasingly pushing for development and urbanization, the Galapagos Islands remains a time capsule that preserves both the environment and the species of the past.
But the wonderful nature of the Galapagos Islands is nothing new. In fact, its beautiful natural landscape and diverse number of animal species inspired Charles Darwin’s eventual theory of evolution. Now, the islands—a group of nineteen of them off the coast of Ecuador—have become a popular tourist attraction.
If you’re looking to get to the Galapagos Islands from the United States, however, there are some considerations you should keep in mind. Below, we’ll walk you through what you need to know in order to get to the islands from the US without a problem.
What You’ll Need
First, keep in mind that because you are traveling internationally, you’re going to need a passport. Without a valid US passport, you will not be able to board your flight, nor will you be able to enter the nation of Ecuador.
What’s more, you’re going to need a valid passport for each member of your family. Because it can take several weeks to get a passport, make sure that you apply in advance so that you can be prepared on time.
If you find that you’re missing your passport and your flight date is approaching, you may be able to apply for an expedited copy. To do so, you’ll need to show proof your upcoming flight date, as well as two different forms of government ID and your birth certificate.
If you’ve never had a passport before, you’ll need to apply. Keep in mind that this proves true for everyone in your family. You will each need a passport to be able to board the plane.
Fortunately, filling out a passport application is a quick and relatively simple process. In order to do this, you must:
1) Fill Out Form DS-11
First, you’ll need to fill out form DS-11 for every member of your party. This includes everyone who is applying for the first time, including children under the age of 13.
You can find a copy of form DS-11 online here.
2) Collect Your Documents
In order to be approved for your passport, you must be able to prove that you’re a US citizen. To do this, you’ll need to gather a number of supporting documents.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to gather proof for everyone who is applying for a passport, including your children. Without the required paperwork, the U.S. Department of State will be unable to issue you a passport.
So what do you need to get your passport?
First, you’ll need to gather proof that you are, in fact, a US citizen. This can be done through a US birth certificate or naturalization papers. Remember to gather this evidence for every member of your party.
You’ll also need to provide proper identification for everyone applying. Prepare two forms of government ID as proof of ID so that you don’t have to go through any complications later in the process.
Finally, if you’re applying for a passport for your children, you’ll need to show your proof of relationship. This can be done by providing their birth certificates—assuming you’re their biological parent and that you’re listed on there. If you’ve adopted, be sure that you can show legal proof of guardianship.
3) Take Your Passport Photo
In order to get your passport, you’ll need a special type of passport photo. Like the other steps listed here, you’ll need to get one for everyone who is applying.
Passport photos must meet certain requirements. Typically speaking, they must be 2” by 2”, against a white background, and in color. You’ll be asked not to smile in your picture.
You can have your passport photos taken as many professional centers, including drugstores like CVS.
4) Pay Your Passport Fees
Getting a passport isn’t free. You’ll need to pay a fee for every passport application that you submit. The total cost of your passport application will depend on the number of applications you submit and the delivery time you need.
For children and adults over the age of 16, you can typically expect to pay at least $110 per applicant.
5) Submit Your Application
Finally, make sure to submit your application to the U.S. Department of State. You can do this online, in person, or by mailing in your application. You may find that some locations in your area, including the local post office, can handle your passport application.
How to Get to the Galapagos Islands
Once you’ve taken care of your passport, it’s time to plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands. First and foremost, you’ll need to note that you won’t be able to fly directly there. Instead, you’re going to have to first stop off in the Ecuadorean mainland.
The government forbids flights that go straight to the islands from international locations, so you’ll need to plan your stay in mainland Ecuador.
What’s more, you’ll need to meet several other strict requirements before you’re allowed to visit the islands. For starters, you’ll need to showcase that you have a return ticket back to the United States, as well as that you have a hotel reservation. Be sure to plan for these in advance. This means that you’ll want to book your return flight and your hotel reservation before heading to Ecuador.
What’s more, you’ll need to purchase a $100 entry permit to enter Galapagos National Park. Without this, you won’t have access to the islands. Make sure that you have entry access for each person in your party, or you may find that your trip is quite restricted.
Finally, you’ll need a tourist transit card. Thankfully, these can be purchased for just $20. By having these ducks in a row, you can help make sure that your trip to the Galapagos Islands goes by without a hitch.
The easiest way to get around between islands is to take a cruise. This will take you on a guided path that will allow you to see the most that these islands have to offer. It will also make it easy to see each island in turn, providing for a better experience.
You may also choose to take flights between some islands, but this can often prove to be more expensive. Those who are looking to really cut costs may choose to travel by speedboat—though this may be the least exciting and captivating way to travel.
What to Bring
In addition to your passport, itinerary, and other legal documentation, you’re going to want to bring a number of items with you.
First, make sure that you have adequate sunscreen so that you can stay protected. The climate in the Galapagos proves to be quite hot, so you’ll want to make sure that your family has adequate sun protection.
You’ll also want to bring raincoats or umbrellas, as it may start to rain—and you certainly don’t want to get caught in that.
And don’t forget to bring proper footwear. You may find that you’re walking over a lot of uneven and bumpy terrain. If you’ve got sore feet, poor arch support, or any foot condition, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good pair of comfortable orthotic shoes. This will help ease the pain and give your feet the support they need so that you can enjoy your trip in comfort.
You’ll also want to dress for warmer weather, depending on when you go. Make sure that you’ve researched the weather for your time of year so that you can wear an outfit that will allow you to move around comfortably.
When to Visit
With that in mind, when should you take your trip to the Galapagos Islands? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question.
For starters, it’s going to depend on what you want to do. Different animals are active during different portions of the year, meaning that you can expect to see different sights depending on when you go. If you wish to see giant turtles hatching, for instance, you may want to go starting in December.
You’ll also want to dress for the weather. While the Galapagos Islands don’t exactly get cold, they can get to around a cool 70 degrees between June and November, with temperatures from January to April ranging up to 100 degrees. By dressing for the weather, you can better enjoy your trip in comfort.
The Bottom Line
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands from the United States doesn’t have to be difficult. By following the guide above, you can be sure to plan your trip without any setbacks.
Remember, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right documents for everyone in your party. You’ll also need to plan your stay before arriving so that you’ll be able to get access to the islands. In this way, you can enjoy a smooth vacation experience.