Latin America Travel Experts Since 2002

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Travelling to Galapagos & Ecuador

All the practical information you need regarding your trip to Latin America is found here. From how to prepare before you leave and travelling to your destination, to advice on travelling within your country of choice.

Travelling in Galapagos & Ecuador

  • All hotels include breakfast, and other meals are included on some tours and excursions. However, generally, you will need to arrange your own lunches and dinners. We recommend budgeting approximately US$15 – 20 for a meal, although many restaurants have excellent value set lunches for less than this. Hotel restaurants, especially in superior hotels, can be more expensive, as can meals in restaurants on the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, there are some upmarket restaurants in cities where you should expect to pay up to US$50 per person, or possibly more. However, these still offer excellent value for money compared to equivalent restaurants in the UK.

    Bar prices on the mainland are similar to the UK, or slightly cheaper, and a small bottle of beer usually costs around US$2-3 in a hotel bar. Wine, particularly imported wine, can be quite expensive. On Galapagos boats, bar prices are usually higher than on the mainland, particularly for wine.

    We find that many people take advantage of the excellent crafts markets in and around Quito, so please allow for this if you are likely to buy such items. The prices vary significantly depending on the quality of the items, and detailed crafts can be expensive.

  • Excursions are usually taken together with other Llama Travel customers in groups of no more than 18 people. If we have more than 18 booked, we operate two groups. If we have only one or two people booked on an excursion, the excursion may be operated together with people other than Llama Travel customers. In some places, the excursions are operated by one of our local partners, such as treks in Torres del Paine, so you may be with people other than Llama Travel customers. In these cases, group sizes can sometimes be larger. If you would like to know the likely situation for your holiday, please ask us and we will be able to check. Transfers may be in a vehicle with more than 18 people.

  • Quito has many good restaurants with a wide range of national and international cuisine. Many of the best restaurants are located in the new town. Ingredients from the jungle, the Andes and the coast allow for an interesting mix of dishes. Sometimes, traditional restaurants are only open from noon to 3pm.

    Although it does not have as many options as Quito, Cuenca has a good variety of restaurants and cafes serving both local and international cuisine. The locals are fond of sweet food, particularly ice cream, and there are many good cafes near the main square catering for this market. There are also a number of restaurants in central Guayaquil and on the promenade, although many of the best restaurants are located in the malls and entertainment centres away from the centre.

  • The official currency in Ecuador is the US dollar. Travellers should take US dollars and not Australian dollars, which are not widely accepted. Credit and debit cards (both Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted) can be used in many shops and restaurants, and can be used to withdraw money from cash machines. It can be difficult to use dollar notes which have even the smallest tear. Some places do not accept US$100 bills, so it is best to take smaller denomination notes. When travelling to some of the more remote areas (e.g, the jungle), it is advisable to take cash, as it is difficult to withdraw or change money. If taking travellers cheques, a high commission may be charged. Some hotels do not change travellers cheques so you may need to change them in a bank or exchange shop, therefore, please bear in mind opening hours.

    It is always recommended to inform your bank that you are travelling abroad and to which countries. This will allow them to authorise money withdrawals on your account when you are away. Some banks say that this is not necessary; however, we would still recommend contact with your bank as in some cases people have had difficulty in withdrawing currency.

    On most small boats in the Galapagos, you can only pay in cash. Some larger boats also take credit cards.

  • If you receive good service, you may want to leave a tip. This is completely at your discretion. For general excursions, if you want to tip guides, US$2 – 3 per person per day is usual if you are in a group. Approximately US$1 is usual for drivers or transfer staff. As tipping is not necessarily normal in restaurants, please give any tips directly to the person you would like to tip to ensure that they get it.

    Tipping your Galapagos boat crew and guides on board is expected and is usually well deserved. For yachts up to 16 passengers, and the Hotel Finch Bay tours, approximately US$15 – 20 per person per day is recommended. For larger yachts, US$23-25 is normal.

    If you would like to tip your guide in the jungle, approximately US$10 per person per day is recommended. This is divided between the guides and the staff.

  • Latin America is relatively safe to visit, and most people experience no problems during their stay. However, as is the case anywhere in the world, crime can be a problem. Tourists are often seen as being wealthy, and can therefore appear attractive targets to criminals. To minimise the risk to yourself, use common sense. Do not walk around with obvious signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive looking jewellery or with cameras round your neck. Keep passports and valuables in your hotel safe. When in restaurants, always keep bags (especially if they contain valuables) close to your person and out of sight. Do not walk down empty streets, especially after dark. By taking sensible precautions, you should have a completely trouble-free holiday.

    Please use the safe in your hotel room to store your valuables, if this is available. If there is not a safe in your room, there will usually be a safe in reception where you can store valuables.

    Making sure that you stay safe during your holiday is very important. We bear this in mind when selecting hotels, but please understand that standards of health and safety in Latin America are often not as high as they are in Australia. Take extra care if you are travelling with children.

  • In many destinations, you can arrange adventure activities. If you are interested in taking any of these, please make sure you are covered by your travel insurance. Llama Travel does not arrange any adventure activities directly and we cannot verify the safety measures of any local operators.

  • To phone Australia from Ecuador, dial the international dialing code for Australia (0061) and then the Australian telephone number, leaving out the ‘0’ in the area code. Telephone cards are the easiest way to use public telephones, and can be bought in convenience stores.

    To phone Ecuador from Australia, dial the international dialing code for Ecuador (00593) and then the Ecuadorian telephone number, leaving out the ‘0’ in the area code. Some Australian mobile phones do not work in Ecuador, as phones must be quad-band. Please ask your service provider to check if your telephone will work there.

  • Excursions are operated together with other holidaymakers. These will usually be in English, although groups are sometimes a mix of English and Spanish or Portuguese speaking. A minimum of 2 people is required for some excursions. On some occasions, the order of excursions may vary.

About the Galapagos

  • The Galapagos Islands are in the Pacific Ocean 1,000km west of Ecuador. Flights to and from Quito take 3 hours, with a brief stop in Guayaquil.

  • The Galapagos can be visited year round and wildlife can be seen all year. Between January to May the weather is hotter, but wetter, and the sea temperature tends to be warmer. During this time the average daytime temperate is between 27-31°C and the sea temperature is around 25°C. June to December is drier, but cooler. The average daytime temperature ranges between 21-26°C and the sea temperature is around 21°C. It is often overcast at this time of the year, especially in July and August. The seas around the Galapagos tend to be fairly calm all year around, however the choppiest time to visit is around September. Some birds are only present at certain times of the year; if you would like to see a specific bird, please ask us for details.

  • •Lightweight clothing, including shorts and t-shirts. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are useful on board as there is air conditioning.

    •Swimming costume. •Sandals and trainers.

    •Prescription snorkelling mask if required.

    •A sun hat.

    •Waterproofs (a plastic poncho is often the best thing). •Sunglasses. •Binoculars/camera gear.

    •Water bottle. •Sun cream and insect repellent.

    •Day pack for island excursions.

    •Ear plugs for night-time sailing.

    •Biodegradable soap and shampoo are provided. If you would like to use your own, please ensure this is also biodegradable.

  • The Galapagos National Park entrance fee of US$100 and the transit tax of US$20 are included in all our holidays. 

  • All boats Llama Travel works with have excursions carried out in small groups (maximum 16 passengers) led by a naturalist guide.

    Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the dining area, and drinking water, tea and coffee are provided. There is also a bar service available.

    Electricity onboard is 110V and plugs are of the flat two-pin type. There are small safes in each cabin or in the captain’s cabin. There are no hairdryers in cabins on most boats.

    Smoking is not permitted inside the boats and is only permitted on deck.

    Dress on board is informal on all boats.

  • Itineraries are fixed by the Galapagos authorities and usually cannot be varied. However, these are subject to change by the park authorities at short notice and can be affected by local conditions, airport closures or other factors. The activities at each site specified in the itineraries may vary and will be determined by the guide. Some longer cruise itineraries are made up of 2 shorter cruises, and so some guests may start or end their cruise on these changeover days. On all cruise itineraries, you visit a range of different islands, allowing you to see the land and marine animals and birdlife. The Finch Bay itinerary includes visits to several visitor sites in the central islands.

  • All guides in the Galapagos Islands are registered with the National Park. All Llama Travel holidays include experienced naturalist guides who speak English.

  • For many people, the highlight of the visit to the Galapagos is snorkelling among the sea life, including sea lions, turtles, penguins, rays and sharks. Snorkelling equipment is available for rent,
    or you can take your own. If you need a mask with prescription lenses, it is best to get this before you leave. Wetsuits are also available for hire. Please ask us if you are interested in hiring a wetsuit. If you do not want to snorkel, it is sometimes possible to remain on the beach on the island. However, at some sites visited on cruises this is not possible, in which case you will stay on board your boat.

  • You explore the visitor sites, seeing the wildlife, flora and geology at very close quarters. Most excursions require some walking, often on rocky and uneven surfaces, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. To reach the islands it is necessary to go from your boat in a panga, a small dinghy. On a dry landing, you will step out of the panga onto rock. On a wet landing, you will step out of the panga into about a foot of water, from where you will wade to land.

  • Sailing between the islands is usually done in the early morning or late evening. However, for some of the longer distances, the journey can be made at night. In this case, there is usually more movement and the noise of the motor can be heard.

  • On the smaller yachts, you can only pay in cash. On the larger boats, you can usually pay by cash or credit card. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted on any of the boats. There are banks and cash machines in both Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal.

  • Tipping the boat crew and guides on board is usually well deserved, and expected. If you feel you have received good service, the following are the suggested tipping levels per passenger per day: San Jose and Galapagos Beagle, approximately $15 - 19. MV Santa Cruz II and La Pinta, approximately $25. Galapagos Odyssey, approximately $20 - $22. Hotel Finch Bay, approximately $19.

  • There is a small boutique shop on board the larger ships and there is also the chance to shop at Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. However, it is best to buy anything that you will need before visiting the islands.

  • Entertainment on board is quite limited, although the larger ships have bars and may have music at times. It is sometimes possible to disembark in Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where there are restaurants and bars.

  • Airport transfers are included to your Galapagos cruise. If you are landing at Baltra airport, an excursion to the Santa Cruz highlands is often included. This is usually prior to boarding your boat, so we recommend having appropriate footwear and clothing handy for this excursion, as your main luggage will usually be taken straight to your boat.

    Transfers are also included for hotel stays in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. These are with a driver only, usually with limited English.

    It is sometimes possible to get a Galapagos stamp in your passport when you arrive at the Galapagos airport, so please ask for this if you would like this.

  • No specific vaccinations further to those required for Ecuador are required for visiting the Galapagos Islands. However, please consult your GP or a travel clinic for up-to-date medical advice. As you may feel the movement of the boat, we recommend you bring any sea sickness medication you will require. We recommend bringing any painkillers or medication for upset stomachs and rehydration sachets in case you have a problem on board, as these can be hard to get in the Galapagos Islands.

    Although the excursions are not physically demanding, they do require walking on uneven surfaces, and this can be under the hot sun. Therefore, a reasonable level of fitness is required.

    Larger ships (48 passengers and up) usually have a medical officer on board, although facilities and treatments are quite simple. Smaller boats have basic first aid. If you require more serious medical attention, there are hospitals on the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

     

Before you Go

  • Visas are not required in advance for Australian citizens visiting Ecuador. For Australian passports endorsed in any way and all other passports, please ask the appropriate consulate: Ecuador: (02) 6286 4021.

    You need a full 10-year passport valid for 6 months after your return to Australia. If you are flying via the US, you need to comply with US immigration requirements. Ask us for details.

    If children are not travelling with both parents, some countries require a letter of consent to enter or depart. Please consult the appropriate consulate.

    To issue some tickets, we require passport details and ages when you book. If you subsequently change your passport, please let us know as soon as possible.

  • Adequate travel insurance is essential. We do not sell or recommend any specific policy. A list of insurance companies that our customers have found suitable is available from us. Please advise your insurer of any pre-existing medical conditions and, if you are booking a holiday involving high-altitude trekking, such as the Inca Trail, make sure that you are covered for this. If you are planning on carrying out any other activities, please ensure your insurance policy will cover you for these. Note that cancellation cover is often only available if insurance is purchased within two weeks of booking your holiday.

  • You will receive tickets approximately 10 days before departure, along with information on accommodation, transfers and excursions. Our agents in Latin America will give you your hotel and excursion vouchers when you arrive.

  • Some countries in Latin America have strict regulations regarding the entry and exit of children under 18 when not travelling with both parents, or if the child has nationality of the country you are visiting. If you are travelling with children who are not entering or leaving the country with both parents, or if the child has nationality of the country you are visiting, please contact the consulate of the country you are visiting to check requirements.

  • In Quito, daytime temperatures tend to be around 20°C and night time temperatures around 10°C. The weather in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, Riobamba and Cuenca is similar to Quito. Temperatures in the jungle and Guayaquil tend to be hot and humid year round, although cold snaps are also possible. Therefore, a variety of clothing, suitable for warm and cooler weather is advisable. Rain is possible throughout the year, so waterproofs are also recommended. Insect repellent is advisable, especially for the jungle, the Bellavista cloud forest and for the Galapagos Islands.

    Sturdy footwear is advisable for the Galapagos Islands, as some paths can be rocky and uneven. If you are visiting the Bellavista cloud forest, the trails can be muddy and sometimes they are slippery. Therefore, please take appropriate footwear.

    The hottest months in the Galapagos Islands are usually December – May, when temperatures can rise above 30°C, although it tends to be wettest then. Sea temperatures are also at their warmest, around 25°C (although the temperature can vary significantly between different islands). From June – December, temperatures are usually cooler (around 25°C), but it rains less. It is often misty at this time of year. Sea temperatures also tend to be cooler, around 20°C. Dress on board the cruise boats is informal, so formal dress is not required.

    Electricity in Ecuador is 110V, and plugs are of the flat two-pin type.

    Having a copy of your passport with you at all times is recommended.

    Please bring any medication you may require from Australia.

Health & Fitness

  • For most of our holidays, age is not a concern. However, a reasonable level of fitness is required, as most holidays require some walking, sometimes on uneven ground. Even relatively mild activities can be strenuous at altitude. High altitude trekking is more strenuous than an equivalent length walk at low altitude.

  • Please consult your GP or a travel clinic about health and vaccination requirements. The websites www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and www.smartraveller.gov.au give good advice about travelling in Ecuador.

    Yellow Fever and Malaria precautions are usually recommended when visiting the jungle in Ecuador. If visiting the jungle in Ecuador, your jungle lodge provides mosquito nets.

    Some GPs do not recommend yellow fever vaccinations for travellers over 60 years old. When re-entering Australia, you will be asked to present a yellow fever certificate if you have travelled to an at-risk country. People who are unable to provide a certificate will still be able to enter Australia.

    There have been reports of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus, in various Latin American countries. Please check www.smartraveller.gov.au for the latest advice regarding this. If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, it is recommended that you speak to a medical professional prior to travel.

    When visiting Latin America, stomach illnesses are not uncommon due to changes in diet. We suggest you only drink bottled water and avoid ice. If you are unsure if salads and fruit have been washed in purified water, it is best to avoid them.

    Much of Ecuador is at high altitude. Most people who travel to altitude do not suffer major problems. However, shortness of breath is common and we advise you to take things calmly during your first day or so at altitude. If possible, rest for a couple of hours when you first get to altitude. Additionally, some Llama Travel customers have reported beneficial effects of the herbal remedy Ginkgo Biloba. Many of the places you visit require some walking uphill. Please bear in mind that the altitude means this is more strenuous than equivalent length walks at lower altitude. If you think you may suffer due to the altitude, please consult your GP before travelling.

    If you have any health problems on holiday, please speak to our local agents or hotel staff. They will arrange for a doctor or hospital if necessary. Illnesses caused by altitude can be serious. If you do experience any problems, please seek appropriate medical attention.

Getting there

  • Llama Travel holidays include all flights within Latin America, but do not include international flights between Australia and Latin America before and after your tour. You will need to arrange these yourself; however, we are always able to give advice and suggest the most suitable flights for your holiday. Please ask us if you need assistance with this.

    A holiday in Latin America inevitably means long haul flights. Most flights from Australia are operated by either Qantas or LATAM. There are direct flights from Sydney to Santiago in Chile, and from November 2017, there will also be direct flights between Melbourne and Santiago. Air New Zealand also operates flights connecting in Auckland.

  • There are direct flights between Sydney and Santiago in Chile. From November 2017, there will also be direct flights between Melbourne and Santiago. These are not daily flights, and on some days a connection is required. If you would like to depart from another airport, such as Perth or Brisbane, a connection in Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland is required.

  • You can upgrade to business class or premium economy on most airlines. If you have already booked your flights in economy class and are interested in upgrading, please contact the airline directly to ask whether this is possible.

    Information about the travel classes with Qantas can be found here: Qantas Travel Classes

  • Some airlines allow you to select your seat once you have made a flight booking. Depending on the airline and your ticket type, a fee may be charged. Alternatively, you may choose your preferred seat free of charge when online check-in opens 24 hours prior to departure or at the airport.

    We all want a comfortable journey, particularly on long haul flights. If you would like a seat with some extra leg room, this is usually possible for a fee. Please visit the airline’s website to purchase these seats directly with the airline.

    For flights within Latin America, and for connecting flights in Europe, it is usually only possible to select seats when you check in online or at the airport.

    It may not be possible to always use online check-in systems, especially when using a codeshare flight. On occasion, your preferred seat may be changed by the airline for operational reasons such as a change of aircraft or to facilitate a disabled passenger on the day you fly.

  • In most cases, when travelling between Australia and South America, you will fly via Santiago in Chile, as there are direct flights between Santiago and Australia. If your Llama Travel tour ends in a destination other than Santiago, but you would like to break your journey with a stopover in Santiago, please let us know. This should be possible, depending on your international flight ticket.

  • In some cases, you may decide to book flights that travel visa the USA before reaching Latin America. This is not usually the most direct route, and if you are only travelling to South America we would usually recommend flying to Santiago in Chile.

    If your flight involves a stop in the US, even if only in transit to Latin America, must comply with US immigration requirements. It is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with these requirements before you travel. Failure to do so may result in you being denied boarding on your flight to the USA

    If you qualify for the US Visa Waiver Program, you are able to avoid the need to apply for a visa, but still need to enter your details online on the US State Department website. If you do not qualify for the US Visa Waiver Program, you must apply in person at a US embassy for a US visa. Please make sure that you do this in good time.

    If you are an Australian citizen and have an Australian passport, you may qualify for visa-free travel. You will require a machine readable passport to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (so you do not require a visa to enter the US). A machine readable passport has the holder's personal details (name, date of birth, nationality and passport number) contained in two lines of text at the bottom of the photo page. This appears as two lines of letters, numbers and chevrons (">>>>>") printed across the long edge of the photo page.

    Additionally, if the passport was issued, renewed/extended between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006 it must contain a digital photograph. If the passport was issued, renewed/extended on or after October 26, 2006, it must be also include an integrated circuit chip capable of storing the biographic information from the data page, a digitized photograph and other biometric information.

    Please note that if you have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, or if you have a criminal record, you will need a visa.
    If you have any doubts about whether you qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, please check with the US embassy.

    Many European and New Zealand passport holders also qualify for the Visa Waiver Program as long as the passport is machine readable and complies with the relevant criteria. Please see the US embassy website for a list of countries which qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. It is important that you check the website of the US Embassy in the country of passport nationality for any further changes before you travel.

    ESTA Visa Waiver Program - **** Action by you may be required ****
    The US State Department has introduced a mandatory electronic system to help speed up the US immigration process for travellers on the Visa Waiver Program. All Visa Waiver Program travellers must fill in a form on the US State department website. This can be found at (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov). Please enter this into the address bar on your web browser. There is a $14 charge per person to apply for this. DO NOT search for this website via a search engine, such as Google, as it will take you to an incorrect website. Although this can be filled in up to 72 hours before travel, we recommend that you fill in this form as soon as possible so any issues can be identified immediately. To apply please scroll to the bottom of the green area and press the apply button on the left hand side of the page. Please make sure that this form is filled out for all the passengers on your booking. If you require more detailed instructions, please visit www.LlamaTravel.com/ESTA.

    If you do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, or if your passport does not meet the relevant criteria, then you will require a US visa before you travel. Even if you are given authorization on the ESTA website, some travellers may not be eligible to enter the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program. If in doubt, please consult the US embassy website.

  • Most scheduled airlines have a baggage allowance of 20kg per passenger, especially when taking internal flights within Latin America. Please bear this in mind when packing, as carrying excess baggage will normally incur an expensive additional cost payable at check in. Additionally, certain excursions have a limited baggage allowance. Where this is the case, you will usually be able to leave the rest of you luggage in storage. Llama Travel accepts no responsibility for the delay, loss or damage of luggage.