Diving The Galapagos

a blog for DiveTheGalapagos.com

Flights to Galapagos

AerogalPeople 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.

Arriving into Ecuador:

You can arrive into either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). You must overnight in one of these two cities upon arrival. There are only 2 exceptions to that I am aware of. Delta and LAN both have red eyes from the US that arrive around 05:30 AM. You can then fly the same morning directly to Galapagos.

I always recommend that if you are flying directly into the Galapagos with no mainland tours, Guayaquil is more convenient and it’s a bit less expensive than flying from Quito. Flights from Quito route through Guayaquil. On the other hand, if you wish to do some sightseeing on mainland Ecuador, Quito offers so much more than Guayaquil.

From Quito, 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 or bikes in the Andes, go river rafting and so very much more.

Quayaquil is a city on large rivers, so even though it looks like it’s on the coast, the closest beach is about an hour away. Yes, the Malecon is a nice river walk for tourists and I must admit, nightime at Las Penas is fun, but I’d stick with Quito for mainland activities. Guayaquil is growing increasingly dangerous, too. In terms of convenience, go for the best deal on an international flight into either city if simply getting to the Galapagos is your aim.

Often on your return, you will also need to overnight on the mainland.  Flights from Galapagos to Ecuador return mid-afternoon to Guayaquil and late afternoon to Quito.  If your international flight departs in the morning, you will have to plan to overnight in Ecuador on your return.

One other consideration if you book your own flights is whether or not you are doing an extension.  It is common, in this case, to fly into San Cristobal (SCY) and fly out of Baltra (GPS) for convenience.  Please consult with us if you are booking your own flights and even if you are booking your own extension.  Logistics in Galapagos are complex and baffle even the most seasoned traveler.

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 an INGALA visitor form. This resembles an immigration form, though the bottom part of it is detachable and for you to retain. Go to INGALA before going to your airline counter or you will simply wait in line only to be sent to INGALA.

In Guayaquil, the INGALA window is just to the left of Aerogal and Tame counters. At the window, they’ll ask you where you are staying or the name of your boat. You pay $10 in cash and they give you the customs form. You’ll be advised to retain both bottom sections, one to hand in as you depart and the other to serve as your ID in Galapagos.

Next, they run your bag through an Xray machine and may decide to inspect it for organic material. You may transport most processed food items between islands, but things like some raw nuts, fruit, etc are not permitted. Refer to INGALA’s list online for more details.

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. They never ask for your e-ticket either, just your passport.

In Quito, as soon as you walk in the door for domestic departures, go to your right. The INGALA office is located there prior to walking past the guard/entrance to the flight counters. Same procedure as Guayaquil.

Which Airline to the Galapagos?

First and foremost, all of the Galapagos Live-aboards depart from San Cristobal (SCY). The only airlines that service San Cristobal are Aerogal and Tame, and LAN.

It can sometimes be difficult to book your own flights on either Aerogal or Tame. Aerogal seems to charge more for foreigners booking flights from outside the country and Tame’s website rarely even functions. Both often show no availability when there actually is. What happens is that all cruises, both dive and naturalist, reserve seats for the total number of guests they have each week and then don’t release the seats they aren’t using until the last minute. So it is definitely easier for you to simply allow us to organize your flights with the boat you’re on. Then, if you get stuck for any reason (your flight to Ecuador was cancelled, the boat needs to depart from or return to Baltra for some reason), we can handle the changes for you. And that can be mission impossible for you or your agent back home.

Weight Restrictions:

You are allowed one checked bag that weighs 22 kilos, 48.5 pounds, plus a carry on. They do weigh the carry-on which has a weight limitation of 8 kilos, 18 pounds. They do allow you to check in an additional bag for roughly $1 per kilo, 2.2 pounds. LAN charges $25 for an extra bag. Aerogal often lets it slide altogether.

Prices:
As of December 26, 2011, the airlines are no longer fuel subsidized, so prices just increased on the average of $100 pp round trip on Aerogal. On Tame, the increase is $140 pp round trip to/from Quito and $120 round trip to/from Guayaquil. Below are the 2012 prices for Aerogal, the airline all liveaboards use, and the year round prices for Tame.

AEROGAL 2012 FARES

Route High Season Low Season
GYE-Galapagos-GYE $495.95 $452.27
UIO-Galapagos-GYE $510.47 $470.19
GYE-Galapagos-UIO $522.15 $472.87
UIO-Galapagos-UIO $545.67 $490.79
TAME 2012 FARES
Route Year Round
GYE-Galapagos-GYE $480.72
UIO-Galapagos-GYE $517.32
GYE-Galapagos-UIO $514.32
UIO-Galapagos-UIO $550.60

Key:
GYE – Guayaquil
UIO – Quito
High Season: July, August, December
Low Season: Rest of the year

For pricing, there is no difference to/from either Galapagos airport: GPS – Baltra / SCY – San Cristobal. All liveaboards currently depart from San Cristobal.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello,
    If we are considering flying Quito – Galapagos in late-August, then upon return in early September stopping in Guayaquil for a side trip before returning to Quito, is it best to purchase a round trip UIO – Galapagos ticket? Will they allow a delay in Guayaquil? Thank you, Roxanne

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