The Galapagos Islands are unlike any place you have ever visited! We hope you will be just as enchanted by the place as we were when we first came here. Here is some practical information to help you prepare for your stay on the Islands.
Since the Galapagos Islands are so close to the equator the weather does not change much over the course of a year. There are two seasons: the warm & wet season, from December to May, with average temperatures of 80°F to 90°F (27°C to 32°C) and the cool & dry season, from June to December, with average temperatures of 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Rain showers are more frequent from December to May, but can be expected all year round. So it is best to bring a raincoat with you. The equatorial sun can be very strong and sunburn is always a risk. Bring plenty of sun block with you and keep reapplying every couple of hours!!
The Galapagos is 6 hours behind GMT, which is equivalent to US Central Standard Time. This is one hour behind the rest of mainland Ecuador. Ecuador does not have daylight savings.
Recommended vaccinations are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio, and Antimalarial drugs. Yellow fever is only necessary if you are coming from a country with Yellow Fever. The actual risk of contracting Malaria or Yellow Fever in the Galapagos is extremely low. Please contact your local GP or healthcare provider for more information if in doubt. We advise all volunteers to get travel insurance, although this is not mandatory. There are plenty of pharmacies available in Puerto Ayora, but we would recommend bringing a basic travel medicine kit with you. Some more useful information can be found on the website if the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The official currency in the Galapagos is US Dollars. Credit cards are accepted although a high commission may be charged. Cash is still preferred by most shops and restaurants. In Santa Cruz Island and San Cristobal Island there are some ATMs available, but this is not the case in Isabela or Floreana Island. Prices in the Galapagos are higher than in mainland Ecuador, because most goods have to be imported.
Cell phones: There is cell phone coverage on the islands. The two providers are Movistar and Claro. Ensure you have an unlocked cell phone when you arrive. We advise you to contact your cell phone manufacturer before you travel to check if you phone will operate in the Galapagos. On arrival in Puerto Ayora it is possible to purchase a handset locally.
Internet service and computer use: Many internet cafés have popped up in Puerto Ayora with some restaurants and the local library offering free wifi. Free wifi is also available in the Harbour area, although the connection is not always reliable. Alternatively the library has a number of PCs available for use free of charge, and flash drives are available for purchase in Puerto Ayora.
We recommend volunteers bringing their own equipment, however Galapagos ICE have a very limited number of laptops and cell phones available for use on our projects. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability. (Note: Fees may apply)
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador and the Galapagos. Volunteers sometimes expect that locals can speak English because of the strong tourism industry in the area, however this is not the case. Depending on your project we ask some volunteers to have a basic to advanced level of Spanish.
Tap water is not suitable for drinking or even brushing your teeth. Bottled water and treated water is widely available. For volunteers who do not have meals included in their housing we recommend you buy a local product for washing fruits and cooking. Restaurants in the tourist areas generally use purified water to prepare and wash food. When you arrive you will receive a map with suggested restaurants where the fresh fruits and salads are safe to eat. And since the drinking water is treated in restaurants, it’s ok to have ice cubes in your favorite drink!
Food and Restaurants
A number of local restaurants offer inexpensive menus in Puerto Ayora– for example, for the modest sum of around $4, it is possible to purchase a lunch including soup, juice, a choice of chicken, beef, or fish, and rice. More extensive and expensive options are available. We highly recommend the meal plan with the Homestay program, as it is economical and will give you an insider’s perspective of local Ecuadorian cuisine.
On Saturdays and Tuesdays there is a fruit and vegetable market in Puerto Ayora, but fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive on the islands.
Accommodations vary, from standard rooms, with bed linens, towels, and basic furnishings, to more elaborate situations. All rooms are available on a first come, first served basis. Upon arrival in Puerto Ayora, volunteers will arrive at the Galapagos ICE office and transferred to their new homes to meet their host families. As the vast majority of the local population does not have warm water at home, it is best to expect a refreshing shower experience at your homestay!