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Frequently Asked Questions

We highly recommend that all clients read the the FAQs carefully as they help to avoid potential confusions and misunderstandings, and they help us to provide improved service to all of our customers.

Each topic has the answers to the most typical questions that our past clients have had. If the answer to your question is not here then just ask our sales staff and they will be happy to help.

Bookings

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. How can i make a booking?

Simply tell us which tour you would like to book, for which dates, and for how many passengers, and subject to availability we will be happy to book it for you.

Please also send us the following information for each passenger:

  • Full name (as written in passport)
  • Gender
  • Passport number
  • Date of birth
  • Marital status
  • Country of residence
  • Email address
  • Dietary requirements (normal / vegetarian / food allergies etc)
    For Galapagos bookings we also need to know your preferred flight route and dates.
2. How do i know that happy gringo have made a booking for me?

As soon as we receive your booking request (see question1) we will go ahead and make a reservation for you. We will then send an email confirming that your booking has been successfully made – this email acts as your initial booking confirmation.

We also send an e-receipt at time of payment which contains precise details of your booking and acts as final booking confirmation.

3. I've just booked a tour, now what should i do?

First you will receive an email from us confirming that your tour has been successfully booked. The next step is to organise payment with our sales staff (see also Payment FAQs). From there we will organise all of your tickets and have them waiting for your arrival to Quito (see also Ticket pickup FAQs).

4. What are the terms and conditions of my booking?

The terms & conditions link lists our booking conditions. If you have any questions or doubts about their contents please contact our sales staff.

5. What if i need to cancel my booking before travelling?

Your booking is made with Happy Gringo at the moment we receive an your email request for the reservation. At this time we enter into a contract with the boat operator on your behalf and we have an obligation to pay for the boat services.

For that reason any client cancellation will be subject to the cancellation charges listed in the terms and conditions of your tour.

Payments

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. Which payment methods are available, and which handling fees apply in each case?

If you have booked a tour at least 2 weeks in advance then we accept the following payments:

  • USA BANK – all of our tours are priced in US$ so this option is a convenient way of avoiding exchange rate charges (especially if you have a USA based account). This is usually the quickest and easiest payment method. We charge a $25 handling fee per transfer in order to cover our costs of transferring the money into Ecuador.
  • CREDIT CARD – this is a quick and easy secure online payment method for visa and mastercard cardholders. Credit card processing fees do apply – please ask our staff for current rates.
  • ECUADOR BANK – we hold a domestic account in Ecuador which you can deposit cash into via any branch of Banco Internacional – this is the best option in order to avoid both banking charges and exchange rate costs if you are already in the country.
  • CASH – of course we accept US$ cash in our Quito office, but check the rules that apply with last minute bookings first.

Most importantly all of our accounts are 100% SECURE and in the name of either Happy Gringo or our partner company Galapagos Online Corp. We will never ask you to risk paying into any account registered under a personal name as some of our competitors may do.

2. I am booking a last minute tour - which payment options are available?

A last minute booking is classified as a booking made less than 2 weeks before your trip departure date.

If you are in Quito then it is best to pay us in US$ cash in our office or via credit card online. If you are overseas then online payment with credit card is the only option open.

3. When can i pay just a deposit in advance, and when do i have to pay in full?

Generally speaking we require a 40% deposit at time of booking in order to confirm your reservation. Full payment is then due 3 months before your date of travel. Of course should you prefer to pay in full at time of booking then that is also no problem.

Only in the case of bookings made less than 3 months before date of travel do we immediately require full payment.

Consult our full terms and conditions for further information.

4. Why is prompt payment so important?

It is important because the terms and conditions of the operators that we have to pay on your behalf are often very strict, and late payment can mean that your reservation is cancelled by the operator.

5. Why can't i pay directly with credit card like i can in usa/europe?

Previously in Ecuador it was not possible to pay via credit card online, fortunately now it is possible! We do, however, as an anti-fraud measure always require a passport copy of the card holder before we process the transaction.

Note that it is still not possible for us to take your credit card details over the phone.

6. Where can i find your bank details in order to make a transfer?

Our bank details are available upon request – tell our salesperson which bank you wish to pay into and he/she will provide full details to you.

7. How do i wire money by western union (wu)?

At this current time we are unfortunately unable to offer this payment option!!!

9. When will happy gringo send me a receipt for payments received?

We send receipts out by email on the same day that we receive your transfer.

8. Do you accept travellers checks?

Unfortunately not at this time as travellers cheques are not wildly received in Ecuador.

Ticket Pickup

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. Where, how and when can i collect my tour tickets?

We send out all necessary tickets to passengers as scanned files via email, so all you need to do is print them out and bring them with you. We will also send full instructions on how to join your trip.

Usually we aim to send tickets out between 1 and 2 weeks prior to your tour departure but this depends greatly on when we receive the tickets from the yacht operating companies so it may vary. If for any reason you need your tickets further in advance then please let us know as early as possible so that we can try to make the necessary preparations for you.

If you prefer to come to our office in person to collect tickets then of course we will be delighted to meet you! Just let us know in advance so we are sure to have everything ready in time. Our address is:

Office 509, Building Catalina Plaza, Catalina Aldaz N34-155 & Portugal, Quito, Ecuador

It is located in the north part of town quite close to the Carolina Park. Our office opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, we are closed weekends.

In emergency cases we may also be able to leave a copy of your physicla tickets for you in your hotel reception in Quito.

2. I will be in quito when the happy gringo office is closed so how can i collect my tickets?

See above – this is not a problem as our regular ticket delivery method is to scan and email everything to you.

3. I prefer to pick-up my tickets in guayaquil, how can i do that?

Again not a problem as we will scan the tickets to you, but please bear in mind that we will not be able to send any physical documents to you in Guayaquil.

4. Once i have my tickets is there anything else that i need to worry about before travelling?

We strongly recommend that you check vaccination advice with your doctor AND check passport/visa requirements with the Ecuadorian Embassy in your country BEFORE you travel. Currently all nationalities need at least 6 months of validity on their passport for example (subject to change so please double-check this with the embassy) and visa requirements always vary by country. These regulations are always subject to change at short notice, for this reason Happy Gringo cannot provide direct advice to our clients on these matters, nor can we be held responsible if your personal paperwork is not in order – this information is VERY IMPORTANT to check as your airline may deny permission to board the plane if your passport / visa is not in order.

You should also consider the impact of a new law coming into force in 2017 that obligates foreign travellers to hold a valid travel insurance covering medical expenses during your trip. At immigration they may ask to see proof of insurance and in theory can deny entry if you are unable to do so. At this time is difficult to say whether the authorities will apply this law strictly or not, for that reason Happy Gringo recommends always to travel with a valid insurance just in case.

Another important step if of course to pack for your trip – in our FAQ we provide details for a suggested packing list before you travel.

Galapagos Islands Faq

Galapagos Islands Yachts / Cruises

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. Which different classes of boat are available?

We divide yachts into the following 4 classes:

Note that each agency has its own system for classifying yachts; our system is unique to others because we have chosen category names that we consider describe the boats better than those traditionally used, and we classify boats based not only on on-board services offered but also on past client recommendations and feedback. As such we consider that ours is the most unbiased and informative system available today.

2. What types of cabin are available on yachts?

This varies greatly so it is best to check out individual yacht pages on our website for more information.

3. I'm travelling alone - do i have to share a room with a stranger or pay a single supplement?

Actually you can do either of the above. As long as you are willing to share your cabin with a stranger then there is no extra charge to the regular prices quoted on our website, and the boat operator will always try to match you together with somebody of the same gender (although this is not 100% guaranteed). If you do not wish to share your cabin with a stranger then you can choose to pay a single supplement to have the cabin to yourself – ask us the cost in each case as it varies by yacht but expect to pay between 60 and 100% extra.

4. What on-board services do the yachts offer?

Again this varies greatly by boat so please check the individual boat pages for more information.

5. When is the best time to book my galapagos cruise?

Galapagos cruise availabilities are limited all year round so we usually recommend to plan as far ahead as possible. This is especially true if you plan to travel July, August, Christmas, New year or Easter when spaces are often fully-booked out well in advance.

If your trip to Galapagos is intended to be a dream holiday for you and you would like a wide choice of yachts available to choose between then it is best to contact us between 3 and 12 months prior to travel.

If you have more flexibility in your plans in terms of yacht choice and travel date and are looking for a bargain then contact us 1 month or less before your date of travel and we will always try to find the best late deal available for you – discounts of 10-30% are often available at this time. Last minute deals are also sometimes available in the final week or days before travel where you might be able to save up to 50% off of the regular list prices. This approach does, however, carry with it a much greater risk – you may get lucky and hook-up an awesome late deal, or you may get unlucky and find that no good cruise options are available at such short notice.
So timing of when to book is very much a personal decision when you are planning your trip. Happy Gringo can unfortunately neither guarantee when late price deals will be available, or when certain yachts will sell out in advance. For this reason we typicially recommend to book in advance if there is a particular yacht that you really want to travel on.

6. When are last minute prices available?

Typically prices start to fall 1-2 months before departure, and if spaces are still available then rates may fall further 1 week or less before a cruise departure date.

7. Can i just head out to puerto ayora and book there?

It is possible to do this and there are agencies based at Puerto Ayora that can help you. You must be extremely flexible in your travel plans though as you will have to wait around in port until suitable cruise spaces become available – this may take only 1 day or may take over 1 week.

8. When is high season at galapagos?

High season in terms of most popular month to travel to Galapagos and the highest tourist volumes are in July, August, Easter, Christmas and New Year.

Some of the yachts also have different definitions of a high and low season with different process accordingly, while other yachts run on just one season the whole year through. Check individual boat prices for each different definition.

9. What is included / excluded in a cruise?

Inclusions:

  • Accommodation on twin-share basis
  • 3 meals per day from lunch on day1 to breakfast on final day
  • All excursions as listed in the itinerary
  • English-speaking naturalist guide
  • Drinking water / tea / coffee
  • Pickup and dropoff at the airport in Galapagos

Exclusions:

  • Air fare from mainland Ecuador
  • National park entrance fee
  • Transit control card
  • 12% VAT tax on cruise rate
  • Fuel surcharges on cruise or flights
  • Tips to guide and crew
  • Drinks from the boat bar
  • Other personal expenses
  • Dive immersions (optional)

In addition each yacht has it’s own policy on rental of snorkelling equipment – check individual boat pages for more information. There may be occasional variation to the above list depending on which yacht you are travelling on.

10. How much should i tip to the guide and crew?

The most important thing to remember is to never feel pressured to give any particular amount – tips are after all not an obligation but a reward to staff for good service. You can discuss tips with fellow passengers, and should remember that Galapagos guides actually receive an extremely high wage already in comparison to other Ecuadorians.

Tips are usually split between guide and the crew so you can choose different amounts to give to different people if you wish, or just give one amount to be shared equally between all crew.

As a general guide Happy Gringo consider the following amounts to be suitable for tips:

4 days 5 days 8 days
Standard & Comfortable Gringo $40 – 50 $50 – 70 $80 – 120
Luxury & Super Deluxe Gringo $50 – 75 $75 – 100 $120 – 150

(suggested amounts are per passenger and to be split according to personal preferance between guide and crew).

Occasionally the boat guide or captain may pressure passengers to tip more than this but we urge our clients only to give what they feel to be appropriate and not to feel uneasy if giving less than is suggested.

11. Is the drinking water aboard a yacht safe to drink?

Yes.

12. How much do drinks cost at the yacht bar?

Prices vary by yacht and are certainly more expensive on the first and luxury cruises. As a general idea beer and soft drinks should cost approximately between $1.50 and $3 while wine and cocktails are usually a little more expensive.

13. Can i take my own food/drink aboard?

Most yachts prohibit taking your own alcoholic drinks aboard but provided that you exercise tact and caution then the crew will often turn a blind eye to it, i.e. drink your drinks privately some nights and buy drinks from the bar on other nights.

Only wrapped foods such as chocolate bars can be taken into the National Park and wrappers should always be properly disposed of after use.

14. What type of food is typically provided on a cruise?

Usually the food is varied with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish/seafood, rice / pasta / potatoes. Expect some typical Ecuadorian dishes too.

15. Can a yacht cater for vegetarians and/or special food requests?

Yes, provided that you let Happy Gringo know in advance then we will always communicate this to the boat operator to ensure that the yacht chef is prepared to cater for vegetarians as well as any type of food allergy.

Please remember though that South America does not typically cater very well for vegetarians, but most yacht chefs will do their best for you.

16. How do i meet the guide/yacht in galapagos?

If you are flying from mainland Ecuador on the first day of the cruise then it is really very simple – the guide will be waiting for you at the arrivals area of the airport, and we will give you a sticker to wear so that he can easily recognise you.

If you are already in Galapagos some days prior to the start of the cruise then ask Happy Gringo how, when and where to meet your guide. Usually you will have to return to the airport to meet him/her.

17. Do yachts have electricity points aboard?

This depends upon which yacht you are travelling on – most of the more modern boats do have US-style 2-prong 110V electricity points in each cabin, while some of the older yachts will only have these points in the common areas.

18. What is the smoking policy on yachts?

It varies per yacht but typically smoking is prohibited in cabins and inside the yacht. In some cases passengers may be able to smoke on deck but should be respectful of other non-smoking passengers.

19. Can children/babies travel on a cruise?

Each yacht has it’s own policy for children/babies – ask Happy Gringo if you are planning to travel with your young family and we will recommend a suitable yacht.

20. What happens in the case of mechanical problems during my cruise?

Mechanical problems do sometimes arise and may affect your cruise but really happens in less than 5% of trips. When such issues do pass the boat operator should always try to find a suitable solution to minimise the impact on your cruise but it really depends on the exact situation as to what the solution will be.

If the problems adversely affect your trip and you are unsatisfied with the boat operator’s solution then Happy Gringo will always try to represent your case for you. In some cases it is simply not possible to do more than register a complaint with the boat operator and relevant authorities, in other more extreme cases we may be able to get some form of refund from the boat operator.

21. I have heard that sometimes boats get swapped at the last minute - how can this happen?

Boat swaps are a very rare case too but do occasionally happen when mechanical problems are so severe that your first-choice yacht simply cannot operate.

A boat operator has the responsibility to find a yacht of either equal or better category level than your original yacht and Happy Gringo always represent your case with the operators to ensure the best possible solution for you.

24. Do all yachts hold safety certification?

In order to operate at Galapagos all yachts must hold valid safety certificates. You may find, however, that Ecuadorian boat safety guidelines are somewhat lower than they would be in your home country.

23. How can i avoid the problem of sea-sickness?

Sometimes the Galapagos seas can be rough and that can make some passengers feel a little sick aboard. Most people find that standard motion-sickness remedies help to ease discomfort so this is a must for your packing list. For passengers who are known to suffer from sea-sickness we recommend choosing a more stable vessel such as a cruise ship or catamaran, or selecting a land-based tour. Another general guideline that you can use is that seas are typically a little rougher in August & Sept, and calmer from January to April.

22. What happens in the case of a passenger becoming sick during my cruise?

If sickness is not serious (e.g. a stomach bug or sea-sickness) then the passenger can rest in their cabin whilst the rest of the group continue with the cruise activities.

In the case of serious sickness it may be necessary to return to port so that the passenger can receive hospital treatment, and this can cause loss of activities in the cruise for the other passengers aboard. Fortunately such cases are rare but can and do occasionally occur. In such cases neither the boat operator nor Happy Gringo can offer any form of refund to other passengers as such cases are outside of our hands. The boat operator will try to ensure that the negative impact to the cruise is minimal and Happy Gringo will help out with any paperwork that is neccessary for a travel insurance claim for lost activities on the trip.

We recommend that passengers travel with a basic first-aid kit and adequate travel insurance.

Galapagos Islands. Flights

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. Can happy gringo organise my galapagos flight booking for me?

No problem – we always look after both the flight bookings and ticket issue for our Galapagos clients. If you prefer to book your own flights then in most cases it is not a problem but please do let us know first so we can inform you of which airline / flight you need to be on. Also note that with certain yachts you (and we) will be obligated to issue the tickets directly with them – in some cases the yacht operator may even charge a fine if the tickets are not emitted directly through them.

2. Are there always flight spaces available that coincide with the dates of my cruise?

Yes. The cruise yachts always reserve spaces in advance for all of their cruise dates during the year, so at time of booking the yacht will release a flight space to Happy Gringo on your behalf. In this way our Galapagos clients always have 100% guaranteed spaces on a flight leaving the exact same day as their cruise.

3. Can i fly on different dates than my cruise?

Yes. you can fly out before your cruise starts and/or back after it finishes, but only subject to available space on the new date you would like to book. Happy Gringo can request the new flight date with the airline for you and usually we have no problem in acquiring it.

4. Can i reserve just a flight without a cruise?

No. Unfortunately we only book flights for clients who are also making a tour reservation through our company.

5. Which airlines fly to galapagos?

TAME, Aerogal (now owned by Avianca) and LAN.

14. Is airport transfer included?

In Quito / Guayaquil transfer is not included – you are expected to make your own way to the airport.

At Galapagos your guide will meet you at the airport and have transport waiting to take you to the yacht.

13. Can i change the dates of my flights if i have already issued the ticket?

It is always best to issue the tickets with the correct date to avoid complications, but if you would like to change the dates then it is generally possible subject to availability. Happy Gringo will help where possible with such changes, but in the case where you are already in Galapagos it is always easier to change directly with the airline than through us – both Tame and Aerogal have an office in Puerto Ayora.

Currently neither Tame nor Aerogal charge for a change of date.

12. How soon before departure should i check-in?

Galapagos flights are classified as domestic departures and are therefore subject to a 2 hour check-in time. In reality many passengers choose not to respect this but we always recommend being at the airport 2 hours before your departure time because occasionally flight times can be altered last minute by the airlines – it is always better to be safe than sorry!

11. Is there a baggage weight restriction?

You may only carry baggage up to 20kg in the cargo hold as well as a small item of hand luggage.

10. Is it necessary to reconfirm my galapagos flight?

No. Flight reconfirmation is a service that Happy Gringo automatically provide for all of our Galapagos clients.

9. Can i choose which flight to use?

If you are booked onto a cruise then the answer is no because the boat operator will choose the flight for the whole group of passengers that they have. In this way all cruise passengers travel together and it is easier for the guide to meet the group at the airport. You can choose to fly with an alternative airline than that of the rest of the group but you run the risk of the guide not waiting for you in the event of flight delays so we do not recommend this.

If you are travelling independently and without a cruise then we can make the flight reservation on whichever flights you prefer (subject to availability).

8. Are there any discounts available?

Ecuadorian residents with a valid Cedula ID card can purchase at reduced rates – please ask our sales staff for a quote if this applies for you.

7. How much do the flights cost?

The price varies by flight route. The current average charges for foreign tourists are:

Route Average Rate
Quito / Galapagos / Quito $540
Quito / Galapagos / Guayaquil $525
Guayaquil / Galapagos / Quito $525
Guayaquil / Galapagos / Guayaquil $490

It is important to note that these are average rates only – real rates vary each day in the flight reservation systems so please ask your sales person for a current quote for your Galapagos travel dates. To emit your tickets Happy Gringo will charge a small emission fee (as suggested by the airlines), or you are welcome in most cases (exceptions apply for some yachts) to book the tickets yourselves if you prefer – our sales staff can let you know which airline / flight you need to be on.

6. How many airports operate at galapagos?

Only 2 airports receive flights from mainland Ecuador : Baltra (Santa Cruz) and San Cristobal.

There is also a small airport on Isabela island in operation for occasional small plane flights from Santa Cruz.

Galapagos Islands Itineraries

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. What is a typical day on a cruise?

A typical day usually looks something like this:

  • Early start and breakfast on yacht
  • 2 – 3 hour island visit during morning
  • Return to boat for lunch and brief siesta (to avoid the strong midday sun)
  • 2 – 3 hour island visit and chance to snorkel during afternoon
  • Return to boat for dinner
  • Briefing of next day by guide
  • The boat usually cruises at night so that you wake up at a new island

Obviously this is subject to variation and should be used only to give a general idea

2. How long is spent on each island?

It depends, on the large islands you might spend the entire day and visit different landing points, while on the smaller islands you will usually just land once before cruising to visit a new island in the afternoon.

It is best to consult the individual boat itineraries to have a better idea for your particular cruise.

3. What is the timing of the first and last days?

This is a very important issue that all clients should be aware of in order to avoid disappointment:

The timings are dictated by the flight times of the arriving and departing flights (regardless of which airline and which flight you are on). On day1 the flights arrive to Galapagos mid to late morning and you will therefore have only an afternoon activity on that day.

On the final day the flights depart early to mid morning and therefore you have only an early morning island visit on that day. It is best to consult the individual boat itineraries to have a better idea for your particular cruise.

4. What is the best possible itinerary?

There really is no “best” itinerary – it all depends on what you most want to see and do during your visit to the islands. As a general guideline there are broadly speaking 6 different types of route that yachts take.

North loop – usually including islands Santiago, Bartolome, Rabida, North Seymour and occasionally Genovesa. This loop is considered best for volcanic landscapes, for the penguins on Bartolome, and for the excellent general wildlife and hammer-head sharks (for divers) of off-the-beaten-track Genovesa.

South loop – usually includes islands San Cristobal, Española, Floreana and Santa Fe. The south is generally considered better than the northern loop for variation in wildlife. Española in particular is a regular client favourite.

Complete loop – usually includes a shortened version of both the north and south loops as well as a complete circuit to the west of Isabela island and Fernandina. Only some of the Comfortable Gringo and Luxury Gringo class yachts run the complete loop itinerary which is considered to be the most complete itinerary possible in a Galapagos yacht.

Isabela East – more and more boats are taking advantage of the opportunity to visit the east of Isabela island. This area is still considered to be off of the regular beaten tourist path, and some boats offer great adventure activities (biking, horse-riding) to the Sierra Negra volcano here.

Santa Cruz – most itineraries include at least the basic stops at Santa Cruz, that is the Charles Darwin station and the tortoise reserve on the highland part of the island. Both are great visits and always enjoyed by our clients.

Darwin and Wolf – only the specialist dive yachts head as far north as Darwin and Wolf islands. This area is considered to have some of the best dive sites in the world.

Yachts usually combine two or more of the above components together to make their full 8-day itinerary.

7. What is the difference between wet and dry landings?

In a wet landing the panga (small landing craft) stops at the beach and lets passengers disembark in shallow (up to the knees) water. In a dry landing the panga is able to drop passengers off directly onto a small dock.

6. What happens if our boat is forced to change itinerary?

Boat itineraries are always subject to change. The most common sources of such change are alterations to national park regulations / restrictions and boat mechanical issues.

Usually no more than 1 or 2% of cruises are affected and the impact of any necessary change on the passengers is always minimised wherever possible. In the extreme event that a cruise is affected Happy Gringo will always represent our clients in registering a complaint with the boat owner (when the boat owner is responsible for the change) or in preparing suitable paperwork for a personal insurance claim (in the event that the change was out of the hands of the boat owner)

5. What is a "joined" itinerary and why do boats do this?

Boats often join together their 4 and 5 days itineraries to make an 8-day trip. They do this in order to offer 3 different trips within the same week (i.e. 4days, 5days, 8days).

The down-side is that passengers on an 8day tour lose some time by having to return to port to drop off passengers at the end of their 4 or 5 day cruise, as well as pick up new passengers. It is not completely lost time in this passenger switch-over day as each yacht will organise an activity/visit whilst the passenger switch-over is happening, but it is nonetheless an inconvenience.

Generally speaking only some of the Comfortable Gringo and Luxury Gringo class yachts that run the complete itinerary loop offer a non-stop 8day tour (i.e. not a joined itinerary).

Galapagos Guides

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. What is a "naturalist" guide?

A guide who has been trained and licensed by the National Park Authority to lead tours, and who is a specialised in nature and biology.

2. What is the difference between guides of level i, ii and iii?

There were three levels of licensed naturalist guide that PREVIOUSLY existed within the Galapagos National Park Authority to define the differences in experience and knowledge of the guides who work at the Galapagos Islands.

Please note that NOW the National Park Authority does not use this system; there are no longer any differences between guide level.

3. Do all guides speak english?

Yes, all guides on the yachts that Happy Gringo sell are qualified to guide a tour in english. Clients should bear in mind though that the level of english between guides is very variable and that english is their second language so patience is sometimes required!

4. How do i know whether my boat will have a good guide?

Almost all guides work free-lance and frequently change between the boats, therefore a boat that may have had a great guide one week may have an average one the next – it is simply impossible to predict. Happy Gringo therefore never recommend any specific boat based on whether a certain guide will be working on it or not, because this information can change.

The best guideline to whether you can expect a good guide is the level of guide – generally speaking guides of level III are superb, level II are good, level I are a mixture from good to bad.

Galapagos Islands Diving / Snorkelling

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. Which dive options are available at galapagos?

There are 3 dive options:

Specialist dive boat where the principal reason for the trip is to dive. These cruises are extremely expensive and often head up to islands Darwin and Wolf specialist dive areas including several dives per day.

Land-based dives can be made from Santa Cruz whilst staying overnight at a hotel. Land-based dives can be done as daytours or complete packages are now the easiest and most recommended way to see the under-water life at Galapagos.

2. At which islands is it possible to dive?

Almost every island at Galapagos has dive sites. It is best to consult with our diving webpage to decide which sites are most suitable for you based upon the dive difficulty of the site and the wildlife that it is possible to see there.

4. Are dive sites suitable for both inexperienced and experienced divers?

Each site is unique and will be suitable for a different experience level of diver – some have strong currents and should only be attempted by experienced divers, others are calm and suitable for inexperienced divers. You should always consult with the dive master on board to decide whether each dive site is safe and suitable for you.

12. I am not a strong swimmer, can i snorkel with a life jacket?

Every boat provides life jackets to passengers so it is no problem at all to use one whilst snorkelling.

11. Is a wetsuit necessary?

For diving it is always necessary to use a wetsuit.

For snorkelling it really depends – during the cold season (Aug to Nov) the sea can be chilly and it can be advisable to use a wetsuit. In the warm season (dec to June / July) it is often not necessary. It also depends upon each individual and their resistance to the cold.

Wetsuits can be rented in Quito, or sometimes directly from the boats.

10. What is the standard of the snorkelling equipment provided?

The standard varies by boat. Generally it is not the most modern or newest equipment but is in safe working order and suitable.

9. Is use of snorkelling equipment included in my cruise?

It depends on which boat you are booked on – some include equipment, others charge a small rental fee. Each boat page on the Happy Gringo website details each particular boat policy with regard to snorkelling equipment.

8. How often is there opportunity to snorkel on a typical tour?

Typically there is at least one opportunity to snorkel each day during a regular cruise.

7. What is the standard of the dive equipment provided?

The standard varies byoperatort. Generally it is not the most modern or newest equipment but is in safe working order and suitable.

6. What information do you need from me in advance about equipment size?
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Shoe size
  • Wetsuit size (if known)
  • PADI licence number

Dive experience (number of dives previously made)

5. Is all dive equipment included?

In dive daytours and packages yes.

Galapagos Islands General Info

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. What are the visa entry requirements for the galapagos islands?

The only requirement is a valid Ecuadorian tourist visa stamp in your passport – this should have been issued to you upon arrival to mainland Ecuador. Your passport will be checked at the arrivals terminal in Galapagos so you will need to carry it with you but there are no additional requirements for entry to the islands.

There is also a $10 immigration control card that is payable to INGALA at Quito (or Guayaquil) airport and is necessary to enter Galapagos. This fee will increase to $20 per passenger as of March 2015.

2. What is the best time of year to visit galapagos?

Galapagos is a great year-round travel destination.

Weather-wise there are 2 seasons:

  • Cool & dry season – July to December with generally overcast conditions and choppier waters. Temperatures between 19 and 25°C, average sea temperature 21°C.
  • Warm & wet season – January to June with sunny skies and occasionally heavy showers. Temperatures between 22 and 27°C, average sea temperature 24°C but can dip lower.

In terms of number of visitors the busiest times of year are July, August, Christmas / new year, and Easter.

3. What should i pack with me for my cruise to galapagos?

The following list gives as idea of the basics you will need:

  • Light-clothing for the day – shorts, Tshirts, cotton trousers especially recommended
  • Sun protection – sunglasses, a hat, strong suncream
  • Rainwear – light rain jacket (just in case)
  • Footwear – recommended to bring both sandals and tennis shoes
  • Swimwear
  • Warm clothes for night – one warm sweater or fleece for night-time
  • Camera, spare batteries, plenty of film/memory cards
  • Cash (in US dollars to cover park entry/tips/bar drinks/other personal expenses)
  • A basic personal first-aid kit including plasters/asparins/sea-sickness pills/stomach-settling pills
  • Ear-plugs

Entertainment – a good book!

4. Should i take malaria medication at galapagos?

There is not considered to be any malarial risk at tourist sites of Galapagos.

5. Must i be of good physical condition in order to take a cruise?

A reasonable level of fitness is required for the treks and for snorkelling – most island visits involve 4 to 5 hours of gentle walking during a day so all tourists should be prepared for this.

11. What transport is available between islands if i am not on a cruise?

The cheapest and most reliable form of transport between islands is by the speedboat ferries. There are ferries that run everyday between Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela islands – check local information in Galapagos for up-to-date timetables.

There are also occasional small aircraft flights that operate between the main islands with EMETEBE airline. Again it is best to check local information in Galapagos for up-to-date timetables.

To visit islands other than these main 3 it is possible to organise day-tours with agencies based in Puerto Ayora.

10. On which islands is it possible to stay overnight in a hotel?

Islands Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela all offer a range of hotel accommodations. Floreana Island also offers basic accommodation.

9. Is it possible to surf at any of the islands?

Yes. The best surfing waves are to be found on San Cristobal island where there are also various agencies renting boards and offering surf lessons.

8. Will i have access to atms and/or internet during my cruise?

There are ATMs and internet cafes at both Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal). If your cruise yacht is visiting these islands it may be possible to make a brief visit to use the internet and bank machines but there is no guarantee. It is best to start your trip fully prepared, and if you do get the chance to use the internet during the cruise it will be an added bonus.

7. How much money should i take on my cruise?

You should allow for the following expenses: park entry fee and visa control form ($110), tips (depends on how many days you are cruising and on which class of yacht – see Yachts/Cruises FAQ section for more info), drinks from the boat bar (approx $1.50 to $3 for a beer / soft drink), and personal expenses/souvenirs.

6. Is travel insurance necessary?

Travel insurance is not obligatory on any cruise yacht but is definitely highly recommended. Travel insurance should protect travellers against any unforeseen events or cruise changes that adversely affect your trip, and usually also protect against tour cancellation in the event of client sickness or extreme family events.

Galapagos Islands National Park

Click on the question link below to find your answer.

1. How much is the national park entrance fee?

Currently it costs US$100 per person to enter the national park, but this is subject to change.

At time of writing there are discounts for children under 12 years old ($50), and foreigners currently living in Ecuador with cedula ($6) but this too is subject to change.

2. Where do i pay the entrance fee?

On arrival at the airport in Galapagos as you pass through immigration.

3. What other fees must be paid to enter galapagos?

As of October 2007 there is a US$10 fee for an immigration transit control card, From March 2015 onwards this will increase to $20 per person. This fee is payable at Quito (or Guayaquil) airport and is necessary as a permission to enter Galapagos. Happy Gringo will provide you with a barcode document that you will need to present at the INGALA counter at Quito (or Guayaquil) airport in order to organise the control card.

4. Can these fees be paid with credit cards or travellers cheques?

No. Only US$ cash is accepted.

6. What are the visitor guidelines of the national park?

The Galapagos National Park area is carefully protected in order to preserve the unique ecosystem that exists at the islands. Your naturalist guide should explain these rules to you, and Happy Gringo request that all of our customers take them seriously and aim to leave no trace of their visit to the islands behind.

  • No plant, animal or other natural objects (including shells, bones, pieces of wood) should be removed or disturbed.
  • Do not transport any live material to the islands, or from island to island.
  • Do not take any food to the uninhabited islands.
  • Do not touch or handle the animals.
  • Do not feed the animals.
  • Do not startle or chase any animal from its nesting spot.
  • Stay within the marked paths and designated visitor areas.
  • Do not leave any litter on the islands or throw litter from your boat.
  • Do not deface the rocks.
  • Do not buy souvenirs made of plants or animals.
  • Do not visit the islands unless accompanied by a licensed national park guide.
  • Think about the effect that your visit is having on the islands and try to minimise any negative impact.
  • If you see other tourists disobeying any of these rules then report it immediately to your guide.

If all visitors follow these rules then the islands can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

5. Where does my money go?

The $100 national park fee is divided between a number of parties involved in both managing and preserving the islands. It is divided as follows: Galapagos National Park 40%, Galapagos municipal council 20%, Provincial government 10%, INEFAN 10%, Marine Reserve 5%, INGALA 5%, Provincial inspection system 5%, Ecuadorian navy 5%.

The transit control card goes to INGALA, the institution that controls migration to the islands.

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