Galapagos Islands Packing List Guide: Everything You Need to Pack
We've created this ultimate Galapagos Islands Packing List to help you prepare for the trip of your lifetime. No matter if you will be spending a week or more on a cruise ship or you are planning on exploring the islands when based on land, our guide will help you figure out what to pack and what to leave behind.
The Galapagos Islands located only a couple of hours flight from the coastline of Ecuador, South America is one of the most sought-after destinations, but because of higher prices, many travelers often put their dreams away and decide to visit more countries in South America rather than spend their full budget solely on the Galapagos Islands.
The good news is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on an expensive cruise, but you can also visit the Galapagos Islands independently, be land-based and do only one-day boat trips from one of the four inhabited islands. You can read our post on Where to Stay on the Galapagos Islands for Every Budget.
No matter what is your preferred style of travel, we hope that when reading this post, you've already decided to travel to the Galapagos Islands (and when still hesitating, you can read our post 10 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos Islands).
At this point, we can promise you one thing.
You will have the time of your life.
No words can truly describe the beauty of the Galapagos and the feelings of joy when observing the unique volcanic landscape, abundant wildlife and when having the opportunity to be on the same place which stood as a base for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
When deciding on what to pack for the Galapagos Islands, you need to take into consideration a couple of facts.
First, geography differs from island to island, and you can experience sandy beaches and hard volcanic landscape in one day. Also, the Galapagos Islands are not exactly a tropical paradise. Although the Galapagos is an all-year-round destination, you should know that there are two seasons. From June to November you can experience the dry and cooler season when the sea is colder and rougher, the weather is sunny but not extremely hot, and it almost doesn't rain, but you can see a phenomenon called garua alias fog or mist which usually hang above the mainland.
December to May is the wet and warm season, but no worry, it usually does rain only late in the afternoon, and you will enjoy hot and sunny weather and warmer and calmer sea throughout the day.
No matter which season you choose for your travels, the packing list will be almost the same.
WHAT TO PACK FOR THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
When finalizing your packing list for the Galapagos Islands, you need to take into account three information - the sun is very strong here on the equator, you will spend a lot of time on or in the water and the third rule, it can rain any time of the year.
We spent 7-days Cruising the Galapagos Islands and here's our tried and tested packing list for the Galapagos Islands which will help you figure out what to pack and what to leave behind.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SWIMMING, SNORKELING AND WATER ACTIVITIES
When traveling to the Galapagos Islands, you can be sure about one thing. You will be spending a lot of time in the water, so you should better come well prepared. In case you don't swim or snorkel, no worry, there are still plenty of things to do on the Galapagos!
You can usually rent water gear such as wetsuits or snorkel mask on the islands, or they are available (sometimes for a fee sometimes for free) on a boat, but we always prefer having our own equipment - it fits better and you can be sure that no one else was using it before.
Swimsuit for Him & for Her | To have a good and comfortable swimsuit is essential. You can swim only in your swimsuit or when the water is colder, or when you want to better protect your skin, you can use them as a base layer under a wetsuit.
Wetsuit for Him & for Her | Honestly, as we traveled to the Galapagos Islands when the ocean was cold, we cannot imagine our time in the water without a wetsuit as it would have been too uncomfortable (we were sometimes cold even when wearing it). We would say that packing a wetsuit from June to November is a must. If you do not have your body fully covered, you can purchase this one with short sleeves and short trousers leg.
Sunscreen | Sun so close to the equator is incredibly strong, especially when you are in the water, so do not forget to apply it at least fifteen minutes before you jump into the water. You can use your favorite sunscreen or have a look on this reef biodegradable sunscreen.
Snorkel Mask | It is not possible to enjoy the underwater world of the Galapagos without snorkel mask. They are not expensive, and it is clearly much better (and more hygienic) to have your own.
Fins | Not sure if you are used to swimming with fins, but we are big fans as thanks to it we were much faster in the water, swimming was not that challenging, and it was also much easier to keep up in the water with playful sea lions.
Anti-Fog Spray | If you don’t want to be like Martin who still prefers spitting on his snorkel mask, there is a more intelligent way how to make sure your mask won't be foggy.
Water Shoes | It depends on you if you want to pack water shoes - it is more comfortable to wear them in the water so you can step more confidently on rocks or they are also great for wet landing.
Dry Backpack | When going outside, we always took our dry backpack to keep our valuables and camera safe. It is better to buy a bigger one so you can pack your towel, sunscreen, and water as well.
Dry Bags | Even when using a water-resistant bag, we still use light dry bags to keep our technical equipment, well, dry and to minimize possibilities of damaging it.
Travel Towel | Light and foldable travel towel is something we pack for every trip no matter where, but you can be sure you will use it on the Galapagos.
If there is one thing we would not have wanted to forget when traveling to the Galapagos Islands, it would have been our camera. We took thousands of pictures here as nature and animals are so incredible - above water and underwater - that we wanted to capture it all.
Camera | There are many cameras out there, but if you want to take perfect photos without breaking the bank, this camera is a good choice altogether with telephoto lens. Of course, you can purchase even more professional camera and lenses, but the only question is if you are going to use it in the future.
GoPro | If you want to capture every single memory from the Galapagos Islands, having an underwater camera is essential. We made a mistake and bought a second-hand underwater camera in Quito which turned out to be very unreliable (understand it did not work at all).
Chargers | When packing all the electronics, do not forget to make sure you have chargers for all of your devices. It does not matter if you are staying on a boat or on land there is no problem with electricity on the Galapagos Islands.
Waterproof Phone Case | Most of the travelers use only phone to take pictures which is completely fine - if you are one of them, do not forget to pack a waterproof phone case with you to keep your device dry and safe.
Travel Adapter | Chances are, that to keep your electronic devices working in South America, you will need a travel adapter. We use a universal world travel adapter with multi-plugs, which covers all plug options, and we don't need to buy a new one when traveling to a new country.
Memory Cards | Do not underestimate the number of memory cards and bring some spare ones with you. It is hard to resist taking the thousandth picture of cute sea lions or extraordinary blue-footed boobies even though they are everywhere around.
Weather on the Galapagos Islands is not tropical as you might have expected but is generally warm. You can experience colder evenings and rain at times as well as walking on soft sandy beaches or hard lava soil. That's why you need to pack a bit of everything to enjoy your time to the fullest.
Tank Top for Him & for Her | When it gets too hot, you can wear tank tops, but carefully because of the sun. Rather than during the day, we preferred wearing sleeveless t-shirts at night instead of pajamas.
Leggins for Him & for Her | When it gets colder, I always prefer wearing leggings over hiking trousers, Martin uses them as another layer when too cold (it was not necessary having them on the Galapagos, but you never know.
Hiking Trousers for Him & for Her | The Galapagos is not only about swimming, but there is also plenty to see and do on the mainland. That's why you will need hiking trousers when exploring one of the volcanic islands.
Rain Poncho | Wherever we travel, we think it is a smart idea to pack rain poncho - it will protect your clothes and valuables as well.
Socks | When not in the water, you'll be wearing your hiking boots, so pack quality socks to prevent blisters.
Hiking Boots for Him & for Her | Walking on the islands is for sure doable in sneakers, but from time to time the volcanic surface is sharp, that's why we preferred to wear regular hiking shoes with good soles.
Sun Hat | If there is one thing you should not forget to pack, it is sun hat. Sun in Ecuador is so strong during the day that you will be grateful for every way how to cover your head.
Sunglasses | You also should not underestimate your sight protection, so pack your sunglasses!
Casual Wear for Him & for Her | It depends on how you plan to spend your time on the Galapagos, but when doing the cruise or staying in a nicer hotel, chances are that you will also need presentable clothes for one or two occasions.
Binoculars | Although your guide (you need a guide even when traveling independently) should have binoculars if you do not want to wait until the whole group will have a look at that bird or penguin which can be long gone by that time, bring your own binoculars.
Daypack | When exploring inland, you only need a good day backpack to pack water, sunscreen, towels, and a snack.
GEAR FOR FREE TIME
It does not matter if you travel independently or with an organized tour, you will for sure have some free time to enjoy the unique environment around you.
A book about the Galapagos | Visiting the Galapagos will change your perception about nature. You will learn a lot during your time on the archipelago. Every day, after our program ended, we enjoyed reading about the islands, about the history and discoveries. Also, having this book about wildlife on the Galapagos is great so you can review every day what did you see.
The Galapagos Islands Travel Guide| When traveling independently, you will surely appreciate having a travel guide with you all the time. No matter how we enjoy reading up to date travel blogs about destinations we are going to visit, we always prefer to have a paper guide book with us. Nostalgy I guess.
Headphones | To enjoy music when relaxing on board!
Kindle | When cruising the archipelago, we always enjoyed our time off with a book on a deck - you will have spare time after a meal or in the evening, so having a portable library is a great option.
When traveling to the Galapagos Islands, do not overpack your toiletries, unless you plan on staying somewhere fancy. Bring only what you use and need on a daily basis, and think rather about the quality of stuff than about quantity.
Motion Sickness Pills & Anti-Emetic Device & Ginger Gum & Wrist Band & Motion Sickness Patch | But first things first. We won't lie to you than spending that much time on the water is only fun. We were seasick during our first two days on the Galapagos Islands (same as our fellow travelers) as we traveled during the season when the sea is rougher than usual, and motion sickness pills were our lifesavers. If you are prone to be motion sick, we recommend you not to forget to pack those guys.
Soap & Shampoo | The Galapagos are such a fragile environment, and you can help to protect it by bringing biodegradable soap and shampoo. It doesn't cost much extra, and you will have a much better feeling after your shower.
Lip Balm with Sunscreen | The sun is extremely harsh on the equator, protect your lips the same way you are protecting your skin.
First-Aid Kit | No matter where we travel, a first-aid kit is something we never leave behind. Make sure yours will contain blister plasters, diarrhea, and headache pills.
Pills | Pack any personal medication you require on a daily basis.
Glasses | Contact Lenses | Multi-Purpose Solution
Purification Filtered Bottle or Purification Drops | Tap water on the Galapagos Islands and overall in Ecuador is not suitable for drinking, so you need to either buy water in plastic bottles, but if you want to reduce your plastic footprint, packing a purification filtered bottle or purification drops is a good idea.
Nalgene Bottle | When spending your time on a boat, the company should provide you with drinking water for the whole time of the tour, so pack only this bottle for staying hydrated.
FOOD & SNACKS
Because of the fact that you must travel to the Galapagos Islands by air, it comes without saying that you cannot take any food and snacks with you.
The archipelago is strict when it comes to the protection of the environment and every bag arriving on the Galapagos is checked and you need to get a tag that you successfully went through that control. But no worries that you will be hungry or thirsty on the islands.
You can find small shops on each of the four inhabited islands, as well as restaurants and pubs for every budget.
Although the Galapagos Islands is a safe destination, you should never step on the plane without proper travel insurance.
We never do any international trip (not even to our neighboring countries) without travel insurance and you should not either. We always follow a rule that who does not have money for the insurance should have not traveled at all.
It does not matter if you are traveling independently or on a cruise with all services prepaid, chances are that you will need cash during your time on the Galapagos Islands.
Some hostels, especially the cheaper ones, often do not take credit cards. We recommend you to bring cash (the official currency in Ecuador is USD), as much as you think you are going to need, with you when traveling from Quito or Guayaquil.
There are several ATMs on two islands - in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island - but the limit is low (often between $200 - $300), they can run out of money, and sometimes do not work on weekends, so it is better not to rely completely on it.
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