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Environment & Culture in the Galápagos

There is no place in the world quite like the Galápagos Islands. See why travelers from all over the world have been enchanted by its stunning landscapes, profound contributions to science and discovery, and friendly, welcoming locals, including the furry, scaly, and feathered ones!





Let’s get the paperwork out of the way so we can focus on the fun stuff. Your passport must:

·       be valid for at least six months after your return.

·       match your name and birthday on file with EF.

·       have three blank pages available.

Non-US citizens may require a visa—visit to see if you need one.

Traveler tip: Make two photocopies of your passport - one to bring with you and one to leave at home.

Not to sound cliché, but we can’t say this enough: pack light! Check with your airline to see what size bags they allow to avoid paying any fees.

Most travelers find it easiest to go without checking bag. Here are some tips for getting as much as possible into that carry-on suitcase:

  • Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack the lighter ones. Same thing goes for jackets and heavier clothing.

  • Packing cubes or vacuum seal bags can save space and help you stay organized.

  • Make the most of your personal item by using a tote bag or backpack that you can reuse throughout the trip.

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Pack the bigger items first and use smaller items like socks and underwear to fill in the gaps.

Traveler tip: You'll be traveling by plane from mainland Ecuador to the islands and back,  where you may have to pay additional fees for a checked bag. Additionally, no more than 40 lbs. of baggage are allowed on the internal flights. With that in mind, we highly recommend a carryon for your travels.  

To see a full packing list, check out our Pocket Guide to Expert Travel. Just make sure you don’t forget these: 

  • Passport—bring a photo copy and leave one at home too

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • ATM card and credit card

  • Entertainment for the plane and travel days

  • Purse or small day bag with a zipper 

  • Converter/adapter for any electronics

  • Toiletries

  • Washcloth—optional, but they aren’t always available

  • Medications and a copy of any prescriptions*

  • Comfortable, casual clothingcheck the weather before you pack!

  • Dressier outfit

  • Raincoat and umbrella

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Comfortable walking shoes—for example, one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals

  • Warm layers

  • Comfortable, casual clothing in breathable, lightweight fabrics.

  • Bathing suit

  • Comfortable shoes like sneakers and waterproof sandals

  • Hat, reef-safe sunscreen, and bug spray

  • EF's emergency numbers

    • ​Calling from within the US: 1-800-873-2250

    • Calling from abroad: 001-617-619-2913

*All medications should be in their original containers. Put medications in your carry-on bag only, in case a checked bag gets lost or delayed.

The best things in the world are free (like seeing a giant tortoise in the wild). Still, a little spending money can go a long way while you're abroad:

  • Mo' money, less problems: Budget $20 to $30 per day for pocket money. This will cover snacks, souvenirs, and additional activities. If you’re an especially avid souvenir hunter, you’ll want to give yourself more wiggle room—financially and in your suitcase.

  • Currency: Us Dollar. You can bring some cash with you and/or withdraw it from an ATM when you arrive. You will need cash on the Galapagos Islands as many places do not accept credit cards.

  • Tips for tipping: We suggest $6-$8 per day for your Field Director. Your Group Leader will likely collect this money before you depart so that you can budget accordingly.

P.S. Be sure to let your bank know you’ll be traveling so they can put an alert on your account and inform you of any international fees.

Imagine it: you’ve finally arrived. It’s been a few hours since you left home, but your feet are firmly planted on the ground again. Today’s challenge? Fight off jetlag and make the most of the day.

Unless you arrive at night, be prepared to hit the ground running. Staying awake on arrival day is the best way to fight jet lag and adjust to any time difference. If there are other groups on your program, you may wait at the airport for them to arrive. To make things a bit easier:

  • Pack toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on for when you land.

  • Stay hydrated—it helps reduce jetlag.

  • Travel in comfort, not necessarily in style, and get as much sleep as you can on the flight before.

Your dedicated Field Director—a physical and cultural guide—will be with you throughout your program. Our Field Directors work tirelessly behind the scenes to coordinate logistics like managing reservations and making sure everything flows seamlessly, so that you can enjoy your time without sweating the details. They are there to acquaint you with each new city and make sure everyone is safe, confident, and making the most of every moment.

You’ll spend very little time at your hotel (mostly catching some sleep), but you should still be aware of where you’re staying and who you’re staying there with.

  • Hotel du jour: City-hopping means hotel-hopping, but don’t worry; each hotel is safe, clean, comfortable, and equipped with private bathrooms and conveniently located to the sites you'll be visiting.

  • What to expect: Hotels abroad may feature smaller rooms than you’re used to and may not have air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, television, or elevators. All the more reason to get out and explore.

  • Roomies: Unless you have opted to upgrade your room, standard accommodations mean you’ll be rooming with two or three other people of the same gender, each with your own bed.  You may even take part in an exchange program—that is, rooming with a traveler(s) from another school in your group.

P.S. Hotels on the islands tend to be a bit more rustic than their counterparts on mainland Ecuador. They are small, family-owned organizations with limited to no Wi-Fi access, which proves to be true across the entirety of the islands. 

Traveler tip: Electrical outlets in different countries may be different from the ones we're used to. Make sure you research what type of converter and/or adapter is needed for your travels!

You should expect food and portion size to be different than what you're accustomed to at home. Kick off each day with an included continental breakfast. All dinners and five lunches are included, too. We work with local restaurants to provide plated meals inspired by the region, giving you the opportunity to experience authentic dishes.

One of the best ways to experience Ecuador’s distinct landscapes and cultures is through its cuisine. Try fresh seafood in the highlands and warm dishes in the capital – each meal reflects what is available and in season locally.

  • Soups and stews are commonly served with lunch or dinner

  • Other typical dishes: Chicken, plantains, quinoa, rice, and roasted vegetables

  • Familiar dishes like pasta and hamburgers are also popular 

Since teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, you’ll need these to get from point A to point B (and C and D and E).

  • Flights: Into and home from Quito. Your departure flight after the final day will be late at night or early the next morning.

  • Internal flights: Quito to Baltra Island & San Cristóbal Island to Quito

  • Motorboat: Santa Cruise Island to San Cristóbal Island

  • Bus: Main mode of transportation in Quito and during transfers.

  • Walking/hiking: Hands down the best way to explore a new place. Be ready to walk a ton (we're talking 5-7 miles per day) to see as much as possible.

Traveler tip: The speedboat from Santa Cruise Island to San Cristóbal Island can last between 2-3 hours. It's recommended to bring medication for motion sickness or seasickness.

You will be covering a lot of ground in nine days, so this program will feel fast! In order to maximize your time each day, you will leave the hotel bright and early and return some time in the evening. Most days will be pretty packed with activities and there will be limited exploration time.  You'll have a mix of time on the bus, walking, internal flights and boat to get around. Be prepared to walk between 5-7 miles per day.

You'll spend 2-4 nights in each hotel before moving on to the next, meaning there’s no time to waste! Your group will hit the ground running in each new place.

Exploration time can vary depending on a few factors like the number of planned activities and general travel variables like traffic. How you spend your exploration time is entirely up to you, and your Field Director is a great resource for recommendations.

Do learn common words and phrases:

  • Hola = Hello

  • Buenos dias = Good morning

  • Buenas tardes = Good afternoon

  • Buenas noches = Good night

  • Gracias = Thank you

The altitude in Quito and other mountainous areas can be challenging. Make sure to drink lots of water, get rest, and watch your alcohol intake, especially during the first few days at altitude.

In some places, a 10% service charge will automatically be added to your bill. Cheaper restaurants don’t necessarily expect a tip, but a small tip or rounding up is very welcome.

It’s a good idea to carry toilet paper with you as you travel around the country, as sometimes toilet paper is not available or only available for a fee in the public bathrooms. 

Please note that this guide is for the nine-day version of this program. Ask your Group Leader for details regarding the three-day extension to Riobamba.

We’re here to help

Our team has heard it all so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Call us at 877-485-4184 between Monday and Friday, 9:00am-5:30pm EST.