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1.212.245.1211

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FAQ

Dive The Galapagos

FAQ

Basic Information

What money is used in Ecuador?

Ecuador is on the US dollar system. Even coins can be used. Bring small bills ($20 or less) for expenses prior to boarding as change is not always available. 

What is the electrical currency of Ecuador?

The standard currency in Ecuador is 110 volt, same as the US.

What time zone is Galapagos in?

UTC-6. No daylight savings time. Half the year, Ecuador is the same as Chicago, IL (CST), the other half of the year, it is the same as New York City (EST). The Galapagos are 1 hour behind mainland Ecuador.

How is the weather in Galapagos?

Dec – May is our warm season with more sunshine and higher air/water temps. Average air temperature ranges from 80-87 F / 26-31 C. February and March are the warmest months.

June – Nov is the cooler season. Garua, a light mist, is often present, creating overcast days. Winds during this time of year can create choppier seas. Average air temperatures range from of 67-78 F / 20 -26C.

Galapagos waters are cool, even though the archipelago straddles the equator. Cold water currents and upwellings can produce thermoclines as low as 13 C / 54 F. The average surface temp is 21-24C / 70-74F, warmer at Darwin. Western sites (Cabo Douglas and Punta Vicente Roca) as well as Cousins Rock in the central islands have cooler water year round.

Travel Information

Do I need a Visa to enter Ecuador?

No visa is necessary from most countries, only the following: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Senegal and Somalia. This is always subject to change, so best to check the Ecuador Embassy website in your home country. You are allowed to stay up to 60 days in any 12 month period. The timing is from when you arrive into Galapagos. It does not turn over for the calendar year.

Your passport MUST have 6 months remaining prior to expiration at the time you enter Ecuador. You must have a round trip (return) or onward ticket.

Are there any travel advisories?

As travel advisories are always subject to change, please refer to any travel advisories issued by your own country’s authorities. If something specific arises, we will post it on our blog which will then appear on our home page.

Do I need any vaccinations to enter Ecuador?

COVID: Currently you do still need to present proof of your COVID vaccination completed at least 14 days prior to arrival OR a negative RT-PCR test to enter Ecuador taken no more than 72 hours prior to your flight departure. If your country requires a test to re-enter, please inquire. Testing facilities do exist at the mainland airports, however, timing is important. 

To fly into a mainland airport and visit Galapagos, no other vaccinations are necessary. A Yellow Fever vaccination is advised if you plan to visit the Amazon.

Note: If you are flying to a country in South America or Central America after Ecuador, it’s possible you will need a Yellow Fever vaccination before being able to board your flight. Please check with your airline.

Health Risks: While Galapagos, Quito and Guayaquil tend to be relatively disease free, dengue can be a risk on land. There is no vaccination against dengue, however, wearing long sleeves and using a DEET based repellent are good preventative measures.

Do I need insurance?

Dive insurance is mandatory on most liveaboards. We recommend Divers Alert Network. If you live in a country where DAN is not available, please check with your provider to make sure your policy has both recompression chamber and evacuation coverage.

Though travel insurance is not required, it is recommended in the event you have to cancel your departure due to illness, loss of employment or in the event you miss your connecting flight which causes you to miss your departure. Please read the fine print. What you assume is covered may not be.

Should I arrive a day early?

While the vast majority of divers arrive the evening before their flight to Galapagos and have no problem at all, there are those who arrive on the mainland only to learn their luggage was not onboard their international flight. For those unfortunate few, it’s a big problem.

It may be logistically impossible to collect your luggage once your liveaboard has sailed. If your bags don’t come with you to Galapagos, you may not get them until you disembark a week later.

So, it is always safer to arrive early if for no other reason than to make certain your luggage arrives, too. Most arriving international guests appreciate the opportunity to rest and relax prior to diving.  We can arrange hotels and day tours in Quito or Guayaquil.

If you are planning to add an extension in the Amazon to your holiday, we recommend visiting the Amazon before Galapagos. You might be disappointed in the Amazon after the fearlessness of the wildlife in Galapagos.

Where do I fly into?

Ecuador has 2 international airports: Quito (airport code UIO) and Guayaquil (airport code GYE). Most international flights arrive in the evening, so an overnight hotel is in order upon arrival.

Quito is located approximately 70 minutes outside the city with a small number of hotels nearby. Quito is at an altitude of 2850 m / 9350 ft, so if you suffer from altitude sickness, you may want to consider arriving into Guayaquil, which is at sea level and in town, so many hotels are within 10 minutes of the airport. 

All flights to Galapagos from Quito route through Guayaquil. You do not deplane and the wait is typically 30 minutes.

You fly from mainland Ecuador into either San Cristobal airport in Galapagos (airport code SCY) or Baltra Airport (airport code GPS) depending on which port your liveaboard departs from.

Departs from San Cristobal: Calipso, Humboldt Explorer, Galapagos Master and Galapagos Sky.
Departs from Baltra: Aggressor, Aqua and Tiburon Explorer.

What are the airlines' baggage policies?

You are restricted to 1 carry on bag that weighs no more than 10 kg / 22 lbs and 1 checked bag that weighs no more than 23 kg / 50 lb and 1 personal item (laptop case, backpack, etc)

They are very strict on these limitations and will charge you at the time you check in your bag if it is overweight or if you have to check in a 2nd bag. At least you can usually pay for this with a credit card. 

How much are flights to Galapagos?

Prices fluctuate. They may range from $480 – $600 return. Please check for the latest pricing. You can book your own flights online with Avianca.com, latamairlines.com or equair.com.ec.

Please be aware that some prices are for nationals of Ecuador only. If you purchased the wrong fare (for nationals, not foreigners) online, you will be required to pay the difference in fares when you check in for your flight.

All liveaboards also have 16 spaces available each and every departure. A couple of liveaboards (Sky and Aqua) do not guarantee collecting you at the airport in Galapagos unless you are on the exact flights they use. It is simple to get a taxi to the dock and have someone call the yacht to collect you, however, there are not always people around who speak English. So there’s that. In any event, if you are simply flying in for your liveaboard and out when it disembarks it simplifies things to book one of their reserved spaces.

 

Can you recommend mainland hotels?

Of course. If you are simply flying into Ecuador for an overnight upon arrival, we recommended the following:

Near the Quito Airport:
Wyndham Quito Airport
Holiday Inn Quito
EB Hotel Quito

In Guayaquil:
Holiday Inn Guayaquil
Wyndham Garden Guayaquil
Hostal Macaw

If I arrive into Galapagos early, how do I connect with my liveaboard?

San Cristobal is easy. You just head to the dock at the departure time and join those coming in from the airport. If you arrive a few minutes early, it’s usually pretty easy to spot divers with dive gear. 

If you don’t see anyone, you can always get a water taxi to take you to your liveaboard for $1 pp. You cannot board early, though, as they need the time to clean and stock between departures.

Santa Cruz: The best way is to head back out to Baltra Airport and meet the incoming passengers. You’ll need to leave Puerto Ayora at least 1.5 hours prior to the designated departure time listed on each Liveaboard’s page on our site. You take a taxi to Itabaca Canal ($25 per taxi, not pp), board the ferry and cross the Canal ($1), board the Lobito Bus ($5) and find your Liveaboard’s guide outside baggage claim. 

We’ll be happy to coordinate either for you so they know you’re coming.

Dive Information

When is the best time to dive Galapagos?

High season
June – December. The polar Humboldt currents runs up the coast of South America and brings an abundance of nutrients which creates an explosion of marine life. This is when the massive female Whale Sharks migrate through Darwin and Wolf. Traditionally the largest populations of whale sharks have been in August and September, but climate change seems to be altering the previously dependable trends. For example, this year, 2022, divers at Darwin were treated to 17-30 whale shark sightings. We will see how the rest of the year plays out relative to past norms. Hammerhead populations are also more numerous during high season.

Currents are stronger at this time of year, air and water temps are lower, seas are choppier and visibility is diminished, however, how far you can see doesn’t really matter when you have hundreds of hammerheads or a 60 ft / 18 m whale shark 15 ft/5 mts in front or beside you. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t care about what’s in the water on the other side of such majestic sightings. It is often overcast or misty (garua) during the time of year, so jackets are needed for warmth.

Low season

January – May when seas are calmer, water temperatures are warmer and visibility is better. No whale sharks, usually, but again, things seem to be shifting from the norm. All other sharks and marine life are present, the typical cast of critters in Galapagos. February and March tend to be the hottest months of the year, no jackets and you will be using the AC inside your cabin. Traditionally late February to mid-April, hammerhead populations are diminished as they migrate away before returning in large numbers in May.

Some call this Manta season. It could be that because visibility is better in low season, they’re easier to see. Something most don’t realize is that the Manabi coast of mainland Ecuador has the largest annual migration of mantas in the world between June and Sept.

Sharks are in Galapagos year round, but to see the maximum populations, best to dive during high season.

What experience is required to dive Galapagos?

Diving in the Galapagos is advanced due to strong currents, varying visibility and cold water. We recommend 50 dives between Dec and May and 100 dives between June and Nov. You need Nitrox certification especially if you are on the lower end of dive experience. Some Liveaboards require a minimum of 100 logged dives year round. No proof is required. It’s on the honor system. 

We have an article on experience needed to dive the Galapagos which includes a self-assessment tool. 

What is the minimum age for divers?

Children 15 years and up who are certified and have the prerequisite number of logged dives may dive when accompanied by an experienced diving parent.

What dive gear do you recommend?

We recommend a 7mm wetsuit, gloves and open heel fins with booties. Some may need a hood or beanie, some may not. It is best to have it in case you need it. The western itinerary sites and Cousins Rock can be rather cold water, as low as 15 C / 60 F. Darwin is the warmest site in the Galapagos due to the tropical Panama current, however, dives at Darwin often involve as long as 25 minutes of stationary time. You may feel cooler than when you are in motion. 

Gloves are needed for protection, not warmth. You descend through current, grab hold of rocks on the platform and watch the show as it passes by except when chasing whale sharks.  The rocks you grab have barnacles that will cut your hands if you’re not wearing gloves.  We recommend 1.5-2mm gloves with reinforced palms. 

Snorkels are not recommended due to the possibility of strong current tugging the snorkel and causing mask leaks.  If you wish to dive with a snorkel, it is better to bring a collapsible one to put in your BCD pocket for use at the surface. 

We have an article that goes into more detail here

Is rental gear available?

Rental gear is available. Pricing depends on the liveaboard you book, but most run in the range of $250-$275 for a full kit. Some include a computer. Others charge $75-$100 for the week for a computer. For 10 & 14 night departures, the price increases. Please check on your specific liveaboard on our website to see how much a full kit costs.

One question we frequently get is whether or not liveaboards have steel tanks available? The answer is no. All tanks are AL 80s – Aluminum 80 cubic feet / 11 liters.  Most do rent  larger 100 cu ft / 15 lt tanks, though few are available so best to reserve well in advance. 

All are yoke valves and not all liveaboards have DIN adaptors, so if your regulator is DIN, please consider bringing your own adapter or check with us to be sure the boat you will be on has DIN adapters. If they do, we can reserve one for you in advance.

Is rebreather or tech diving available?

The quick answer is no, however, upon occasion there are dedicated rebreather departures. No liveaboard in Galapagos has ongoing rebreather support.

Is free diving possible?

Free diving is not permitted from liveaboards, but options are possible from Santa Cruz.

Is there night diving?

Yes, bring your torch! There are 2 sites where night dives are permitted. One is at Wolf and the other is at Cabo Marshall. Which will depend on the liveaboard you book. There is also a small swim through at Wolf which is so much more beautiful with a torch. It’s just before the Pinaculos dive. There is also a cave at Wolf that is sometimes visited. Neither of these are actually caves, ie overhead environments. Both are open on one end.

What is ratio of divers to dive guides?

There is 1 dive guide per 8 divers.

May I hire a private dive guide?

The answer is usually yes, however, not all liveaboards are able to accommodate the extra guide. If you lack enough experience or are not yet comfortable when diving, hiring a guide is a very good idea.  If you are inexperienced, but still determined to dive the Galapagos, on some liveaboards, that is only possible if you hire a private guide. The cost is usually $1750 for the week which is $250 a day. This can be shared and does not have to be only for one person.

There are many reason divers hire private guides. It enables photographers to get away from other divers. It gives families a sense of relaxation if they’re traveling with younger divers. It may give you a sense of safety to know a guide is watching out only for them. 

Booking Information

What is the booking process?

Step 1: Find the departure date and liveaboard of your choice and request to hold space. You must notify us of your dive experience as some liveaboards require divers have at least 100 dives in order to book space. We will put a complimentary hold on your space for 3 days so you have time to look for flights, coordinate your dates away from work, etc. Then you either confirm your space or release the hold.

Step 2: Once you have confirmed your space, we move on to your invoice. The first thing we need is your name, address, phone and email. It’s a formality for the invoice as we don’t actually mail anything to you or call you unless you want to speak with us.

Step 3: Your invoice will indicate the due date of your payment(s) and whether it is payable with a deposit or due at the time of invoice. You make payment. We update your invoice to reflect payments made.

Step 4: We will send you the diver booking form and waiver that you complete and return to us.

Step 5: The Fun Part. You arrive, dive, get the biggest thrills and best photos of your life and already want to come back before you even leave.

What forms of payment do you accept?

We accept cash or a check at any branch of Bank of America, bank transfer, wise.com (formerly transfer wise), PayPal, Zelle and credit cards.

What happens if I need to cancel?

This gets tricky. It will depend on which liveaboard you booked. Some are more generous with reimbursement of deposits than others. You can check  your liveaboard’s payment and cancellation terms on our website.  

Cancellations due to COVID are typically only if Ecuador closes it’s borders, your home country closes it’s borders or requires a quarantine upon return….not if you become ill with COVID. 

We do recommend travel insurance to be sure you don’t lose any funds if you have to cancel for any reason. But please, read the fine print before you buy as many options will only cover you for illness or job loss that causes you to cancel.