5 things NO ONE tells you about Galapagos (and the best tips for planning)
The Galapagos Islands is a bucket-list, dream trip for many travelers. Not only does it have insanely beautiful, indigenous wildlife species you can't find outside the islands, as well as one-of-a-kind natural attractions, it's important for the theory of evolution (if you're into it).
But have you tried planning a trip here? It's crazy. The islands of Galapagos is one of the trickiest destinations to plan. You'll find chockfull of information online on basic planning (when to go, where to stay, etc), but there's a few important thing every travel planner overlooks. This is where we come in (no one really lays it out like we do), and you'll definitely want to keep these tips in mind. After our recent visit, this is what nobody tells you about Galapagos Islands, so be sure to plan accordingly!
5 things NO ONE tells you about Galapagos, so pay attention if you're planning a trip.
1. There's a $100 cash fee to enter the Galapagos. Once you step foot on the islands, you have to fork over $100 at customs for the Galapagos National Park entrance fee. Unless you wear an invisibility cloak, no one is exempt (kids 12 and under pay $50). When I was in line at customs, several passengers were like WTF, so definitely be prepared. This is cash only, baby, so get thou to an ATM before you arrive.
2. You do NOT have to book a cruise to visit Galapagos. My, my... things have definitely changed in the past decade. For the longest time, the Galapagos was pretty much only explored via cruise ships, which meant you had to book a cruise to even visit, but a number of hotels have popped up all over the islands in the past ten years. This means you can book a hotel, then navigate land and water (via tour companies) with excursions. The best hotel is Pikaia Lodge, unarguably the most luxurious resort on the island with only 10 rooms. It's the only five-star lodge in the islands and it includes gourmet meals, outdoor pool, stunning design integrated into the landscape, a spa and views for days. You also have personal tour guides in small groups (not herded like cruise ships).
3. Even though you can now book hotels, decide whether you want to do it. Here's the thing about booking hotels in Galapagos: You will spend plenty of hours just getting around. It really depends where your hotel is located, but it's a guarantee you will spend up to 4 hours a day just commuting to an attraction, whereas on a cruise ship, you'll just pull right up to it. Do you even love cruise ships? There are pros and cons for both ways to do Galapagos (cruise or hotel), but decide what you'd prefer. We loved staying in the lodge because the food was better than cruise ship food, there were more amenities, we had huge rooms, an outdoor pool and we could bike around at our leisure.
4. Galapagos is set up like a safari, if you're into that. You wake up pretty early to go on these treks to see animals in their natural habitats and surrounding landscape. Most tourists visiting Galapagos want to see the animals, so everything revolves around that. If you don't like safaris, you may not like Galapagos.
5. The WIFI totally sucks. These islands are in the middle of nowhere along the equator, so you know the WIFI is going to suck, especially if you visit on a cruise ship, which is worse. Even on land, we rarely got good WIFI (it's more like dial-up). This goes for cell signals too, which goes in and out. Don't expect stellar WIFI, and you'll have a blast!!