Frequently asked questions about Ecuador, the Galapagos and this tour. Click here to jump below for general tour questions.
Q. Do I need a visa for Ecuador?
A. Residents from many countries do not need a visa in advance of arriving in Ecuador. A tourist entry stamp can be obtained upon arrival. Read further about it here.
Q. Do I need to purchase a special permit to visit the Galapagos?
A. While a permit ($100) is required to visit the Galapagos, this is included in the cost of your tour. We will procure this permit on your behalf and you’ll receive it once the group is in Ecuador.
Q. I understand there is a Tourist Card fee to visit the Galapagos, do I need to purchase that in advance?
A. While you must pay a Tourist Card fee, like the permit, we purchase that on your behalf and you will receive it once the group is in Ecuador.
Q. Do you recommend we arrive early into Quito?
A. It’s not necessary but you might consider arriving a day or two early in case of flight delays, to shake off jet lag and to tour Quito on your own. If you are joining us for the Machu Picchu Trek, you will be arriving from Peru with the group.
Q. What’s the best airline to take and best way to fly into Quito?
A. Usually people book their flights based on price and loyalty programs. Cost will be different depending on where you are flying from.
Q. What flights should I book if I am on both the Machu Picchu Trek and the Galapagos Tour?
A. You will be flying into Lima, Peru for the start of the trek and then flying out of Quito to return home (or to your onward destination) after the Galapagos. You may be able to purchase a roundtrip ticket into/out of Lima and then a one way from Quito back to Lima. Our travel agent, whom we’ll put you in touch with once you register, can help you with logistics.
Note: There is an additional cost for the nights of October 22 and 23 in Quito that covers airport transfer, flight from Lima to Quito, two nights accommodation in Quito and breakfasts (see the Machu Picchu itinerary on Day 9 for details).
Q. Are airport transfers covered in the cost of the tour?
A. If you are staying in a hotel that is not where the group is staying on Day 1, you will be responsible for your own airport pickup. Note that some hotels may be able to arrange this for you or you can make arrangements upon arrival.
Q. If I want to arrive prior to the start of the tour or stay on beyond the last day, can you book additional hotel nights for me?
A. Yes, of course we can. As soon as you have your flights booked, let us know which nights you’ll need additional accommodations and we can handle that (based on availability, of course).
Q. Will bottled water be readily available on the tour?
A. You will receive a bottle of water upon your arrival and all hotels will have jugs of purified water from which you can fill up your own bottle.
Q. How should I dress/pack for this trip?
A. We’ll be traveling during the “dry” season which is technically cooler than the hot season but it will still be warm. Warm weather clothes appropriate for the tropics are a must in addition to hiking clothes and swimwear. We’ll provide you with a full packing list for the tour.
Q. What sort of wetsuit is available for rent once I arrive in Ecuador?
A. Both long and short wetsuits will be available and they are between 3mm – 5mm. We will need to know your height and weight prior to your arrival and the wetsuits will be awaiting the group. Note that there may be limited quantity of certain sizes and your first choice may not be available. For example, if you are interested in a short suit that’s 5mm, there may only be a 3mm available by the time everyone is fitted.
For those new to wetsuits, here’s a short primer:
We expect the water temps to be around 70 in October and the air temp in the mid- to high-70s. This may seem a bit chilly to Ecuadoreans but, depending on where you reside, may seem quite warm to you. If you live in a cool climate, you might want to stick with the thinnest available (3mm) as you’ll likely find the temps on the warm side. It’s even been recommended that if you are bringing one from home, you might consider a short 1mm version as you’ll likely warm up quickly in the water from snorkeling or whatever activities you choose to participate in.
Q. Would you recommend taking a raincoat?
A. A light raincoat is a good idea given this time of year can see some precipitation.
Q. Is it OK to have more than just a carry-on for the tour (in other words, checked bags)?
A. Yes, a checked bag is fine, but because we will be traveling between islands via a boat, it’s best to have as little luggage as possible. Consider a soft-sided bag or large duffel. We will be in the Galapagos for six nights and, for the most part, the weather will be warm so you should not need a lot of heavy/bulky clothes.
Q. What are the accommodations like in the Galapagos?
A. We have secured lovely lodges and boutique hotels for our stay in the Galapagos. You can find links to each property on the daily itinerary for our land-based Galapagos tour.
Q. Is there WiFi at the hotels/lodges?
A. There will be WiFi at a couple of the lodges on the islands but not all. Don’t expect super fast connections at those that do have it. In short, have low expectations and remember that you’re there to enjoy the wildlife!
Q. What kind of food should I expect on the tour?
A. Our accommodations serve a combination of locally-inspired dishes (fish and seafood) as well as meals that are more common to international tastes.
If you have special dietary needs or preferences, expect to be flexible. Those who are gluten-free may find some options but vegetarians likely won’t find much tofu or tempeh or protein beyond meat and fish.
Q. What sort of power adaptor do I need?
A. Ecuador uses type A and B power plugs. These are the same that are used in the U.S. They look like these…
Q. Will I need a converter for my electrical devices?
A. You will need a converter for any devices unable to handle 220 (ie. your hair dryer, curling iron, etc.).
Q. Can I use my cell phone in Ecuador?
A. There are a few ways you can use your cell phone in Ecuador. First, consider buying an international data plan from your provider. AT&T offers something called the Passport, for example. You purchase a certain amount of data and you have a month to use it. You can use it for maps, internet, phone, texting, apps, etc.
Second, you can simply turn your data off and only use your phone when there’s WiFi.
Third, if you have an unlocked phone, you could buy a local sim card and use a data plan on the local network.
Q. What’s the currency used in Ecuador?
A. The U.S. dollar is the currency in Ecuador. The bills are exactly the same as those in the U.S. but the coins are a bit different.
Q. Are ATMs available?
A. There will definitely be ATMs in Quito. There are a couple of ATMs on a couple of the islands but we don’t recommend you rely on these. It’s best to bring the cash you plan to spend. You’ll want to let your bank know in advance that you are traveling so they don’t deny usage of your card thinking it’s a fraudulent charge.
You’ll also want to find out what, if anything, your bank changes for international ATM withdrawals. If it’s based on each transaction, you’ll want to take larger amounts of money out rather than making numerous small withdrawals so as to limit the charges. In addition, there will be a fee by the local bank to use the ATM.
Q. Can I use my debit or credit card for purchases?
A. Absolutely. As long as your bank is aware of your travel plans, you shouldn’t have any problem making purchases while traveling.
Q. How much money should I bring with me?
A. We get this question a lot, and it really does depend on your spending habits. You likely won’t need much spending money other than for beverages with meals and souvenirs. Having said that, bring small bills (singles and fives) for tips (taxi drivers and bellmen come to mind). For purchases, many times vendors cannot break larger bills (anything over $20) so you’re best bet is to have small bills.
Q. How should I best carry my money?
A. While Ecuador is a safe country, there are opportunistic thieves everywhere looking for a way to separate you from your cash. You might consider carrying your passport, credit/debit cards and cash in something like a neck pouch or a large wallet like this one from Baggallini. You could then put that in a larger bag that you wear over your neck.
Q. Is tipping appropriate?
A. The majority of tips for our guide(s) are covered under your trip cost. Having said that, small tips for your waiter and for our guides would be appreciated if they’ve gone above and beyond.
Q. Do you recommend any special vaccinations for this trip?
A. There’s nothing you need specifically for Ecuador except for a yellow fever vaccine IF you are coming from a country with the disease. However, you’ll want to consult with a travel doctor for medical advice.
General tour questions
Q. Do I need insurance for this tour?
A. Although we don’t require evacuation or travel insurance, you might consider one or both of these. We highly recommend evacuation insurance for cases where you are sick or injured and need medical attention and don’t want to go to a local clinic or hospital. Medical evacuations can cost as much as $60,000.
Travel insurance is a good idea for those who may have to cancel a tour at the last minute (due to a potential family issue, for example) or for recovery of lost luggage or missed flights.
If you are looking for insurance options, we’ve partnered with two companies: Allianz and Insure My Trip. Both companies offer excellent travel and medical insurance options. If you currently have other coverage, or only want/need a standalone medical evacuation package, you’ll want to go with Insure My Trip.
Q. Will I receive a refund if I have to cancel my participation in the tour?
A. Once you have paid a deposit, there is a cancellation fee if you cannot join us. The cancellation fee depends on the tour and how far in advance of the tour you cancel. Our refund policy is covered in our Booking Terms and Conditions and is also outlined on the Registration Form that you’ll receive within 24 hours of registering. Refunds will be sent by check within two weeks of us receiving written notification (email is fine) of your cancellation. If Beth is traveling when you cancel, it may take longer than two weeks to get your refund check out to you. She’ll mail it as soon as she can upon returning to the U.S.
Q. Are my items safe in my hotel room?
A. Your items *should* be safe, but we recommend that you carry small luggage locks to secure the zippers together so that no one is tempted to peek in your bag.
When something goes missing, it’s usually later found in the bottom of one’s luggage. In the meantime, hotel staff are the first to be blamed. It’s best to keep your items (especially valuables) locked up so that this is not even a question.
Q. Will you be sending an updated itinerary with our overnight accommodations so we can leave it with folks at home?
A. You’ll receive the hotel information as well as emergency contact information one or two weeks before departure but it is subject to last-minute changes.
Q. What’s the emergency contact info that I can give my family?
A. You will be given a cell phone number for someone in-country employed by our local tour operator as well as a list of hotels. All of this will be provide shortly before your departure.
Q. How do you fit everything into a carry-on and still have room for souvenirs?
A. We encourage you to pack light and do hand laundry along the way. You might bring a spare duffel or extra bag that packs down small to carry souvenirs in.