Updated July 2016.
The Galapagos islands sit out in the Pacific Ocean where they straddle the Equator a thousand kilometres (about 600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador. Getting there is not difficult but it’s not all that straightforward either.
First, you’ll need to fly either to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, or the coastal city of Guayaquil. From both of these cities, flights to two Galapagos Islands airports depart.
From Australia and New Zealand:
Fly to Santiago, Chile with LATAM (formerly LAN) or Qantas, and then hop on a flight with LATAM or Avianca to Quito. Or fly to Buenos Aires with Air New Zealand and connect with an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight to Ecuador. Avianca, LATAM and TAME also fly from the Argentine capital to Ecuador. Some of these flights make a stop in Lima.
Alternatively, fly to Los Angeles and take a flight to Ecuador from there. Depending on the airline, flights from LA go via Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas or Fort Lauderdale in the USA, or via Mexico, El Salvador or Panama. See “From the USA and Canada” (below) for more information.
From the USA and Canada:
From the USA, direct flights to Quito and Guayaquil leave from Atlanta (around five hours), Miami (four hours) and Houston (five hours). American Airlines, United, Delta and LATAM are your best bets. American Airlines also offers service from Dallas to Quito. Jet Blue flies out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with connecting flights to over 30 U.S. cities.
There are no direct flights from Canada: instead, fly from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver via either Miami, Houston, or Bogota, Colombia.
The most budget-friendly way to get to Quito or Guayaquil is to take a flight from Madrid (Iberia) or Amsterdam (KLM), which have the added advantage of being a quick(ish) 11 or 11 1/2 hour direct journey respectively. Avior flies from Barcelona to Guayaquil.
Several other airlines offer non-direct flights, usually touching down in the USA, Central America or elsewhere in South America on the way.
From Latin America:
You’ll find direct flights to Ecuador from pretty much any Latin American city – try LATAM or Avianca for South America, and Avianca or Copa for Central America. AeroMéxico flies to Quito from Mexico City. Ecuador’s airline TAME also has service from a number of Latin American cities.
How do I get to the islands themselves?
Once in Ecuador, take a flight from the country’s capital, Quito, which stops in the coastal city of Guayaquil on its way to one of the two Galapagos Islands airports, Baltra (if you’re heading to Santa Cruz) and San Cristobal. If you have booked a cruise in the islands, your flights will generally be arranged by the operator so you avoid the hassle of having to find and book domestic flights.
If you are arranging flights yourself there are a few things you should know. As you would expect flight times vary depending on the airline, schedule and day of the week, and are typically in high demand. Three airlines go to the islands: TAME, LATAM Ecuador and Avianca.
Flights from Guayaquil are a bit cheaper than from Quito. Also, flying in to San Cristóbal Island is less expensive than to Baltra (serving Santa Cruz Island). Keep in mind, though, that the ferry between the two islands is $30 one way, if you are planning to visit both.
Be aware that, for non-Ecuadorians, flight prices are generally fixed between about $500-600 round trip. Prices are lower for Ecuadorian citizens. So, if you buy your flight directly from the airline or on-line, check that you’re buying a flight for a non-Ecuadorian; otherwise, as some unwitting travelers have found, you will be forced to pay the difference at the airport or be refused boarding!
Whether departing from Quito or from Guayaquil, be sure to give yourself at least two hours for check-in. You will have to first queue up to purchase the Galapagos Transit Control card, and then go through a special customs check (to assure you aren’t bringing in anything that might endanger Galapagos’ sensitive flora and fauna). Then you can hit your airline’s ticket counter to check in your luggage and receive your boarding pass.
To read more about travel out to and around the Galapagos islands click here.