Updated July 9, 2017.
We often get asked about the best way to pay your way while you’re in the Galapagos Islands. Whether you’re on a cruise, land-based tour or independent trip, you’ll no doubt need to spend some extra cash at some point – perhaps for a drink in the bar, souvenirs, tips, snacks or anything else you might need.
You’ll also need cash for the $100 national park fee and, if you are going to Isabela Island, the $5 dock tax there. As well, often the price on restaurant menus does not include the 10% service (tips) or 12% IVA tax.
As these protected islands are 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) out to sea, it’s not as straightforward as simply whipping out your credit card. So before you go, be sure to read our top money tips.
Money, money, money
- The currency used in the Galapagos Islands (and all of Ecuador) is the U.S. Dollar.
- In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, there are two banks. Banco del Pacífico has ATMs accepting Mastercard, Cirrus and Visa (Avenida Charles Darwin across from the fisherman’s wharf; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.). Banco Pichincha has an ATM (Avenida Baltra, between Española and Genovesa Streets; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). ATMs are also at the Proinsular supermarket at the end of Avenida Charles Darwin, past the post office.
- In Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island, Banco del Pacífico has a 24-hour ATM and changes Euros to US dollars (corner of Avenida Hernán Melville and Ignacio; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.).
- Note that there are no ATMs in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island or in Puerto Velazco Ibarra on Floreana Island. Bring plenty of cash with you.
- Nicer hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores accept major credit cards, but there is often a 5-10% fee charged. Many shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards, and neither do all hotels – check in advance. MasterCard and Visa are the most accepted; few businesses take American Express.
- Traveler cheques are not widely accepted, so it is better to stick to cash and credit cards.
- Bring some extra cash with you from the mainland, just in case your credit card isn’t accepted or the ATMs are out of bills. (It happens!)
- Bring small bills – $10s and $5s are ideal. You won’t be able to use bills over $20.
Have you already been to the Galapagos islands? Help other travellers by sharing your money tips in the comments below.