Essential packing tips for the Galapagos Islands

Packing Tips for Galapagos Islands

I’ll be honest, packing for my recent trip to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador was a bit of a rush job and I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been for the adventure. I was on a boat for 8 days cruising around the islands and having winged it with some last minute packing, I have walked away with a helpful packing list and some tips for your intrepid trip to South America.

What to pack for the boat

Galapagos_sealBathing suit – there is snorkeling every day!

Books – There is a bit of sailing time or time at leisure. On a good day, it’s lovely to sit up on the top deck and read should the opportunity arise so bring a good book.

Camera – I invested in a bigger lens before going and I’m glad I did! There are photographic opportunities at absolutely every excursion. Don’t forget the charger because you will snapping photos like crazy. I did take a spare battery with me just in case but I was able to charge every night on the boat.

Camera (Underwater) – I didn’t have an underwater camera and I had GOPRO camera envy the whole trip. There was snorkeling every day and we swam with sea lions, turtles, penguins, sharks, colourful fish and iguanas. Not having an underwater camera was a big deal for me. Highly recommend packing one! The GOPRO acts as an everyday camera, an underwater camera and video camera.

Hat – I forgot this too and it is absolutely necessary with the sun and wind. Luckily our cruise boat had them for sale but the selections were not all that great.

Light rain jacket/wind proof jacket – we did a lot of night sailing and it got cooler in the evenings while star watching up on the top deck.

Sea sick pills – I don’t get sea sick! So I didn’t even think to bring anything for motion sickness. However on day 3 I wasn’t feeling so flash in the morning, it may have been a combination of a few too many vinos and the 12 hour sail we’d just done. Thankfully the boat was full of well organised travelers.

Sunglasses – I forgot these so had to buy at duty free (so the start of my journey got off to an expensive start!). The sun glare from the water is harsh so definitely an essential item.

Sunscreen – admittedly I forgot to take sunscreen but you can buy it in the first town called San Cristobel.

US Dollars – for the tip at the end of the journey and souvenirs. At your discretion what to tip and your tour operator may suggest an amount for the week journey. The one I was on suggested $200 per person for the week. There may be an opportunity to shop for souvenirs on Santa Cruz Island. There are ATM’s but some of the travelers I was with had difficulty withdrawing money.

Walking shoes – sneakers are fine, there is no need for heavy hiking boots

Wet landing shoes – thongs, Havanas, jandels or tevas (depending on which country you are from we all call them different things!) for jumping out of the dingy on excursions.

Galápagos Island rules to be aware of

There are some rules that are absolute that you should be mindful of before arriving and during your time on these very special islands. Your boat guide will do a briefing with all new passengers but it’s good to know this anyway.

  • No food on the islands
  • No flash photography
  • No touching the animals
  • Stay on the paths
  • Stay with your group
  • Take nothing and leave only footprints

Some useful boat notes

No toilet paper to be flushed down the toilets
Snorkel gear and wet-suit may be provided depending on how much you spend on your cruise
You probably don’t need to take towels if you’ve gone for a more expensive cruise, check with the tour operator
There is limited phone coverage if any so be prepared to switch off for a few days!
Every day there are at least 2 excursions with an early morning start of 7am
If you are doing a cruise (eg: an 8 day cruise) expect some sailing as you will go farther out than the shorter cruises to see more animals and wildlife
The days are very structured but this is so you get the optimal viewing time and opportunities to see the Islands properly.

What you don’t need

No fancy clothing – you’re on a boat for 8 days. You can leave the fancy shoes, clothes and impractical clothing at home.

As always, safe and happy travels! – Nicola