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What to Take
What to take to the Galapagos Islands: tourists in travel clothing on a Galapagos beach
Galapagos packing list: preparing for a Galapagos vacation includes making a packing list
Galapagos cruise boats moored off the islands
What to take to the Galapagos Islands? Traveller with hat, enjoying a Galapagos sea view
Tourists wearing suitable clothing for the Galapagos weather
Volunteer in long trousers on Galapagos islands, suitable work clothing for the weather in the cool dry season
Galapagos dive package: map of the Galapagos Islands and diving holiday brochures

 What to take to the Galapagos Islands on vacation depends partly on your budget. Your Galapagos packing list must take into account the conditions in the islands.


What to take to the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands packing list

What to take to the Galapagos Islands on vacation is a tricky balancing act.  Your Galapagos packing list is a compromise between the limited availability and high prices for buying just about anything in the islands, the luggage weight limit on the flight out there, and the very limited cabin space on Galapagos cruise boats.  There is little to buy in the islands, apart from souvenirs, so ensure you take all the travel clothing, batteries, sunscreen, etc., that you will need.
When packing for a Galapagos Islands vacation, be aware that banking facilities on the islands are very, very limited, and so is free time in port on most cruises.  Make sure you have enough money to cover expenses for your whole trip, and be aware that prices in the islands are often 2 or 3 times what they are on the mainland.  If stuck, some restaurants may be willing to give a cash advance against a credit card, but they will charge handsomely for the privilege.  Don't rely on being able to use a credit card at all in the islands, although smarter restaurants and more expensive hotels or cruiseboats may accept them.  Of course, carrying large amounts of cash is risky, so it may be wise to book a cruise which includes most meals, etc., so that this will be paid in advance.  Land-based Galapagos tours or day excursions can usually be booked ahead through your travel agent, again avoiding the need to carry so much money with you.
Eco friendly products will help reduce the negative impact of your visit on the fragile Galapagos ecosystems.  Try to put biodegradable sunscreen, organic skin care and eco friendly beauty products on your travel packing list.  Some companies produce specially-designed travel wash with biodegradable detergent.  Be sure to return as much of your waste as possible to the mainland for disposal, rather than throwing away packets or containers in the islands.
Snacks on Galapagos cruises are a contentious issue.  The cruise boats want you to buy drinks and snacks from them onboard, and these are not likely to be cheap.  Once you have set sail, you are limited to what they or you have on board and they know it.  (Do check whether they will charge for drinking water on your cruise, as this is something you really cannot do without!)  They are likely to state that you are not allowed to bring alcohol on board.  You are likely to want to carry snacks with you, especially if you are on a tight budget, but also just to make sure you have something you like.  
Vegetarian and vegan travellers to the islands should consult with the operator before even booking a cruise, and check before the boat sails that the menu will include sufficient nutrition for their needs.  Be aware that nuts or seeds may not be taken to the Galapagos.  Vegans especially may benefit from arriving in Ecuador a day before their cruise, in order to stock up on suitable snacks to augment the menu on the boat, which is likely to be very limited, even assuming that the boats have correctly understood the term vegan.
Travel clothing - Your cruise operator or travel agency should give you some guidance as to what clothing to take to the Galapagos Islands, but in general a broad-brimmed hat (preferably one that ties on, to avoid losing it over the side of the boat) and sensible footwear are vital. You are likely to need sturdy footwear that you don't mind getting wet (for "wet landings" from small boats onto beaches) and quick-dry trousers are a good idea for these Galapagos tours too.  The type of travel trousers that zip off to convert to shorts are especially useful.  The Galapagos Islands are volcanic, which is to say rocky.  The rocks can be very sharp, so flip-flops are not going to do the job - put hiking boots or thick-soled walking sandals on your packing list.
Check the Galapagos Weather page for an idea of what to expect from the climate and adjust your packing list accordingly.  A light-weight waterproof coat is likely to be needed at almost any time of year.  Remember that the equatorial sun reflecting off the sea can burn you very quickly, and make sure you have enough clothes to keep safely covered up when you need to.  Volunteers working on the islands are likely to need to cover their legs against insect bites, for example.  Eco friendly insect repellant and biodegradable sunscreen are also useful, but suitable clothing should be your first line of defence when deciding what to take to the Galapagos.
What kind of luggage to take? Your cruiseboat cabin will almost certainly have very limited storage space, so a squashy travel bag or backpack of some kind will probably be more useful than a rigid suitcase.  (You might consider storing some of your luggage in your Quito hotel, by arrangement, and taking less to the islands in a smaller bag).  Think about what you will do with your valuables, both while you are on the boat and while you are off on excursions.  Anything you take with you will probably need to be in a waterproof bag if that day includes a wet landing.   A small daypack is pretty much essential - you will need to carry a waterbottle, waterproof, sunhat, sunscreen, etc. on your various Galapagos excursions from the boat.
Travellers interested in the Galapagos wildlife will probably want to take good-quality binoculars or a spotting scope, all necessary camera equipment and plenty of memory cards.  Don't rely on being able to find anything of this nature in the islands.  Some method of backing up your photos could also be a good idea as you will almost certainly take a huge number of photos in this unique environment - perhaps a portable hard drive or several high-capacity flash drives.
A good guidebook to the Galapagos islands and their wildlife should be on your packing list for all Galapagos tours of whatever type.  Your tour guide should be a fount of knowledge and speak your language, and many of them are extremely good at their jobs.  However, the lower the class of cruise boat, the less stringent the standards are for the guides.  Also, your planned guide may be unavoidably absent due to illness or late arrival of an incoming cruise and the operator will have to make do with whichever guide is available at the time.  A Galapagos cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most travellers, so invest a little more in a good guidebook, just in case you have to rely on it.
If diving the Galapagos Islands, check with your travel agent what equipment will be available as part of the dive package or to hire from the tour operator, and what you should take of your own.  It's a good idea to take your own mask, even if the diveboat offers to lend you one, as a properly-fitting dive mask makes so much difference to your enjoyment of diving the islands.  Remember to take a copy of your travel insurance policy, having ensured that it covers diving.  Note that the Galapagos Islands offer challenging diving conditions and you might need a specialist policy.  If your Galapagos dive package is a liveaboard for the longer trips out to the more remote islands with better diving, remember you will be stuck with the food and supplies on the boat, and nothing else, and be sure you take all you need with you.
Galapagos cruise visitors should also check the What to Take to Ecuador page for general notes on medication, travel insurance, etc.  A few Galapagos cruise specific items to add to your packing list include earplugs for nights when the boat is cruising, and a small torch / flashlight, preferably a windup one to avoid the need for batteries.  A small padlock is a good idea, to keep your bag secure while you are out on excursions.

What not to take to the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos islanders are well aware that tourists are a captive market with no other options.  Depending on purchasing items in the islands could make a serious dent in your budget, even if you can actually find what you want.  It's probably best to buy most of what you need in mainland Ecuador, if you have time before your flight to the Galapagos, otherwise bring it from home.
Galapagos Islands rules and regulations are very strict in order to protect the unique flora and fauna from invasive species, so you absolutely must NOT take any kind of seeds, grains or nuts (i.e. anything which could grow).  Other food items are also restricted, for example meat, but you should be OK with cookies / biscuits or chips / crisps.  Check current regulations with your tour operator to make sure.  Your luggage will be inspected before the flight to the islands, and the rules are strictly enforced.
Please don't take excess packaging or pollutants on your Galapagos Islands vacation.  Eco-friendly products, organic skin care, biodegradable sunscreen and non-polluting travel detergent are best for these sensitive ecosystems.  Enjoy your tour all the more knowing that you are conserving the unique ecosystems though responsible decisions on what to take with you to the Galapagos Islands.

What to Take to the Galapagos Islands
Galapagos packing list ideas: suitable clothing for a Galapagos cruise or tour,
what to take to the islands for a Galapagos dive package,
the importance of biodegradable and eco friendly products for the Galapagos ecosystem.
What not to take on a Galapagos Islands vacation.