Looking to cruise the Galapagos on a Budget? Read on!
How to Cruise Galapagos on a Budget
There’s nowhere else on Earth like the Galapagos Islands for wildlife viewing. Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, Galapagos Sea Lions, Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Flightless Cormorant, Blue-Footed Boobies, Waved Albatross, Galapagos Mockingbird…the list of remarkable. If you’ve any interest in wildlife, conservation, or evolution at all, then this is the place to come.
The best way to see all these amazing animals and their remarkable habitats is by boat. When Galapagos tourism started in the 1970s and 1980s, this tended to mean high-cost vessels, with high luxury to justify it. Even now, the impression most people have of a visit to Galapagos is that it’s going to be one you’re going to have to save up for quite some time.
Now there’s certainly no shortage of luxurious, big-ticket cruises on mega-yachts. Increasingly there are local owner/operators who offer budget-friendly accommodations. This can drop the price tag without compromising on the Galapagos experience.
To help people discover these often hidden gems, independent Galapagos travel experts Galapatours.com have recently launched a new web portal that allows budget-conscious travellers to easily find Galapagos cruise options that fit their needs.
With their help, we’ve put together this guide to help you get to Galapagos without busting the bank.
1. Know your dates in advance? Book early!
Despite their remoteness and the costs involved in getting there, the Galapagos enjoy a lot of demand, and not enough supply. The National Park that oversees the protection of the whole archipelago and the oceans around it limits the number of tourists that can enter the Park and the number of tourist boats that can travel through it. This means that most budget boats are sold out, often 9 months in advance.
If you know your travel dates, and you want to choose a particular boat and a specific itinerary, book it early to avoid disappointment. Galapatours tells us that the most popular times for tourists to visit Galapagos are Christmas and New Year, Easter, and mid-summer. If any of those are times you were planning to come, book now!
2. Be flexible with your plans
Most travellers will be looking at the standard one- or two-week cruise itineraries. You can often find a better price by being very flexible. Also, it helps to be flexible with your boat choice. The competition in Galapagos naturalist cruises now means that there are only minor differences between operators. If you’d planned a mid-range boat trip, for example, consider dropping down to budget-class ships. There is potential to find some significant savings for sacrificing a little bit of cabin space or a window for a porthole for instance.
3. Book a last-minute Galapagos cruise
This one isn’t for the faint-hearted! If you want to grab a bargain, a last-minute deal can save you as much as 40% off the regular price. The catch – no guarantees of any availability or the ship or even ship class of your choice.
Check independent sites for their last-minute deals, but don’t rely on web prices. Because Galapagos aren’t the most connected place in the world, availability often changes more quickly than the information can get off the islands and on to the websites. This is where an independent Galapagos travel company who has knowledgeable staff at the end of a phone is best if you want to chase a last-minute Galapagos cruise bargain.
4. Check for “flights inclusive” options
Some cruise operators now offer a combination price that includes return flights to the Galapagos included in the price of the cruise. Boat operators prefer this because it means all their guests will arrive on the same plane, reducing their transfer costs form the airport and making flight delays much easier to manage.
These combined price deals can therefore often be cheaper than buying a similar cruise and flights separately. On top of this, if you have flexibility in your travel dates and use the tips above on these inclusive packages, you could find some substantial savings on last-minute deals.
5. Solo travel on a budget?
Solo travellers are often penalised by the “single supplement” issue. This is even more punitive on cruise boats that usually feature cabins made for double occupancy. However, that’s not always the case. If you know where to look, you can avoid this is a couple of ways.
The first is to search for boats that offer single cabins. Believe it or not, there are some! If you use a Galapagos cruise search portal, you can find 8 or 9 ships that offer supplement-free single occupancy.
Some older and smaller vessels offer traditional accommodation in bunks, and many of these allow solo travellers to share a cabin. If you’re happy to literally bunk down with a stranger (albeit one who obviously shares your own enthusiasm for adventure and nature!), this is a great option. It will avoid the supplements and not pay more than those who happen to be travelling as a couple.
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