We’ve visited the Galapagos Islands three times and spent nearly six weeks in total in this spectacular archipelago that is Ecuador’s most famous destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. Here are a few crucial but unexpected things you should pack for your Galapagos Islands trip.
How to pack for the Galapagos
We are going to assume that you have the basics covered–you know, swimsuit, binoculars, sturdy shoes, raincoat, sunglasses, sunscreen, clothing for hot weather, clothing for cool weather, your passport, etc. Most Galapagos tour companies provide a basic pre-trip packing list as well. But you may not have thought of these 7 items, all of which we found to be extremely useful in the Galapagos. Here’s how to pack like a pro for the Galapagos.
- A sun hat with a chin strap. We’ve seen way too many caps and hats fly off way too many heads as zodiacs or tour boats speed toward the next destination. Karen likes her Sunday Afternoons Unisex Ultra-Adventure Hat (pictured above) because it provides sun protection, has a chin strap for security, and the top is designed with a slit that you can slide your sunglass arms into when you’re not wearing them.
- A rash guard shirt. When water temperatures are colder, a wet suit will be provided for you to wear during snorkeling excursions. However, when water temperatures are warmer or you’re off for a bit of kayaking you may want to skip the bulky wet suit. A lightweight rash guard shirt is the best source of protection while kayaking or snorkeling in warmer water. Karen swears by her UV SKinz (pictured above).
- Seas are generally calm and boat captains take great care in choosing protected anchoring spots. However, if you’re prone to motion sickness, bring some Dramamine with you. Karen also swears by Seabands (pictured above) which use acupressure to curb nausea. Prescription sea sickness medications like scopolamine patches work well too, though scopolamine can cause drowsiness. Note that scopolamine is generally not available for sale in Latin America.
- Galapagos travelers spend a lot of time on boats and rain showers can occur at any time in the Galapagos. To keep your electronics and personal items protected from splashing and wet conditions on boats and from getting caught in the rain, bring a dry bag that’s large enough to hold your personal items, cellphone, camera gear, etc., and use it during all excursions to keep everything dry. We like Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks (pictured above).
- Visitors to the Galapagos Islands are frequently surrounded by wildlife…and their poop. If you’re sensitive to smells, dabbing a bit of Mentholatum (or any type of strongly-scented ointment) under your nose will help handle any bad smells.
- If you have fins, a mask, and a snorkel that you love, bring them with you. Snorkeling gear is available, but quality and cleanliness vary.
- There are ATMs on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal Island, but they sometimes run out of cash so bring enough cash to cover tips and any purchases where credit cards are not accepted. Remember that the official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.
What NOT to bring to the Galápagos Islands
The introduction of non-native plant species is considered a top environmental threat to the Galapagos Islands, so do not bring any fruits, vegetables, or plants of any kind with you. Anything that might have seeds or spores clinging to it, like the soles of your shoes and any outdoor gear or camping equipment, should be washed and inspected thoroughly before being brought to the islands. The threat of invasive plant species is so great that visitors arriving to the Galapagos Islands have to sign an affidavit swearing that they’re not bringing in any food, animals, seeds, or dirty camping gear.
Also, selfie-sticks and drones are not allowed in the Galapagos.
And check with your airline about luggage weight limits on your flight from mainland Ecuador out to the Galapagos Islands. When we were there, there was a 44 pound (20 kilo) weight limit on luggage per passenger.
More Galapagos travel tips
Use our Galapagos Islands Travel Guide index post to quickly navigate through the entire series, or choose specific posts below.
- Part 1 in our Galapagos Islands Travel Guide series gives you the facts you need to plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands.
- Part 2 is our Santa Cruz Island Travel Guide including what to do and where to sleep on this tourist hub island.
- Part 3 tells you what to expect during boat trips to landings around Santa Cruz Island.
- Part 4 covers highlights from North Seymour, South Plaza, and Daphne Islands.
- Part 5 is our San Cristóbal Island Travel Guide.
- Part 6 covers what to expect during boat trips to Cerro Brujo, Punta Pitt, and Kicker Rock around San Cristóbal.
- Part 7 reveals highlights of visiting Santa Fe Island.
- Part 8 tells you what to expect on Genovesa Island.
- Part 9 gives you travel highlights from Fernandina Island.
- Part 10 helps you explore Isabela Island.
- Part 11 takes you around Santiago Island.
- Part 12 tells you what to expect on Floreana Island.
- Part 13 reveals what makes Española Island so special.
- Part 14 tells you how to take the best photos in the Galapagos.
- Part 15 brings you all the adventure of SCUBA diving in the Galapagos Islands.
- Part 17 delivers answers to 5 top Galapagos travel questions.
- Part 18 reveals our favorite shots of wildlife in the Galapagos.
- Part 19 reveals our favorite shots of landscapes and sunsets in the Galapagos.
When you buy something using the retail links in our posts, we may earn a small affiliate commission. We never accept money for editorial coverage and we only recommend products, services, and experiences that we are familiar with and believe in.
Here’s more about travel in Ecuador
Here’s more about Island Travel
Here’s more about Galapagos Travel