Get Ready To Go
The more you prepare, the less you have to remember. The less you have to remember, the more room you have for new memories.
May 1-10, 2017 | 10-Day Customized, Small Group Retreat
What You Should Expect On This Trip To The Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands are located on the equator. They are a part of Ecuador, which has a proud, peaceful, socially democratic society offering a rich tapestry of cultural and ecologic wonders. Spanish is the official language of Ecuador. Ecuadorans are a friendly people and you are encouraged to learn a few words of greeting. However, there will be translators and guides provided throughout the tour.
Travel To Ecuador
Unique Life of the Galapagos[/caption]A passport is required to enter Ecuador, but not a special visa. A variety of international airlines fly into Quito, so you should have plenty of travel options.
Participants should plan to arrive in Quito no later than 3pm on May 1, in order to be present for the welcome and first night’s briefing at 5pm. Keep in mind, Quito is at an altitude of 8,500 feet, so you may feel a little lightheaded during the time you are there. You are advised to plan an early bedtime the night before leaving Quito for the Galapagos. May 2 will be our longest travel day, and you will enjoy it more if you are well-rested.
The Wyndham Quito Airport is planned as our point of gathering. It is within minutes of the airport terminal. Quito’s airport in is one hour from the city proper, so please do not make arrangements to stay at a downtown hotel the night before we leave for the Galapagos. While we may be on different airlines to fly to Baltra, our flights will be leaving between 7:00 – 10:00am the next morning, and we have to be checked in at least one hour ahead of time. Again, we emphasize going to bed early the night before.
Travel To The Galapagos
Our group will gather for an early check out so we may arrive together at the Quito Airport terminal. We will leave the hotel 90 minutes before the first flights. The flight to the Galapagos is typically 1.5 hours.
When you arrive at the Baltra Airport, your bags may be hand-searched to prevent invasive contraband from entering the islands. This is an effort to keep the islands as pristine as possible. When everyone clears customs, we will take a bus to the ferry that transports visitors from Baltra to Santa Cruz Island. Once on the other side, you and your baggage will be segregated to a private charter bus to take us on a 45-minute ride along the longest road in the Galapagos. The unusual landscapes we pass through let you know immediately, you are no longer in Kansas.
Travel To and From Isabela
Arriving in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, we may have time for a light lunch before we board a lanchita (a large motor boat) for a 3-hour cruise to Isabela Island. This passage is the same route Darwin took on the Intrepid as they passed between islands large and small. Upon arriving in Isabela, it’s only a short hop to our tropical hotel, nestled away among the palms along the beach. While on Isabela, your transportation to and from all tours is provided, including one day of bicycle riding (you may decide to add more.)
Six days after arriving on Isabela, you will be returning to Santa Cruz. This time, instead of a lanchita ride, we’ve planned a flight in a small transport airplane (8 seats). During the short hop (30 minutes) you’ll get a great view of the islands from the air. Any participants who are uncomfortable with small airplanes or longer boat rides may choose to go both ways, in whichever transport they prefer, for a small change fee.
More Q&A About This Special Trip
We’ve prepared answers for the most commonly asked questions we hear about traveling to Latin America, and specifically the Galapagos. Simply click on your question to learn how you should prepare for your trip.
What Should I Pack?
SUNSCREEN & HATS! We cannot emphasize this enough. The Galapagos are on the equator, and the rays here are 60% stronger than even Florida.
Especially on the beach, the dress code is casual. Remember, less is more when packing. The weather will be hot, so bring light comfortable clothing. Laundry service is available and inexpensive.
Some essentials we suggest:
- Sandals or flip flops for walking in the sand
- Rock socks, or sandals that strap to your feet and will give you good footing in water and on boats
- Walking shoes or lace-up sneakers for light hikingWind and waterproof jacket, hat or cap, rain poncho
- Swimsuit(s) – you will have many opportunities to enjoy the water
- Sunglasses and did we mention sunscreen?
- Sun hat and light weight long sleeve shirt and slacks for covering up when you’ve had enough sun
- Personal medications and prescription eyeglasses
- Small backpack
- Camera with charger or extra batteries, and plugs and converters. Smart phones with good camera’s work well in this setting
- Travel Insurance certificate, if you’ve purchased insurance (highly recommended)
- Passport and money (we will be near ATMs on several occasions)
- A copy of the picture page of your passport – keep separate from your passport
- Wi-fi is available in all villas if you need to access the internet, but it may not always be fast. Don’t depend on it for entertainment.
We will provide you a much more comprehensive list of suggested items to bring 60 days before our departure.
What About Food, Special Diets and Water?
Ecuador and the Galapagos abound with world-famous seafood, as well as tropical fruits and vegetables. Throughout our stay in the islands, we’ll make special efforts to give you a chance to try local specialties.
Special dietary requests or preferences will be accommodated within reason (i.e. vegetarian, food allergies, etc.) Participants will be asked to indicate their preferences on the registration page.
The tap water is safe for bathing in all our hotels, and generally considered safe for drinking. However, experience has shown that bottled water is a safer solution for unfamiliar gringo stomachs. Bring your own travel bottles to refill and reduce plastic use in the islands.
Most of our restaurant meals are planned so you can make your own menu selections. We will provide guidelines for restaurants based on a budget around which you may create your choices. Our emphasis will be on opportunities to try new flavors, while still providing your old favorites. One evening in Santa Cruz, true flavor explorers may wish to join a 5-restaurant foodie tour, complete with a wine selection.
How Physically Fit Do I Need To Be For This Trip?
Most of the tours planned on this trip assume a moderate level of fitness on the part of the participants. Travel to the islands, and the natural environment of the tours, will present challenges to anyone not used to walking unassisted.
The Galapagos in general, and Isabela in particular, are not fully ADA-compliant environments. Some tours, such as the volcano hike, are specifically NOT recommended for children under 12, seniors, overweight adults, or people with physical limitations. Alternate activities will be provided for those who are unsure of hiking that day.
What About Travel Documents?
ALL travelers (regardless of nationality) must carry a passport, valid for at least six (6) months after your intended return date to your home country. Two pages must be available for the entry stamp. If you hold a passport with an expiration date less than six (6) months after your return date, you must renew your passport prior to departure.
If you are not a U.S. Citizen, your National Consulate or Embassy can answer any questions you may have regarding the individual travel documents required. You can find a worldwide index of Embassies for Ecuador via the web at: http://www.embassyworld.org/americas/ecuador-embassy
PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU WILL BE EXTENDING YOUR TRIP TO ANOTHER COUNTRY, YOU SHOULD CHECK WITH THE CONSULATE OF THAT COUNTRY TO ESTABLISH IF A VISA OR ANY ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION WILL BE REQUIRED.
What About U.S. Airport Check In?
Strict security measures at the airport may impact your travel plans and cause delays, which is why it is important that you allow plenty of time to get to the airport and check in at least two (2) hours prior to your flight’s departure time. Due to constant changes of flight schedules, it is highly recommended that you confirm your flight’s status before you leave for the airport.
Please take note of the check-in policies, carry-on restrictions and airport security rules that may impact your travel plans. Due to the fact that these security measures change regularly, we suggest that you visit the following website for the most up-to-date information: http://www.tsa.gov/.
PLEASE NOTE: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION REQUIRES AIRLINES TO SOLICIT EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION FOR U.S. PASSENGERS TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO GIVE AN EMERGENCY CONTACT NAME AND TELEPHONE NUMBER UPON CHECK IN.
How Much Luggage Can I Bring?
You are generally permitted to carry one item of hand baggage (max 22 lbs. – 21x15x9 in.) in addition to one small personal item onboard the aircraft. Your personal item (e.g. small handbag or laptop case) must fit comfortably under the seat in front of you. Passengers with more than one carry-on, plus a personal item will be required to check the additional luggage. Be sure to pack the essentials in your carry-on bag, such as your airline tickets, passport, a light change of clothing, any valuables, medications, toiletries, and perhaps a book or a snack.
Although regulations have recently changed, the TSA still recommends that sharp objects be placed in your checked luggage. It’s not just the obvious items, but includes such innocuous items as razors for shaving, nail files, Swiss army knives, and corkscrews. Lighters and matches or any type of scissors (e.g., from a sewing kit or first aid kit) should also be packed in your checked luggage.
Additionally liquids and gels are forbidden as carry-on items unless they are less than three (3) ounces and declared by showing them in a plastic, 1 quart bag. A few exceptions to this rule apply and include diabetic glucose medications such as insulin, baby formula, and prescription liquid medications labeled with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket. These items must be declared to the transportation security officers at the security checkpoint. Beverages and other items purchased in the secure boarding area may be brought onto the aircraft.
Laptop computers must still be screened separately at the security checkpoint, but will be allowed on board the aircraft.
International flights generally allow you to bring 2 pieces of checked baggage (max 50 lbs. per piece) per person at no additional charge. The total circumference (L+H+W) must not exceed 162 in. Charges will apply for additional bags. We highly recommend bringing only one suitcase.
What Health Precautions Are Necessary?
What Timezone Will We Be In?
Can I Use A Phone?
Private mobile phones may be used in Ecuador although you will have to replace the U.S. SIM chip with a prepaid chip when you land. If you plan to use your cell phone on your U.S. plan, be sure to confirm with your wireless provider that you have an international calling plan and advise them that you will be traveling in the Galapagos. We suggest you use Skype, email or facetime to communicate with friends, family and work back home utilizing free Wi-Fi at the villas.
If family and friends need to contact you in an emergency during the retreat you can be reached by toll-free phone at 813-990-0707. The international number to the retreat director’s cellphone is 593-98-753-6499.
What's The Weather Like?
Do I Need An Electric Converter?
What Is The Typical Food?
What About Crime?
Remember, neither the airlines nor the hotels will take responsibility for lost or stolen valuables. We suggest that you pack them in your carry-on bag and when you arrive they can be stored safely in your room.
The Galapagos have a reputation for safety and tranquility. Nonetheless, there is no reason to tempt a pickpocket with flashy baubles. We suggest you leave valuable jewelry at home. While touring or shopping leave your passport and the bulk of your money in your room. Take with you only the money you intend to spend.
Carry a copy of the picture page of your passport with you as you may need it for identification.
What Customs Should I Know?
Upon Entering Ecuador and the Galapagos: If you have just bought a new and expensive digital camera, camcorder, watch, laptop computer or similar item, it will be worth your while to stop at the U.S. Customs Office at your international departure airport and register these items. It usually does not take much time and will save you from the possibility of delays and/or having to pay duty on these items on the return home.
Returning from the Galapagos and Ecuador : Do not pack any naturally-acquired item in your suitcase. No shells, no seeds, no rocks. Your bags will be checked as you leave the Galapagos, and if the authorities discover these items it can cause delays and even fines. Per the norm, you will need to declare everything that you may have purchased in Ecuador or did not take with you when you left your home country. Each U.S. citizen may bring back $800.00 USD worth of “duty free” items (a maximum of $1,600.00 USD per household), as long as they are in your possession or brought back as accompanied baggage.
Cash? Credit Cards? ATMs?
The currency of Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar, so there are no exchange issues. The one dollar coin is in common use here, even though it is rarely seen in the U.S. Outside of Quito, cash is the most readily accepted medium of exchange. Most small tourist stands, artisans and even rural restaurants don’t take credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are the cards in general use for ATM machines. Check with your bank, however, because many small institutions do not allow withdrawals to be made in much of Latin America. U.S. Banks that have strong relationships with Ecuadoran banks include Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank. You can withdraw cash using major credit cards or Cirrus, Visa Electron or Plus debit cards with a 4-digit PIN. Banking fees for ATM withdrawals and foreign transactions vary widely, so please check the rates with your bank(s).
PLEASE NOTE: IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TO TAKE CASH ADVANCES OUT ON YOUR CREDIT CARD PRIOR TO YOUR DEPARTURE.
How Does Tipping Work?
WHAT’S THE PRICE?
Shop around, and you’ll see that even though our tour is exclusive and exquisite, it’s still modestly priced. Reservations for this 10-day Retreat start as low as $3995/person for double occupancy. We expect this adventure to fill up fast, but you can reserve your place, risk-free, for $750 until Thanksgiving.
Read what’s included: CLICK HERE