Travel to the Galápagos Islands - Corona Update

Posted by Marianne Salmans (status 17-08-2020)

“Are you considering a holiday to the Galápagos Islands? We are here and ready to give you advice.”

With the borders of Europe largely opening up to tourism, the big question for many of our travellers is: when can we return to Latin America? In this blog we will keep you informed about the current situation related to the Galápagos Islands.

Also read our update on Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands belong to Ecuador and can only be reached by plane via the Ecuadorian airports of Quito and Guayaquil. For a complete picture of the current situation it is therefore also important to follow our update on Ecuador. click here

Developments up to now

On March 17, Ecuador went into full lockdown and with it the Galápagos Islands. Only a few necessary flights to the Archipelago were possible, in particular to allow repatriation of Galapagueños who were on the mainland during the lockdown.

Although the number of infections on the islands was fortunately low (19 on the island of Isabela, 21 on Santa Cruz and 13 on San Cristóbal among about 30,000 inhabitants in total), the lockdown on the islands was just as severe as in mainland Ecuador: inhabitants were only allowed to go outside from 07:00 to 14:00 while keeping a distance and wearing face masks. These measures prevented the virus from spreading within the community and the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal were declared virus free on May 29.

During the lockdown, medical facilities on the islands were improved with the addition of various intensive care units in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal Island).

Galápagos Islands open again – safety corridor for tourism

The National Park was officially reopened on 1 July, and flights from Quito and Guayaquil to the Galápagos Islands resumed on August 3rd. Please find below the new protocols and requirements for entering the Islands, allowing a safe corridor for guests:

  • Arrival to Galápagos is only possible through the airports of Quito and Guayaquil, situated on the mainland of Ecuador. This means travelers must abide to the rules set for entry into Ecuador which can be found in our blog here.
  • Guests must provide a Travel insurance certificate with medical coverage.
  • A certificate of a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of their Galápagos flight. Please note the difference in timing between mainland Ecuador where the test may be taken within a time frame of 10 days before arrival. Depending on your time of departure to Galápagos, you may either need to take another test in Ecuador or you may use your international certificate, provided it is issued 96 hours prior to entry.
  • Guests must have a safe passage document (salvoconducto) issued at least 24 hours before by your local tour operator or hotel. Aves Travels will handle this requirement in co-operation with our local partners on your behalf.
  • Payment of the Traffic Control Card (TCT), which has always been a requirement for entry to the islands, must be made in advance online. Aves Travels will also help you with this process.
  • A digital boarding pass.
  • Please note that while travelers under 18 are not required to have PCR test for entry to Ecuador, the rule is under 12 for entry to the Galapagos.

When flying to the Galapagos, all travelers pass through temperature checks, disinfection matts, have to clean their hands with sanitizers, and wear facemasks at all times. Luggage is sanitized before and after its inspection by the Galápagos biosecurity and quarantine control agency.

Hotels, restaurants, expedition ships etc follow a strict protocol, so that visitors can be received in a safe manner, both to protect the visitors as well as the local inhabitants of the islands. The hotels and the expedition yachts we work with have taken important measures in the field of hygiene & disinfection, rules to keep an appropriate distance, regular testing of crews and guides, protection including the use of gloves and face masks, etc.

A cruise in times of Corona?

We think it is important to pay special attention to traveling by ship along the Galápagos Islands. Many of us will still recall pictures of travellers stuck on board cruise ships; holiday-makers who weren’t allowed to disembark because one or many passengers had been infected by the novel coronavirus. It is important to realize that this involved ships with thousands of passengers.

  • The expedition yachts along the Galápagos Islands are small-scale. The vast majority have 16 passengers and only a handful of ships carry 100 passengers – the largest number possible.
  • In addition, activities on an expedition yacht are exclusively external, aimed at experiencing nature, such as hiking on the islands or snorkelling. In addition to visiting cities, large cruise ships outside Galápagos also emphasize internal activities such as the casino, the bar and dance evenings or theatre performances. The Galápagos yachts do not offer these activities. With an expedition yacht you will find yourself almost exclusively outdoors.
  • Because the Galápagos expedition yachts are small-scale, it is much easier to uphold solid protection measures. Aves Travels only cooperates with ships starting from the Middle Class level and upwards to luxury – these yachts and catamarans are spacious and therefore offer enough personal space to maintain an appropriate distance between fellow passengers and the crew.
  • When going on expedition, you will never come into contact with passengers from other vessels. Historically, Galápagos has had stringent regulations in place to protect the environment which will now also protect you: the small groups that visit the islands always have to keep a 10 minute distance between groups and one has to maintain 2 meters distance between visitors and wildlife – social distancing has been a way of life on Galápagos for as long as we can remember.
  • When you visit the Galápagos Islands by expedition cruise, you are almost exclusively in the National Park – this area is 97% of the Archipelago and it is completely uninhabited. The only encounters you will have are the playful sea lions, prehistoric iguana’s and all their friends.

Are you considering a holiday to the Galápagos Islands? We are here and ready to give you advice. Our friendly partners, guides and crews are eager to receive you with open arms and a big smile. Even if this will be at an appropriate distance.

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