The Galapagos Islands
On entering The Galapagos National Park an entrance fee is required to be paid which is not included in the tour cost. This is currently $100pp.
Passports and Visas
UK, US and Canadian citizens can visit Ecuador without a visa, but you may be asked about your reason for travel and to provide evidence of a return or onward flight/bus ticket when you arrive. On arrival in the country, you'll normally be allowed to remain in Ecuador for up to 90 days.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry; this is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. One blank page in your passport is required for your entry stamp.
Travel protection and medical insurance should be arranged before departure. Please make sure to write down important information such as the insurance company's telephone number and your policy number.
The maximum weight for your carry on baggage is 8kg (17lb) and the maximum weight for your checked baggage is 23kg (50lb).
In the Galapagos Islands in May / November the water temperature averages 25°C and air temperatures are around 22-30°C. Seas tend to be calmer. Rainfalls are common for a short period of time each day, but the remainder of the day tends to be very sunny resulting in high humidity. Flowers come into bloom and vegetation is more colourful. This is a good time to observe birds mating or sea turtles nesting on the beaches.
What to Wear
Adopt a simple colour scheme for your travel wardrobe to reduce the amount of clothing required. Pack wrinkle-resistant, easy-care cotton/ polyester clothing and bring enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. Comfortable walking sandals and/or walking shoes or trainers are essential to protect your feet from sharp lava. In Quito especially, layering clothing is advisable with a lightweight waterproof and a warm jumper/sweater.
A good day pack should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and things you need while you are out and about.
o Shorts and loose comfortable t-shirt or top for daytime
o Sandals and trainers. but we would recommend that you bring your older broken-in pair than a new pair that will suffer the damage of saltwater, volcanic rock, and sand
o Dinner can be a bit more formal, so a dress shirt or a simple sun dress might be a good idea. Most boats do not have any sort of dress code
o Waterproof jacket and jumper, lightweight trousers
o High Factor Sunscreen and sunglasses, insect repellent, wide-brimmed sun hat,
o Notebook or journal
o Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, razor, feminine products and cosmetics
o Tissues and antibacterial wipes
o Basic first aid kit: medications for upset stomach, prescriptions, aspirin, antiseptic cream, sunburn lotion, cold medicine, vitamins, bandages
o Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses and binoculars
o Mini flashlight
o Converters, adapters, chargers and power cords and spare batteries
o Camera and extra memory cards
o medications and prescriptions, including motions sickness tablets for the boat and aloe vera gel in case of sunburn
o A swimsuit. A shorty wetsuit may also be useful if you wish to spend hours snorkelling in the deeper waters where the temperature is around 18 - 23°c;
o If you have your own snorkelling equipment and you feel like bringing it with you, do so by all means. Often it is better to have your own equipment with which you are comfortable and certain of it fitting than renting from the boat or a shop.
Remember that in the Galapagos you are on an isolated boat in isolated islands 600 miles from the nearest continent. If you need it, bring it along from home.
Wearing high factor waterproof sunscreen, drinking bottled or treated water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
Malaria is present in Ecuador, but Quito and the Galapagos Islands are very low risk areas. Discuss this with your health practitioner. Cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed in Ecuador. You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us before your departure date if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it's wise to carry the relevant doctor's prescription with you. First aid kits are provided on the boat but may not have exactly what you need for your personal special needs.
Important: Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor. Some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on the smaller cruise ship. Also,
-Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
-Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
-Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
-Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
-Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Inform your mobile phone company before you travel if you intend to use your phone while travelling. Data roaming is expensive and coverage is poor. Wi-Fi is available in hotels and restaurants. Internet cafes in Ecuador work well and are relatively cheap. The Galapagos Islands are remote. There are only 2 small cities of any size, Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and when you are cruising the islands there is little if any cell phone coverage and no internet. The Galapagos Islands are 1000 km away from the mainland Ecuador. You will have phone coverage in the cities, but while out cruise the islands... put your phone away, unplug and enjoy yourself.
Galapagos Islands GMT: -7 hours
Currency and Money
The official currency on mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos is the US Dollar. It would be wise to already bring some Dollars in cash with you. You will want to have some cash on you while you are on board and in port to buy a t-shirt, a refreshing cola on deck, etc. The airports in Quito and Guayaquil, as well as the mayor hotels have money exchange facilities. Carry your money, credit cards and the like in a money pouch (held close to your body).
Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse, varying with altitude, and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef and cuy (guinea pig) are popular in the mountainous regions, and are served with a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods, especially rice, corn and potatoes.
Please let us know prior to your departure date if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
Drinking tap water is not advisable anywhere in Ecuador, so drink only bottled or boiled water or soft drinks. Remember also that water should be boiled about twice as long when at altitude- it's boiling but it's not as hot as you think!
Electricity in Ecuador is 120v. US travellers most likely will not need a converter or adaptor as Ecuador also uses the same plugs as North America. Non-US travellers will need an adapter which has the "A" type plug with a receptacle that fits the plug of your device. Electricity on board Majestic will be limited. Where possible bring extra batteries and leave hairdryers at home.
The Galapagos is one large photo opportunity after another, and you will return with many photos that can never be repeated. If you run out of memory space, getting more can be expensive or difficult. For those that have quality digital cameras, bringing a wide-angle/macro lens and a 70-210mm zoom lens is advisable. The zoom lens will let you frame animals at any variety of distances, and reduce the amount of camera equipment you lug with you to the islands. A polarizing filter helps to reduce the glare of the sunlight on the water and make the dolphins more visible as well as helping with sunset shots.
Disposable underwater cameras work surprisingly well and let you take photos of the sea lion you befriend or the sharks that make you look twice.
There are many languages spoken in Ecuador. The predominant and official language is Spanish. The second official language in Ecuador is Quichua. Quichua is very popular language in Ecuador and it is widely spoken in various parts of the country. Quichua is an Inca language. There are also many other indigenous languages used in different regions of Ecuador. English is widely spoken and understood.
There are no laundry facilities on the boat.
Visas and Passport
Visas are not required for citizens of most countries in America and Western Europe. However, it is always advisable to check with the Peruvian diplomatic representation in your country for current information.
When entering Peru from Ecuador, make sure your passport is stamped with a Peruvian entry stamp at the immigration office. Immigration authorities may also not let you leave Peru without a valid exit stamp from the last country you visited without paying a fee. Please double check the entry date on your entry stamp to Peru is that day's date. It can cause you difficulty on exit and fees may be charged if the entry date on your stamp isn't the date that you entered Peru.
Peru's huge geographic area justifies its 28 types of climate. It generally has mild weather, without heavy rainfall in the winter or excessive heat in the summer, which means it can welcome visitors all-year round. Cusco has a mild temperate climate with dry winters and warm summers. Temperature ranges between 18°C in the daytime and 8°C in the evening and early morning.
What to pack
Given the variable weather we're likely to experience as we travel through Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and on to Peru you will need clothes for hot weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket. Pack light, and remember the essentials as above. Decent, absorbent (not thick) walking socks are a good idea for keeping feet comfortable.
We will be at high altitudes on our journey and you may wish to speak to your doctor about how this may affect any existing medical conditions. You might also want to discuss precautions available to you to avoid the inconveniences that altitude causes to some people. Cusco is located at 3,400m or 11,200ft above sea level and Machu Picchu is located at 2,400m or 8,000ft.
Telefónica del Perú (The Peruvian telephone company) offers prepaid telephone service cards with different values that may be acquired at supermarkets and newspaper stands. Most Hotels and Restaurants have WIFI connection but the reliability can be variable.
Peru's time is -5 GMT.
Currency and Money
The Peruvian currency is the Nuevo Sol (S/.). As in most cases, this is a decimal system (100 cents = 1 Nuevo Sol). Coins = 10, 20, and 50cents, 1, 2 and 5 Nuevos Soles; the existing paper bills are: 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Nuevos Soles. The exchange rate against the US Dollar varies and most hotels, restaurants and commercial establishments accept US Dollars. If you want to exchange your money for local currency, we advise you to do this at the banks or ask your hotel reception desk. For safety purposes, never exchange with those people who offer this service in the streets. Most well-known international credit cards (American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard and VISA) are widely accepted by most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Gratuities to drivers, guides or rangers are not included in the cost of the holiday. Our local travel service providers are paid well and fairly for their work. However, as a guide, it is usual for groups to tip guides and drivers and it would be reasonable for each group member to factor in a contribution of around USD10 per day.
Peru offers a great variety of silver, alpaca and vicuña wool goods, and several pima cotton garments. Peru produces a variety of crafts that are highly valued worldwide. Original antiques (huacos, pottery, Colonial paintings, Inca and pre-Inca textiles, metal artefacts, etc.), which could be considered cultural heritage, cannot leave the country.
Peru has two official languages: Spanish and Quechua. English is spoken in hotels and the main tourist shops. All our guides and local representatives are bilingual (Spanish/English).
Peruvian cuisine is very varied and can be spicy. Some of the typical dishes are: Ceviche (raw fish marinated in key lime juice), Ají de Gallina (shredded chicken cooked in a sauce made with milk, bread and chili), Anticuchos (beef heart and meat brochettes marinated in a spicy sauce), among many other possibilities. Do not forget to drink Pisco Sour, a cocktail drink prepared with Pisco (Peru's flagship grape brandy), key lime juice, egg whites and gomme syrup. We advise you to make the most of your visit by enjoying the local and international cuisine prepared in Peru… you're in for many culinary treats!
You should drink bottled water only.
Electrical current is 220V, 60Hz AC. Standard outlets accept round prongs, some have dual-voltage outlets which take flat prongs. Even so, your adapter may need a built-in surge protector. US travellers most likely will not need a converter or adaptor as Ecuador also uses the same plugs as North America. Non-US travellers will need a US adapter.
Safety and Security
As in all large cities worldwide, there is a high pickpocketing rate. For this reason, we advise you to take money and credit cards in belts, preferably do not carry a wallet. Hotels offer a safety box service and we suggest that you put your valuables, jewels (or preferably leave these at home), passports and airplane tickets in them. Be cautious when you carry handbags, cameras, and be extremely careful in crowded places, such as markets, train stations, public squares, etc. If in doubt, ask your guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.
Quito is on the Equator, but high in the mountains with a cool climate. Arriving at the airport dressed for cold weather is wise. The daily average temperature in May is 13°c, with rain also likely.
Tips (Applies to The Galapagos & Peru)
Gratuities to drivers, guides or rangers etc are not included in the cost of the holiday and are given by you to the travel service providers at your discretion. Our local travel service providers are paid well and fairly for their work. However, it is usual for groups to tip guides and drivers and it would be reasonable for each group member to factor in a contribution of around USD10 per day.
There are laundry facilities available.