Frequently asked questions
See our COVID-19 Travel Requirements page for the latest COVID-19 travel updates.
Ecuador operates a visa exemption scheme for US, UK, EU, Australian and Canadian passport holders which allows stays of up to 90 days without a visa. Nationals from other countries need apply for a visa to enter Ecuador, before travelling. To check the latest requirements and to find out if you need a visa to enter Ecuador, please contact your nearest Ecuadorian embassy/ consulate, or refer to the IATA Travel Centre website: www.iatatravelcentre.com/EC-Ecuador-passport-visa-health-travel-document-requirements
A Transit Control Card (also referred to as TCT card) is required for travel from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. The cards are obtainable from the INGALA booths at Quito and Guayaquil Airports before checking in for your flight to the Galapagos, and cost 20 USD.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of arrival in Ecuador; this is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. Without this minimum validity entry to the country will be denied.
Proof of onward travel and funds
You may be asked about your reason for travel and to provide evidence of a return or onward flight ticket when you arrive.
Travel health insurance is a mandatory requirement for entry into Ecuador. All foreign tourists are required to have travel health insurance which covers the entire duration of their intended stay in the country. Travellers who are unable to provide proof of insurance may be denied entry.
There are no obligatory vaccination requirements for Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands. However, we advise all guests to ensure that routine vaccinations such as MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus are up-to-date before travelling. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccinations are also recommended.
Guests are advised to check with their local travel health clinic for the latest recommendations well in advance of travelling, and to use insect repellent and cover exposed skin to prevent any insect borne diseases while travelling throughout Ecuador and in the Galapagos.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
A Yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from, or who have spent more than 12 hours in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda (including airport transit). It is also recommended for those intending to travel east of the Andes.
We recommend guests arrive in Ecuador at least one day before their liveaboard embarkation and spend the night on the mainland, or in San Cristobal, to ensure they are well rested for the diving ahead.
Most international flights arrive into Guayaquil or Quito after the domestic connections to San Cristóbal have departed, making an overnight stay a necessity.
However, on the liveaboard disembarkation day, the domestic departure from San Cristobal is in the morning usually allowing time for guests to make their international connection, although the domestic flights are often delayed. Therefore an additional night is also recommended after your liveaboard. We advise allowing plenty of time for transfers, check-in and potential flight delays.
Flights to the Galapagos Islands originate in Quito, making a quick stop at Guayaquil, then carrying on to the islands and do the reverse on the way back. The flights are often delayed which is why it is strongly advised to arrange an overnight stay at the end of your trip in order not to miss your international flight home.
There are two companies operating daily flights to San Cristobal; LATAM & Avianca. Both of these airlines use San Cristobal (SCY) and Baltra (GPS) airports in Galapagos so, should the National Park Authorities request an itinerary change, we will not have a problem flying you to the relevant airport.
We have an allocation of seats held with preferential rates for our guests on LATAM flights to fit with our liveaboard embarkation and disembarkation dates and times. Reservations will be confirmed with the airline by our ground agent and the tickets will usually only be issued a week or two before the liveaboard’s departure.
The flight schedules, availability and prices can change at short notice which, unfortunately, is beyond our control. Should the price increase after you’ve paid your balance, the difference will have to be paid by you.
Since 2018, single use, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics have been banned in Galapagos. This means the following are forbidden, by law:
- T-shirt type disposable plastic cover
- Plastic carrier bags
- Plastic bottles of any kind (soda, water, etc.)
- Plastic straws and stirrers
- Disposable plastic cups
- Disposable plastic plates
- Disposable plastic cutlery
- Disposable plastic containers
- Plastic balloons
- Expanded polystyrene (flex foam) cups
- Expanded polystyrene (flex foam) plates
- Expanded polystyrene food containers
- Carnival (party) foam
- Other types of spray foam
Before travelling, please ensure that plastic packaging is removed from any items you are bringing with you.
PLEASE NOTE: In accordance with the ban on single use plastics in Galapagos, ALL bottles MUST be returnable. Coca Cola, Sprite, water, beer, spirits, red and white wine are only permitted if they are available in glass bottles. For this reason, it is not possible to get Diet Coke/ Coke Zero/ Coke Light or other diet sodas in the Galapagos Islands; They are only available on the mainland in plastic bottles. However, regular Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite, tonic and other soft drinks which come in glass bottles are readily available.
To protect the unique and delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands, in addition to the ban on plastics, the Ecuadorian Government have published an extensive list of items which are either restricted or prohibited.
Prohibited items include fresh and / or raw plant and animal products, by-products and derivatives thereof, as well as certain types of fruit, nuts and seeds.
For guidelines on what not to bring, please refer to our Galapagos National Park Prohibited items document
Diving in Galapagos can be challenging even for experienced divers. Strong currents and tough conditions are to be expected at certain dive sites. Therefore the diving is generally considered unsuitable for entry level or inexperienced divers.
Divers joining a Galapagos Master liveaboard itinerary are required to have Advanced Open Water certification, preferably with experience in strong currents and reduced visibility.
- Recommended MINIMUM 50 logged dives, preferably in similar conditions.
- Divers with less than 50 logged might be advised to book a private guide, for which there will be an additional charge.
If our dive crew feel any guest(s) do not have the relevant skills or experience to dive the more challenging sites safely, they may advise the person(s) to sit out some dives.
Generally, our Galapagos itineraries are not ideally suited for non-divers or snorkellers; Although there are some areas that are suitable for snorkelling, many of the dive sites we visit have strong currents and high surge in the shallows near the islands, with lots of sharp rocks underwater, making it extremely hazardous for swimming or snorkelling, especially around Wolf & Darwin. Additionally, with the exception of the scheduled land tours which are included in the liveaboard itinerary, island visits are prohibited or not viable.
Please check with our reservations team if you are interested in joining a Galapagos Master itinerary as a non-diver.
The Galapagos Islands straddle the equator and weather is roughly divided into two seasons; ‘warm’ and ‘dry’. The warm season, generally begins in December and has average daytime temperature of 23°C (75°F) with daily rain showers and cloudier skies. The dry season, typically beginning in late May/ early June, brings cooler temperatures with an average of 21°C (70°F) with local rain showers generally confined to the highlands of the larger islands. Evening temperatures can drop to just 15°C (59°F); therefore we advise guests to bring warm clothing for the cooler evenings.
Water temperatures in the Galapagos Islands range from 16°-26°C (61°-79°F) with there being a significant difference between the Southern and Northern regions.
Temperatures around Wolf & Darwin in the North are fairly consistent and relatively warm, averaging around 24°-25°C (75°-77°F) throughout the year. However, around the Southern and Central areas there is a much greater variance in water temperatures which can drop to 15°C (59°F) or lower.
Thermoclines are to be expected throughout the year and divers are advised to bring suitable thermal protection for all expected temperatures. Recommended wetsuit thickness is 5mm-7mm with additional layers (shorty / skinsuit /vest / hood) for cooler waters and gloves for warmth and support in strong currents.
Ecuador's official language is Spanish and the country is is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
The local currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar (USD). Larger hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants will normally accept Visa and Mastercard for which a charge of 4 – 10% may be levied.
While in major cities, cell phone and internet coverage is generally very good. However, in more rural areas, there may be no signal or it may be intermittent and slow.
There are limited medical facilities on the Galapagos Islands: San Cristobal island has a well-equipped public hospital, but Santa Cruz island only has a basic hospital. Therefore, in the event of a medical emergency, evacuation to the mainland may be necessary. Please ensure your insurance includes emergency evacuation by air ambulance.
Mainland health facilities in major cities such as Quito and Guayaquil are better equipped than those in the Galapagos Islands, although the services and facilities provided may not be as sophisticated as Westerners are used to.
Normal precautions should be followed with food in order to prevent stomach upsets and travellers should drink boiled or bottled water only whilst on land.
There is one (1) recompression chamber in the Galapagos Islands which is located in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz within 5 minutes by car from the harbour.
Please bear in mind that Darwin and Wolf Islands are extremely remote being over 278 km (173 miles) northwest of Santa Cruz, which is approximately 16-17 hours cruising time.
We strongly urge guests to dive conservatively at all times and ensure they have suitable insurance that will cover trip curtailment as well as costs for emergency evacuation and treatment.
During Your Trip
We regret that we are unable to offer any diving courses on Galapagos Master.
Guests who are not Advanced Open Water certified (or equivalent) at the time of booking, or would like to become certified to dive with Enriched Air Nitrox, are advised to complete their training before the start of their liveaboard.
The Galápagos Islands archipelago is huge, stretching 450 kilometres (280 miles) from northwest to southeast, Darwin Island to Española Island, and covering a total area of 45,000 km2 (17,375 sq mi) of ocean. An extensive amount of non-stop cruising time is required to cover the distances between some sites, although this will mostly be over night on the longer stretches.
The following are a rough indication of the average cruising times that can be expected
- San Cristobal to Baltra/ Santa Cruz: 6-7 hours
- Baltra/ Santa Cruz to Darwin: 18-20 hours
- Wolf Island to Fernandina: 15 hours
- Fernandina to Vicente Punta Roca: 2.5 hours
- Vicente Punta Roca to Cousins’ Rock: 10 hours
- Cousins’ Rock to Baltra/ Santa Cruz: 3 hours
All the dives throughout the liveaboard itinerary will be guided by an instructor/naturalist guide; In accordance with Galapagos National Park regulations, all divers must dive with a guide at ALL TIMES.
For every dive, you will use Galapagos Master's two 'pangas' to get to and from the dive site's entry and exit points. These are RIHB tenders from which you will roll backwards in to the water. After your dive, your tank will be lifted back into the panga and you will board via its ladder at the stern, or with assistance from the side.
Technical diving and dives which exceed recreational no-decompression limits are not allowed due to the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands, local diving regulations, and insurance requirements.
Local regulations in Galapagos stipulate that rebreather divers MUST dive with a dedicated rebreather guide and remain within standard recreational dive times and depth limits. Additionally, it is not possible for CCR and OC divers to dive together.
We regret that, as a generally rule, we are unable to provide guides or other support for rebreather divers on Galapagos Master.
However, on request, and with enough advance notice, we may be able to facilitate provision of an authorised rebreather guide, cylinders and sofnolime for groups of rebreather divers, for which additional costs will apply.
Please check with our reservations team if you have any questions or require further information about rebreather diving with Master Liveaboards in the Galapagos.
Essential equipment for diving in Galapagos:
- Gloves (for thermal protection and to hold on to rocks in current).
- Full length 5mm or 7mm wetsuit.
- Additional thermal layers, e.g. skin-suit, neoprene vest and/or hood (water temperatures can drop to 15°C or even lower).
We do not recommend reef hooks for diving in Galapagos as the currents are too strong!
Please refer to Galapagos Onboard Extras for details of equipment that is available to rent.
PLEASE NOTE: Rental equipment is NOT stored on the boat. Pre-booking and pre-payment of rental equipment is strongly recommended to ensure sizes are available upon arrival.
Rental equipment procedures onboard
After embarkation, while the boat is still in port, requested rental equipment will be brought to the vessel for guests to try on.
If additional equipment or different sizes are required, the crew can go ashore to the office to get the needed items. Once the boat has left San Cristobal it is not possible to provide extra equipment.
The standard cylinders on Galapagos Master are 11 Litres (80 cuft) aluminium, which are included in the liveaboard price.
We have a limited number of 10 Litre steel, 13 Litre aluminium (100 cuft) and 15 Litre steel cylinders available for an additional charge, which must be pre-ordered.
All cylinders have convertible valves which can fit either Yoke (INT) or DIN regulators.
There are two land visits included on our Master the Galapagos liveaboard itineraries:
- The first will normally be on day 2 where you will have the opportunity to take a guided tour on North Seymour Island to observe land and marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and a variety of other wildlife.
- For your final full day on board, Galapagos Master will stop at Santa Cruz in the afternoon for a tour through the highlands to see the Giant Tortoises in their natural environment after which you will have some time to explore Puerto Ayora town before continuing with the cruise back to San Cristobal.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to National Park regulations and restrictions, it is NOT possible to go ashore at any other locations that are covered by this scuba diving liveaboard itinerary.
Please note: Due to the 2018 ban on plastic bottles in the Galapagos Islands, diet sodas are also impossible to source as they are generally NOT available in returnable glass bottles. With this in mind, we can not fulfil requests for Diet Coke, Coke Light, Coke Zero, Pepsi Light or any other diet sodas on board Galapagos Master.
Meals are provided on a full board basis including a light breakfast, full breakfast, lunch and dinner served buffet style in the indoor, air-conditioned dining area. A complimentary range of soft drinks, fruit juices and teas are available at all times as well as instant and fresh brewed coffee, snacks and fresh fruit. Beer (lager), wine, and spirits are available for an additional charge.
We offer a choice of International and locally inspired cuisine and can usually cater to most special dietary requirements*, with sufficient advance notice.
*While we always do our best to accommodate dietary requests, it can be very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to find certain products that are common elsewhere, particularly for restrictive diets.
Please refer to the 'Life on Board' section of our Galapagos Trip Info for further information.
Most power outlets onboard Galapagos Master are 110V / 220V Type B (US 3 pin) sockets. In the camera charging and preparation areas there are also 2 pin sockets that can fit Type A, C and F (US and European) plugs.
Please bring any adapters you may need to charge your electronics as there are none available on the boat.
A hairdryer is available in each of the guest cabins on Galapagos Master.
There is no satellite internet or wi-fi available on Galapagos Master.
Mobile phones that have international roaming or a local SIM will have sporadic connectivity around most of the islands where there may be a weak or intermittent phone signal in some areas. However, in the more remote areas there is no coverage at all, especially en-route to and from and when at Wolf & Darwin.
There is a satellite phone on board which can be used in case of an emergency (charges apply).
Since 2018, a ban has been in place on single use plastics in Galapagos. The policy introduced and enforced by the Galapagos National Park Authority states that travellers and service providers can not use or introduce:
- Non-returnable beverage containers, i.e. plastic water and soda bottles, etc.
- Single use plastic bags
- Other plastic packaging
- Styrofoam food containers
- Plastic straws.
Master Liveaboards is dedicated to responsible tourism and environmental conservation. We encourage all guests to consider the environmental impact of items they would normally bring with them and to only use eco-friendly products wherever possible.
Additionally, all visitors to the Galapagos Islands are expected to respect the natural environment and comply with Galapagos National Park Regulations at all times.
These fees are mandatory for all visitors to the Galapagos Islands and can not be pre-paid:
• 20 USD Transit Control Card (payable at the INGALA Booth in Quito or Guayaquil Airport prior to domestic flight check-in)
• 100 USD Galapagos National Park Fees (payable in USD CASH ONLY upon arrival in San Cristobal or Baltra)
Please note that we are unable to accept credit or debit card payments onboard Galapagos Master.
The preferred currency onboard Galapagos Master is USD, although we can also can accept cash payments in EUR or GBP. However, due to extremely unfavourable exchange rates in the Galapagos, we strongly recommend that you only bring USD cash into Galapagos for any incidental payments both on land and the boat. Guests are advised to bring sufficient cash USD for any optional extras and tips.
We also suggest pre-paying for rental equipment and nitrox to reduce the amount of cash you will need to bring with you.