One of the questions that comes up often for us at Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders is about getting cell coverage and internet while on a visit to the archipelago. Generally, the answer is that coverage is rather bad, if there is any at all. However, here are some of the most commonly asked questions/answers about cell coverage in the Galapagos Islands, to help you plan your trip according to your needs.
The answer to this, is that there is some limited cell coverage in the Galapagos Islands. However, this is very spotty. If you are on a Galapagos Islands cruise you should not expect to have much cell service at all for the duration of your trip. There is no cell coverage over the ocean, and that is where you will be spending a good deal of your time. There is also no cell coverage on the uninhabited islands of the Galapagos. If you are on a hotel-based Galapagos trip, the hotels may offer an internet service, depending on where you are staying.
There are some islands in the archipelago where you are more likely to get decent coverage than others. These islands are the ones that are inhabited. You are likely to experience some coverage on Baltra, Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, San Cristobal Island, and on Floreana Island. However, you should not expect to have much cell coverage outside of the main towns on these islands. On Santa Cruz you might expect the best coverage around Puerto Ayora, and on San Cristobal, around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. On Isabela Island, the best/only coverage is in and around Puerto Villamil. The cell coverage in these places works well most of the time but can sometimes be a little unreliable.
In Ecuador, the major cell companies are Movistar and Claro, so if you are thinking of getting a local SIM card, one of these two would be best. Evidence suggests that Claro tends to have somewhat better coverage in the Galapagos Islands, so this is probably the best one to go for. The easiest place to pick up a SIM card is on the Ecuadorian mainland. There are shops at Quito’s airport that offer these. Do not forget that if you want to use a different SIM card in your phone, the phone must be unlocked in order that you can do this. Some phone operators in your home country may not permit this. If that is the case with your provider, you might also consider picking up a cheap phone with which you can use an Ecuadorian SIM card.
One option for staying contactable while on your Galapagos Islands cruise is to take a satellite phone with you. Possibilities for this include either renting or purchasing a satellite phone or asking in advance if you might be able to use the cruise’s satellite phone. In some instances, they may be able to allow you to use this, and you might be able to get a flat rate charge. This might work out cheaper than either renting or buying your own satellite phone.
Having a satellite phone with you is not a guarantee that you will be able to make/receive calls, as they can sometimes be unreliable, unfortunately.
The majority of Galapagos Islands cruises do not offer Wi-Fi. If they do have it, you can expect it to be unreliable. Where cruises do offer Wi-Fi, it comes at a price, and it can sometimes be rather expensive. We can help you with booking a cruise that offers this service, but beware it may not work well, so you won’t want to rely on it.
A visit to the Galapagos Islands is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so ideally when on your Galapagos Islands trip you can switch off your cell phone and not have to worry about work or other calls. If you can do this, this is our recommendation so that you can get the most out of your Galapagos vacation. We obviously realize that this is unfortunately not always possible for everyone, depending on personal circumstances. If you do need to be contactable while on your trip, we recommend either getting a Claro SIM, or booking on a trip that can offer satellite internet or Wi-Fi.
If you want to plan or book your Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based trip, we can assist. We have a wealth of experience and are Galapagos Islands experts, so get in touch today to book your Galapagos Islands trip.