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In a fast-changing pandemic environment we are regularly getting asked about the possibilities of travelling to the Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands at this time. The good news is that Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are both open for business. Many potential visitors are worried about how the situation is on the ground, and how Covid-19 may affect their holiday. This update should answer the majority of your questions – but if you still have other concerns, please do get in touch and we will be happy to answer them.
Both the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian mainland are completely open, and it is now possible to visit all national parks and reserves. The majority of attractions and museums are open, as are city parks and trails. Restaurants are open, but social distancing protocols are in place and capacity has been reduced to allow for this. Hotels are also open in most cases and they also have protocols in place to protect the safety of visitors and employees. Earlier in the year there were strict curfews in place, but these have now been lifted. All of this applies to both the mainland and the Galapagos. Flights are operating daily between Quito and Guayaquil as well as to the Galapagos Islands without restrictions on numbers.
You can expect that when going into restaurants, malls, and other indoor settings that you will have your temperature taken and you should use hand sanitizer. You will also be expected to wear a mask at all times. The rules may well differ to your home country in this regard. In Ecuador, the rule is that you have to wear masks inside restaurants, in private cars and in public transport as well as anywhere else out of the home. Failing to do so will result in a fine. The vast majority of the Ecuadorian population are taking coronavirus seriously and are socially distancing, and it is expected that visitors respect social distancing protocols as well.
In terms of managing the virus, Quito is the most affected place with regard to the number of people infected, but life is more or less back to normal and infections are not high. All hospitals are coping well and there is availability within them across the country as a result of the low number of infections. The temporary centers the government implemented to receive infected patients are now closed. Ecuador is doing a lot better than neighboring countries with handling the pandemic.
Compared with many other countries, entering Ecuador is relatively easy at the current time. On arrival you will be expected to complete a special immigration form stating that you will comply with Covid-19 requirements. You will need to present a negative RT-PCR test that was carried out in the past 10 days. If you do not have these test results you will be expected to get a test performed at the airport and stay in the hotel until the result is received. If negative, your trip can continue, but if not you must stay in isolation for 10 days.
In addition to the usual entry requirements for the Galapagos Islands (identification document, round-air trip ticket) you will also be expected to show an RT-PCR test with negative results that was undertaken within 96 hours of entering the Galapagos Islands. The test can be performed at any laboratory of your choice in your city before flying to Ecuador and Galapagos. In the case that the test is carried out in Ecuador, it must be from a laboratory recognized by ACESS, and passengers must wait at their hotel until the negative test is confirmed. If the test is positive then the visitor will need to isolate for 10 days. You will also need mandatory health insurance.
Trips to the Galapagos Islands must be in establishments that are registered for tourism and that have protocols in place for biosecurity. A safe passage must be issued 24 hours in advance by the operator.
One of the major advantages of travelling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands right now is the fact that there are fewer visitors. This means that both in mainland Ecuador and on the Galapagos Islands there is plenty of space for those that do come to visit. No sites are busy right now. This means that you will get to enjoy your trip without jostling with other visitors to see and do everything you want to. In many ways this makes now the perfect time to visit Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
As well as uncrowded tourist sites, another advantage is that you may be able to get good deals. After all, those operating in the travel and tourism industry in Ecuador are eager to welcome visitors back.
Tours on the Ecuador mainland are easy to organize at the current time, due to the low level of visitors. This means that there is a lot of availability of accommodation and plenty of scope for visiting all of the attractions. Good options include tours of the Ecuadorian Andes region, or rainforest tours, or coastal Ecuadorian tours, or a tour that includes a mixture of all of these options. There are no restrictions, and everything is open and ready to go. Amazon rainforest tours and lodges are operating based on demand.
Galapagos Islands cruises are somewhat challenging at the current time, due to low tourism numbers. This is making it difficult to get bookings for cruises confirmed because boat operators do need a certain number of participants to make it economically viable to run the tour. However, a Galapagos Islands land-based tour can be a very attractive alternative. Staying on one or multiple islands you can still get to see plenty of Galapagos visitors’ sites and a wide range of the wildlife in the archipelago. This is a good option to consider in the current scenario, though you should be aware that in a few cases some activities may not operate if there are insufficient passengers (e.g. day trips to other islands). For those that do want to take a Galapagos Islands cruise you can consider booking ahead for 2021 or 2022 or alternatively, get in touch and we can see what we can do for you. About 8 - 10 cruise operators do have cruises running in the next few weeks. If you are traveling with a group, this is the perfect time to book, you will meet the minimum number of guests required for the ships to operate and you might end up with the whole boat to yourselves!
It is our recommendation that because at times the situation can evolve quite quickly in your home country, you opt to take a well-organized tour with an established and reliable operator. At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders, we are being 100% flexible with the payment of initial deposits, and our policies are set up to allow for rescheduling for any time in the future for free. It is also worth ensuring your tour operator follows safety and hygiene protocols for your own peace of mind.
If you want to plan or book your Ecuador tour or Galapagos Islands trip, we are well placed to assist. We can also answer your questions about Covid-19 here. Why not get in touch today to book your trip of a lifetime?