Written and updated on Thursday, August 27th 2020. If you would like to have a fresher update, please follow this link onto our more recent news report written and published on November 18th.
Ecuador is open for tourism business, and the Galapagos Islands are also now open, following lockdowns in many countries worldwide earlier on this year. But as a visitor to the archipelago, what can you expect? Here we will fill you in on the Covid-19 situation, arrival in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands Covid 19 news, the current situation in the islands and requirements of visitors. Things are changing quickly so be sure to check again before you travel too!
Ecuador was put in place lockdown by mid-March, and restrictions started to loosen up in June. The virus is currently considered to be under control across the nation, and hospitals are handling cases.
Subject to the regular visa restrictions, nationals from any country are able to visit Ecuador. If you present a negative PCR test that was taken within 10 days before the flight you do not have to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival. Please note the PRC test is for the presence of the Covid-19 at that time, NOT the antibody test. There are no exceptions to this for any visitors. In the case that an arriving passenger does not have a negative PCR test from up to 10 days before entering Ecuador, they must undertake a test in the airport at their own expense and comply with quarantine at their hotel until the test results are received. If the test is negative the visitor can carry on with their trip, but if not they will be required to isolate for 10 days. All costs of quarantine (food, accommodation, travel) are paid for by the visitor. In addition to this, on arrival at the Ecuador mainland, passengers are required to complete/sign a Traveler’s Health Card, and they must complete a special immigration form agreeing to comply with provisions established by the authorities.
On arrival in the Galapagos Islands, passengers must have a negative PCR test carried out up to 96 hours (4 days) before entering the Galapagos Islands. If having a test taken in Ecuador it must be taken before travelling to the Galapagos Islands and must be from a laboratory recognized by the Quality Assurance Agency for Health Services and Prepaid Medicine (ACESS). Those that do not comply will be required to self-isolate at their hotel until a test is obtained.
In addition, visitors arriving at the Galapagos must have confirmation of their accommodation that they are staying at, from their tour operator. This is important as tourism services are being monitored, and only those that have a tourism registry and established biosecurity protocols are operating. Mandatory health insurance is required for foreign tourists.
Visitors must have a traffic control card (Ingala) which is issued by the Special Regime of Galapagos government. The visitor must also have evidence of their round-trip ticket back to the mainland. For those starting their Ecuador trip in the Galapagos Islands, a health declaration form is required (starting elsewhere in Ecuador, the form will be completed on arrival).
Currently, Galapagos Islands cruises are not yet up and running again. This is because though many cruises did have bookings for the summer, they were mostly left with just a very few passengers booked on each cruise due to people requesting reschedules. Cruises need to be economically viable to operate, and so most cruises will run only when they secure a minimum of eight passengers booked. For some cruise operators, this minimum number is 10. The maximum number allowed for cruises at the current time is 16 guests. Cruises have implemented hygiene protocols to lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission and most operators are working closely with their clients interested in coming in trying to fully confirm passengers to be able to open up dates and start sailing again.
We and other tour operators are still receiving many reschedule requests for cruises later on this year. With this in mind it is likely that cruises will start operating in late October at the earliest. The more likely case scenario that Galapagos cruises will be up and running again sometime in November and in December of this year, when hopefully requests for reschedules get lower.
Restrictions are gradually being eased. If you are interested in taking a Galapagos Islands cruise, we recommend you get in touch with us and we can look for the next dates available and confirmed for your preferred boat/s.
The current state of play for Galapagos land-based options is better. The reason for this is that hotel-based Galapagos tours do not have a minimum number of people required booked to go ahead. If you’re looking for a Galapagos Islands holiday in the next few months, this is probably the best option for you. We have bookings confirmed for hotel-based tours throughout the fall, and at this time based on the current conditions we are recommending booking hotel based trip for no earlier than mid October, hoping of course things by that time will be closer to normal and all inter-island speed boats, as well as day tour vessels will be operating on a regular basis.
Hotel based activities that are part of our land-based Galapagos trips are required to take place with no more than 10 guests in the case that activities are with a group. In other cases, activities are run privately.
All visitor sites in the Galapagos Islands are now open. If on a land-based trip, some of these are not accessible, due to distance. However, on a hotel-based Galapagos trip it is possible to visit a wide range of different sites and undertake various activities. If you decide to visit the Galapagos Islands on a land-based trip you will still see plenty of wildlife! What is more, there are few tourists around at the current time too. There are a few cruises which already have operations dates fully confirmed for the coming months including December, one of those cruises is our luxury yacht the Natural Paradise Cruise, which will be complying with departures from December forward as they now have groups fully confirmed to come for their holidays. Other areas of Ecuador are also open, sites such as the Amazon Rainforest have started to receive their first visitors, one of our best-selling tours with Sacha Lodge are operating in normal conditions but at 50% of the capacity and implementing strict hygiene protocols.
Airports were operating at about 50% of their capacity at the time of writing. There are several international flights arriving in both Quito and Guayaquil each day, and there are at this time about five to six flights connecting these two cities with the Galapagos each week, normal frequencies before the pandemic were of 5 to 6 flights daily, not having flights to Galapagos on every day of the week has also proven to be a challenge for some cruises, as boats have their departure days set, and in some cases no flights will be available for them to take their passengers to the islands. Airlines are expected to increase the number of flights following an increase in demand, it is expected that by late November there will be more frequent local flights to and from the islands. We are able to assist you with these.
At the time of writing there were two new cases of Covid-19 in the Galapagos Islands officially reported on August 26th, apart from these two new cases, the archipelago has been Covid-19 free for approximately four months. The islands had a total of 112 cases confirmed as per official reports since March.
As is the case in many other countries around the world, facemasks are required in Ecuador and this includes in the Galapagos Islands. Facemasks are required at all times, including in vehicles.
Most places in Ecuador, including Quito and in the Galapagos, there is a curfew at night. The curfew times vary by destination. In Quito, this is currently from 9pm to 5am, and in many other places, curfew hours are 11pm to 5am. In the Galapagos Islands the curfew is 11pm to 5am Monday to Sunday. Curfews are expected to be lifted in the country by the end of September.
Most places are now open, with the exception of bars and schools. Restaurants, shops, and public transport are limiting capacity. Most restaurants are not permitted to sell alcoholic drinks from Friday to Sunday.
If you want to come to the Galapagos soon, we recommend a land-based tour. These tours will most likely start running in the next few weeks, and you’ll have the advantage that there are not many other tourists around.
If you have a trip booked with us for the coming weeks or months, our team members in charge will be updating you about the current conditions in the islands and advising you as to which dates will be open for you to take your trip, that will depend on the conditions in the archipelago as well as on the different cruise and tour operators. If you don't have a trip booked, and you want to plan or book your Galapagos Islands cruise or land-based trip for next year, we can assist, we have early bird deals and great discounts in all our products. As Galapagos Islands experts, we are well placed to help you, and to answer your Covid-19 queries too. Why not get in touch today to book your Galapagos adventure?