Getting there & away
Flights from the mainland arrive at two airports: Isla Baltra just north of Santa Cruz and Isla San Cristóbal. There are almost an equal number of flights to Baltra and San Cristóbal. Every two or three years the Baltra airport undergoes repairs and all flights are diverted to San Cristóbal for up to several months.
Two major airlines flying to the Galápagos Islands are TAME and Aerogal. TAME operates two morning flights daily from Quito via Guayaquil to both the Isla Baltra airport, just over an hour away from Puerto Ayora by public transportation and the San Cristóbal airport. AeroGal has three flights daily from Quito to Isla Baltra and San Cristóbal via Guayaquil. All return flights are in the early afternoons of the same days. Icaro (Guayaquil 04-229 4265; www.icaro.com.ec) also flies to San Cristóbal three times a week.
Flights from Guayaquil cost high season/low season $344/300 round-trip and take 1½ hours. From Quito, flights cost $390/344 round-trip and take 3¼ hours, due to the layover in Guayaquil (you do not have to get off the plane). It’s also possible to fly from Quito and return to Guayaquil or vice versa. There is a limit of 20kg of checked luggage (per person) on the flight to the Galápagos.
Ecuadorian nationals can fly from Guayaquil for half the price foreigners pay, and Galápagos residents pay half that again. Some foreign residents of Ecuador or workers in the islands are also eligible, so if you have a residence visa you should make inquiries.
There is a Hercules military plane that flies to the islands every other Wednesday that occasionally has room for foreign passengers. Make inquiries at Avenida de la Prensa 3570, a few hundred meters from the Quito airport (ask for Departamento de Operaciones, Fuerza Aerea del Ecuador). Flights go from Quito via Guayaquil and stop at both San Cristóbal and Baltra. Foreigners pay about $300 round-trip for either destination.
Flights to the Galápagos are sometimes booked solid well in advance, but you’ll often find that there are many no-shows. Travel agencies book blocks of seats for their all-inclusive Galápagos Islands tours. They will release the seats on the day of the flight when there is no longer any hope of selling their tour.