Galapagos - Formalities
Formalities requirements in the Galapagos can change on a daily basis. Noonsite endevours to post details of the latest known situation.
It is not permitted to anchor anywhere but in an official port.
EMERGENCY STOP - 72 hours
Every vessel has the right to request an emergency stop (whether it be for mechanical, medical or other reasons). However clearly the authorities in the Galapagos are very strict on permitting boats this privelige. It is up to the harbourmaster to decide the reality of the emergency and to evaluate the time he will allow.
If you are pemitted an emergency stop, you will need to use an agent to complete the necessary paperwork.
If you plan to simply stop in the Galapagos to re-fuel, then the same clearance procedure for a 20 day stop will have to be followed (with the same fees). It is not possible to obtain fuel unless you are registered in the system and have authorisation from the Capitaneria. After clearance is completed, obtaining fuel should take one working day. Note that Isabela does not have fuel.
Do not use this strategy as a free pass to "see the sights" as this will only cause problems and quite possibly bring stricter controls into play and prevent those from stopping in an emergency who really need to.
If a yacht stays longer than the allowed time to deal with the emergency, they must pay all the usual fees.
A 20-DAY STOPOVER / ONE PORT - without an Autographo
If you decide to go for this option, it is very important that your zarpe from Panama/Mainland Ecuador does not have a Galapagos port as the destination. It must state an alternative destination, such as Marquesas (or wherever port is next after the Galapagos), as this allows the Port Captain to grant up to 20 days on a "detour" stopover (as stipulated by Article 50 - see below) for a boat in transit (should he wish).
Yachts with a Galapagos port of entry as their zarpe destination will likely have problems if they don't have an Autographo and may well be turned away and/or fined (yachts were denied entry into Puerto Vilamil in 2016, and others only given a 2-3 day stay at the same port).
The Galapagos does not recognise or allow the normal 72 hour breathing space to rest etc. before checking in. They allow 12 hours only, however in the first 12 hours you can take on provisions and water.
After this time the port captain will grant permission for a stop, the length of which is at his discretion, however is normally a maximum of 20 days if you have arrived without an Autographo (cruising permit). Port Captains do change however, and some are more "difficult" than others.
It appears that the length of stay may depend on the number of yachts already anchored in the bay. As the Galapagos becomes an important stopover for yachts on passage, the length of stay applied to individual yachts may have to be reduced to allow for the limited anchoring space and facilities, and the ever-increasing number of yachts.
Disadvantages of the No Autographo Option:
- You will be restricted to the port of entry only and are not allowed to travel to other ports with your own boat.
- There is a risk the Port Captain will deny entry on arrival, or only give you a short stay (2-3 days instead of 20 days).
A 30+ DAY STOP / MULTIPLE PORTS - with an Autographo
Yachts arriving with an Autographo in hand, are given up to 30 days with the possibility of a 30 day extension, and may be able to visit the following inhabited ports:
- Pto. B. Moreno, Isla San Cristobal (Wreck Bay)
- Pto. Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz (Academy Bay)
- Pto. Villamil, Isla Isabela
- Pto. Seymour, Isla Baltra
- Pto. Ibarra, Isla Floreana
Cruisers who have obtained an Autographo will automatically be issued a National Zarpe for the Galapagos.
For more information on Autographos see Documents.
These are the provisions of Article 50 of the Galapagos Law (see Documents).
Arrival - Ports of Entry
Boats must proceed directly to one of the official Ports of Entry: Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz, Puerto Baquerizo in San Cristobal and Puerto Villamill in Isabela (see note below). These are the only ports where boats may clear in.
Do your research carefully as to the best port of entry based on your requirements.
Note on Isabela: Isabela is "not officially" a Port of Entry and there are hardly any services there (no fuel or ATM) and no Immigration official. In the past cruisers have reported that clearing-in here has not presented any problems and the local agent ('JC') handles the paperwork, however in 2016 there have been reports of a new Port Captain, entry being denied and only a few days stay being granted for those without an autographo.
Yachts arriving should not stop anywhere but a Port of Entry, nor must anyone go ashore in the national park without an official guide (except for a handful of sites where access without a guide is permitted - see Restrictions). Yachts may be boarded at any time to check if one has a guide. The penalty is a fine for stopping at outer islands without permission. All the local boats have guides on board who are in radio contact with the port authority and will immediately report any yacht breaking the regulations.
Clearance Procedure - Agents
Under current law in all ports of Ecuador it is mandatory to use an agent to check in with the port captain for any stay of more than 1 day. That includes the Galapagos islands.
The agent acts as a go-between for your dealings with the port captain and he will collect the fees for your entry into the harbour.
Note: If wanting to organise an Autographo, then be sure to secure an agent at least 2 months prior to arrival, as it normally takes 6 weeks to process all paperwork. If not, it may still be beneficial to contact an agent in advance of your visit so that your details are in the system and you are aware of all costs. This is not mandatory but it is advisable to have previously arranged an agent. The Agent's fees vary. This fee is sometimes negotiable and it's up to you to decide which agent you take.
It is important to get a clear statement from the agent which charges his fee covers. See fees section for the various charges applicable in the Galapagos.
On completion of the clearing in procedure the agent must give you the original "factura", which is a receipt from the port captain detailing the fees charged. It should not be a photocopy.
Noonsite does not recommend any particular agent but there is a list of Clearance agents here. It can be useful to look at reports from cruisers for their various experiences.
Other Clearance Procedures
You will be boarded by a number of officials either all at once or at different times, and usually on the same day as each other - but sometimes not. Be patient - your agent will guide you through the procedure. Officials will include Galapagos National Park officials, an official from the Ministry of Environment, a Doctor and an official from the Harbour Master. Expect anything from 6-10 officials in total.
This report from a Galapagos visit in March 2014 gives you a good idea what each official is looking for/requires.
It is possible the Navy will come on board to do an inspection, and check for foreign food, animals, guns and contraband.
Environmental Checks (GNP Inspection)
As of January 2014, all yacht arrivals will be subject to an Environmental Risk Assessment. These new rules give approval to conduct an interview with the captain on arrival and will include a hull inspection of the boat by a diver from the GNP. It is, therefore, advisable to have the hull thoroughly (perhaps professionally) cleaned prior to leaving your previous port and to even have a certificate showing it has been done, if possible. Also do your own hull inspection (if conditions allow) before arrival.
A certificate showing when the last coating of anti-fouling was applied may also be requested.
The cost of the GNP inspection is borne by the visitor and is charged per person on board. The ministerial approval also gives the GNP the authority to demand that if a yacht fails to meet their requirements (reasonable level of risk), they must leave the Galapagos Marine Reserve. If assessed (and it can take up to 3 days to know if you have passed or not), you may be required to exit the marine reserve (40 miles offshore), carry out remedial cleaning work on your hull and re-enter.
Additional note: If moving between islands, be sure to check your hull before arriving in the next port as you may be inspected on arrival there as well (for example going from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz).
The black water system will be checked and a notice must be posted below saying "Do not discharge Black waters into the sea" (this must be near the engine room).
A second notice must be posted on the outside stating "Do not throw garbage overboard".
The fresh food on board may be inspected.
A fumigation certificate must be produced, and the fumigation must have been done with an approved product. Your certificate may or may not be deemed sufficient. If not, your boat will have to be sprayed in the Galapagos for an additional charge.
Also to be carried on board:-
1) Absorbent towels, for fuel, in case of a spillage.
2) Biodegradable or Ecofriendly soap.
See Noonsite/Galapagos/Documents page below.
A new requirement for 2015 is that all crew must be seen by a doctor who will verify they are fit and healthy. There is no cost for this check, however exactly how it is carried out has still yet to be confirmed.
The Immigration office must be visited next. It is advisable to use your agent for immigration although the procedures are simple and previously it was possible to do it yourself. Some agents will include immigration in their fee. It is best to check.
Office hours are quite flexible, but permits are difficult to obtain at weekends or on public holidays, so boats arriving at such time may wait to complete formalities on the first working day.
Extending your Stay
If arriving without an Autographo, after 20 days, special permission is required to extend your stay from the port captain, which the agent can assist with. There is normally no extra charge from the port captain to stay longer than 20 days, if the need is genuine, and he may come and inspect the problem to see for himself.
The port captain will issue a domestic zarpe for the next port. The agent will handle the clearing out so let him know a couple of days before to be sure it all goes smoothly.
Always take time to look through the reports from cruisers - adjacent - to see the latest information we have received from those visiting the Galapagos.
Last updated March 2016.
Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond your stay. You will need colour copies of the passports and ships papers. Take your crew with you.
It is the "vessel" that gets 20 days leave to remain, crew visas are country dependent.
Nationals of the following countries require a visa and should approach the Consulate of Ecuador of their residence (list may change without notice): Algeria, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Lybia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine Authority, Panama, People's Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.
Nationals of other countries do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days or will be granted a T-3 card on arrival also valid for 90 days.
See Fees for current immigration charges.
Crew leaving the ship in Galapagos do not have their passports stamped when the boat departs. The passport gets stamped when the crew leaves by plane. There is no other paperwork.
Last updated November 2016.
Firearms must be declared and will be sealed on board.
If ordering spare parts to be delivered to the Galapagos, expect long delays with Ecuador customs. Cruisers have reported waiting 3 weeks for an express delivery, claiming “yacht in transit” will save some duty costs, but will also slow the process further. Duty charges might run to 33% or more depending on the item.
See also the Restrictions section on this page.
Last updated November 2016.
Your agent will list the documents required from you. These will include:-
Passport details, boat registration details, fumigation certificate, black water certification for the boat (can be a statement from the skipper regarding presence of holding tank).
Autographo or Cruising Permit
Those who wish to stop longer in the archipelago (longer than 20 days), and/or visit more than their Port of Entry on their own boat, must obtain an autographo (cruising permit). These can be obtained for between 1 and 5 ports and must be applied for through an agent.
The procedure for obtaining an autographo is lengthy (between 6 and 8 weeks) but can be done by email and fax and many cruisers say it was well worth the effort. Note that the authorities have a quota for yachts, of between four and six per month, although these quotas change from year to year. Therefore applications for autographos may not always be successful. Apparently large crews of more than four or five are not desired, as they are suspected of being on an unofficial charter. Any type of chartering by foreign yachts in the national park is not permitted.
Each Autographo is always an individual permit and itineraries are customised. Some agents for example, will "allow" Floreana as one of the 5 ports if applying for a 5 port autographo, others not. Also note that each port on the itinerary can only be visited once, it is not a permit to just cruise wherever you want.
On each island there are limited "free" sites where cruisers can visit without an official guide. However, if intending to explore the National Park in depth, an Official Naturalist Guide has to be hired at a fee of $200 per person per day, and has to be paid to the national park + all the administration fees. The process is long and expensive. There are about 40 places around the islands where tourists with guides may go ashore.
The regulations for pleasure craft are very precise:
- According to Article 50 of the Special Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Galapagos province of 18 of March 1998, every foreign, non-commercial vessel in transit, with a maximum of 10 persons, can visit any one of the inhabited ports for up to a maximum of 20 days. To visit the National Park areas, they can leave their ship in any selected port and utilise the services of a local tourist operator. In such a case, each person is required to pay to the Galapagos National Park Service a park entrance fee of $US100 for every person older than 12 years and US$50 for children under 12. The Park entrance fee does not include the tariffs related to anchorage fees, which must be paid to the port captain, nor any payments required by the immigration authorities.
Those who do not intend to visit any of the National Park areas will be considered to be a vessel in transit. This comes under the international rules that permit the entry of vessels to international ports for a minimum time of 72 hours and therefore would not require additional procedures to enter Galapagos territorial waters.
- Should an interested person wish to visit the National Park areas with their own vessel, they are subject to other regulations as follows:
a) They must have the entry permit from the relevant naval organization to enter territorial waters. According to the stipulations of the article 138 of the Galapagos National Park Administrative Statute, vessels with a capacity of up to 30 persons must have the authorisation of the National Park Administration Office.
b) On arrival at the islands, they must inform the port captain and pay the correspondent tariffs for lights, buoys and anchorage fee. Additionally they must complete immigration formalities.
c) The visitor entry fee must be paid at the National Park office. They will receive an itinerary to the visitors sites within the park based on the availability due to site capacity standards.
d) Additionally, every vessel that wishes to visit National Park areas under this system must contract the services of a licensed guide authorised by the National Park Service. This guide will sleep on board and accompany the shore party BUT as no dinghy may be left on the shore, one crew member will be required to remain with the yacht.
e) According to article 142 of the mentioned statute, every vessel that comes to the Galapagos Islands must submit to quarantine inspections and present the fumigation certificate of the last port of call.
f) Changes in the original crew entering Galapagos is not permitted except in the case of emergencies.
Fumigation, Sanitation and Garbage Documents
The Ministry of Environment official is interested in fumigation and sanitation. He will want to see a fumigation certificate and a sanitation certificate.
You must have a fumigation certificate from the last port. Note however that fumigation certificates from Panama are no longer valid in the Galapagos, so you will have to have your vessel fumigated in the islands (see Fees). It must also be carried out with an approved product.
A sanitation certificate (black water holding tank confirmation) can be self-certified. This can be as simple as a statement from the skipper that the boat has a holding tank for sewage and black water. Make your own including details of your holding tanks then sign, date it and ideally boat stamp it. In addition, there must be posted below (near the engine compartment) a notice stating ' Do not discharge Black waters into the sea '
A certificate showing that the hull was professionally cleaned before leaving your previous port is also advisable.
Garbage needs to be divided into organic, recyclable or trash.
On the outside of the boat there must be a notice posted stating ' Do not throw garbage overboard'
Last updated October 2016.
Various fees need to be paid and do vary from port to port and agent to agent. The most expensive port appears to be Santa Cruz. All official expenses have to be paid in “cash” on the islands, paying with a Credit Card is not an option.
As a summary:-
For a 1 Island visit - Expect to pay around $600 to $700 for a yacht with 2 persons on board. Each additional person on board will incur an additional $100 National Parks permit fee.
For a 2-5 island visit - this requires an Autographo which only your agent can obtain. Total cost, including agent fees, should be approx. $1,200-$1,500 for a 2 person boat (excluding zarpe fees). Each additional person will cost $100 for the National Parks permit. Normally an Autographo is obtained via e-mail well in advance of your arrival.
In addition, there is a fee of $30 per boat ('migration fee') for moving between ports. This does not apply to a 1 island visit.
Break down of Clearance Fees
These are approximate, they do tend to vary a little depending on which agent you use:
- Port Captain Fee: US$12.50 per gross tonnage
- Clearance in and out: is US$25.00 each way
- Galapagos Migratory Cards: US$20 per person
- Quarantine/Introduce Species (ABG) inspection: US$100
- Diver for hull inspection: US$100
- Copies and transport for authorities: $50.
- Garbage disposal: $30.
A personal immigration card per person costs $15 and there are no costs for clearing out.
The choice of which agent you use is entirely yours to make. The fees for the agent are not fixed.
For a one-port stop (including port captain and Immigration, taxis and copies of passports), US$200-250 is the normal asking price for an average size yacht.
Agent fees for an autographo are between $450 - $650.
It is not uncommon to get fees reduced if you negotiate. If the fees asked for are unacceptable you may ask for another agent. Ask for a clear breakdown of which fees your agent is including in his total cost.
National Park Fees
There is an admission fee to the Galapagos National Park area of $100 per person ($50 per child under 12) and must be paid by anyone visiting the Park area. Ensure that your agent obtains your park pass and gives it to you to keep on board.
National Park Cruising Fees
This is $200 per person, per day. You will hear this high dollar figure quoted occasionally. This daily fee DOES NOT apply to the average cruiser who is moving from island to island, anchoring in the major ports. It only applies to (typically) larger luxury yachts who want to actually cruise the park areas outside the major ports.
These boats are also required to take on a licensed guide who will cost $350 or more per day for this service.
A fumigation fee of $70 may be charged on boats that stay longer than 72 hours. If yachts arrive without a fumigation certificate, the fee to obtain one in the Galapagos is $4 per metre of the yacht's length.
Overtime must be paid outside office hours, 08:00-17:00 Monday to Friday. The overtime fees are almost double the normal fee. Request that your agent complete clearing DURING office hours.
There are also municipal fees occasionally collected in the main ports and always collected from incoming passengers at one of the two airports.
All fees quoted here are in US$ and are subject to change by the Ecuadorian government without notice.
Last updated December 2015.
New Rules 2014 - Environmental Risk Assessment
This new rule is what most cruisers are concerned about. In January 2014, the Galapagos National Park received ministerial approval to make law its rules applying to the arrival of foreign boats in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The changes give approval to conduct an interview with the captain on arrival to complete an environmental risk assessment of each boat.
The assessment of risk is now known to include an inspection of the hull of each boat with a diver from the GNP. The inspection could simply be a look from the surface, a snorkel of your hull or an actual dive with tanks – it seems to be luck of the draw. It is advisable to have your hull thoroughly, perhaps professionally, cleaned before departing for the Galapagos and, if possible, to have a certificate to show this has been done. To be extra sure, weather permitting, jump in and give the boat a final clean 50 miles offshore. Filming the cleaning and taking pictures will also provide proof that your boat is not a problem.
The cost of this is borne by the visitor and the fee is $50 per person on board. The ministerial approval also gives the GNP the authority to demand that if a yacht fails to meet their requirements (reasonable level of risk), they must leave the Galapagos Marine Reserve. If assessed (and it can take up to 3 days to know if you have passed or not), you may be required to exit the marine reserve (40 miles offshore), at your own expense, carry out remedial cleaning work on your hull and re-enter.
Yachts are forbidden to anchor anywhere but in the official ports on each island and each of these places must be listed on your itinerary. Plan carefully as you may not be allowed to back-track.
NOTE: The National Park area: extends 40 miles out of a line drawn between the outermost point of each island.
Vessels arriving in Galapagos entering the protection zone established by law, i.e. 40 nautical miles from the baseline, are subject to regulations governing the transport of products that may endanger Galapagos.
Only waste for recycling can be left on the islands. This is not collected from boats (except in Puerto Ayora) and must be taken by taxi to the recycling centre and paid to be disposed of. All waste on board must be separated into organic, recyclable and trash.
In order to prepare your waste properly en-route to the Islands, read this article by the WWF on how to reduce your human footprint.
Lifejackets must be worn when using a dinghy.
The following sites are those that can be visited on your own without a day tour or certified Naturalist guide on the 3 main islands:
Laguna el junco
Media Luna (highlands - The tortoise reserve)
The wall of tears
It is illegal for foreigners ("extranjeros") to buy fuel at the Ecuadorian subsidised price. The International price for foreigners is approximately double this local price.
Agents can supply fuel; $6 per gallon (2014), including $1 for the agent organising delivery to your yacht via means of jerry cans (which he will supply).
Alternatively, the Capitania will issue a permit for you to independently go to a filling station with jerry cans. Including the cost of the water taxi and taxi to the filling station, this is still cheaper than using an agent, although considerably harder work.
Large fines have been levied or threatened for breaking these laws.
Note that the maximum amount of diesel supplied to each visiting yacht is 400 gallons (without additional paperwork). To apply for more than 400 gallons you must use an agent, who will submit the paperwork to the Navy.
It is necessary to have on board, absorbent towels in case of a spillage of fuel.
Last updated February 2015.
Animals must be confined on board.
Should your pet be sick or die, please inform SESA-GAL at once.
Last updated March 2013.