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Galapagos entrance fee: where does the money go?

All visitors to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands must pay a National Park Entrance Fee. Find out how the money you pay is used to keep both the park and the islands' human communities going.

The fact that the Galapagos Islands are one of the world's great conservation success stories can be put down to their tourism model. We go into great detail about the theories underpinning this model in our article Fifty years on: How tourism brought the Galapagos back from the brink. This blog takes a closer look at the practical aspect of how tourist entry fees help to make it happen.

All visitors to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands must pay a National Park Entrance Fee. Foreign tourists pay $100 ($50 for under-12s), residents of MERCOSUR and Andean nations also pay half price, and Ecuadorian nationals pay $6. In 2018, an impressive $17.8 million was raised from National Park entry fees. This money is then added to a pool containing the proceeds from tour operator permits, licenses, and authorizations and used to protect the islands'natural and human heritage. Although SA Expeditions operates on an all-inclusive basis (meaning everything you'll need during your trip – other than a few meals – is included in your package price), you may still want to know where your $100 is going.

A breakdown of how your entry fee is allocated.

As you can see, the largest portion goes directly to the Galapagos National Park, which is responsible for the protection and conservation of 97% of the islands land area. This money pays the salaries of park rangers, aids conservation, and contributes to the upkeep of park infrastructure. The municipalities and parishes on the four inhabited islands in the archipelago take away almost a third of the proceeds, using it to maintain infrastructure and provide services to residents and tourists alike. The Galapagos Government Council - the region is semi-autonomous - gets the final slice of the pie.  

It's hard to miss the colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs.

In September 2019, in an attempt to mitigate the effects of over-tourism, a major fee hike was proposed. Under the new proposal, foreigners who spend at least three nights in mainland Ecuador would pay $200 while those who stay two nights or less on the mainland would be liable for a $400 entry fee. This New York Times goes into more detail on the proposed changes. As of November 2019, it remains unclear whether the fee hike will go ahead - we will update this blog as soon as a decision is announced.

You can't put a price on this kind of scenery.

On a more practical note, in addition to the Galapagos Entrance fee, you will also pay $20 for a Transit Control Card. It is important to keep both your National Park Entry Card and your Transit Control Card stored safely inside your passport, as you may be asked to present them.

Now that you know how your entry fees will be used, it's time to start planning your Galapagos vacation. Check out our favorite Galapagos itineraries, or speak to one of our Destination Experts about creating your own bespoke Galapagos adventure.

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