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Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

“What? You lived two and a half months on the Galapagos? That must be amazing.“ – was everyone’s reaction after telling them my recent travel history. And indeed it was the best decision I could make as a start in my new life.
The time on the Galapagos Islands was incredible. People often stay only five days and fall in love. I was able to live there like a local. Having my routine. Going to the same places. Meeting new people every day. And getting to know the area quite well.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

50m away from my home

Even though I wanted to leave the island at some point (mainly just to have something else to eat), I loved it there. I loved the quiet and relaxed way of life, the people, the weather, the animals and everything around it.
I often caught myself giving advice and going into raptures about the islands when meeting someone who will be headed there in the nearer future, while being on the Ecuadorian mainland.
One evening I sat in a bar with a friend who stayed on the Galapagos for the same amount of time talking about what we are going to miss. Today I want to share those thoughts with you. Things I miss about being on the Galapagos and other typical circumstances the islands provide.

Wildlife

Part of my daily routine was listening to the sound of sea lions, seeing Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and pelicans flying around, and iguanas and crabs crawling around the rocks. It’s just unique. I often took some time to sit on a bench for only a couple of minutes and saw so many different species around me that it sometimes seemed unreal. It was still something special everytime I sat there even though I have been there for weeks.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

An iguana at my “usual bench”

I’ve never been to a place with such an abundance of wildlife before. And I have to admit that I’m not the greatest animal lover. I’m not a big fan of cats and dogs scare me off.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Lazy sea lions during sunset

But this was different. Animals live in their natural environment and live quietly next to humans. They just pass you without really noticing as if you’re part of the system. Part of nature and don’t feel disturbed. Except for people putting their camera in front of a sea lion chief’s face – those people get their reaction of course. But that’s another thing. If you leave them alone and observe, they live their life and you can observe them. All day long. There will always be another animal coming around.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Sally Lightfoot Crabs on the rocks

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Me joining the sea lions to sleep

Friendly people

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is like a village. After a couple of weeks I was not able to leave my house without meeting anyone I knew. On the long run, it would piss me off as everyone is knowing more about your life than you do about your own. People are talking and talking and stories change. But for this short amount of time, I enjoyed it a lot.
It felt more like home. Like you belong to this place and feel comfortable staying there for a while. You know the guy from the diving shop, the waiters in the restaurants, the naturalist guides, the women in the speed boat shop, receptionists of hotels, the owners of my favorite bar and the list goes on. My working routine made me getting to know a lot of local people mainly working in tourism.
But even though you don’t know a person, almost everyone will say hello to you and greet you with a smile on the street. As I said it’s small and it was a great change and a kind of cultural shock heading to a huge city like Guayaquil afterwards.
The people of Galapagos are a great bunch of people. They care a lot for their environment but as well help you with everything as much as they can without expecting something back. When you ask for help they try to figure out a way to help you until they found a solution.

Safety

I haven’t been to a safer place in my life. Seriously. Can you tell me a place where you walk outside in the middle of the night, there is no one on the street and you still feel completely safe?
I can’t think of another place. But that’s how I felt there. Whether it was during the day or during the night, people lived their life in peace and quiet. A friend said to me “On San Cristobal you could probably forget your purse in a bar and would still get it back on the next day.“ I didn’t try it but I can imagine that it’s true.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Riding a turtoise

Food

Well, food supply was my biggest problem there. They had good and fresh food but after a while you just cannot see the same things over and over again. At least I need variety. As the Galapagos are islands almost everything has to be flewn in.
And I came to a point I didn’t want to eat any more rice. And yes, that’s almost impossible when you don’t want to spend 10 US-Dollars for a meal.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Eating this soup (encebollada) should help you with your hangover

All these “I have to have different food“ moments and “I have to leave“ moments happened after about 1.5 months but I’ll tell you, you get used to it. I’ve never thought I’m gonna say this but I got used to have rice as a side dish every time I eat out. And when I got the chance later to eat more internationally in Banos, I still went to the local restaurants selling “almuerzos“ (lunch) or “meriendas“ (dinner) not only because it’s the cheapest option but because I really got used to my rice. The evolution took place in myself as well.

Opening Hours

Shops do not have regular opening hours. There are shops which are open from 9 AM until late. Some are closed during lunch time and open again at 2 or 3 PM. Some are closed on Sundays. Some are closed on Sundays. You cannot figure it out. Shop owners can decide it for their own which makes it sometimes difficult to find a cafe with wifi connection or some special food supplies especially on a Sunday afternoon. But you get used to everything.

Prices

When I travelled to the mainland of Ecuador afterwards and headed to a supermarket, I noticed that prices are ridiculous in comparison with the rest of Ecuador. You pay twice as much or even more for everything you buy in a supermarket. For a European or American citizen if you don’t know the prices on the mainland, some are still alright but some things like cheese, bread or shampoo are just crazily overpriced due to the fact that it comes from far away.
Nonetheless, you are able to live quite on a budget if you do it right. If you know where to buy what, cook at home and sometimes have a lunch or dinner outside. You can have the usual almuerzos or meriendas for 3.5$ to 5$ on San Cristobal Island if you know where to go. I will soon publish a very detailed post about San Cristobal Island/Puerto Baquerizo Moreno as well as a post about usual prices on the Islands, so stay tuned and subscribe to my post updates below if you don’t want to miss it.

Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

Preparing the saying goodbye dinner at my family’s house

Would you like to live on the Galapagos Islands for a while? Or do you prefer bigger cities?


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25 thoughts on “Living like a local on the Galapagos Islands

    1. Stef Post author

      Oh I believe so. Nonetheless it must have been a great experience in the Amazon. Did you volunteer there or did a two week tour?

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  6. Pauline

    I need more local places from you 🙂 🙂 Im going to San Cristobal on a budget. Where can I find the right restaurants selling almuerzos? where should I look for accommodation?

    Thank you for sharing your story!! It was beautiful
    At some point I will have to live on an island somewhere in the world.

    Xx
    Pauline recently posted…Buenos Aires in PicturesMy Profile

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  8. tom

    Hi Stef,

    I know this post is a little old now but thought I would ask question about cost of living on the Galapagos.
    I have been offered work in Puerto Ayora. Do you think $600 a month would be ok to I’ve on? Not including accommodation or health insurance. Just food and fun etc… thanks

    Tom

    1. Stef Post author

      Hi Tom,
      That’s definitely enough if you are not doing a tour every day 😉 Puerto Ayora is a bit more expensive in terms of food but there is a street which has heaps of street food at night where you can eat very well and you can get the usual almuerzo and cent as well. And Santa Cruz has the biggest supermarket (thus the biggest choice) I’ve seen on all the Galapagos.

  9. DK

    I am hoping to spend a few weeks on the islands: travel for a week and stay put in one place (and work/write for three weeks). Three questions:
    – Where would l base myself for the three wees I want to stay in one place and write (i’m a researcher and need internet access)?
    – Would it be an issue to spend three or four weeks there given that I am vegetarian?

    1. Stef Post author

      I found San Cristobal the best place to live as there are more things to do than on the other islands and it’s cheaper. There are cafes and restaurants with wifi as well.
      You can get vegetarian food but for example if you order the deals for lunch and dinner it might be that they just give you the dish without the meat, maybe some more rice and beans. As there is not much food variety on the Galapagos it might be a problem but if you are fine with rice and beans, you’re good to go 🙂

  10. Thomas Magee

    This sounds fantastic!

    So much so I am intending on taking 2 months over there with my wife and 2 kids. Have you got any advice or contacts on obtaining decent accommodation over there? Not paying airbnb prices

    Kind Regards
    Tom

    1. Stef Post author

      Hi Tom,
      I’m sorry as I did a work exchange, I didn’t have to look for accommodation. But you could do the following:
      Ask around for Trudi, unfortunately I cannot contact her as I do not have any contact data. She is an ancestor of Margret Wittmer (one of the first settlers on Floreana Island). You probably find someone knowing her (e.g. Aline from Sharksky). The house is located when going along the malecon close to the entrance of the military zone. She has some rooms to rent and maybe you are lucky and she currently has space. But I cannot tell you how much it is as I got free accommodation via my work exchange.

    1. Stef Post author

      Hi! I just know one hospital on the island (San Cristobal). I think it’s about two blocks away from Malecon. There is not much service so. I heard of someone who cut himself with a machete and he had to get physiotherapy on Santa Cruz Island cause it’s not available on San Cristobal.

  11. Madison

    Hi Stef,

    I was wondering how you found a place to stay? Did you come across a place to rent or stay in a hotel? Also, would you ever recommend traveling here alone?

    Thanks for sharing your story!

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