Using US Dollars in the Galapagos Islands: What Do You Need to Know?

Currency used on Galapagos Islands

US Dollar is the currency used in the Galapagos islands, similar to Ecuador’s mainland. USD is widely accepted for various goods and services, including accommodations, tours, and dining experiences.

With USD as the standard currency, you can easily calculate costs and compare prices, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free trip.

Being familiar with the Galapagos currency simplifies transactions, helps you budget effectively, and avoids potential confusion or inconvenience during your stay on these stunning islands.

Cash is King on Galapagos Islands

Cash at Galapagos Islands

It is advisable to bring smaller denomination notes when visiting the Galapagos Islands, as anything larger than a $20 bill might not be accepted. Many smaller shops, hotels, and restaurants do not accept credit cards, so having cash on hand will be essential for various transactions.

Larger hotels on the Galapagos and upscale restaurants may accept cards, but they often add a 5-10% surcharge to the bill for card payments. If you plan to use a card, having VISA or MasterCard is recommended, as they are more widely accepted. 

Isabela Island might not have working ATMs while you are there, so it’s vital to have cash in this part of the Galapagos Islands.

For a smoother travel experience, arriving with some cash from the mainland is always prudent. This precaution can prevent potential issues if your credit cards are not accepted for any reason or if local ATMs have run out of cash during busy times of the year (given their limited number).

Cash readily available ensures you can handle various expenses without undue stress or inconvenience during your trip.

ATMs on Galapagos Islands

In the Galapagos Islands, cash machines are limited and can only be found in specific locations such as Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal, and the airport on Baltra. While these machines are generally reliable, bringing sufficient cash with you from the mainland is strongly recommended to avoid any potential inconvenience.

Before we departed the mainland, we purchased our $10 INGALA Transit Card, and upon arrival in the Galapagos, we paid the $100 Galapagos National Park fee in cash before going through immigration.

Remember that the cash machines at Baltra and San Cristobal airports are accessible only after clearing immigration and the National Park desk. Hence, it is important to have cash ready beforehand.

During an island-hopping tour, you’ll have opportunities to access cash machines in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.

Preparing with the proper payment method ensures a smooth and stress-free experience as you explore the islands.

Tipping on Galapagos Islands

Tipping in the Galapagos Islands is a customary practice to show appreciation for the services provided by guides and staff. Tips are usually given in cash and are typically offered after your trip. We wanted to support locals. 

Travelers are often provided with an envelope for this purpose, making it convenient to express gratitude to those who have made your experience memorable.

If you have different guides throughout your journey, it’s recommended to tip each guide at the end of the day or on your last day with them.

While tipping is a common practice, it’s essential to remember that it is entirely voluntary on the Galapagos. The actual amount you tip should be based on the level of service you have received. Feel free to consider the effort, knowledge, and personal connection your guides have offered during your travels.

Expressing your gratitude through tipping is a heartfelt way to support the local communities and individuals who significantly enhance your Galapagos experience.


Understanding the currency, access to cash, and tipping practices in the Galapagos Islands are crucial aspects of travel preparation. With the US Dollar as the widely accepted currency, you can easily navigate expenses during your trip to Galapagos.

Bringing smaller denomination notes and having cash on hand is recommended, as many establishments do not accept credit cards. While cash machines are limited, arriving with money from the mainland ensures a smooth experience.

Lastly, tipping is customary to show appreciation to guides and staff, but it remains voluntary and should reflect the level of service received.

Being prepared with cash and understanding local customs contributes to a hassle-free and enriching journey through the extraordinary Galapagos Islands.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

Leave a Comment