The Galapagos Islands Currency  – All You Need To Know About Money

When we visited Ecuador we were delighted to learn about the Galapagos Islands currency!

If you’re travelling to the Galapagos islands you’ll have some questions. Like any other country, you’d expect Ecuador to use their own currency. So to make sure your trip to the Galapagos is currency-worry-free, you do some research!

Amazing! But you might be surprised when I tell you the Galapagos (and the rest of Ecuador) currency is the US Dollar. But just the type of currency might not be your only question. Can you use cards? Or checks? And is there a way to get cash while on the Galapagos?

We visited in May and loved every second. The Galapagos have a special place in my heart. The snorkelling and diving there were amazing, but even out of the water, the wildlife was abundant. If you haven’t decided yet, I recommend spending AT LEAST 5 days.

A Galapagos sea lion sleeping on pavement

What You Need To Know About The Galapagos Islands Currency

You already know the most important thing: they use the US Dollar. The currency situation in Ecuador is quite the conversation starter. You’re there, bags packed, mind full of colourful expectations about the wildlife and the beaches, and boom, it hits you—will my regular debit card work?

And isn’t it something? You’re in this diverse and bio-rich archipelago, and you’re using dollars just like back home. Well. If you’re American that is. For context though—and this might alleviate your worries—I’ve found that ATMs aren’t exactly a rare species there. And yes, while cash is preferred for small transactions, larger establishments and tours often accept cards. I guess that’s a universal thing, isn’t it? Cash might be king, but plastic—when accepted—is pretty convenient, too.

Checks however are generally not accepted anywhere. So you can leave your chequebook safe at home.

Remember, it’s always a wise move to notify your bank before flying off; tropical paradise or not, bank cards can still get frozen. Enough of my ramblings; just know that with a little preparation, you’ll be set to enjoy the Galapagos without any money woes!

Using Credit and Debit Cards for The Galapagos Islands Currency

The first and foremost question you might have is “Is it possible to use my cards while on the Galapagos?”. And while the general answer is yes, you can use credit and debit cards. But it’s not always wise.

While you can swipe or insert that card and hear the lovely chime of a successful transaction, there’s a little ‘but’—and it’s a significant one. Have you ever been in the middle of a purchase when, suddenly, the dreaded “additional fees” line pops up?

Those foreign transaction fees can bite, and not in the charming way marine iguanas might nip at your toes on a sandy beach (Don’t worry. They don’t actually do this). Those fees stack up faster than you can say ‘blue-footed booby’.

Picture this: you’re dining at this charming little beachside shack that serves the freshest food you can imagine. You want to pay with your card because, well, who carries cash these days? You hand it over, feeling confident, only to see the waiter’s brow furrow.

He mumbles something about “solo efectivo” (that’s “cash only” for those whose Spanish is nonexistent), and there you are, wondering how to wash dishes in Spanish.

Sure, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. It’s these little experiences that stick with you, right? So when in the Galapagos, or really any remote paradise, it pays ( see what I did there?) to have some cash tucked away.

Are There ATM Machines To Get Galapagos Islands Currency?

So now you’re wondering, “Are there ATMs sprinkled around the Galapagos like hidden treasures?”. The answer is yes. But you don’t have to get your eyepatch and treasure map out to find them. On the three main inhabited islands—Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela—you can indeed find these little machines ready to dispense cash. Yet, don’t expect them at every corner, because unlike the wildlife around, they can be a rare sighting.

But, ahoy, there’s always a ‘but’. Each ATM could come with transaction fees. While these fees may not pinch as hard as Galapagos crabs, don’t be fooled; they add up! Keep this in mind and maybe limit your visits to our robotic cash-givers or consider getting enough cash out to last you a few days.

While ATMs are indeed available, think of them as a hammerhead shark: approach with caution and a plan, or those little fees might just evolve into a bigger money-munching creature than you bargained for.

A tip: check the difference between card payment fees and ATM fees. The difference could be quite a lot. We use Revolut and Wise cards and were able to withdraw cash with a set fee of $5. So the more we took out at once, the ‘cheaper’ it got.

❗️ Set up your Wise account here! ❗️

Cash: Reasons You Should Carry Galapagos Islands Currency

We’ve discussed some already. But I know how it goes. I read blogs too. I often skip over information to find exactly what I need. So I’ll list the reasons below!

To Save Money

If you find an ATM on mainland Ecuador without any fees, I’d advise you to stack up. Or for the Americans under us, take cash with you!

ATM fees in Ecuador can stack up. Especially if your bank then charges an additional fee. Luckily, some ATMs charge nothing or a set amount per transaction. Use this to your benefit, and take enough cash out then and there!

Flexibility During Transactions

Ever gone to buy that must-have souvenir, only to realize the vendor doesn’t take cards? Yeah, been there. That’s why having cash in the Galapagos is crucial—it gives you the flexibility to pay anywhere, anytime.

Remember, while your plastic friend is handy, not every charming little stall or local guide is equipped for digital transactions, and missing out because you didn’t have a few notes on you is a bigger bummer than a rainy day on the beach.

Emergencies: Because Stuff Happens!

And don’t get me started on emergencies. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from travel, it’s that unexpected things happen. Maybe it’s a sudden tour opportunity that you can’t pass up or an impromptu taxi ride back to your lodging because you stayed out enjoying the island life a tad too long.

Or when Callie had sudden food poisoning in Guatemala and we NEEDED a taxi, because, you know, you can’t always make it. In these scenarios, cash isn’t just king; it’s your knight in shining armour.

To Save Time

You’re probably wondering, “How exactly does carrying cash save time?” The thing is, transactions with cash are quick. While others are fumbling with card readers that might work (on a good day), cash payments are instantaneous—no waiting for approvals, no pesky ‘connection error’ messages.

I haven’t mentioned the internet situation on the Galapagos yet. It can be VERY difficult to get a good signal. Which is why some shops can’t even use card machines. There is no signal. Nowadays more and more shops are installing Starlink Internet, so in the future, this might not be a problem. But for now, it’s a struggle.

To Tip Staff

Ever found yourself in that awkward situation where you’ve received stellar service and have nothing but a pat on the back to offer? On the Galapagos, tipping is more than just good manners; it’s a way to show appreciation for the hard work and excellent service provided by staff, many of whom rely heavily on tips for their livelihood.

You see, just like in the States, those who go the extra mile—your tour guides, the waitstaff, the tireless hotel cleaning crew—all appreciate a monetary thank you.

We’re talking about cash in hand, the kind that can be used right away. A tip is a powerful way to say “Gracias!” to make your stay memorable.

How Much Cash To Bring To The Galapagos

Last but certainly not least. How much should you expect to need? While this is different for anybody, there are some common things you can expect to need to pay for.

Prices of common things on The Galapagos Islands

Let’s not make this any longer than it needs to be: let’s dive right in.

The National Park Fee

This is the fee you pay IN CASH on arrival to the Galapagos. $100 per person. Without this, you will have a slight problem.

INGALA Transit Card

This is what you have to buy at the departing airport in mainland Ecuador. This card is to keep track of who visits which island, and how long their stay was. It costs $10


The most important: what’s the price of a beer? Well, you can expect to pay about $4 to $5 for one. A bottle of a soft drink is $2 to $3, and a bottle of wine is around $15, but that varies.


We spent about $25 to $30 for a meal in a restaurant. The large ones do accept cards but charge a fee. So paying in cash is generally cheaper.


It all depends on the types of activities you do. For a boat day trip, we tipped about $10 each, which seemed to be the average. We tipped 10% on restaurant bills, but be careful, as service is sometimes already included in the bill.

Final Thoughts – The Galapagos Islands Currency

Who wants to stress about scrimping when you’re busy snapping pics of iguanas and swimming with sea turtles? Having that extra bit of cash might mean the difference between ‘just reminiscing’ and ‘reliving the dream’ with that beautifully carved turtle (made from wood, no worries!) you spotted in a shop window.

In conclusion, while the islands’ majestic beauty and wildlife are priceless, the practicalities of island life invariably revolve around money. To ensure a smooth, hassle-free visit to the Galapagos Islands, a little planning, budgeting, and a wallet that’s not too thin is the way to go.