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Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Toronto, Canada
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Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

I just arrived on Santa Cruz today and decided to ask around for prices. I actually booked a tour months ahead thinking that Christmas will be very busy. An 8-day mid-range tour which goes to Genovesa, Espanola, and Floreana, along with a few other islands, was about 3k. I only made a note of these islands because everyone says they're the most impressive.

Already, I was easily able to find tours that would've left tomorrow and the couple of days after. A similar mid-range tour going to the same islands over 8 days could be had for 1.5k, which is ridiculously cheap compared to what I had to pay.

There's a good chance that I'll come back again one day to visit western Isabela and Fernandina so I'll definitely try going for a last minute tour.

I'm just wondering if I jumped the gun by booking so early? Is it typical to be able to find so many tours still available at the economy, mid-range, AND luxury categories last minute at almost any departure date one desires?

Ottawa, Canada
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1. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Dear Ally,

you never know what you'll find in terms of last minute offers. It seems you paid $1,500 more than you could have. In exchange, I guess you can say you bought peace of mind, knowing a few months ago that you had a place secured on a ship of your choice, and date of your choice, visiting the islands of your choice. It all depends on how well you manage risk and uncertainty, waiting for last minute availabilities. There are always rewards for those willing to take risks, but also there are costs. Traveling on one's one makes things easier as well.

Enjoy the cruise!

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

California
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2. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

I just tried to book "last minute" with LastMinuteGalapagosDeals online. They bait & switched on me with a $800 hike in price per person and demanded wire transfer on the same day. Maybe it is easier to just come to the islands and find our own boat. Should we just book a hotel and figure it out from there? Any advice will be appreciated.

California
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3. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

BTW, we are really doing this last minute since we want to be there sometime btw 12-28-1/7. Any advice will be most appreciated.

Zurich, Switzerland
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4. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Hi

We did the same last month. We've only booked the flight and a hostel in Puerto Ayora for 2 nights in order to give us sufficient time to find a cruise. It worked perfectly for us, we found a great 8-day cruise for 40% of the original price and loved every minute of it. Let me just give you a few advices based on our experience:

1. Shop carefully!! Don't fall for the "you need to decide now as otherwise the spots are gone". There's a few boats with horrendeous reviews (search for reviews on e.g. Millenium), so after getting the offer, ask them for the name of yhe boat, go have a coffee (or beer depending on the time of the day) and search for reviews on that boat.

2. Be suspicios when prices are too low! What a lot of travel agents do is that they give you a lower price and when you decide yo book it they call up the boat and all of a sudden the price has gone up by 100 or 200 USD. I've actually called one boat owner directly and he told me that he has never given the travel agent that low price. One reliable travel agent is Moonrise.

3. Take lots of cash! You'll have to pay the cruise in cash otherwise there will be a surcharge of 22% (!!!), no kidding (14% VAT and 8% credit card charge). And the ATMs in Ecuador are limited so bring the cash from home.

4. If possible keep your return flight flexible as maybe the tour you really want to do and get a good deal on finishes the day after the return flight.

5. Most cruises start from the airport and do some land based stuff on Santa Cruz which you can easily do yourself (and cheaper). Try to negotiate whether you can only join in the evening if they anchor in Puerto Ayora and get a discount (we saved 100 USD each like that).

Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions/concerns

Boston...
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5. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Great post! This is exactly what I've been trying to decide. It can definitely be nerve-wracking to arrive without plans. Part of the decision should be how busy any given season is. We plan to go in April. Is that a pretty busy time?

Re: bringing cash. Really? Show up in the Galapagos with $4k in cash? I wonder if traveler's checks would do the trick. Wouldn't you only have to pay VAT if you don't have a foreign passport?

Thanks!

Ottawa, Canada
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6. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Dear Aiesenberg,

It's likely the agencies won't accept travellers' cheques - but the banks most probably will. The will also charge a commission for cashing them - thought it will be lower than 22%. That could be an option.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Boston...
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7. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Thanks, Heather. We're supposed to be in Peru first but I may cancel that to allow us flexibility on this. Is April a busy time? We can't go sooner because we'll be in Israel until 18 March. But it will be colder in May I guess.

Oceanside...
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8. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

May is typically a lovely month--not likely as hot as Jan. - April but not as cool as Sept. - Nov. We traveled in a pretty typical May and had lovely warm (although still a bit humid for my taste) weather. Of course, it depends on how you define "cold." You can decide for yourself by checking out this Web page for average highs by month: galapagosislands.com/galapagos-resources/gal… .

Tina

trip reports (and much more) at https://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Zurich, Switzerland
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9. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

@aeisenberg

April should be fine, not too busy. In fact many travel agencies consider it low season. Bear in mind it's wet season though.

Regarding cash: We went to 4 different agencies and they would all charge us 22%. Foreigners are subject to VAT, too. We didn't bring enough cash and then had to run around the whole town and max out all ATMs on two consecutive days. I met other travellers who had the same problem. So bring cash if you want to save yourself the hassle. The Galapagos islands are quite safe in terms of crime.

Boston...
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10. Re: Last minute tours: not as difficult as I thought?

Thanks very much. It doesn't seem feasible to schlep thousands of dollars to Peru and Machu Picchu! I guess we could bring some and start pulling extra cash out in Quito? Anyway, it does seem worth the risk to show up and go for it. Is it even more favorable to negotiate once in Puerto Ayora, or try in Quito before that?

We know someone from Ecuador who suggested we drive up the Ruta del Sol with an ARMED GUIDE! Is that even a thing? I've never felt that unsafe anywhere.

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