Packing Mistakes Were Made

Because there’s a whole lot of stuff the pamphlets don’t tell you!

Playa Punta Carola, San Cristobal

I spent months preparing for my study abroad program in the Galapagos, read every packing list I could find, in efforts of arriving to the Galapagos fully prepared for any situation. I got a lot of things right, but I also got a lot of things wrong, and I want any student thinking about doing this program to learn from my mistakes.

Things are really hard to buy and find here in San Cristobal. Unless you’re island hopping over to Santa Cruz, you’ll have to say goodbye to a lot of the material commodities you’re used to.

Here’s a list of things you should bring, rather than buy on the island and things you should skip:
  1. SUN SCREEN!!! Stock up on LOADS of (reef safe) sun screen before you leave. You’ll be able to buy it on the islands…for $18 dollars a bottle. The sun is a beast at the equator. BRING LOTS OF SUN SCREEN–like 5 bottles of sun screen.
  2. Pack lots of bug spray and after-bite relief cream.
  3. Bring a water bottle with a built in filter. Trust me, even when they say water is filtered, it’s hard to know the last time that filter was switched out. You cannot drink unfiltered tap water here. Save yourself the tummy ache.
  4. Bring reusable coffee travel cups, Tupperware, silverware, and straws. Please, don’t contribute to pollution or plastic consumption on the island. All businesses here will be happy to serve you in your own containers, or they’ll charge $1-$2 dollars extra for food and drink packaging.
  5. You’ll rarely get a chance to wear makeup because it melts off your face in three seconds, but if you want to wear it occasionally, bring it to the island. They have very limited selections for beauty products and you likely won’t find any American brands of makeup. Same goes for skin care products!
  6. Don’t bring a hat and gloves. I know, I fell for the trap when IES Abroad told me it got cold in the highlands and we should pack a hat and gloves. If you’re a Michigander, you’ll be just fine. I repeat, do not bring a hat and gloves.
  7. Don’t bring more than 1 pair of jeans (save those for Quito). You’re not going to use them, it is hot and humid and jeans will become your worst nightmare.
  8. Come prepared with your wardrobe. Do not expect to shop for clothes on the island. Clothing brands are very limited, you’ll rarely find a brand you’d see back home, and when you do it’s WAY MORE EXPENSIVE. Importation costs are high here. A pair of running shorts will be $30, a Columbia PFG shirt will cost you $150. However, you can buy souvenir t-shirts for $15.
  9. Bring ALL the lightweight, terry, and running shorts you own. They’re the most convenient bottoms to wear. Bring only 1-2 pairs of quick dry pants.
  10. Bring 3 weeks–not 2 weeks–worth of underwear. You’ll be swimming, hiking, and sweating everyday so you’ll go through them fast.
  11. If you drink coffee regularly, bring your own french press or pour over (they don’t sell those here). Although the Galapagos grows coffee, the beans are too expensive for locals so they mostly drink instant coffee. Bring your own coffee-making device and you can buy quality ground coffee for the perfect brew.
  12. Bring your own stationery/school supplies if you’re selective when it comes to those things.
  13. Don’t bring more than 1-2 sweatshirts. You’ll rarely use them if you’re coming here in the really hot season (spring semester).
  14. Bring 2 quick-dry camping towels that you can use for the beach. I say two because they’ll literally start to stink of sea lions pretty quickly, you can alternate their use between washes!
  15. Download any books, music, movies, tv shows etc., you plan to enjoy BEFORE coming to the islands. Wifi is a joke here, take my advice <3
  16. Bring some of your favorite snacks, you likely won’t find them here. I really miss Takis and Tajin 🙁
  17. Bring as many swimsuits as you think are good for you. I brought three and I wish I had brought more. Swimsuits are essentially part of our school uniform since our campus is on a beach.
  18. If you menstruate, BRING YOUR OWN TAMPONS. They’re really hard to find on the island, you’ll only have 1-2 options and they have no applicator.
  19. Finally, bring your own snorkel gear. Renting them is an unnecessary hassle. Buy them and they will pay for themselves.

This is not a comprehensive packing list. It’s a list of the things a lot of my classmates and I wish we had known before we packed for the Galapagos!

Until next time,


Published by ximena.figueroaenri

Class of 2023 Biology Major, Women Gender Studies Minor IES Galapagos Islands

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