Should I use cash or credit cards in Galapagos?
The Galapagos islands operate mainly on cash, the US dollar being the official currency since 2000. Please note, though, that $100 bills are NOT readily accepted anywhere in the islands. You may even find it difficult to change $100 bills in the banks on Galapagos.
Because of this, we recommend you carry cash in smaller denominations, and you assume that you will be using cash for all your purchases while you are in Galapagos.
Although widely accepted in mainland Ecuador, credit cards can only be used at a handful of businesses in the Galapagos (including tourist shops and upmarket restaurants and hotels), but not as a matter of course. Where they are accepted, credit card transactions often attract a surcharge to your bill of up to 10%. Please note that none of our boats can accept credit cards as payment for equipment hire or your bar tab.
There are only a few ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and these usually restrict withdrawals to a maximum of $300 per day. You may also find that your issuing bank declines your card on first use in Galapagos as a precaution, particularly if you have not informed them of your travel plans. This can require an overseas call in order to release your card.
For all these reasons we strongly recommend you travel to Galapagos with cash, in bills smaller than $100, to avoid any unnecessary stress or complications.