All flights from Quito and Guayaquil to Santa Cruz land at the Aeropuerto Seymour (tel. 05/2521-165; airport code: GPS), on the small island of Baltra, just off Santa Cruz's northern coast. In addition to desks at the airport, Tame (tel. 02/3977-100 in Quito, or 05/2526-527 in Puerto Ayora; www.tame.com.ec) has its main local offices on Avenida Charles Darwin and 12 de Febrero, while Aerogal (tel. 1800/2376-425 toll-free nationwide, or 05/2526-797 in Puerto Ayora; www.aerogal.com.ec) has its offices on Avenida Baltra, between 10 de Marzo and Indefatigable.
Once you land at the airport, a free shuttle bus will take you to a ferry crossing of the Itabaca Canal to Santa Cruz. If you are going to the town of Puerto Ayora, take the bus marked CANAL. The ferry costs 80¢ (55p), and a regular bus will be waiting for you on the other side. From here to Puerto Ayora, the ride takes about 40 minutes and costs $2 (£1.35). You can also go to Puerto Ayora by taxi -- you'll find a host of them waiting at the crossing. The fare should run you from $15 to $20 (£10-£13).
If you are going to directly board a boat or ship and are not being met by a representative of that ship, you may need to take the free bus from the airport terminal marked MUELLE. This bus takes you to the dock in Baltra, where many of the ships wait to pick up passengers. Be sure to check this out in advance with your ship.
Tip: If you are flying out of Baltra, allow at least an hour to get from downtown Puerto Ayora to the airport.
The Ministry of Tourism runs a tourist information office (tel. 05/2526-613; firstname.lastname@example.org) on Avenida Charles Darwin, close to the corner of Charles Binford. It is open Monday through Friday from 8am to noon and 2 to 5:30pm. There are several small local tour operators along Avenida Charles Darwin. All of these offer a range of tour options and can help you try to find a last-minute berth on a boat or cruise ship.
Fast Facts -- To contact the local police, dial tel. 05/2526-101, or 911 in an emergency. Their headquarters are located on Avenida Charles Darwin and 12 de Febrero. For the local fire department, dial tel. 05/2526-111.
You can get a cash advance, exchange traveler's checks, or use the ATM at Banco del Pacífico (tel. 05/2526-282), on Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford.
The hospitals in the Galápagos can provide for emergency care, but any serious condition or long-term treatment should be dealt with on the mainland, or back at home. If you need a pharmacy, try Farmacia Edith (tel. 05/2526-487) or Farmacia Vanessa (tel. 05/2526-392) on Avenida Baltra and Tomás Berlanga, across from the hospital.
Internet access is a bit slower and more expensive here than on the mainland, but it has been catching up. Reliable Internet cafes include Galápagos Online (tel. 05/2527-169), on Avenida Charles Darwin between Baltra and Islas Plaza, and Choza.Net (tel. 05/2527-010), on Avenida Baltra. Rates run $1 to $3 (65p-£2) per hour. The post office (tel. 05/2526-575) is located at the far end of Avenida Charles Darwin, right across from the main dock.
Puerto Ayora is a port town set around a broad and deep harbor known as Bahía Academia (Academy Bay). The principal road in town, Avenida Charles Darwin, pretty much hugs the coastline, and runs from the main dock in town to the Charles Darwin Research Station. All along its length, Avenida Charles Darwin is peppered with restaurants, shops, tour agencies, bars, and hotels. Almost everything of interest to tourists in Puerto Ayora is within walking distance, although a few tourist attractions and destinations on the island do lie outside of town.
Everything in Puerto Ayora is within easy walking distance, including the Charles Darwin Research Station. If you're really lazy, you can take a taxi around town for about $1 (65p). If you want to tour other sites around the island on your own, you can hire a taxi for about $10 (£6.65) per hour. If you can't flag one down on the street, have your hotel arrange one for you. Alternatively, you can rent a bike, which will only cost you around $10 (£6.65) per day.
If you're staying on one of the boats at anchor, or if you just want to visit someplace more easily reached by watercraft, head to the main dock at the southern end of Avenida Charles Darwin and grab one of the many water taxis. Rides run about $1 (65p) per person to any boat at anchor or any nearby pier. There's a slight surcharge for rides after dark.