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Travelling to the Galapagos
The INGALA Transit Control Card
Last year, INGALA, the Ecuadorian governmental agency that regulates all things pertaining to the Galapagos Islands, began issuing the “Transit Control Card” (in Spanish, tarjeta de control de tránsito, or TCT). This card is designed to help control immigration to the islands.
Why is it needed?
Last year, INGALA, the Ecuadorian governmental agency that regulates all things pertaining to the Galapagos Islands, began issuing the “Transit Control Card” (in Spanish, tarjeta de control de tránsito, or TCT). This card is designed to help control immigration to the islands. Why is it needed?
Decades ago, no one was interested in going to Galapagos. The rocky, sun-drenched islands had little to offer visitors or colonists from Ecuador. Most of the land isn’t very good for farming, there is nothing worth mining (except for some salt, and salt mine experiments didn’t work out very well) and the currents can even make fishing dangerous.
Ecuador, which claimed the Galapagos Islands not long after gaining its independence from Spain, wanted to make sure that they had a legitimate hold on them, but couldn’t convince anyone to go. Therefore, the Ecuadorian government set up penal colonies on the islands, sending prisoners and guards to occupy those islands that had fresh water, such as San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana. Charles Darwin visited one such penal colony during his 1835 visit.
By the 1950’s, there were small towns on a couple of the islands, as the descendents of the prisoners as well as some other transplants from the mainland and some adventurous Europeans began making a living, mostly by fishing. But the 1970’s brought a tourism boom to the islands, as thousands of foreigners began wanting to see the beautiful islands and their nearly tame wildlife. Suddenly, the Galapagos was the place in Ecuador that everyone wanted to be, and poor Ecuadorians flocked to the islands to make a living in tourism.
By the 1990’s, the quickly growing population needed to be controlled, as the fragile island ecosystems were in peril. No one was allowed to move to the islands from the mainland any more, but unemployed Ecuadorians continued to try and get there in order to find work in secret.
As a result, INGALA has instituted the TCT to help keep track of who is coming and going to the islands. Visitors must go to a booth in the airport with their plane tickets to get the card, which costs $10 (cash only). The card is turned in at the end of the trip. Those travelers going on a set tour or cruise ship (especially the more reputable ones) may find that their guide takes care of the TCT for them. If you’ll be getting your own without the aid of a guide or tour agency, plan on a little extra time in the airport.
Obtaining and Using the INGALA
What is the purpose of the TCC?
- Provides registration at entrance to the province according to the types of residency allowed by the Law of the Galapagos Province.
- Prevents those who have been deported from the province, because of having been in an irregular state according to the Law of the Galapagos, from re-entering.
- Prevents a tourist or transient from entering the province if he or she has already reached the maximum length of stay allowed by the Law of the Galapagos (90 days).
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