In the 2018-2019 season (October-March), a record number 56,168 visitors set foot on the continent. Despite this allure, the continent remains a pristine and remote place, rarely visited. If you are among the lucky few to take an Antarctica Vacation, continue reading our travel recommendations to have your best experience possible.
1- Choose a Small Expedition Cruise
Most people visit Antarctica on a cruise ship. The IAATO lists all the operators cruising in the area, and while this includes some of the large, mainstream cruise lines, we would strongly recommend opting for one of the smaller expedition ships carrying between 50 and 200 passengers.
Only 100 guests are allowed ashore at one time in Antarctica, so larger vessels have a harder time getting guests ashore as often as a small ship can. Small expedition cruises are known for a more intimate and active experience with guests off the ship twice daily on Zodiac, kayak and on-land adventures.
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2- Choose the correct cruise and departures dates
While most people find the daily shore excursions and Zodiac rides offered by all Antarctica expeditions small ships fulfilling enough, there are cruises that offer many outdoor things to do in Antarctica.
Kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, skiing, mountaineering, camping and even scuba diving are some of the activities you can choose to do on your Antarctica vacation. Some cruises offer this activities included in the price for some departures, but not all cruises offer this excursions.
Be careful to choose the correct cruise and dates departures, and to book really in advance because the availability is very limited!
Read More: Top outdoor activities to do in Antarctica
3- Arrive one day or two before departure
We strongly recommend that you arrive in Ushuaia/ Punta Arenas a day or two before embarkation to have some additional time in case of flight delays and lost luggage. There is plenty to see and to explore in this cities before your Cruise departure.
4- Passport & Visa with six months’ validity
Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from the date of your return flight home. While there are no visa requirements for visiting Antarctica, there may be visa requirements for certain nationalities traveling through other countries en route to Antarctica (Chile and Argentina are the most popular).
Depending on your citizenship you may need a visa for Argentina or Chile, check with the nearest embassy for more information.
5- Pack for your Antarctic expedition with “Layer principle” in mind
Although Antarctica is cold, it’s not as cold as many believe (especially in the summer months). Also, you will be walking a lot, which can help generate heat. Based on both cold and possibly warmer temperatures, my advice is to take warm, wind and waterproof clothes with you during the expedition.
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The secret to keeping warm during an expedition is the “layer principle”. Multiple layers of medium-warmth clothing provide more insulation than a single heavier article – this is due to warm air getting trapped in between the layers, acting as further insulation.
Layers also give you flexibility in your ability to control your temperature as you can take off a layer if you are too warm or put another layer on if you are cold.
The most important layer is the outer waterproof and windproof shell. Look for clothing made of wool, silk and new synthetic fibres, all of which retain heat better than other materials.
6- Ensure you have a comprehensive policy that covers emergency evacuation from Antarctica.
Just like any overseas vacation, you’ll need to take out insurance for your Antarctic voyage. Whichever insurance you choose to go with, ensure you have a comprehensive policy that covers emergency evacuation from Antarctica.
Because of Antarctica’s remote location and the expense of getting someone to a medical facility, every Antarctica operator requires you to be covered for emergency evacuation insurance. All vessel companies require you to have insurance that covers air lift evacuation in case of a medical emergency, without this they will refuse you on board.
Most Antarctica operators will require you to have emergency evacuation, repatriation and medical cover up to US$200,000.
7- You don’t need to be a young athlete to experience Antarctica
The range of age in general may range from children to seniors, with most travelers aged 30s-60s. Some vessels do not permit children under age 12 and families should not expect many children on any of the departures.
Your Antarctica Vacation does not need to be physically demanding. You may opt out of the shore excursions and choose instead to view the wildlife and landscape from the deck. On shore, most vessels offer at least one easy walk that allows participants to experience the destination without going far from the landing site.
That said, you are required to have a good general health and physically capable of performing normal on board and ashore activities, which may require moderate exertion, with a high degree of self-sufficiency. Please note that you will also have to get up and down the steep gangway to board the zodiacs and the onboard stairs between decks
8- Wildlife can be fascinating for your kids
Some vessels have minimum age requirements ranging from 6 to 12. Other vessels leave it up to the parents to decide whether or not the cruise would be appropriate.
Do your children love animals? The dramatic landscapes and unique wildlife can be fascinating for children. The local wildlife will be everywhere. So there is plenty of activities to keep your children engaged during the trip. nearly every day they will have the opportunity to jump onto land and explore amongst the ice and snow!
However, the long voyages at sea can become tiresome for even the most hearty child traveler and I must warn you- when the ship is travelling through Drake’s Passage, some levels of seasickness is common.
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