A vast mass of white wilderness, Antarctica is unique as the world’s driest, coldest, and windiest continent at the southernmost part of the world. Its vastness of snow, ice, rock and water is astounding and humbling; an incomparable experience. Populated by penguins of many different varieties, and a smorgasbord seals and whales, to reindeer and albatrosses, Antarctica’s wildlife is one of its main attractions, while kayaking around icebergs or helicopter tours over this astonishing continent are also must-do activities for many visitors.
KEY FACTS BEFORE YOU GO:
- Currency: If visiting Port Lockroy, US Dollars, Pound Sterling, and Euros are all accepted, and Visa and MasterCard transactions could be made (transactions will be charged in US Dollars)
- Time Difference: Antarctica is unusual in that it's a continent which spans all the time zones! The Antarctic cruise season is generally from late October to March, which is during the Austral summer. During these months, the sun is almost always in the sky, with days getting longer and longer until the sun doesn't set at all (midnight sun) on the day of summer solstice, which is on 22 December. Cruise lines and tour operators will set a time zone to use while sailing (for example, Hurtigruten operate on Central European Time -5, or 4 hours BEHIND GMT).
- Flight time: Antarctica is usually explored by expedition cruise, with most itineraries either departing from Ushuaia (Argentina) or Punta Arenas (Chile). Alternatively, some expedition cruises depart from New Zealand or Australia (commonly Invercargill and Hobart respectively), but these are less common and take longer to reach Antarctica. 90% of Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia. If departing from Ushuaia, you would ordinarily spend at least a night in Buenos Aires before the onwards internal flight to Ushuaia, which takes 3.5 hours. If departing from Punta Arenas, you'd usually spend time in Santiago first, before the onwards internal flight, which is 3 hours and 20 minutes.
- Entry requirements: Visas are not required for Antarctica (as no single country owns it), but you will need a valid permit, which would be arranged by the tour operator/cruise line you're travelling with, and usually included in the fare.
- Vaccinations and Health: You should always ensure that you travel with adequate travel health insurance. For up-to-date information, please check this website (as recommended by the Foreign Office): https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/country/9/antarctica#Vaccine_recommendations. If vaccinations are required, it is generally advisable to arrange an appointment with a health professional four to six weeks before departure.
General information on travel vaccinations can be found on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/travel-vaccinations/
You are required to complete the IAATO Medical Questionnaire, including a confirmation of fitness from your doctor before embarking on an Antarctic expedition cruise.
To find out more, and for the most up-to-date advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-antarctic-territory
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