To travel to Antarctica could be one of the most exciting decisions you’ll ever make and booking your expedition is just the beginning of an epic adventure. Many of our team at Journey Latin America have been lucky enough to experience an Antarctic Voyage and our well-travelled experts are here to help you throughout the booking process. Before you take the plunge, please take a few minutes to read our essential advice.
Your itinerary and communications
Itineraries and the need for flexibility
Antarctic itineraries should be considered expedition voyages rather than traditional cruises. To be able to relish the unexpected is essential to one’s enjoyment of polar travel. Weather, sea and ice conditions, unforeseen delays and the availability of landing permits - as well as unmissable wildlife and photographic opportunities - will all influence the day-to-day running of your expedition. Itineraries can and do change, often at very short notice, but decisions taken by your expedition team and crew will be in the interest of your safety and enjoyment.
Getting to Ushuaia, Port Stanley or Punta Arenas
Our Antarctic cruises usually depart Ushuaia in Argentina and air-cruises depart from Punta Arenas (Chile), both at the southern tip of South America; some use Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, a short flight away from Punta Arenas. Delays can happen with flight connections (and baggage) en route to these cities. Therefore, please be sure to arrive in South America at least 3 nights before the start of your expedition and be in your Antarctic departure point (Ushuaia, Punta Arenas or Port Stanley) no later than the day before departure. Refunds cannot be made in the event of you missing the start of your cruise.
The Drake Passage
Expedition cruises from South America cross the Drake Passage to Antarctica in around 48 hours. While the Drake Passage deserves its notorious reputation, many travellers regard it as essential to their Antarctic experience. Whether or not you have good sea legs, the Drake Passage is often a turbulent crossing but lectures are given on board by your expedition team, meals continue as normal and there is plenty of time to read and spot birds or whales as the ship heads south. Bring your preferred motion sickness remedy, relax, and remember your crew has done this many times before. Air-cruises, which begin in King George Island, are ideal for those who are short of time or prefer not to cross the Drake Passage. Motion sickness is much less of a problem once you reach the sheltered waters off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island
If you have chosen an air-cruise, you’ll fly across the Drake Passage between Punta Arenas, Chile and King George Island in one or both directions. In these extreme zones, occasional delays occur as the crew seeks weather clearance for Antarctica. Each local operator follows its own procedures when dealing with delays. Meals and accommodation are usually provided, but please note refunds may not be made in the event of severe delay or cancellation. More details can be found in individual cruise operators’ terms and conditions, which you should read before you confirm your booking.
Many expedition cruises offer guests the option to spend a night camping on the ice, or participate in optional adventure activities such as sea kayaking, mountaineering, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. Some of these cost extra and previous experience may be required (except for camping). As space is limited, we advise you to sign up in advance for any optional adventure activities you are considering.
Keeping in touch
It is best to assume you will be out of contact for the whole of your time in Antarctica. On some ships it is possible to purchase internet usage in order to send and receive short emails (without images or attachments. You may notice a faint signal as the ship passes isolated research bases but you should not expect to be able to use your phone once you have left Ushuaia, Punta Arenas or Port Stanley.
Should your expedition call at Port Lockroy on the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s possible to send a postcard from the British Antarctic Territory post office. Allow 6 weeks for these to reach the UK.
Wellbeing and Fitness
Antarctica is very remote and we recommend you only consider travel to Antarctica if you are in good health. While today’s Antarctic expedition ships are comfortable, only very basic medical facilities are available on board. Recourse to emergency assistance within Antarctica is extremely limited and sometimes impossible.
Unless you are considering an activity cruise, shore landings within Antarctica are not normally strenuous and you will not need to walk long distances. However, you do need to be sure-footed: all landings require sufficient agility to get in and out of inflatable Zodiac craft in choppy conditions, and you will have to walk through snow.
Antarctica is a great place to travel solo. There is usually an inclusive and sociable atmosphere on board ships. Willing-share policies operate on most ships meaning you will not have to pay a single supplement if you are happy to share with another traveller of the same sex. However if you would prefer to pay for a single cabin, this is easily arranged. Some ships have competitively priced single occupancy cabins.
We have been taking well-travelled families to Latin America for many years, so please speak to us if you are thinking of taking your family to Antarctica. By and large, expeditions are orientated towards adults but for families with older children a holiday in Antarctica will be an unforgettable experience. Some cruise operators offer child discounts or offer family-friendly departures. The unpredictable nature of travel and long days on board make Antarctic expeditions less suitable for children under the age of 12.
Payments and Insurance
Booking, deposits and final payments
For all Antarctic expeditions we require a 30% deposit at the time of booking and full payment no later than 120 days before the expedition departure date. All payments are non-refundable so we advise you to take out comprehensive travel insurance at the time of booking. It’s worth paying special attention to the level of cancellation cover your chosen insurance provides.
In addition to reading Journey Latin America’s Terms and Conditions, Antarctic cruise operators require you to complete passenger information forms and adhere to their own terms and conditions. By confirming your booking with us, you confirm your acceptance of these additional conditions.
Payments on board
The cost of your cruise includes all on-shore landings and all meals but there may be extras to settle on board such as beverages and (where available) sending emails. Additional expenses are best settled on board in cash using US Dollars or Euros. Some credit cards are also accepted, depending on your chosen ship.
Tips to your crew and expedition team are entirely voluntary but as a rough guide US$10-15 per traveller per day is a good basic tipping guide.
Please check your travel insurance policy covers travel to Antarctica, paying particular attention to the level of cover for evacuation in the event of a medical emergency. Our recommended insurance policy by Campbell Irvine Ltd covers travellers for emergency evacuation from land, where they can be reached by aircraft. This means, in theory, a client could be assisted on mainland South America, the Falkland Islands, or on King George Island (South Shetlands).
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Real Latin America Experts
- Travel Consultant
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.