Preparing for an Antarctic trip can feel daunting, so we put together a list of the most common questions to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime.
How big are polar ships?
Most of the boats we work with are polar expedition vessels that carry between 50 and 150 people. There are a couple of exceptions that carry up to 200 people, but this is the max. However, it’s important to note that Antarctica has strict regulations on how many people can be at a landing site at any one time so as to best preserve this fragile region. This excellent policy means that large cruise ships do not frequent the region as they cannot disembark in large numbers.
How Rough are the Seas? Will I Get Seasick?
There will be an onboard doctor to assist you should you become unwell but if you have been susceptible to sea sickness in the past, we recommend consulting your GP before travel to best prepare yourself.
If you are really worried about sea sickness, then an air-cruise may be the best option for you, as it allows you to bypass the Drake Passage, and thus the roughest waters, completely. See our page on flying or sailing the Drake Passage to learn more.
Do I Require Specialist Insurance to Visit Antarctica?
The answer is yes: you will need travel insurance that covers you for medical evacuation from Antarctica. Please speak to your insurance provider about this. We recommend purchasing this as soon as you have committed to the trip.
Do I Need a Visa to Go?
No, you don’t need a visa to go to Antarctica, Chile or Argentina if you are a British, American or Singaporean Citizen, however your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your departure date.
How Do I Choose the Ship/Itinerary that is Best for Me?
Whilst it’s great to have choice, having so many options on offer can be overwhelming! As a first port of call, we recommend contacting one of our Antarctica Travel Specialists who will be able to talk you through the different options and help you find the right fit for you. The main things to consider when initially narrowing down the boats and itinerary are the dates you’re available to travel, how long you would like to be away and how much you would like to spend.
What Currency Should I Bring?
Antarctica has no currency. However, Port Lockroy and the Ukrainian Research station Vernadsky both accept US Dollars, Pound Sterling & Euros, although you are likely to get your change in USD irrespective of whatever currency you paid with. Onboard souvenirs & tips will cost extra, and most boats will add all expenses to your onboard tab for you to settle at the end of your trip and for which both Visa & MasterCard is accepted.
What Should I Pack?
The key to packing for the Antarctic is layers. Lots and lots of layers. Wearing a vest, a long-sleeved shirt, a turtleneck over the top and a water-proof jacket over that will keep you much warmer than one chunky jumper and a hefty coat. The Antarctic’s climate can also change at a moment's notice, so it’s important to be able to take layers off when needed. We also recommend that you opt for insulated clothing over cotton to keep you extra warm. Please read our blog for more details.
Each ship offers complimentary rubber boots for the duration of your cruise, so you only need to pack comfortable shoes to wear onboard and shoes with non-slip soles for when you’re on-deck (trainers or walking shoes are perfect).
Some ships will have a Captain’s Dinner. Whilst this doesn’t require fancy attire such as you’d encounter on a regular cruise ship, some guests will choose a more smart-casual look for this evening. Our Antarctica specialists will be able to advise the specifics on your chosen departure. You can also check out our blog for some helpful hints.
What is There to Do Onboard?
Each ship will have daily lectures, films, etc. Many vessels will allow passengers on the bridge to watch the ship negotiate polar ice and try and glimpse wildlife. Most ships also have a lounge area, library and other public areas, although the exact facilities vary from vessel to vessel.
What is There to Do Onshore?
Antarctica is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife and experiences. Highlights include: spending time with the penguins, cruising through monumental icebergs on a zodiac (a small boat which holds only 8-12 guests), take an icy dip in Deception Bay – which also happens to be the caldera of a volcano, and kayaking. You can also take advantage of the other-worldly scenery and take some epic photos and send a postcard home from Port Lockroy – although it will take about 3 months to arrive!
Are There Restrictions Onshore?
The short answer is yes. Every effort is made to minimalise our impact on the areas you visit to protect the wildlife and environment, so you are asked to refrain from taking food & drinks onshore, and neither leave anything behind nor take anything with you.
Do I Have to Be Particularly Fit & Active to Go Antarctica?
You don’t need to be especially fit to join an Antarctica cruise, you just need to be able to get in and out of the Zodiac. As a general guide, if you are fit enough to manage stairs on your own, then you will be able to manage this. If you opt for an additional kayaking program, you will need to have had prior experience of sea kayaking.
Are there any age restrictions in Antarctica?
There are no maximum age restrictions, you just have to be mobile enough to get in and out of the zodiacs. Cruises generally impose a minimum age restriction of around 8 years old although this varies from boat to boat. If you are wanting to travel with some young polar explorers, give us a call to discuss which boats may be right for you and your family.
Will I see King and Emperor penguins in Antarctica?
Everyone who goes to Antarctica who wants to know if they’ll see this frozen continent’s most famous resident. If you want to see King Penguins, then you should choose an itinerary that includes South Georgia. If you want to see Emperor Penguins, then you need to go to Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea. We offer some voyages that will attempt to reach Snow Hill, but the success rate is less than 50% - well worth a try though! We recommend that you read our Wildlife & Season guide to see when’s best to see what.
What is the food like onboard a polar ship?
There is always plenty of food offered onboard, usually to very high standards. Most vessels offer 3-4 course menus that can accommodate vegetarians or other special dietary preferences if notified in advance. Most vessels also offer an Asian/Chinese meal option.
What About Laundry?
Laundry is available on board at an extra cost. The laundry bag and pricelist can be found in your room or your Travel Specialist can request it in advance if you wish. As travel to Antarctica requires you to take a few bulky items but plenty of base layers, many guests prefer to pack as light as possible and do laundry on board.
Will I Have Wi-Fi?
Most boats will offer an internet package for you to purchase on board. Antarctica is a remote destination and relies on satellite signal, so connections can be patchy and slow. Some boats offer a free Wi-Fi service that will allow you to send and receive WhatsApp or WeChat messages in order to keep in touch with loved ones back home.
What languages are spoken in Antarctica?
Guests onboard will come from around the world with English or Mandarin (depending on the departure selected) being the ‘official’ language of the cruise. Amongst expedition staff, you tend to find a mix of North and South Americans, Europeans, Aussies, New Zealanders and Chinese. It’s a real melting pot of knowledge and experiences!
Why travel with Scott Dunn?
- We are true Antarctica specialists. Antarctica is the most remote destination on earth and yet all of our travel experts planning these bucket list trips have been and so really know what they’re talking about. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
- We work with a range of vessels and we know both them and their itineraries inside out. Consider that we’re completely impartial too, meaning that we’ll only ever steer you towards an option because it’s right for you. What’s more, you won’t pay any more booking through us than you would if you booked directly.
- We only work with expedition ships – our Antarctic cruises aren’t for ‘cruise people’. When you go to a place like Antarctica, the real joy is in getting off the boat to explore. We want you to maximize each hour you have at the White Continent, so we only work with small expedition ships, manned by the most skilled crews and hosted by the most knowledgeable expedition team.
- We know Latin America too – we can arrange all your pre and post arrangements in Latin America. Everything is customized and whether you’re after just a few days in Argentina or Chile either side of your Antarctic adventure or planning a mega Latin American odyssey, we can take care of it.
- From the moment you speak to one of our specialists, until after you have returned home, Scott Dunn promises an Exceptional Travel service. We will take care of you every step of the way, whatever happens.