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10 Things you need to Know About Antarctica

Congratulations! If you are reading this, it's because you are about to make a great decision: travelling to Antarctica! We can guarantee that you will enjoy your time in this land of desolate beauty. The landscape of the Antarctic is extreme, and most cruises visit the Antarctic Peninsula where the landscape is made up of white icy peaks and crisp blue glaciers. The clear waters are inhabited by heart-warming penguins, ferocious leopard seals and magnificent whales. This vast freezing desert is the coldest, driest and wildest place on earth, making a trip here, so much more exciting than any other travel adventure.

Are you ready to have the most otherworldly trip of your life and share our lifelong infatuation with the Polar regions? Then without further ado, let us take you through the 10 things you need to know before embarking on your once-in-a-lifetime expedition cruise:

1. Best Time to Visit 

Antarctic cruises only operate in the Summer months, between November and early March when the weather is comparatively mild.  When you choose to travel within this period, will depend on what you want to see. It is worth spending a little bit of thinking before you pick. - If you want to see Antarctica in all its white and snowy glory, then the earlier parts of the season are the best; if cute Penguin chicks are at the top of your list, then you will want to choose a cruise towards the middle and later parts of the season. Are you looking to spot some whales? Then March is the best time for you. Sadly, it isn’t possible to include all of these experiences into one trip, which is why it is very important to know as much about Antarctica as possible, before deciding when you want to visit. 

2. What to Wear

Preparing for an Antarctic cruise is all about practicality and staying warm. That said, the average temperature in Antarctica during the summer months is 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the key to being comfortable is layering! This could mean adding thermal underwear to your luggage, a 2-piece puff jacket and parka, waterproof insulated pants, and boots! Wellington Boots are fantastic in and out the boats as well as for walking in the snow; some cruises include them so make sure double check if this bonus is included in yours. You also need another pair of good walking boots for when you are on shore as the surface you will be walking on will be uneven, so you will need good grips and ankle support on the shoes you pick, a waterproof membrane in the boot is also highly recommended as it will keep your feet dry. Accessories should include at least one pair of gloves, a few beanies and even neck gaiters. Remember, the colder it gets the harsher the UV rays become, so it is also important to bring your sunscreen and use it religiously every day. Wrap-around sunglasses are also a must, as well as a camera and a pair of binoculars.

3. When Choosing the cruise

There is a lot of choice about which cruise to take so the best thing to do is to speak with one of our Travel Specialists who is experienced with all Antarctic routes and can rapidly identify the best ones according to your needs and wishes. Still, if you prefer to ride solo for now, and explore options on your own, here are some of our suggestions:

First Antarctic cruise? Try: Classic Antarctica, Antarctica Basecamp Cruise
Want to see as much as possible? Try: Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia 
Want to cross the Antarctic Circle? Try: Crossing the Antarctic Circle
Want a shorter/taster cruise? Try: Classic Antarctica, Antarctic Fly Cruise
Want to focus on wildlife? Try: Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia, South Georgia in Depth
Want the Comforts of a 5* Hotel? Try: Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia

4. The Activities

So, you want to know which kind of fun you will be having once on the cruise? There are so many different activities to do and it is entirely up to you to choose which ones you would like to participate in. Off the ship, you are more likely to do activities such as complimentary zodiac tours, zodiac landings, or the optional kayak tours. You will also visit scientific stations and historic huts, explore many scenic channels, hiking, sightseeing, and of course search for different wildlife species. There will also be plenty of entertainment on board as you can benefit from the knowledge of the scientists, scholars, photographers, videographers and naturalists, who will give lectures, workshops and debates on several Antarctic related subjects. As the main part of this adventure is to appreciate the incredible scenery around you, the ship might stop unexpectedly should something interesting come your way. You will also have lots of time to sit around with the expedition team members out on the deck while looking out for wildlife. It will be packed, and unforgeable.

5. The Drake Passage

You might have heard about the Drake Passage and wonder what it will be like to cross it. This depends on a few factors: the sea conditions are very variable, and it will largely depend on the day you cross it. It could be a day of 'drake lake' or, 'drake shake'. How you will deal with it, is a very personal thing. Everyone is different and while some guests may seem perfectly fine, others are more prone to sickness and may need some support. There is always an onboard medical team ready to help where and when necessary. They can provide you with tablets or injections which will help ease the motion sickness symptoms.

6. Wildlife

One of the big highlights of an Antarctic cruise is the wildlife you get to see up close. As one of the most pristine places in the world, and the only one that remains untouched by humans, Antarctica, offers a wide range of incredible species to be admired. So, what can you see, and when can you see it? - On most Antarctic cruises you have a good chance of spotting whales and killer whales from November to February; you will see seals usually over the Antarctic Peninsula; King Penguins can be viewed on cruises going to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands; baby penguins can be admired on most cruises heading over to the Antarctic Peninsula from late December onwards; and finally, Emperor Penguins can generally be seen when going to the less explored Weddell Sea area of Antarctica. Of course, animals can be unpredictable, so you might get a few surprises exactly when you least expect. But then again, that's the fun part of a trip like this; every day is a surprise day.

7. Money and Tipping

One of the things most people wonder about is how to pay for things in Antarctica. The first thing you need to know is that because Antarctica isn't a country you won't find a specific currency that should be used here, instead there are several; Argentine Pesos, Chilean Pesos, US Dollars, Pound Sterling, as well as Euros. As you may already know, most of your spending will be done on board so you simply need to check with one of our Travel Specialists, at the booking time, what is the required currency on the cruise that you have selected. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted but bear in mind that, it is best to always have cash, as some establishments do favour it. As for tipping, the usual norm is that you tip your guide $10/$20 USD, per day. Especially when travelling through Argentina or Chile, people do expect to be tipped.

8. Visa or Passport

The visa situation for UK passport holders is simple. You don’t need a visa to travel to Antarctica, nor do you need one for Argentina or any other country in South America, should you wish to explore this incredible continent before you start your cruise, be sure to talk to your travel specialist, who will be able to help you with the arrangements through our sister company Latin Routes. A little tip: Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your trip ends. You will also need a permit, but this is something that will be taken care of for you.

9. A day on the trip

An Antarctic cruise will never be your typical holiday cruise, just like there is never going to be a typical day onboard. That characteristic alone is the very essence of an expedition cruise and the core reason why you want to go in the first place. As an expedition style cruise, Antarctic trips focus on exploration and getting as close to the environment as possible. To do this in the best way possible, each ship typically only takes 70 to 200 people on board. The ship really is, just the means to get out there and explore. You will always be accompanied by a team of experts and guides so that you not only see the beautiful scenery but also understand it. Most importantly, keep your camera in hand as round every iceberg is another amazing view and if you are lucky you may spot whales, seals or rare birdlife. You will also find that during the quieter times, most ships offer great informative talks and lectures about various aspects of Antarctica. 

All this said nothing really compares to the actual experience of being there and seeing it all with your own eyes. A trip to Antarctica is one of those that leaves you with absolutely no words to describe it. Best thing to do? Keep your camera ready and capture every single moment; be it the whales, the seals, rare birdlife, the icebergs... That way, even if you can't find the words, at least you will find the photos.

10. How many people Visit Antarctica in a Year

Antarctica is becoming more and more famous amongst tourist and people looking to get a bit more. The focus for us is on doing it responsibly, we only work with reputable operators who are committed to preserving this incredible wilderness for generations to come.  

Ready to start planning your incredible Arctic or Antarctica expedition cruise?

Simply complete our enquiry form to get in touch, or call our Polar Specialists on 0203 196 1000.

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Enquire About 10 Things You Need to Know About Antarctica Before Travelling
About Us
  • We'll compare a huge selection of expedition ships, cruises and operators to find your perfect cruise.

  • Our prices are amongst the best you'll find, plus look out for Polar Routes exclusive offers!

  • As supporters of the Marine Conservation Society, booking with us helps support the protection of our oceans.

  • All our holidays are ATOL protected (11104), for your complete peace of mind.


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Why book with Polar Routes?

  • We can compare a huge selection of expedition ships, cruises and operators.
  • From former Russian research vessels to larger and luxurious ships - there is an expedition cruise to suit you. 
  • Our Polar Specialists will help you choose the perfect expedition cruise for your requirements.
  • We are the expedition cruise specialists and know all the polar destinations inside out.
  • Our expert team of Polar Specialists have extensive knowledge of all the expedition ships & operators.
  • All of our Polar Specialists have first-hand experience of expedition cruising to the polar regions.
  • Our prices are amongst the best you'll find, plus look out for Polar Routes exclusive offers!
  • All our holidays are ATOL protected (11104), for your complete peace of mind.
  • As supporters of the Marine Conservation Society, booking with us helps support the protection of our oceans.