Pura Aventura’s brief guide to the practicalities of travelling to Antarctica. We’ve included practical tips on money, health and vaccinations, safety and language to help you plan your holiday to Antarctica.
Probably not as cold as you expect but you still need to be prepared as weather conditions can change within the hour from bright sunshine to cold biting winds.
The coldest temperature you can expect to encounter on the Antarctic Peninsula is freezing point 0°c
However the wind chill can make it feel colder.
What to pack
During your time on the boat things are really informal, there is no dress code at all.
It is quite warm on the boat so most people will be in jeans and t-shirt whilst on board.
For shore landings you are provided with wellies and parkas so really you just need to wear a shirt, fleece on top and then the parka on top will keep you sufficiently warm.
On your legs you need comfortable trousers, hiking trousers are good as they are generally wind proof and quick drying.
You might want to take some thermals, particularly for your legs. If the wind is up then it can be biting cold.
Good socks are very important.
Wellington boots: provided by the boat. You can take your own if you prefer.
Waterproof jacket: provided by the boat.
Technical shirt: having gone to all the trouble of buying a breathable waterproof jacket, you should avoid wearing cotton shirts underneath as cotton retains moisture, making you feel cold once you stop walking.
Sun protection: the sun is very strong and the ozone layer is severely depleted in Antarctica. Minimum factor 50 sun protection. Sunglasses.
Warm mid-layer: a thick good quality fleece for underneath your waterproof jacket.
Thermals: non-syntheticn thermal base layers are not always necessary but good to have just in case. They are very light and easy to pack.
Hiking trousers: loose, comfortable, wind/rain proof, quick drying.
Waterproof over-trousers: to protect you on the zodiacs. Also easier to wash and dry than hiking trousers.
Feet warmers: thick hiking/ski socks and heated thermal insoles. Wellington boots do not insulate your feet and the soles are quite thin. Thick socks will help keep your feet warm. Consider heated insoles for a treat.
Hat & gloves: for shore landings. Gloves should be waterproof for the zodiac rides. Consider taking a thinner pair to wear underneath, as it is difficult to take photographs in bulky gloves.
Daypack: for shore landings though you are only generally on shore for a couple of hours at a time so not essential.
Small waterproof bag: if you prefer not to carry a daypack ashore (they can be quite cumbersome to carry with all your layers) just protect your camera with a waterproof bag.
Swimming costume: for the hot ‘bath’ on Deception Island.
Binoculars: for wildlife watching.
Time: Antarctica is GMT -4
Electricity: 220V, 60Hz, US style two pin plugs.
Telephones & Internet: not surprisingly there is no mobile phone coverage or internet access on board. The Captain has a Satellite phone and you can use this for emergencies but it is very expensive.
There is a computer in the library where you can download photographs. Consider taking a USB stick if you plan on downloading your photos.
Language: most of the crew are Chilean so speak Spanish. All of the guides onboard speak fluent English. The dining room and cabin staff speak very little English so it is a good idea to brush up on some basic Spanish before you go.
Money: all drinks and extras onboard such as souvenirs are priced in Chilean pesos.
Any extras are signed to your cabin and you pay on the last evening. Credit cards are accepted along with US Dollars or Chilean Peso.
A small beer costs +/-2,500 Ch pesos (approx £2.50) a bottle of wine approx 15,000 Ch pesos. Wine and soft drinks is included with meals.
Tipping: there is a ‘general tip’ box for the crew and staff on board. When you pay for your extras on your last day you will be given an envelope for tips which you then post through the tip box.
If the crew have performed to your expectations, and their service has been excellent: US$10 per person per day for the whole crew is a general guideline.
Therefore the total tip would be US$100 per person for a 10-night cruise. This is just a suggestion as tipping and gratuities are a very personal matter.
Luggage labels for the MV Antarctic Dream will be at your hotel in Ushuaia along with confirmation of the collection times.
Fill in the luggage labels and leave your luggage at hotel reception on the day of departure. The staff from MV Antarctic Dream will come and collect it at around 10:00.
They will then return to collect you at approximately 16:00 to take you to the dock.
Once on board you will be shown to your cabin. You will be asked to leave your passport at reception.
Valuables & safety
There is an open door policy onboard so all cabins are unlocked at all times. This is standard practice on small vessels and adds to the informal friendly atmosphere.
There is a safe deposit box at reception if you feel you need it.
You will be given a full safety briefing when you board the ship.
For up to date, journey specific health advice, consult your GP. You might also like to visit FitForTravel.nhs.uk
No vaccinations are needed to visit Antarctica. There is a doctor onboard for any health issues.
Drake’s Passage is rough stretch of sea and even on a calm crossing you are likely to feel nauseous at first.
The vast majority of people adapt within half a day and then feel fine for the rest of the trip.
Whether or not you take medication is entirely a personal choice. Taking medication is no guarantee of preventing seasickness. If you do decide on taking medication there are a number of choices:
The motion sickness patch is probably the most popular these days – to be placed behind your ear 4 hours before boarding and changed if necessary after 72 hours. This is quite an effective way to prevent seasickness but causes things like a dry mouth and blurry vision.
Homeopathic medicines work for many, ask at your local homeopathic shop. Remember that anything with ginger will be helpful – even chewing on some crystallised ginger can work for some.
There is even an audio tape called ‘travelwell’ endorsed by none other than Ellen MacArthur.
Acupressure bracelets – a drug-free product causing no side effects – the motion sickness band is worn one on each wrist for the duration of your trip. Some contain small magnets, others just a stud, which should be aligned with a pressure point on your wrist and pressure applied periodically. This won’t work very well if you miss the pressure point.
If you do start to feel your cheeks turn green the best remedy is to go out on deck and breathe in the fresh air. Eat small amounts little and often.
The ship’s doctor is also available to advise you and he/she will have medication if you need it.