Climate and Key Facts

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest place on the planet and 98% of it is covered by ice that is at least a mile thick.

Antarctic expedition cruises travel  between October and March, avoiding the darkness of the Antarctic winter. Early booking is advisable – usually a year in advance.

Note: you should be able to use the zoom on the map above to help identify all key locations:

Ushuaia, Southern Argentina – the starting point for many expedition ships to Antarctica.

Punta Arenas, Southern Chile – you can fly from here to King George Island (South Shetlands)  to board your expedition ship.

Drake Passage – the ocean between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica.

South Shetland Islands – 11 major islands including King George Island, Deception Island, Livingston Island and Elephant Island.

Antarctic Peninsula – 60 miles southeast of the South Shetland Islands, the 600 mile long arm stretching out northwards and eastwards from the bulk of the Antarctic continent. The tip of the peninsula is Antarctic Sound.

Falkland Islands – 300 miles east of southern Argentina. The Falklands consist of 2 main islands (East and West Falkland) and around 740 other islands and islets. The capital is Stanley. There are flights between Stanley and Punta Arenas.

South Georgia – 860 miles southeast of the Falklands.

Weddell Sea – the sea on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula from Antarctic Sound.

South Orkney Islands – a small group of islands 375 miles northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Coronation Island is the largest.

Antarctic Circle – the most southerly of the parallel circles of latitude. Some of the trips to the Antarctic Peninsula attempt to cross the Antarctic Circle through the Lemaire Channel and into the Penola Strait.

Please click the links below for up-to-date visa and entry requirements for British nationals travelling to South America:

Argentina: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/argentina/entry-requirements

 

Chile: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/chile/entry-requirements

 

Falkland Islands: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/falkland-islands/entry-requirements

 

Passport validity

Please make sure your passport is valid and up to date. In general terms, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from your date of arrival into all South American countries.  

 

Travelling with children

Please contact us if you are planning on travelling with children to Antarctica as minimum age restrictions may apply.

Single parents or adults travelling with children under the age of 18 are required to provide notarised documentary evidence of parental responsibility, or consent to travel from those with parental responsibility. Such documentation is often required before being allowed to enter Latin American countries and, in many cases, before permitting children to leave the country.  

 

Local airport taxes

International and domestic airport taxes may be payable locally if it is not included with your airline tickets. This is usually payable in US dollars and it may not always be possible to pay by credit/debit card.

For any expedition cruise journey to Antarctica you must be fit enough to be able to board ships and disembark onto zodiacs and other support vessels.

For up-to-date advice on any vaccination requirements and any health risks associated with visiting South America and Antarctica please contact your local GP.

The following NHS website provides health information and advice for travellers to South America, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica:

www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx#south-america–antarctica

Please click onto the links below for up-to-date advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office:

 

Argentina: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/argentina

Chile: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/chile

Falkland Islands: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/falkland-islands

 

Help for British nationals in South America:

www.gov.uk/help-british-nationals-overseas/south-America

 

It is best to travel to South America with a supply of US dollars rather than trying to obtaining any local currency here. Dollars can always be changed for local currency and are more widely recognised than euros or pounds. The clear exceptions are if you are travelling to the Falklands Islands which is pegged to sterling.

We always recommend you keep a supply of US dollars handy and make sure that notes are clean and undamaged. Torn or damaged notes (e.g. from a staple or written on) will not be accepted.

We also suggest that you have a supply of single 1 dollar notes as these are useful for tips for airport and station porters and for hotel staff.

Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and the better restaurants and shops but may not be accepted in small shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, nor in local markets.

In general terms, MasterCard is more widespread than Visa. It may be a good idea to take both if you have them. Usage of American Express is rare.

Visitors to the Falkland Islands should note that the Falkland Islands pound is pegged to sterling (£1.00 = FK£1.00). Exchange rates for other destinations are subject to change at any time but the following table provides indicative information for Central and South America:

Argentina: Buenos Aires:  GMT -3

Chile:         Santiago:           GMT -3