Escorted tours to Antartica
Language: There is no native language in Antarctica so various languages are spoken throughout, including English, French, Norwegian, and the most spoken language is Russian.
Currency: As Antarctica is not a country, it does not have an official currency so it would depend on what area you are travelling to as to what currency is applicable. The UK territory uses Sterling as its currency whereas the US territory uses US dollars. However, US dollars are accepted in most places so this is probably the best option.
Time Zone: Antarctica Standard Time = GMT+12, Antarctica Summer Time = GMT+11
Tipping: You are most likely to visit Antarctica on a cruise, where tipping is not included and so it is an optional additional cost, but is common practice.
Antartica - an introduction
For a holiday consisting of extreme wilderness and nothing but snow and ice surrounding you, Antarctica tours certainly tick all boxes. One things for certain though, prepare yourself for the Antarctic weather as it is beyond cold here. The majority of Antarctica is a high but flat plateau of ice that is covered by snow throughout the year, as a result the snow reflects the sun and a combination of this plus it being approximately 14,000 feet above sea-level makes it the coldest place on Earth to visit. Here's an Antarctica fact for you, the lowest recorded temperature was -89.2°C (-128.6°F) and this was measured at Vostok Station in July 1983!
If the freezing cold temperatures have not put you off from visiting, you're made of stronger stuff than we first thought. When your escorted tour takes you to Antarctica don't be surprised if you're not first in awe of the spectacular scenery that lies before you. Many intrepid explorers have been amazed by this stunning scenery and the challenges it provides that they return again and again. Due to the extreme cold, no one has actually ever set up home here apart from scientists at research stations and the odd explorer who are so fascinated by what Antarctica offers that they wish to discover more.
The Antarctic wildlife is one of the pulls for visitors to come to these shores where you will see seals and penguins going about their daily business, completely disinterested by humans and more focused on raising their young. Although if you get too close for comfort, you'll certainly know about it! Aside from the different species of penguins and seals, you may also catch sight of albatrosses taking to the skies and minke whales resting by the ice edge. Unfortunately, you won't find any polar bears here as they prefer life in the North Pole.
Believe it or not, but there are some wonderful places to visit when discovering Antarctica such as Deception Island with its chinstrap penguins and beaches that steam. The reason for the steam is because Deception Island is located near to an active volcano therefore the water here can be scalding although in same cases it can be a mixture of hot and cold. If you do visit the Island, stay with the group and do not wander off. Also do not take home any plants as it is prohibited by law.
Board a zodiac (black rubber boat) and visit 'one of the happiest places on earth' Paradise Harbour but make sure you have a camera fully charged as you will not want to miss the spectacular calving icebergs as chunks fall off into the sea. Other must-see's for your Antarctica escorted tour include; the Polar Ice Cap, views from the Jagged Mountain, explore the narrow passages of Lemaire and Neumayer Channels (known as the 'Kodak Gap' for its wonderful photo opportunities), the Ross Ice Shelf which due to global warming is melting and then explore the McMurdo Dry Valleys where there's plenty of flora and fauna to see by foot. Whatever you do, wrap up warm and don't forget your camera – you'll regret it if you do!
Antarctica tours typically include; return flights, accommodation, meals and a variety of included or optional excursions so you can really see the best of the resort you're visiting.
Things to do
Antarctica may only be home to scientific researchers and intrepid explorers but surprisingly it also has a lot to keep visitors entertained during their escorted tour. Here are a few ideas to get the inspiration flowing:
The Drake Passage indicates the point of Antarctic Convergence, where the cold polar waters descend below the warmer northern waters. Plus this is the most northern part of Antarctica that many seabirds will travel. If you're lucky enough to visit, you may even get to see the many Albatrosses that reside here!
South Shetland Islands
This set of islands are ideal for wildlife enthusiasts! Here you can spot many types of penguin including Macaroni, Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adélie; along with Antarctic and Elephant seals. You may even have the opportunity to get up close to the extraordinary humpback whale.
A place riddled with history just waiting to be explored. Surrounded by snow, ice mountains and waterways, it is idyllic. Some of the fascinating waterways include the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel, and the Lemaire Channel.
A trip to Antarctica is usually coupled with a visit to the remote Falkland Islands. Also a haven for wildlife, this is often the main attraction for these stunning islands. Plus if you have the time, fishing in the Falklands is fantastic, whether it's coastal, river or fly! The Falkland Islands Museum is a fascinating place to visit should you wish to learn a little more about the Islands and their history.
Tips & Advice
To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Antarctica, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
Before travelling to the Antarctic it is wise to check with your GP to see whether you are in need of any vaccinations before travelling.
There are no hospitals or pharmacies in Antarctica, should you need urgent treatment it is likely you will be evacuated back to a mainland country. It is therefore important that you possess medical treatment which will cover the cost of this. It is also wise to have access to additional funds to cover the cost of this or medical repatriation if necessary.
Within the British Antarctic Territory, there is no record of crime as there is no indigenous population, and only scientific researchers live there.
Local Laws and Customs
The British Territory, even though a British Overseas Territory, has its own laws which can be accessed by contacting a Commissioner based in London whose details can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.
To travel to the British Antarctic Territory, you require a permit which may be acquired by the company you are travelling with, but it would be best to check before travelling. You will also require a valid passport to enter the area.
Any other nationality looking to visit the Antarctica must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
Embassies and tourist offices
Government of the British Antarctic Territory Polar Regions Unit, Overseas Territory Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London SW1A 2AH.
Tel: 020 7008 1921, Fax: 020 7008 2086
Office Hours (GMT): Mon-Fri: 09.00-13.00 and 14.00-17.00