There are very few things in this world that can overwhelm your senses like a visit to the frozen frontier; although Antarctica may seem cold and unwelcoming, it’s actually one of the most interesting and strikingly beautiful places on planet Earth.
An expedition to Antarctica was once an arduous journey, reserved for only the most adventurous explorers, though today anyboy can join a cruise and experience the continent in luxury and comfort.
That said, the cost and logistics mean that most people expect to plan the Antarctic cruise only once in their lifetime, so it’s important as a first timer to know what to expect.
… And perhaps, more importantly, what not to forget!
First-Timers to Antarctica: Don’t Forget These 5 Important Things
Get the Right Clothing
The temperatures at the South Pole vary from being freezing to -15 degrees Celsius, so it’s important that you’re equipped with the right clothing.
Most companies will provide you with a packing list, which we recommend you read carefully and follow, but in general, factor in the wind chill by packing in layers.
Over your underwear, you’ll be wearing a base layer, which is the primary insulation for your skin. Then you put on your shirts and trousers, followed by your insulation layer.
Make sure this one lets your skin breathe because the last thing you want is sweat. Frostbite is not fun. Finally, you have an outer layer, your weatherproof jacket (check with your cruise company if they provide this for you – many will).
Take the time to find good-quality stuff because this is what will protect you when you’re down there. Your outer layers should all be water proof, as when you head into shore you’re in small rubebr zodiacs, and the spray often comes into the boat.
Carry All the Medicine You Need
It’s important to carry all medications you need, including any pain medication, cold medicine, paracetamol, any other essentials based on your health and medical history.
While in the majority of destinations, it’s easy to pop down to a pharmacy, you can’t do this in Antarctica. While there will be a doctor on board your ship, the medications onboard will be very limited.
Make sure you’ve packed any and all prescriptions, as well as your glasses and contacts (it would suck to get all the way to Antarctica and then not be able to see!), and any additional personal devices like insulin, inhalers, or epipens.
And while it may be easier to divide your medications for the week using a weekly or monthly pill dispenser, it’s best to bring all of your prescription medications in their original container.
During airport security checks you may have to prove that the prescriptions are yours. The easiest way to do this is to bring the prescription bottles that have your name on them. From there security agents can match the name to a form of personal identification.
Camera Gear: Pack Dry Bags & Extra Batteries
Whether you’re taking pictures with a professional DSLR or your smartphone, you will find that the extreme cold will drain your electronics and batteries of life far quicker than in other settings.
So it’s essential when traveling to Antarctica to make sure you’re prepared with extra, fully charged batteries, and that you recharge them each night.
Why? According to LiveScience, batteries rely on chemical reactions to work, and freezing temperatures slow or stop those reactions.
Lithium-ion batteries work by discharging their electric currents as individual lithium ions that move through solution from one end of the battery (the anode) to the other end (the cathode). The cold slows or may even stop those reactions down, although it’s still not exactly understood why.
Even if you’ve chosen your DSLR, maybe have your cell phone camera ready as a backup.
Get on the Antarctica Train Early
This should come as no surprise, but the waiting list to get to Antarctica is longer than you can imagine. Since you’ll be going as a tourist, there is a small window of time during which you will be able to visit.
Antarctica is open for only five months of the year, and thousands of people want to go. This means that all the cruises to Antarctica will sell out faster than you can blink.
The other thing you need to consider is that these cruises cost money. A lot of money. Especially if you get your tickets last minute. Booking early will save you a lot of cash, and you can use this money you’ll save to buy proper equipment for your trip.
Get Travel Insurance
Antarctica typically requires you to have travel insurance; insurance which includes comprehensive health coverage is mandatory for all cruises to the white continent, and every Antarctic operator will require proof of insurance before issuing your tickets.
Your regular health insurance is not enough for Antarctica due to the remoteness of the destination. You need coverage for emergency evacuation, sickness and repatriation.
We also suggest looking for an insurer that offers unlimited cover due to the high cost associated with the distance that needs to be covered should you fall ill.
Make sure you know exactly what is covered, especially if you’re including optional activities such as camping, kayaking, or skiing. Insurers will rarely openly state these activities and it is up to you to read the fine print on your policy document to make sure you’re covered.