Antarctica travel advice

Advice on choosing your boat

Charlotte Caffrey, co-founder of our partner Aqua-Firma, shares her Antarctica travel advice: “Speak to a tour operator who’s been on all of the ships and they’ll tell you the differences between them. Some might have bunk beds; others have bigger cabins with their own flat-screen TV. But on all of them the focus is outward-looking – really being exposed and enveloped by the environment that you’re in – rather than inward-looking. We do offer luxury boats with a Jacuzzi on board, three course meals, a wine list – things like that. But it still holds that you’re out twice a day, being guided by experts in their field, and that’s the main priority. The experience that you get of going out twice a day every day with polar experts – that will remain the same. The frills of the ship are just an added bonus if you want that sort of thing.”
Andrew Appleyard, from our partner Exodus Travels, shares his top Antarctica travel advice:
“My top tip would be that you need to get on a smaller vessel, because in the Antarctic you are not allowed to land more than 100 people on the islands at one time. So if you have 250 people on board, not everyone is going to get off every day – the passengers are on rotation. A smaller ship can offload in under 25 minutes – boarding the Zodiacs and you’re off. But 250 people can’t get off that quickly, and not everyone gets off.”

Activity advice

Simon Evans, polar specialist at our partner Intrepid Travel, recommends trying ice camping in Antarctica: “Wear lots of layers and waterproof trousers… Once you’re cold, it’s hard to get warmed up again. I stayed outside the tent just watching the world go by and stayed out a bit late and got very cold… But you’re so excited, doing something that’s so different and unique – it’s hard to sleep! I did it in mid-November and we had a sort of dusk 10pm-2am, but it didn’t get pitch black. If you do it in December and January, you get 24-hour daylight, although it gets a bit dusky around midnight."

Advice on life at sea

Sarah Wightman, from our partner Pura Aventura, offers Antarctica travel advice:
“I don’t think the Drake Passage should be feared in the way it is. It should be seen as part of the journey. I got very sick for half a day, but I still quite enjoyed it! The lectures during the crossing are really interesting. On the way out they set the scene – you learn about the history and geography and gear yourself up for it. There’s lots of birdlife following the ship and you see whales. Going on deck is my top tip – the fresh air and seeing the horizon help a lot. Once your ears and eyes get used to it and your balance centralises then you’re fine. Don’t go to your cabin if you’re feeling ill; that’s the worst thing you can do.”
Cassia Jackson, from our partner Heritage Expeditions, shares Antarctica travel advice for those departing from New Zealand: “Ross Sea voyages are well suited to adventurous travellers interested in history and the natural world. The ship travels a considerable distance, the expeditions are a 30-day round trip from New Zealand, including a number of sea days, so it pays to prepare yourself for this. We recommend that our expeditioners equip themselves with seasickness remedies prior. Travelling by ship to the Ross Sea, even with today's modern maritime advances and on board a comfortable vessel, helps give a greater understanding of the courage and tenacity of the early explorers who travelled this route over 100 years ago with limited equipment and facilities.”
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Antarctica or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Health & safety


No vaccinations are required for Antarctica. Ensure your travel insurance covers all activities you may be participating in (kayaking, diving, ice-climbing) as well as emergency evacuation. Ships have basic medical care and a doctor or nurse, but any serious treatment will require evacuation to the nearest country – which will cost thousands. Bring good quality protective sunglasses and sunscreen. There is still a hole in the ozone layer above the southern hemisphere, so the sun’s rays are harsh – made fiercer by reflecting off ice, snow and water. Anyone with underlying health problems should consult a doctor before booking a trip to Antarctica. The nearest hospital is thousands of miles away, and the cold and rough conditions can cause small problems to become very large ones in no time. The rolling waves of the Drake Passage and the lurching progress through ice-filled seas mean boats dip and duck unexpectedly. Be extremely careful and always “keep one hand free for the ship”. Every year, passengers suffer injuries from crashing into furniture, doors and hard surfaces. Heavy steel swinging doors can also cause nasty accidents if you hold on to the door frame – so don’t. The Drake Passage is often rough, with 10m waves tipping ships over 40°. You will very likely get seasick. Look into remedies before you depart – there are patches, wristbands, tablets and, of course, good old ginger. Some ship doctors can provide an injection which can treat the worst affected passengers. Fortunately, once you do make it to Antarctica, the lake-like waters allow you to enjoy every bit of the trip. Being in shape is highly recommended. The boats have lots of steep stairs, and the choppy crossing may result in passengers not being able to sleep or eat much, sapping strength. Boarding Zodiacs down a steep gangway is physically challenging, and other activities such as kayaking, sledging and trekking on the snow and ice are much better enjoyed if you are fitter – so prepare your body before you go!


Drills are performed at the beginning of each expedition – pay attention! Our partners will provide detailed trip notes and packing lists. Do follow them. There are no outdoor clothing shops in Antarctica, and renting gear once you get to Ushuaia is not advised as what you need may not be available, or the wrong size. Antarctica is surprisingly dry – it’s a polar desert. This means it is easy to get dehydrated fast, so drink plenty of water and cut down on coffee and alcohol. Weather can change in minutes, and if you are onshore you may be called back to the boat unexpectedly. However, supplies, first aid kits and shelter are always brought ashore in case of a (rare) stranding. A fall overboard is extremely rare – but almost always fatal. Children are permitted on many Antarctic cruises – though there will be age limits. Children under 10 are unlikely to get much out of the trip, and are less likely to understand the strict safety warnings and procedures. If you do decide to travel with children, be aware that there may not be other children onboard for them to play with, no activities designed specifically for kids – and make sure they are safe at all times.

Antarctica advice from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Antarctica travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
The zodiac tour through the icebergs gave an extraordinary perspective of the weird ice shapes.
– Louise Yerbury
"First: TAKE THE TRIP TO ANTARCTICA. It is unforgettable. Spend as much time on the bridge of the ship as possible. Go to all of the lectures. Meet new people. Seeing a place free of pollution, garbage, and hunters was fantastic and helped shape my opinions on environmentalism." – Stephen Kohn

"If possible, take your laptop... Not only can you view and back up your own images, but many an hour was spent on our voyage sharing images with others on board. Be prepared for changes in the proposed itinerary; it's only given as an example, really." – Judith Bewell

"Certainly take time out to see some of the places en route, whether it is Buenos Aires or Ushuaia and the surrounding areas. It takes a long time to get there so make the most of it." – Mike McCormack

"Summer in Antarctica is not nearly as cold as one might expect. We often were too hot with gloves and hats on. Conditions were like a cold, windy day in the mountains. Due to the low humidity, one should always take a water bottle to stay hydrated." – Barbara Wilson

"Don't take your climbing/hiking boots unless you are doing something serious. The snow is soft and wellies/gumboots are fine even for moderate hill climbs. You need the latter for getting ashore anyway." – David Oates

"Set your expectations high and you still won’t be disappointed because nothing prepares you for a trip to the Antarctic, South Georgia and The Falklands. The latter two are well worth taking in. Do not skimp on this holiday, of all the holidays you will ever take." – James Keaney

"The Zodiac tour through the icebergs gave an extraordinary perspective of the weird ice shapes and this was a totally unexpected part of the itinerary. Put handwarmers in your boots - the cold temperature of the water transfers through the aluminium bottom of the zodiac." – Louise Yerbury

"Don't forget to pack sunscreen and take twice as many SD cards as you think you will need!" – Rebecca Allcock
Seeing a place free of pollution, garbage, and hunters was fantastic and helped shape my opinions on environmentalism.
– Stephen Kohn
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ondrej Prosicky] [Advice on choosing your boat: Liam Quinn] [Activity advice: Andreas] [Advice on life at sea: Rob Oo] [Health & Safety: Gary Bembridge] [Louise Yerbury quote: Paul Balfe] [Stephen Kohn quote: Paul Balfe]