How Much Does It Cost to Go to The Antarctic?

how much does it cost to go to the antarctic

At the southernmost reaches of the Earth lies Antarctica – the seventh continent. Here, massive icebergs and sharp, jagged peaks loom high above, while innumerable penguins jump in and out of icy waters. As the most remote place on Earth, however, getting to Antarctica is no easy feat.

In years past, the only way to get to the White Continent was by working as a scientist. Thankfully, these days, it’s possible to visit the bottom of the world as a tourist so you can experience all of the wonders of Antarctica firsthand.

As you might imagine, though, a trip to Antarctica is going to cost you some money.

Just how much does it cost to go to Antarctica, you might ask? Well, it really depends. On average, a trip to Antarctica is going to run you somewhere between $5,000 and $40,000 – NOT including airfare. Although it’s possible to get to Antarctica for less than $5,000, we wouldn’t bet on it. Conversely, if you’re willing to go all-out, it’s possible to spend much more than $40,000 for a top-of-the-line luxury experience.

If you’re looking to book a trip to Antarctica – congratulations. The seventh continent is one of the most amazing places on Earth, so your trip is sure to be the adventure of a lifetime.  Before you go, however, you’ll need to do some planning, especially if you’re on a budget.

So, to help you out, we’ve created this ultimate guide to planning your Antarctic adventure, complete with answers to all of your top questions about visiting the White Continent. Let’s get to it!

The True Cost of Getting to Antarctica

Okay, first things first – let’s talk money. If you’re going to Antarctica and you’re not already an accomplished mountaineer or sailor, chances are pretty darn high that you’ll need to book a trip through a tour operator.

Thankfully, while some companies cater to a high-end, luxury clientele, others are more budget-friendly, so there’s something for everyone down in Antarctica, though you will want to start saving your pennies.

Since there are so many different tour operators out there, we’ve made a list of five different pricing options from some of the most reputable Antarctic expedition companies around. Before we get there, however, there’s some important information you should know about traveling to the Antarctic:

Antarctic Expeditions: Your Need-to-Know Information

These days, the vast majority of trips to Antarctica start in the port town of Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, making it a great place for expedition ships to start and end their journey to Antarctica.

  • All Antarctic voyages from Ushuaia are ship-based, which means you’ll spend 1.5-2 days (at least) crossing the formidable Drake Passage before getting to the White Continent, so if you’re prone to sea-sickness, you’ll want to prepare yourself with some motion-sickness medication before you leave home.
  • Alternatively, if you have some extra change lying around and would prefer to skip the rocking and rolling of the Drake Passage, you can join a fly-in cruise, leaving from Punta Arenas, Chile. As you might imagine, these fly-in voyages tend to be much more expensive, but they do mean you get to avoid the Drake Passage.

Don’t forget your other transportation costs!

All this being said, since Antarctic tourists come from all over the world, we won’t include your airfare in our estimated pricing options for trips down to the White Continent. When planning your trip to Antarctica, you’ll need to factor in some extra funds for airfare.

On average, flights from major airports in North America and Europe will run you about $1,500, while flying from major airports in Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand will be about $2,000-$2,500.

Plus, strikes and delays are the name of the game in South America (particularly Argentina, which seems to be extra prone to strikes), so you’ll want to arrive in Ushuaia at least one day – if not two – before your voyage is set to start and maybe spend an extra day in town before flying back home.

Thankfully, hotels and meals aren’t too expensive in Ushuaia, but this is something you’ll need to keep in mind when planning your budget.

Ultimately, if you’re coming from North America or Europe, expect to spend about $2,000 total in transportation costs, just to get to Ushuaia. If you’re coming from Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, budget at least $3,000 for transportation to the start of your voyage.

not a bad day in the office – @gabypilson

Pricing Options from 5 Tour Operators

Okay, now that you understand the basics of Antarctic travel, let’s talk money. Here are some pricing estimates from five of the top Antarctic tour operators.


1. Oceanwide Expeditions

A polar tour operator since 1993, Oceanwide Expeditions is a Dutch company known for providing a true Antarctic experience by maximizing visitors’ time onshore. Oceanwide’s three ships (Ortelius, Plancius, and Hondius) are comfortable, yet not overly luxurious, which helps keep their voyages within a reasonable price point for most Antarctic travelers.

Oceanwide offers a large variety of different expeditions to the Antarctic, including the “classic” ten-day Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands trip, as well as longer voyages to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula and a few trips to the remote Ross Sea.

Expedition Starting Location: Ushuaia
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Comfortable, cozy ship (not overly luxurious)
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Moderate group size (113-170 passengers)

Trip Length: 9-22 days
Average Trip Price: $6,000 – $30,000

Port Lockroy, Wiencke Island – @gabypilson

2. Poseidon Expeditions

The multi-national Poseidon Expeditions has been operating in the polar regions since 1999, offering guests the chance to experience some of the most remote parts of the world in style. These days, Poseidon’s Antarctic expeditions take place on-board the 114-passenger M/V Sea Spirit, which is known for its luxury and quality.

However, while the ship provides luxury accommodations, the onboard atmosphere is informal and friendly as Sea Spirit sails into stunning and remote terrain. Poseidon’s voyages include “classic” ten-day Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands trip, as well as longer voyages to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Expedition Starting Location: Ushuaia
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Luxury ship (5 stars)
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Small group size (114 passengers)
  • Small ship size for navigation into smaller channels

Trip Length: 9-22 days
Average Trip Price: $7,500 – $20,000

3. Albatros Expeditions

A relative new-comer to the world of the Antarctic expeditions, but not to tourism, Albatros Expeditions is a subsidiary of Albatros Travel, a family-owned business headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. Albatros has been providing high-quality outbound trips and tours for nearly 40 years, specializing in trips to Africa, the Nordic Countries, and Greenland.

These days, they bring Scandinavian quality to the expedition cruise world onboard their two ships – M/V Ocean Atlantic and M/V Ocean Victory (launching fall 2020). Albatros offers a range of different Antarctic voyages, including “classic” ten-day Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands trip, as well as longer voyages to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Additionally, Albatros works closely with third-party tour agencies and charter companies for guests looking for a voyage catering specifically to their cultural needs. Albatros frequently runs Antarctic expeditions for full Chinese, Indian, Singaporean, Scandinavian, Australian (and other!) charters, providing language interpretation and other support, when necessary.

Expedition Starting Location: Ushuaia
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Comfortable, cozy ships
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Language interpretation and translations for Chinese and Scandinavian charters
  • Dining options catered specifically to guests and charterer’s needs

Trip Length: 9-19 days
Average Trip Price: $5,000 – $20,000

4. Antarctica21

If a two-day sail from Ushuaia to Antarctica just isn’t your thing, then a trip with Antarctica21 just might be what you’re looking for. As the veritable pioneers of the air-cruise model for travel in the White Continent, Antarctica21 has been taking adventurous tourists to Antarctica by plane for almost two decades.

Antarctica21’s bread and butter is an eight-day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula, though you can also opt for a shorter six-day “Antarctic Express” trip or even 15-16 day voyages to Antarctica and South Georgia. Antarctica21’s fleet of three vessels (Hebredian SkyOcean Nova, and Magellan Explorer) combine comfort with class but host an informal atmosphere focused on enjoying all Antarctica has to offer.

Expedition Starting Location: Punta Arenas
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Flights to and from Punta Arenas to King George Island, Antarctica
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Comfortable, cozy ships
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Language interpretation and translations for Chinese charters
  • Small group size (75 guests)

Trip Length: 5-16 days
Average Trip Price: $11,000 – $30,000

What a cutie. – @gabypilson

5. Antarctica on a Budget: G Adventures

While we all wish that we had oodles of money to spend on our travels, many of us work with a budget. That’s where G Adventures comes in. This Canadian-based tour company offers affordable, small-group trips around the world, and their Antarctica voyages certainly don’t disappoint.

If you travel to Antarctica with G Adventures, you’ll sail south onboard the Expedition with a small group of no more than 130 other guests. When it comes to bang for your buck, an Antarctic voyage with G Adventures is difficult to beat.

Expedition Starting Location: Ushuaia
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Comfortable, cozy ships
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Small group size (130 guests)
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • 1 night hotel in Ushuaia

Trip Length: 11-22 days
Average Trip Price: $6,100 – $15,000

No budget? No problem: Experience Ultimate Antarctica with Lindblad-National Geographic Expeditions

On the other hand, if money isn’t a concern for you, it’d be difficult to top an Antarctic voyage with Lindblad-National Geographic Expeditions. This US-based company has been pioneering top-of-the-line expeditions around the world since the late 1950s, so it’s really no surprise that they top our list as one of the best Antarctic tour operators around.

A trip to Antarctica with Lindblad-National Geographic starts on one of the company’s three vessels – NG ExplorerNG Orion, and NG Endurance (launching 2020).

Lindblad-Nat Geo’s trips are longer, small-group expeditions with a focus on natural history and photography. If you have the budget and the time, it’s hard to ignore Lindblad-Nat Geo’s offerings to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, the Falklands, and beyond!

Expedition Starting Location: Ushuaia
What you get:

  • Full room and board
  • Twice-daily outings (conditions permitting)
  • Comfortable, cozy ships
  • Informal atmosphere
  • Small group size (average 120 guests)
  • On-board National Geographic photographers

Trip Length: 14-35 days
Average Trip Price: $14,000 – $100,000

FAQs

Here are our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions:

What’s the cheapest way to get to Antarctica?

If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly prices for a journey to Antarctica, the best thing to do is arrive in Ushuaia during the early season (early November) and plan to spend a week or two in town. While you hang out in town and explore the nearby National Park, you can talk to some of the local travel companies, which are licensed by Antarctic tour operators to sell off their last-minute free spaces.

Often, by using this method, you can get on a voyage to Antarctica fro $5,000 or less – however – you will have to budget a lot of time for hanging around Ushuaia and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a great deal. But, Tierra del Fuego is a beautiful place to spend your time and you just might get to go to the seventh continent on the cheap.

How can I go to Antarctica for free?

There’s no two ways about it: going to Antarctica is expensive, so it’s understandable if you’re looking for a free ride. Unfortunately, the only way to go to Antarctica for free (unless someone is willing to pay your way) is to work down on the White Continent.

Pretty much all employment down south is in the tourism industry or on a research base and you’ll need to have some relevant science or outdoor skills to land the gig. Jobs are few and far between, but if you have the skills and a little bit of luck, it’s possible to work in Antarctica.

When’s the best time of year to visit Antarctica?

The best time of year to visit Antarctica is during the austral summer (late October – end of March). However, conditions in Antarctica change rapidly, so a visit in November will look drastically different from one in March. In November, you can expect lots of snow, cold conditions, plenty of sea ice, and penguins returning to the colonies to start their breeding season.

As we move into December, whales and seals start to become more abundant down south, while conditions warm, the snow melts, and the penguins start to lay eggs. Come January, we start to have penguin chicks (the cutest!) but also less snow and warmer temperatures. So, it really depends on what you want to see.

Do you need a visa or passport to go to Antarctica?

Technically speaking, you don’t need a visa or passport to go to Antarctica itself, but, depending on your nationality and citizenship, you may need a visa to enter and exit Argentina or Chile, where the vast majority of Antarctic voyages begin.

Plus, unless you’ll need a passport just to board your expedition ship. Our advice? Check with your local authorities to determine if you need a visa for any country you plan to go to before you depart for Antarctica.

Paradise Bay – @gabypilson

Is there a hotel in Antarctica?

According to the provisions lined out in the Antarctic Treaty, research stations and bases in Antarctica may only be used for peaceful, scientific purposes. So, there are no hotels on the seventh continent itself. However, when you travel to Antarctica, your expedition ship serves as your hotel and your basecamp for adventures on the White Continent.

Is there an airport in Antarctica?

Yes! In fact, there are 20 airports in Antarctica with their own ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) codes and a few more smaller airports scattered throughout the bases on the White Continent. However, these airports are little more than a runway and, with some small exceptions, the vast majority of air traffic to Antarctica is to transport personnel and equipment to research stations.

Of course, there are a few chartered flights that transport tourists down south to meet up with an expedition ship or start a long skiing/mountaineering expedition in Antarctica, but there are no scheduled departures.

Can I travel to Antarctica on my own?

Technically speaking, sure, you can travel to Antarctica on your own. However, you’ll either need oodles of money to charter a flight for a skiing/mountaineering trip, or a sailing yacht with the skills to cross the Drake Passage.

In either instance, you should be a pretty experienced mountaineer or sailor with knowledge of the area and of travel in the polar regions before heading south, so, for the most part, it’s better to travel with a group. Most tour operators will offer a single cabin option on their ships, too, if you’re traveling on your own.

Can you walk on Antarctica?

Although over 99% of Antarctica is covered with permanent ice, it is possible to walk on the continent itself. When you travel down south with a tour operator, they’ll take you to ice-free beaches where you can walk around and enjoy the nearby penguin colonies.

Otherwise, longer expeditions can spend months on the surface of Antarctica, though this requires special skills, training, and experience to mitigate the hazards of crevasse falls on glaciated terrain.

 

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