What you need to know before going to Antarctica

You fell in love with the idea of exploring Antarctica? So you have booked your trip down to the Great Southern Continent, and you’re basically ready to set sail and start that trip of your lifetime?

But wait – a trip to Antarctica is definitely not your go-to “I-will-just-chill-at-the-pool” kind of vacation. Even though you will be well taken care of on the cruise ship, there are some tips and tricks that will give you a head start in the run for “best prepared visitor”. Get ready to take notes, because we have collected some real Antarctica expert advice that falls under the category “Things you wish you had known before you went”.  

Besides our Antarctica packing list, the following information will be worth a mint to prepare you for your adventure to mind-blowing Antarctica. It’s all you need to know before going to Antarctica and more!

Kayaking in Antarctica. Photo: Eric Stoen.

Get yourself some touch screen liner gloves

You will understand this one once you have to decide between either saving your hands from frostbite or snapping the ultimate penguin picture on the icy continent. To avoid that, consider purchasing glove liners that you can touch your smartphone with. That will save you from the struggle of taking your gloves on and off, misplacing them, losing them, and so on. We recommend taking both said insulating touchscreen-approved liners and big gloves that you can stock up on if you’re in need of an extra layer. That way you’ll defy the freezing temperatures and still be able to handle your camera or smartphone for the perfect Antarctica snapshot.

A just-as-important tip could be to bring sunglasses with a cord around the neck. Same reasoning here: It saves you the hassle of unpacking and pocketing your sunnies over and over again with changing weather conditions, and – bonus point – you can’t lose them while wearing them around your neck.

Pack the essentials in your carry-on

You don’t want to be left on a cruise ship to Antarctica without your most valued belongings! When packing for your flight to the departure point of your Antarctica cruise, select your carry-on baggage wisely. This is just in case your checked luggage might get lost on your flight. Because unfortunately, the cruise ship won’t wait for missing luggage to show up. So to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: Make sure to pack your critical gear and valuables such as your camera in the carry-on.  

Take a shower before the Drake passage

This must sound like a rather unusual and nonsense piece of advice, but it’ll once again make sense to you once you’re in the middle of this rough stretch of the cruise.

If you’re taking the most popular route to get to Antarctica, departing from Ushuaia, the southern tip of South America, you will definitely cross the infamous Drake passage. It is known to be one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world!

Referred to as ‘The Drake Lake and the Drake Shake’ by seasoned sailors, the Drake passage is known to surprise cruise passengers with two opposing conditions: Either incredibly smooth and calm, or rough and choppy.

In case you get to experience the latter option, think ahead and make sure to take your shower before crossing the passage. Even though, showering during a swaying stretch like the Drake passage can be, can be another kind of adventure!

Don’t forget to pack pills against seasickness

You don’t usually suffer from motion sickness? Then you might still want to bring some sea sickness pills to your Antarctica adventure – just in case. Cue “Drake Shake” (see the previous tip): The trip can get a bit rough from time to time. And you don’t want to be stuck on a boat faaar away from the shore with a funny stomach and without a remedy.

You know what else works well? Ginger tea! It’s a real wonder drug and as such known to reduce nausea that is associated with motion sickness. So stock up and enjoy your Antarctica cruise to the fullest!

Be an early bird

“I once went kayaking in Antarctica” – Now that’s a story to tell your grandchildren!

Additional to the main itinerary of your trip, you can book some optional activities to spice up your cruise to Antarctica. This is for example photography tours and kayaking trips, depending on your likes! But don’t wait too long with your decision – particularly the kayaking add-on sells fast. First come, first serve! So, make sure to already book the optional tours at the same time you make the booking for the cruise. That way, your odds to land a spot for one of these popular activities are almost guaranteed!

Person kayaking in Antarctica.
Kayaking in Antarctica. Photo: Eric Stoen.

Wear Sunscreen when on the shore excursions

Cold + icebergs = No sunscreen needed? Wrong! It might not be your typical summer vacation at the beach, but you can still catch a nasty sunburn aboard the Antarctica cruise. Make sure to wear sunscreen when you are on shore excursions since ice, water, and snow do reflect the sun from every direction. It might be cold, but Antarctica is the world’s highest continent and is located under a relatively thin ozone layer. That increases the chances of getting a sneaky sunburn quite a bit.

So don’t pull the lobster and protect your skin!

Don’t go chasing penguins

You’ve made it to Antarctica and are all set to explore the shore on an excursion? Then you will probably want to get a front-row spot to have the best view of the wildlife you’re likely to encounter. As Antarctica is home to various penguin species, these adorable creatures are all over the icy area and are usually easy to spot.

So, there’s no need to run after them when on an excursion to snap your perfect photo. Just wait for them to come to you – because they will! These adorable birds are just as curious to meet you as the other way around.

Not only is it the ethical way to give wildlife the space they need, it is also part of government guidelines. If you spot a breeding or moulting emperor penguin for instance, make sure to keep a safety distance of 50m!

Fancy a sneak peek at an Antarctic ‘city’ of penguins? Check it out here!

We hope you are as excited as ever about your upcoming trip to Antarctica now that we have supplied you with a whole bunch of insider tips!

If you have any unanswered questions, feel free to reach out to our expert team and they’ll be more than happy to help.

Check out our website for more Antarctica inspiration and make sure to have a look at our Antarctica pack list for all your travel essentials!

Author: Bente Bruhnken