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Know Before You Go ANTARCTICA

Introduction The anticipation of your holiday should give you enormous pleasure. In order to ensure you are fully prepared for your next trip we have put together this document which contains essential information about the country you are soon to visit. We know that visa requirements and electrical currents are not the most scintillating of topics but we also know that being forewarned is forearmed and we would hate for you to come back from your holiday, thinking “if only Steppes had told me that!” Travelling should be inspirational but above anything else it should be fun. We hope this information takes care of the more mundane matters of planning a trip so that you can then focus on building up excitement levels pre-travel, safe in the knowledge you’ve got everything covered.

DID YOU KNOW? “In wintertime, the sea ice around Antarctica grows at a rate of 40,000 square miles a day.”

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS When should I travel to Antarctica? The Antarctic season is quite short and voyages depart from late October through to mid-March, with January & February being the most popular months. Early season is particularly good for seeing large icebergs and sea ice, the penguin colonies will be at their most pristine and nest building and courting will be taking place. In the Sub Antarctic islands spring flowers will be at their best. By mid season chicks will be hatching and as they grow older become far more active and inquisitive. It is during this time that the days are at their longest. Late season is the best time for whale sightings and marine predators are at their most active with many chicks and seals venturing into the waters.

What is the time zone in Antarctica? Antarctica is one of the most interesting places in the world when it comes to keeping time. Technically, Antarctica falls under all time zones currently followed by the rest of the world. This is because the longitude lines that are used to define time zones all meet at the poles. The lack of an official time zone in Antarctica is not a problem as each research base determines the time zone it wants to operate in. For practical purposes, some research stations follow the time zone of their home country. Others, like the McMurdo and Palmer stations, both run by the US, synchronize their time to the closest point in the inhabited world.

How long are the flights to Ushuaia / Punta Arenas? Anyone wishing to visit Antarctica will need to get to one of the major ports for embarkation, these are: Ushuaia via Buenos Aires which takes around 18 hours or Punta Arenas via Santiago which takes around 21 hours. Generally you will break your journey in either Buenos Aires or Santiago allowing for some contingency in case of any flight delays making this journey closer to 24 hours. Some expeditions also begin in Stanley on the Falkland Islands, Puerto Williams in Chile, Hobart in Australia and Christchurch or Invercargill in New Zealand.

Will there be any laundry facilities? Many ships have an onboard laundry and the cost will be added to your shipboard account. For smaller items or gloves that have got wet on a zodiac trip you can normally dry these in your cabin overnight. It is wise to have a spare pair of gloves and a pair of extra-large washing up gloves make for a cheap and effect waterproof outer.

How rough is the Drake Passage? This is a frequently asked question for many Antarctica travelers and a tricky one to answer. It can be anything from a millpond to a force eleven hurricane, the latter being the less common. Ultimately it’s down to a little luck and most people find that their experience wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.

Can I use my mobile phone in Antarctica? Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies but coverage is virtually non-existent when in Antarctic waters. You may get a signal when you are at one of the research bases and possibly on the Falkland Islands. The ship will have a satellite phone to be used for urgent calls. You will be provided the ships contact details with your final documentation. As you will note, charges are quite reasonable and historically restrictions tend to be lenient.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONTINUED…. Do I need any immunisations? The best person to speak to is your doctor or nurse practitioner as the advice can change and we are not medically qualified to give this information. Generally the standard immunisations are recommended. Sea Sickness Should you be prone to motion or sea sickness, we suggest consulting your local pharmacy for advice as anti-seasickness medication is available over the counter. Please be aware that there are possible side effects from taking this medication, most commonly drowsiness. To help avert motion sickness, it is suggested that you avoid alcohol, tobacco, excess liquids and confined spaces. Most people feel better sitting on deck looking at the horizon or lying prone with their eyes shut. Oddly, you will feel better with some food, such as crackers or dry toast in your stomach. Fitness This is an active cruise involving frequent walking excursions across the Antarctic shelves and to be able to get the most out of it you should be in good general health. In order to join the excursions, you must be able to easily get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level and to be able to get in and out of the awaiting zodiacs, which can be awkward, particularly in choppy seas. Staff will be on hand to assist all passengers, so don’t worry about this, it’s just something to be aware of. Medical Assistance There is a qualified doctor on board who is part of the expeditionary staff who will join you for landings throughout the cruise. There is a dedicated surgery on each boat and surgery timings will be advertised, but you do need to be aware that the facilities are quite limited.

Do most hotels & ships have hair dryers? Yes, most ships supply these in the cabins, or they are available through the reception/expedition office. How much luggage can I take? International airlines mostly work on an allowance of 23kg for checked bags and 1 piece of hand luggage. Internal airlines such as Aerolineas Argentinas have a restriction of 15kg and you may be charged for excess baggage as follows: 16 - 20 kg - ARS 100 (US$12.00) 21 - 30 kg - ARS 180 (US$21.00) 31 - 40 kg - ARS 360 (US$42.00) What clothing should I take to the Antarctic? It is always best to pack plenty of thin thermal layers rather than one thick layer. For voyages, wellington boots, water proof over trousers and a waterproof jacket are essential. Most ships provide wellingtons and we will confirm the inclusions in your itinerary. Some ships also provide water proof outer gear and have this available to hire. Make sure your hands, head, ears and feet are kept warm. The Antarctic tends to be quite monochrome so bright coloured clothing tend to stand out in photographs. Don’t forget your swimming costume if you want to take a polar plunge and many ships have a sauna onboard. Aside from clothing, a high factor sun cream and sunglasses are considered essential as the glare of snow and water will magnify the effects.

FOREIGN OFFICE ADVICE In association with the 'Know Before You Go’ campaign Steppes Travel are

working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do all that we can to help British travellers stay safe overseas. Please visit the Foreign Office website for any updates:

HEALTH & SAFETY Travelling with Steppes Travel is a wonderful chance to experience a stunning array of cultures, landscapes, ecosystems and activities. At the heart of this experience are the differences between our respective ways of life. You should understand that this means that standards of health and safety will not be the same as in the UK and may often be lower. Please refer to our full health and safety information on our website under Travellers Code.



We have put together a small list of books that are set around the Antarctic. Both fiction and non-fiction, they will help you establish an understanding and feel for the region.

Visas are not required for British Nationals to Antarctica. Visas are required for some of the Sub Antarctic Islands under Australian sovereignty. Other nationals please check with your respective embassies or representatives.



Ernest Shackleton Roald Amundsen Ranulph Fiennes Roland, Huntford Alfred Lansing Apsley Cherry Garrard

South The South Pole To the Ends of the Earth Shackleton Endurance The Worst Journey in the World

ELECTRICITY Generally the electric current on-board the ships is 110V European-style plug with two circular metal pins. This will be confirmed in the ships operators’ documentation.

Please note that it remains your responsibility to organise visas when required (unless otherwise specified by your consultant) although we are more than happy to advise, help and provide the relevant supporting documentation where necessary.

VACCINATIONS Vaccinations are not required for these regions, but if in any doubt please consult your GP or nearest travel clinic. Pre-existing conditions If you have specific medical requirements, please consult your doctor prior to departure to obtain adequate supplies of any necessary medication that may be required whilst on holiday. Please carry personal medication with you in your hand luggage (in line with current airline regulations), remembering to keep a copy of your prescription or the usage guidelines with you as well. You will be required to complete a medical form.


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While travelling, please make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date. Have appropriate visa(s) for your destination(s) and transit points. Do note the date, time of your flight and also the time to arrive at the airport. Please be on time. Let us know if you have a special meal requests (fasting, vegetarian, medical, halal/kosher, baby food, etc…), while booking your flight or buying your ticket. Food items are not allowed to be carried in the cabin or inside the hand baggage. Please affix your name and address label on the baggage. It is also recommended to put the label in side of your checked-in baggage to help identify the bag in case the baggage tag/label attached outside is detached or lost. Please do not put valuable items such as money, jewellery, cameras and other expensive electronic items in your check-in baggage. If hand baggage is collected at the check-in counter or at the gate due to its size being above the allowed limit, the airline will not be liable for the damage and loss of valuable items in the baggage. It is not allowed to carry liquids or gels of over 100ml, toy or replica guns, razor blades, household cutlery, knives, scissors, knitting needles etc. in your hand baggage. For your own and the flight's safety and security, please do not accept any item from anyone as you will be held responsible and accountable for the contents of any of the items found in your custody.


FOOD & DRINK It is very important that you drink plenty of water, especially when in the polar regions. Dehydration is quite common and water is available on board your vessel. We would recommend you take a small water bottle with you for excursions. It is generally recommended that guests drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration. Please remember to moderate your drinks intake before excursions as toilet stops during zodiac excursions and landings can be challenging!

Antarctica is the highest, driest and windiest place on earth and as it is a continent the conditions vary considerably. The vast majority of visitors will be experiencing the peninsula region during the summer months when the temperature is generally above 0° and rarely below -5°, although the wind chill factor can make it feel considerably cooler. Conditions on the high interior plateau are much colder as a result of its higher elevation and latitude and greater distance from the ocean. Here, summer temperatures struggle to get above −20°C. Vostok Station holds the record for the lowest ever temperature recorded at the surface of the Earth (−89.2°C).

The food on board tends to be hearty, comfort food rather than haute cuisine, with plenty of variety. If you have any dietary requirements this should have already come to the hospitality staff’s notice from the pre-departure information forms you will have completed and they should be able to accommodate your request without any difficulty. Hot drinks, fruit and snacks are always available and complimentary.

MONEY There is no official currency in Antarctica but most ships use $US’s onboard. On South Georgia & the Falkland Islands they accept Sterling.

Credit cards International Visa, MasterCard, Diners and American Express are widely accepted. On board, you will be able to sign all extras to your ship account and will be asked to settle this at the end of your trip by credit or debit card. Before you leave home, we suggest you do advise your credit card company that you will be heading abroad.

Tipping The customary gratuity to the ship’s service personnel is made as a blanket contribution at the end of the voyage. Tipping is a very personal matter and the amount you wish to give is at your discretion, however a reasonable guideline is approximately US$15 per person per night on board. If you would like to tip the crew, a cash contribution is often easier for them to divide amongst themselves.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM Just because we believe travel should be of benefit to both traveller and the host country, that doesn’t mean having fun is frowned upon. On the contrary, it is positively encouraged and because you’ll feel like you’re giving something back to the local people, wildlife and environment, you’ll have even more to smile about. Our policy is that we endeavour:  

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In return we ask you:   

To work with privately owned companies and hotels rather than state owned or foreign companies in the countries that you visit. To support a number of charities which promote a wide range of education programmes together with environmental and community projects in the countries we visit. When possible, we encourage you to visit these initiatives. To encourage travellers to visit unspoilt areas of the world where lowimpact tourism can have a hugely beneficial effect. To take you beyond the ordinary, to local markets or community craft schemes rather than large corporation tourist shops so that your money benefits those who need it most.

Our ‘responsible policy’ is not just limited to the destinations in which we operate. Responsible practice is exercised in our office with various measures put in place aimed at reducing, re-using and recycling resources where possible.

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To be sympathetic to local customs, traditions and idiosyncrasies, which to us might seem strange. To be aware of local resources, particularly water and its purity, and treat them with care. To be generous in relation to local monetary values, but do not over tip To give money where it is needed and not to hordes of children. Handing out gifts creates an air of expectancy and exacerbates the problem. Far better to give items such as pens to teachers. To not buy goods that will have a detrimental effect on either wildlife or the environment however beautiful or plentiful they may seem. It only encourages others. It may also be illegal. You are encouraged to let us have feedback on your experiences and on the behaviour and awareness of our agents and local guides on your return. Only in this way can we improve and ensure our demands are being met.

We are committed to developing our Policy of Responsible Practice even further in the future. Our aim is to continually incorporate new responsible practices into our business at all levels and encourage our suppliers to do the same.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN ANTARCTICA Activities in the Antarctic are governed by the Antarctic Treaty which in 1994 was updated to include Recommendation XXVIII-1 Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic. The Recommendations outline a general code of conduct to safeguard not only the environment and wildlife of Antarctica but also your own wellbeing, as a visitor. Below are the guidelines as set out by the Treaty, which we ask you to follow as a visitor to Antarctica: Protect Antarctic Wildlife Taking or harmful interference with Antarctic wildlife is prohibited except in accordance with a permit issued by a national authority:  

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Do not use aircraft, vessels, small boats, or other means of transport in ways that disturb wildlife, either at sea or on land. Do not feed, touch, or handle birds or seals, or approach or photograph them in ways that cause them to alter their behaviour. Special care is needed when animals are breeding or moulting. Do not damage plants, for example by walking, driving, or landing on extensive moss beds or lichen-covered scree slopes. Do not use guns or explosives. Keep noise to the minimum to avoid frightening wildlife. Do not bring non-native plants or animals into the Antarctic such as live poultry, pet dogs and cats or house plants.

programmes together with environmental and community projects in the countries we visit. When possible, we encourage you to visit these initiatives. To encourage travellers to visit unspoilt areas of the world where lowimpact tourism can have a hugely beneficial effect. To take you beyond the ordinary, to local markets or community craft schemes rather than large corporation tourist shops so that your money benefits those who need it most.

Our ‘responsible policy’ is not just limited to the destinations in which we operate. Responsible practice is exercised in our office with various measures put in place aimed at reducing, re-using and recycling resources where possible.

Respect Protected Areas A variety of areas in the Antarctic have been afforded special protection because of their particular ecological, scientific, historic or other values. Entry into certain areas may be prohibited except in accordance with a permit issued by an appropriate national authority. Activties in and near designated Historic Sites and Monuments and certain other areas may be subject to special restrictions: 

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Know the locations of areas that have been afforded special protection and any restrictions regarding entry and activities that can be carried out in and near them. Observe applicable restrictions. Do not damage, remove, or destroy Historic Sites or Monuments or any artifacts associated with them.

Respect Scientific Research Do not interfere with scientific research facilities or equipment: 

Obtain permission before visiting Antarctic science and support facilities; reconfirm arrangements 24-72 hours before arrival; and comply with the rules regarding such visits. Do not interfere with, or remove, scientific equipment or marker posts, and do not disturb experimental study sites, field camps or supplies.


Keep Antarctica Pristine

Be prepared for severe and changeable weather and ensure that your equipment and clothing meet Antarctic standards. Remember that the Antarctic environment is inhospitable, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous:

Antarctica remains relatively pristine, the largest wilderness area on Earth. It has not yet been subjected to large scale human perturbations. Please keep it that way:

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Know your capabilities, the dangers posed by the Antarctic environment, and act accordingly. Plan activities with safety in mind at all times. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife, both on land and at sea. Take note of, and act on, the advice and instructions from your leaders; do not stray from your group. Do not walk onto glaciers or large snow fields without the proper equipment and experience; there is a real danger of falling into hidden crevasses. Do not expect a rescue service. Self-sufficiency is increased and risks reduced by sound planning, quality equipment, and trained personnel. Do not enter emergency refuges (except in emergencies). If you use equipment or food from a refuge, inform the nearest research station or national authority once the emergency is over. Respect any smoking restrictions, particularly around buildings, and take great care to safeguard against the danger of fire. This is a real hazard in the dry environment of Antarctica.

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Do not dispose of litter or garbage on land. Open burning is prohibited. Do not disturb or pollute lakes or streams. Any materials discarded at sea must be disposed of properly. Do not paint or engrave names or graffiti on rocks or buildings. Do not collect or take away biological or geological specimens or manmade artifacts as a souvenir, including rocks, bones, eggs, fossils, and parts or contents of buildings. Do not deface or vandalize buildings, whether occupied, abandoned, or unoccupied, or emergency refuges

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN ANTARCTICA Your voyage will be operated by an IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) member and in addition to the Treaty Recommendations, IAATO suggest the following guidelines for all shore excursions:  

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Walk slowly, occasionally stopping to give wildlife the time and space they need. As a general principle, keep noise to a minimum and avoid approaching birds and animals any closer than 5 metres; in some instances even this may be too close, so watch their behavior as you approach and stop, or retreat, if they show signs of disturbance. Be aware of your location relative to your fellow visitors – making sure you do not surround animals or cut off their route to the sea. Heed the advice of your guides; they want you to gain as much as possible from your experience while treading softly on this unique environment.

Health and Vaccinations Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice Fit for travel

0845 8502829

0870 210410

Heathrow Airport

0870 0002468

Gatwick Airport

0870 0002468

Passport and Visa requirements Identity and Passport Service


Flights Airline information

Currency Currency converter

WHAT TO PACK You will have your own ideas from past experiences regarding your personal list of ‘utterly indispensables’ and favourite items, so the following are our suggestions to supplement your own packing list.

Important stuff  Itinerary  Airline reference number  Copy of insurance policy  Credit card/ cash  Passport and photocopy  Emergency contact number  International vaccination certificate where relevant *Please keep your photocopies separate from your originals

Clothing         

Base- layer : T-shirt and long johns / termal top Mid-layer : Fleece or jumper Outer- layer : wind/waterproof jacket Comfortable shoes for time on board Hat that covers tour ears, scarf or neck gaiter Waterproof over trousers Gloves ideally a couple of pair 1 waterproof Casual wear for time on board Thick socks to wear with your wellingtons

The secret to keeping warm is the “layer principle”. For anyone out in the cold, it is far better to wear layers of relatively light, loose clothing than one thick, heavy item. Wool and silk are superior to cotton because they trap warm air. Synthetic fabrics that spring back into shape after compression are also good. When damp or wet, polyester down is a better insulator than goose or duck down. Polar fleece is popular and recommended. You are likely to get colder during zodiac cruises, particularly your feet and hands, so dress accordingly. Dress code on board is very informal and leans strongly towards the practical, even for dinner in the evenings, so don’t bother bringing your cocktail dress or tie, it’s not that type of cruise! It is worth bearing in mind when packing that the vessel itself is always warm inside.

Essentials         

20-litre daypack, with waterproof liner Field guides/ pocket language guide Good quality sunglasses, preferably polarised Camera, memory cards, cleaning materials, spare batteries, UV lenses and polarised are useful with the bright light, waterproof protection for zodiac cruises and snow Diary, note pad, pens, reading material Small travel alarm/watch Water bottle – 1 litre Binoculars Wash-kit

Medical equipment       

Personal medical travel kit Personal prescription medecins Insect repellent Lip salve Spare prescription glasses Contact lens’ and cleaners Sunscreen (high factor)

Other equipment    

Sit mat/ kneelers – ideal for photographers Bean bag - for photographers Heat packs to put in your pockets Thermal insoles

Certain companies will arrange some of the above clothing as part of your expedition. p. Please double check with us prior to departure.


XE Currency Know how much you’re spending with live updates.

Google translate Translates between 64 languages, with audio too.

Weather Pro

Evernote Food Document recipes you love as you travel.

Map My Walk Calculate your duration, distance, pace and speed.

Pin Drop

Weather reports for up to two million locations.

Pin on a map to record locations you’ve discovered.

Flight Track

Travel Smart

Follow detailed paths of thousands of flights.

Access to emergency services & health advice.


Trip Journal

A pocket scanner for all your important documents.

Tipulator Nifty tip calculator, also helps to split bills easily.

Virtual scrapbook, geotagging pictures & videos.

WhatsApp Messenger Free to send pictures, videos & sound clips over wifi



Simple gadget, always handy for travelling.

International calls and messaging for free.

Packing Pro


Packing suggestions based on your destination. nandion and

Pocket Wikitravel, internet connection not required.


T +44 (0)1285 880 980 F +44 (0)1285 885 888 ENQUIRY@STEPPESTRAVEL.COM WWW.STEPPESTRAVEL.COM

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Steppes Travel | Antarctica - Know before you go  

Steppes Travel | Antarctica - Know before you go