On average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $6000 USD and $48,000 USD per person for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica. The former being a basic 10-day cruise and the latter, including flights to the internal part of the continent.
Planet earth has some incredible places to explore, from dry, arid deserts and lush green jungles to sandy tropical beaches and mountain ranges, but one of the earth’s most stunning natural landscapes has to be Antarctica, yet many people are still under the impression that a vacation to the bottom of the world isn’t possible.
The most southerly continent is home to many research stations and a lot of penguins, but there is a lot to appreciate here, especially in terms of wildlife.
The most popular way to explore this frozen land is by cruise ship, and it may surprise you to learn that there are many cruises leaving from Argentina, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand, so wherever you are in the world, the gateway to the South Pole is always open.
Like many epic journeys, a trip to Antarctica isn’t always as straightforward as a traditional vacation, but it is certainly worth the additional planning and financial outlay to explore one of the few genuinely remote and unspoiled places on earth.
In this article, I am going to break down each aspect of the trip to give you an understanding of what a trip to Antarctica will cost as well as giving you some top travel tips and things to think about before you depart.
What Is Antarctica?
Antarctica lies in the southernmost part of the southern hemisphere and is the home of the South Pole – the central most southern point on the planet and the place where you can experience the wonder of the aurora australis – the southern hemispheres answer to the more widely recognized aurora borealis.
Antarctica is largely uninhabited by humans, aside from the many research centers that have been placed here where scientists remain for periods of months at a time. However, in terms of wildlife, this freezing continent is home to a variety of species, most notably penguins and whales and the infamous colossal squid.
The continent is made almost entirely of ice, and in some places, this ice can run down to depths of over a mile. With the continent having the highest elevation of all on earth, it comes as little surprise that it experiences the most winds, snow, and levels of cold than anywhere else on earth – so be sure to wrap up warm for your trip.
What To Expect From An Antarctica Vacation
One of the most obvious things to expect when you head off to Antarctica is that there will be snow – and a lot of it. This is known to be the coldest place on earth, and until you have been, it can be difficult to appreciate just how chilly it can get down here. That being said, Antarctica can also lay claim to being the driest place in the world and has less rain than anywhere else – you’ll be surprised that when you turn up, the sun may be shining. For this reason, it is important to pack some sunglasses and sunblock alongside your winter coat and boots.
One of the major draws of this incredible place is the wildlife – home to more than 12 million penguins of 17 different species, you’ll definitely be sating your desire for flightless birds whilst here. But there are also some other fascinating things to see here such as the blue whale – the biggest animal on the planet. These gentle giants can be seen here throughout the summer but during February and March they are at their most active.
Hopping on a zodiac – a rubber boat gives tourists the opportunity to navigate through the icy coastline of this continent and this is one of the things that you will find yourself doing a lot whilst here, so be prepared for this.
Things To Consider Before Heading To Antarctica
Despite its natural splendor and untouched wilderness, Antarctica only welcomes around 50,000 visitors each year. This is likely due to its remote location, harsh conditions, and the higher cost of traveling to the continent. However, for those with a sense of adventure and the right budget, Antarctica is one of the earth’s most special places.
But before you go off and sate your wanderlust, it is important to understand a few things before visiting the fifth largest continent on the planet.
- Antarctica only permits 100 guests on its shores at any one time, but many people make the mistake of boarding a larger cruise ship with many guests. This means that you will not get the optimal amount of time on the continent at each stop. Many travel experts advise choosing a smaller cruise liner that does not have a capacity greater than 200. This will allow you to explore in much greater detail.
- There is a common misconception that Antarctica vacations offer a more exploratory nature, and whilst this is, in part, true, there are many hands-on activities that you can take part in, such as skiing, mountain climbing, and paddle-boarding, to name a few. However, whilst many cruise ships offer some included activities, a lot of these require additional booking, so be sure to think about the things you would like to do whilst on the continent.
- For cruises in some parts of the world, you will spend a lot of time out of the cabin, but Antarctica is quite the contrast, and much of your time will be spent aboard the ship. For this reason, it is important to be sure that you check out what amenities your cabin has to offer. Of course, with the temperatures reaching lows of -10ºC along the coastline and -55ºC in more internal areas, you will want to make sure that your cabin is cozy, snug, and comfortable.
- Cruise companies tend to release their dates to Antarctica a lot sooner than other destinations, and unless you are aware of this fact, you may run the risk of booking too late and not being able to get the kind of vacation you were hoping for. Therefore, it is important to book well in advance – more time to look forward to your Antarctic adventure!
- You should also consider the time of year that you visit the continent. During summertime, between December and March is the only time the area is accessible. Traveling here in the winter is not possible and, frankly, downright dangerous.
- Preparing for your trip should also involve including the time to get to Antarctica. Unless you live as far south as it is possible to live, it’s likely that traveling to the port from which your cruise leaves is going to take a hefty amount of time but even from there, you’ve got to expect a couple of days of sailing before the white shores become visible on the horizon.
What Does A Trip To Antarctica Cost?
Presuming you have traveled to some of the far-off corners of the world, then, you will be familiar with the fact that these vacations often come with a much higher price tag. But, they’re often the most memorable, so even if it means saving up for a while, it’ll definitely be worth it.
Furthermore, you should also remember that your vacation cost may differ from the next person since there are so many variables associated with traveling to this area.
Some things that affect the price that you will pay for the cruise could include how big the ship is, the level of quality where cabins are concerned, service, and food. However, there are further things that you should consider, such as whether clothing, equipment, drinks, or activities are included in the cost.
You will also pay extra if you are traveling with a company whose staff are particularly knowledgeable about the continent as gaining an education is as equally important on this type of holiday as the food and activities.
Of course, if you’re looking to save money, there are more budget-friendly options or those that are a little more luxurious for those with a larger budget. Paying between $6,000 and $48,000 USD does sound like a lot of money, but when you consider the cost to the cruise companies, it becomes a little easier to understand. Consider the following costs associated with the price of your cruise:
- The cost of transporting passengers to such a remote location – fuel.
- Building ships that can handle such cold and icy conditions costs a lot more in materials than a ship that is designed to navigate warmer waters.
- Wages and care for the staff on board the vessel.
What Do You Get For The Cost Of A Cruise?
Understanding the cost of your Antarctic vacation becomes a lot simpler when you understand what you are getting in the price of the cruise itself and what you will need to pay for separately.
For most cruises, you will pay for guided tours and landings whilst on the continent, as well as the loan of specialist boots, which are designed to keep your feet warm and dry whilst exploring the harsh, cold conditions. You will also get full-board accommodation, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and some cruises also offer a selection of wines and beers with your evening meal – but this is something to check before you travel. Many cruise companies offer a drinks package, whereas others require you to buy drinks individually – the cost of which can be relatively high.
- The average cost of a drinks package for a cruise is $65 per person.
- Buying drinks individually could set you back as much as $3 for a soft drink and $9 for a glass of wine.
There are some cruise companies that will also include some luxury extras in with the main price of the cruise. These could include any of the following:
- Parka jacket
- Hotel stay the day before the cruise and for one night after the cruise has ended
- Some additional activities such as camping or skiing
Before travelling, it is highly advisable to check what is included with the price of your cruise and whether you have the option to add any extras.
The Cost Of Additional Activities
I mentioned earlier that there is a wealth of activities that you can take part in when visiting Antarctica, but not all of these will be included in the cost of your cruise, so it is vital to work out which of these you would like to do and how much they will cost.
Your options are vast and varied when it comes to the things you can experience on this amazing continent from photography to skiing, sea kayaking to climbing and much more.
In order to get the most from your trip, I would highly recommend taking part in at least some of the optional activities.
A skiing cruise to Antarctica will set you back around $20,000AUD, that’s around $14,000USD or £11,000.
Other Costs To Factor In
Since all cruises to this most southerly point in the world begin from various cities in the southern hemisphere – most of which are in South America, you must factor in the cost of the flights to these places as part of your holiday. Below you will see some of the average flight prices to Usuaia, Argentina from some of the most popular locations in the world.
- From The UK, flights from as little as £221 plus taxes
- From New York, flights average $900
- From Sydney, Australia, flights average around $8,000 USD
- From Moscow, flights are around $2000
- From Tokyo, flights average $2000
In addition to your flight to the departure city, you should also make sure that you are covered by your travel insurance policy. This will cover you for cancellations, accidents and many other things and will cost you, on average, just $150. However, it is important that various factors may affect this and this average is based on a basic travel need with no special requirements.
You may also wish to purchase an Internet data card, which will give you the opportunity to upload your vacation snaps to Instagram in the heat – or cold, of the moment. This isn’t a huge cost and can be purchased for as little as $40 but it is something that you should include in your budget, especially if you are trying to remain within it.
The staff on your cruise ship will require a tip and for each person, you can expect to pay around $20 per day in tips, this could be more if you are traveling on a particularly luxurious liner.
Of course, you should also consider that you may want to take some additional cash for on-board souvenirs and other things.
A Trip To Antarctica is, without a doubt, the voyage of a lifetime and something that I would highly recommend you experience, if time and budget allows. However, one of the most common concerns is the cost of a trip to Antarctica since this is one of the lesser-explored places for tourists, it can be unclear as to what you will pay.
Much of your experience will be included in the price of your cruise but this can be quite pricey especially if you go for one of the more luxurious or detailed packages like a trip to the South Pole. In addition to this, you must factor in the cost of on-board drinks and the internet as well as the customary tips that the staff will expect. Traveling to the departure city will also cost a handsome sum. There’s no denying that Antarctica will likely be one of the more expensive vacations that you take but it will also be one of, if not the most memorable – and that is priceless.