Booking Antartica from Ushuaia in 2018 (I.e Not The Wrong Way You'll Find Over The Internet)

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2018 — TRAVEL, TUTORIAL

When I decided to go to visit Antarctica, I knew I had to do research online on how to book a ticket. It was the hardest destination I had to get to from a convenience and cost perspective.

After scouring through a variety of links such as here, I came up with the conclusion that to get to Antarctica I needed to follow these three steps:

Andor's Hacked Plan to Get to Antarctica
Step 1: Fly to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires
Step 2: Scalp a last minute ticket from a local.
Step 3: Cross my fingers and hope for the best.


Unfortunately, like this link most articles were written a few years ago and are plain wrong in the context of 2018!

In this article I’ll show you when to go and how to book so if you ever make your way down to the artic circle you now what to do.

Mirador of La Paz
Want to get to Antarctica?

Antarctica: When to go and what to expect?


Why go Antarctica at all? I could have saved myself quite a bit of money and time staying in Buenos Aires or even Patagonia. Antarctica is expensive, out of the way, and not convenient at all. Yet for all it’s inconvenience, I still decided to go after talking to a few people that have gone. Here’s why:


1. Talking to a few people before that had gone and they said it was “like going to another planet” . I wanted to see this world for myself.

  • It’s predominantly covered by ice .
  • Antarctica is not a country. It is a de facto condominium governed by the Artic Treaty. That means that countries share sovereignty over the country.
    • Some cool parts about the treaty include that Antarctica is never to be used for peaceful purposes only military testing)
  • It’s the only place in the world without a native population
  • There are incredibly strict environmental regulations. For example, each boat can let a max of 100 passengers onto a landing site at a single time. No other continent does anything like this.
  • On average, it’s the coldest, driest, and windiest continent in the world.
  • There is no economy, markets, or cities in a landscape that is larger than Australia. It’s the only place in the world that is like this for such a large area.
Map of Antartica
Map of Antarctica
I left my job to see the world, but would have been thrilled if I could see other worlds as well (Elon, send me to Mars asap!)

2. It’s a scientific continent (HUZZAH for Science. Yes I am a #nerd )

  • If you happen to be living in Antarctica, odds are you are a scientists. Most residents in Antarctica are on research centers located sporadically throughout the region.
  • You can look up some of the current research here: https://www.scar.org/
Research station in Antartica
Antarctic Jang Bogo Station

If you like the sciences and being all sciencey, you can check out additional links below:
Additional Links:
Check out some of the research centers here:
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-07/5-arctic-research-buildings-thatll-shake-science
All 1144 Stations here:
https://www.coolantarctica.com/Community/antarctic_bases.php

3. It’s the HARDEST continent to reach but necessary for a 7 continent tour of the world.

  • A personal goal I have is reaching all 7 continents. Antarctica is by far the hardest one to get to as its not a plane flight away. Crossing this off my bucket list is a personal life goal.

4. It’s got quite unique animal life.

If you like whales, sea lions, and/or penguins, Antarctica is a good place to go! I’ll be heading there in March so I expect I’ll likely see some whales. Head over earlier to check out these little tykes!

Penguins in Antartica
Penguins in Antarctica

When to Go?

When does season start and end for Antarctica? Generally from Early November to Late March you can expect to buy tickets.

You can look at here for some advice on timing:
https://www.adventure-life.com/antarctica/articles/best-time-of-year-to-travel-to-antarctica
or
https://www.chimuadventures.com/blog/2017/06/best-time-travel-antarctica/.

Personally, I would have liked to see giant glaciers in November if I had everything my way but it didn’t fit with my schedule.

Booking your ticket: What the Internet Says vs. Reality

A lot of internet articles are plain wrong when it comes to booking an expedition to Antarctica. Here’s what the internet says:

1. What the internet says: You can get a ticket for as low as $3500. Source here or here for $4500.


False. The minimum ticket all the places I talked to said, (if you are really lucky and out of season), was $4,500 and that’s not typical. Most discounted, last minute tickets cost around 7K to 9K. The cheapest ticket I found before I got my end ticket was around $8.8K, which was significantly over the 6Kish budget I set for myself when starting the trip.

A couple things:

  1. You can’t haggle a ticket.
  2. The tickets are online and viewable

If you’re booking, it means the advantage of showing up in Ushuaia and looking for a ticket is lost.

Note: It’s still significantly cheaper to do it last minute than pre-booked. For example, my ticket un-discounted was around 17K. You can find deals where there is a nearly 3x discount on the original price.

2. What the internet says: There are a lot of boats going to Ushuaia. You can land in Ushuaia and negotiate a ticket. If you give yourself a few days you can land an expedition to Antartica without any problem.



What really is the case is that there are only a few expeditions leaving in a week. This isn’t all the trips, but enough to get you an idea of the frequency of departures.

http://www.antarcticacruises.com.ar/english/departures.html

As you can see, there’s a limited number of trips in a week. To get my trip, I ended waiting 2 weeks in the southern part of Argentina to get into my trip. I’m not complaining, because I ended up camping in Tierra del Fuego but it was not what I was expecting.

What does this mean for you?

Reality: If you decide to go physically to Ushuaia to get your ticket, expect at the very least a 4~5 days and probably 2 weeks to get the right ticket.

3. What the internet DOESN’T say: It’s not just the ticket


Reality: You also need to keep in mind that you need to pay for travelers insurance, evacuation insurance, and extraneous services such as WiFi if you make it on the boat. This is something to consider if you are thinking about the total cost of the trip.

4. What the internet says: You need to physically get to Ushuaia to get a last minute deal. That means you book your trip and head over without an actual ticket. Source: here


Reality: What you should really do is contact a few agencies in advance and ask them to send you deals. Last minute deals usually occur within 1~2 weeks before the actual trip. Ask the travel agency to send you deals to your email and then if you find something that you like ask them to reserve a spot. You can book everything virtual (Hurray Internets!) and then show up a day or two before to take the tour.

Travel Agencies

Ok. So booking Antarctica was not at all what I was expecting. For one, you can't go directly to the boats and try to negotiate the deals. Prices were fixed.

Also, prices weren’t some hacked up thing like prices were in Bolivia. Prices are online. Crazy right? You can go through an agency or try and book it direct with the cruise website.

To clarify the internet: There isn’t a ton of agencies. There’s some, most sell multiple types of cruises, but the one I used freestyleadventures.com specializes in specifically Antarctica tours. Sarah and her husband were awesome. She also was a US native, which makes things “way” easier for more complicated dialogue.

Here’s most the agencies. Freestyle Adventure is the only agencies I know that specifically do Antarctica, and Antarpply does direct trips but as you can see there’s probably around 5~6 agencies, which will give you some options. Keep in mind not all agencies will have trip openings that fit your needs. Some of the agencies were sold out of all their trips to Antarctica, so expect of the agencies dropped on this map some may be unavailable for practical purposes.

If you’re a tour agency and you didn’t make the list for some reason reach out to me and I’ll add you on.

Conclusion

If you’re going to make the huge time and money investment to go to Antarctica, make sure to do it right and know what you are doing beforehand. I spent a grand and a half more than expected, but it was for a longer trip. Feel free to reach out to me at andor@henosisknot.com and I’ll connect you with the right people to make sure you’re as prepared as possible to book your trip.

(Also there’s no internets in Antartica so expect a bit before I can respond. I’m off on the 28th!) Adios,
Andor