Falkland Islands travel guide
About Falkland Islands
Nineteenth-century shipwrecks and a plethora of marine life are among the attractions awaiting visitors to the Falkland Islands. Although these islands are perhaps best known as the battleground of the eponymous 1982 war between Britain and Argentina, but this archipelago in the Atlantic is an intriguing and relaxing holiday destination.
Situated nearly 500km from Patagonia, the Falklands – or Islas Maldivas, depending on who you talk to – are a frequent stopping point on Antarctic voyages, and with such an abundance of rare animal life, it’s not hard to see why. There are two main islands, East and West Falkland, as well as several hundred islets. Wildlife lovers will find strewn among them five different species of penguins (including macaroni, king, Magellanic, gentoo, and rockhopper), as well whales, and sea birds. Head to Volunteer Point for the islands’ largest group of king penguins, while there are a predictably vast amount of sea lions to be found on Sea Lion Island.
Reminders of the 1982 conflict do remain, with battlefields, such as Goose Green and Pebble Island, now tourist attractions. Also claimed by Spain, France and Argentina over the years, the Falklands have been British Overseas Territory since 1833. Argentina famously still contests this status and there have been recent political ramblings on the matter by that country’s government. However, a recent referendum found that an overwhelming majority of the 3,000 or so islanders want to remain under British rule.
Most of the Falkland Islands’ population live in the capital Stanley, over whose harbour much avian life can be seen circling above the waves. More than a thousand members of the British military live at the Mount Pleasant Base. There’s a rural feel to the islands, with hamlets and sheep abounding, while you’ll find no traffic lights on the Falklands’ country roads. There are more than a dozen endemic plants, including Felton’s flower, thought to be extinct in the wild until recently, which gives off a whiff of caramel. Also, look out for the ubiquitous snakeplant.
12,173 sq km (4,700 sq miles).
2,912 (UN estimate 2016).
0.2 per sq km.
British Overseas Territory, which is not recognised by Argentina, as it considers the Falkland Islands to be part of Argentina.
Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor Colin Roberts since 2014.
Chief Executive Barry Rowland since 2016.
240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are used.
Last updated: 09 September 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Foreign travel advice
The Falklands Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The Governor of the Falklands provides formal British diplomatic representation on the Islands and the local authorities deal with requests for consular assistance in conjunction with the Governor’s office.
Most visits to the Falkland Islands are trouble-free and there is little crime or disorder.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Falkland Islands, attacks can’t be ruled out.
According to Falkland Islands Government regulations, you must take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.
You can contact the emergency services by calling 999.
Safety and security
The weather can change rapidly and it is often possible to experience several seasons in a single day. The sun can be very strong, wear good sunglasses, a hat and high-factor sunscreen.
You can fly between the Islands with the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) who operate four Britten Norman ‘Islander’ aircraft from Stanley airport; book directly through FIGAS or with a local tour operator. Check that your flight has been confirmed the afternoon before you are due to fly. In bad weather, check your flight is going ahead before you travel to the airport.
LATAM operates a once weekly service to Mount Pleasant Airport from Punta Arenas in southern Chile. Onward air connections from Punta Arenas are available to Puerto Montt and Santiago de Chile, and onward from Santiago to other international destinations. Once a month this service stops in Rio Gallegos, on the southern coast of Argentina. The service will pick up passengers in Rio Gallegos on one week (usually the second Saturday of the month), and drop off passengers in Rio Gallegos the following week. Check with LATAM in advance for up to date information on Chile/Falkland Islands air services.
The RAF operates a fare-paying service from RAF Brize Norton to Mount Pleasant Airport twice weekly. Due to necessary repairs required to the Ascension Island runway, the Ministry of Defence has temporarily re-routed the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location.
This service can be subject to delays due to poor weather, especially during the southern hemisphere winter. Total journey time is approximately 22 hours. For further information and how to book this service visit the Falkland Islands website or contact the Falkland Islands Government Office. Carry some US dollars in case the flight is diverted to South America or North Africa.
Other charter aircraft from the UK occasionally operate a route to the Falkland Islands depending on demand. The Falkland Islands tourist board can advise further.
Four wheel drive vehicles are most commonly used. Roads in Stanley are surfaced, as is some of the 35-mile Mount Pleasant Airport to Stanley road. There are around 600 miles of unsurfaced roads on the Islands. Coach, local bus and taxi services to and from Mount Pleasant Airport are available and can be booked in advance. Taxis are available in Stanley. Speed limits are 25mph in the Stanley area and 40mph on other roads.
Because of the condition of most roads, and the strong winds, you should take great care when driving outside Stanley, especially on the road between Mount Pleasant Airport and Stanley. Deaths have occurred on this road and accidents are commonplace. Self-drive four-by-four vehicles are available for hire and a UK driving licence is sufficient. Laws on the wearing of seat belts and drink driving are strictly enforced.
Unexploded ordnance from the 1982 conflict remains on the Falkland Islands and occasionally can be found on any of the major battle fields. All mine fields have been identified, are well mapped and fenced-off. The fences are hung with red warning triangles stating ‘mines’. It is an offence, punishable by imprisonment or large fine, to enter these areas, remove, damage or obscure the signs, or cut or remove any part of the fence. Detailed maps of minefield locations are available locally.
Falkland Islands Government London office
The Falkland Islands Government maintains an office in London that can provide further information for visitors:
Falkland Islands Government Office
Telephone: 020 7222 2542
Fax: 020 7222 2375
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Falkland Islands, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Customs officers are on duty for all inward international flights. Drug trafficking is a serious offence and will be dealt with severely, normally with a custodial sentence.
Mount Pleasant Airport is a military site and photography is not permitted.
Residents and other permit holders
On arrival in the Falkland Islands you must have a valid passport.
On arrival in the Falkland Islands you must have:
- a passport valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
- a return air ticket (or other evidence of pre‑paid onward travel)
- evidence of accommodation with family/friends/hotel/business
- sufficient funds to cover your stay in the Islands
British nationals do not need a visa to enter the Falkland Islands, but you may need a visa to transit Chile. There are no facilities to issue Chilean visas on the Falkland Islands. Visitors are prohibited from taking paid employment without a work permit.
For further information on entry requirements, check with the Falkland Islands Government Office in London.
There is a £22 departure tax on leaving the Islands that is not included on LATAM airline flight tickets.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The general standard of healthcare in the Falkland Islands is good. The only hospital is located in Stanley and offers very modern facilities with medical, dental and nursing staff. There is no resident qualified optician. More complex treatments might require medical evacuation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Healthcare arrangements for visiting UK residents
Under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS, all UK residents are entitled to receive the treatment below free while visiting the Falkland Islands. Evidence of UK residency (NHS medical card or passport) will be required.
- Hospital treatment
- Other medical treatment
- Prescribed medicines
- Ambulance travel
Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance cover for medical air ambulance evacuation.
The Falkland Island pound is fixed at a rate of one pound Sterling. Bank of England coins and notes are accepted in the Islands at full value. However, some travellers have experienced difficulties exchanging Falkland Islands’ notes at their bank on return to the UK. You should therefore limit the amount of Falkland Islands currency you carry on departure.
In Stanley, many of the main shops, hotels and restaurants will accept MasterCard or Visa. A small number of places accept debit cards. Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted outside Stanley. Check when making bookings and bring some cash in pounds Sterling (or US Dollars). There are no ATM cash machines on the Islands, but a cash advance facility is available at the bank using Visa or Mastercard.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.