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Antarctica travel guide

About Antarctica

Amidst the solitude of Antarctica, adventurous travellers can discover an ethereal landscape that lingers in the memory. Very few have ventured onto this appealingly inaccessible continent, but those who have rave about the privilege of gazing upon towering mountains, bulky glaciers and luminous, dreamlike icebergs. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Antarctica reminds those who visit it of the awesome (and savage) power of nature.

Antarctica is welcoming more tourist-orientated cruises and ferries to the region every year, and facilities are continually developing, with more accommodation, culinary and travel options available. There is now ample opportunity to ascend Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on Earth; to fly via helicopter or venture by boat to penguin colonies; and to really make the most of a terrain that teems with wildlife, with a multitude of birds, seals, albatrosses and enormous whales.

Some argue that Antarctica is changing, and by man-made causes rather than natural ones. Many regard the increasing focus on tourism as disconcerting and wish to preserve Antarctica in its elemental state to avoid any potential environmental damage. Antarctica is still a magical experience that most, given the chance, would find hard to resist. Those who do visit should be aware of their impact upon the landscape and do their utmost to limit the effect of their stay.

Perhaps the reason behind the fascination with Antarctica is its function as a symbol of endurance and survival. Before Antarctica was first spotted (in 1819), the continent was the subject of constant speculation, spoken of in almost mythical terms as Terra Australia Incognita (The Unknown Southern Land). Humans first occupied the continent in 1899, but Antarctica seemed inhospitable and incomprehensible and, in many ways, it still is.

Key facts


14,000,000 sq km (5,405,430 sq miles).




Antarctica has no government and is regulated under the Antarctic Treaty System.

Travel Advice

The British Antarctic Territory is a British Overseas Territory. It is administered by a commissioner, based in London. The British Antarctic Territory website has more information. 

Before you travel 

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Travel insurance 

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency. 

About FCDO travel advice 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated. 

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel. 

COVID-19 rules 

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering the British Antarctic Territory. 

Passport validity requirements 

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to. 

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 


Anyone on a British expedition to Antarctica or taking a British vessel or aircraft into Antarctica must apply for a permit from the Polar Regions Department of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)

For passengers on an organised visit to Antarctica, the tour operator usually arranges a permit. If you are concerned, talk to your operator. 

If you travel to any part of Antarctica without permission, you could get a fine or a prison sentence. 

Vaccine requirements  

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Antarctica guide.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.      

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

Terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks cannot be ruled out.


There’s no history of crime. The only people present besides visitors are those working at the scientific research stations. 

Laws and cultural differences

The British Antarctic Territory has guidelines for visitors based on the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. If you are travelling with a tour operator or scientific unit, check how they plan to follow these guidelines.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the British Antarctic Territory since 2014. Further information on getting married is on the British Antarctic Territory website.  

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Expeditions and adventure travel

Tour operators have their own safety measures to reduce risks for different types of adventure activities. These can vary between operator and may be unique to Antarctica. If in any doubt about safety, check with your tour operator.

When on land expeditions, consider taking precautions against:

  • dangers on glaciers
  • avalanches
  • extreme and unpredictable weather conditions

Transport risks

Most visitors to Antarctica arrive by sea. For organised travel, consider using a tour operator that belongs to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Its members sign up to codes of practice on operational and environmental safety. 

Antarctica is inaccessible during the winter months, from March to October. During the summer, from November to February, landings may be difficult due to westerly winds and lack of sheltered anchorage.

Extreme weather

Antarctica has 2 seasons: Antarctic summer and Antarctic winter. Winter starts in late April and lasts until early October. It can get to minus 40°C or colder. There is very little sunlight, with it being almost permanently dark during the height of winter.

The Territory is inaccessible during winter. Most research stations are without staff during this time. 

Before you travel check that you have appropriate travel insurance that specifies Antarctica. Ensure you have accessible funds to cover unexpected medical evacuation. This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant. 

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

There are very limited medical facilities within the Territory. Be aware of the harsh climatic conditions in Antarctica. 

Most people visit the Antarctic by ship. Some areas of the Antarctic are uncharted and ice-covered. Search and rescue teams called to vessels in Antarctic waters may be far away and take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. They can only offer basic transport and medical care and are unlikely to be able to offer advanced life support. 

Before you book: 

  • check the experience and credentials of operators 
  • review the on-board medical facilities and discuss any pre-existing conditions with your operator

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of the British Antarctic Territory. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support for British people in the British Antarctic Territory

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated. 

The British Antarctic Territory is a British Overseas Territory administered from London. For emergency help or advice, talk to your tour operator or expedition leader.

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