Preparing for Antarctica (Part 1):
Preparing for a journey to the Antarctic is super exciting. This IS the journey of a lifetime, and needs months of planning and slowly building up your savings reserves to make this journey. I recommend you start planning at least 8-10 months in advance to make sure you have everything in place.
You can approach the Antarctic via ship, from New Zealand or South America. And within South America, it could be Chile or Argentina. The more commercial hub for ships to start their journey from is Ushuaia (Argentina), which is literally the southernmost tip of the world. We chose Ushuaia as our sailing point.
Book your tickets to Argentina as early as possible. From this side of the world, you could get there via the United States, via UK or via Rio de Janiero (Emirates has a direct Dubai-Rio flight). If it’s UK, then you definitely need a transit visa (Indian passports). All flights to Argentina typically come into Buenos Aires. I recommend spending a few days in Buenos Aires – go watch a tango show, walk around, eat empanadas & pizza and drink lots of Malbec wine!
Book internal return flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia in advance as well. There are two key flight operators – LAN Chile and Aerolineas Argentinas. Both have direct/ hopping flights to Ushuaia. Keep a TWO day buffer before the sail date. So if your sail date is on a Friday, get to Ushuaia two days earlier on a Wednesday. Internal flights are known to have unscheduled delays and baggage loss so you need to be prepared.
Book your internal flights directly on the websites of either of these operators. It’s funny how the residents/citizens are charged half the cost of the airfare, but you can’t do anything about it. You will need to show a resident card/local passport if you try and get yourself a discounted fare.
Important note on Argentina visa: It is now MANDATORY for all travelers to go for a face-to-face visa interview to the closest Argentinean consulate. This cannot be avoided. So make sure you plan for a visit to the closest consulate based on the city that you are living in. Three weeks is a safe estimate to complete the visa formalities from submission to collection. Do NOT go to a travel agent for an Argentina visa – it’s free for Indian passport holders, and you really should not be paying. Besides, the consulate strongly discourages travel agents. And finally, your documents MUST be in Spanish. So make full use of Google translate and don’t spend (waste) money on a translator!
Important note on Buenos Aires airports: There are two major airports in BA – the Ministro Pastirini (EZE) airport where most international flights come in. This airport is 45 minutes from the city center. The second airport is typically for internal flights – Aeroparque (AEP) which is fairly close to the city center , around 20 minutes. Make sure you check your tickets to see where your flight arrives and leaves from. Also, when there are sudden flight changes, your airport would have most likely changed as well.
Next – Antarctic Seasons