Antarctica Travel Information
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There are no official time zones in Antarctica, and research stations usually go by the time of their home country for convenience.
Each ship and base has its own electricity supply.
There is no official language.
Extreme cold temperatures and wind chill in Antarctica can lead to hypothermia. Due to the thin ozone layer it is essential that a high protection sunscreen be worn, and the glare from the ice and water necessitates the wearing of sunglasses. The crossing of rough seas will require most passengers to take some form of seasickness preventative medication. All passenger ships have an on-board doctor, but health insurance is imperative and must include emergency evacuation, which can be exorbitantly expensive.
Staff on passenger ships generally expect tips. The size of tip varies and depends on the currency in use and type of cruise - it is best to check with tour operators in advance.
The waters around Antarctica can be extremely rough, and in bad conditions loose equipment not tied down on board ship can cause injury; similarly, passengers can be caught off balance in high seas.
Sea ice is a polar hazard and icebergs are capable of sinking even a large ship. Several cruise ships have hit icebergs in recent years, leading industry experts to question the safety of Antarctic cruise ships and highlighting the dangers of mass evacuations in extreme climates. The US and UK warned a conference of Antarctic treaty nations that the tourism situation in the Antarctic region was a disaster in the making with some cruise ships carrying in excess of 3,000 people, and more than 35,000 people visiting during the season.
It's important to be aware of the potential dangers of travelling to such a hostile environment, but most cruises are trouble-free.
When visiting research bases or stations in Antarctica, tourists are asked to remove shoes, never to enter a building unless invited, not to interfere with scientific work, and to remember that researchers are using up precious work time to accommodate them.
Make sure that restroom facilities aboard ship are used before visiting a base, as it is very bad practice to ask to use one onshore as it adds to the amount of waste that has to be removed by the researchers at a later date.
The international dialling code for Antarctica is +672. Ship-based communication is by satellite phone.
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Guerba specialise in overland adventure travel and hiking in Antarctica. UK departures only.