How To Travel To Antarctica
One of the biggest questions we’ve gotten is about how we travelled to Antarctica so I figured I might as well show you the full journey we took from London (our home city) to Antarctica. Plus, it takes me right to the very start of this trip so it’s a good way to start this tale, I guess. 😁😁😁😁
Right so from London we booked a direct flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina. There are indirect flight options which connect in other cities on the way to Buenos Aires but even a direct flight is like 14 hours so we decided to just limit travel times by going direct.
Also, at the time when we travelled if you test positive for you know what, you can’t board the ship to Antarctica so we decided to limit our exposure to people and figured waiting around in a connection airport probably wasn’t the best idea for this trip.
So yeah, we booked British Airways flight direct to Buenos Aires for the January the 2nd but that flight actually got cancelled by British Airways and our booking got moved to New Year’s day instead.
Thing is, we’d originally booked the trip on the 2nd of January because we were planning on nursing a New Year’s Eve hangover on the New Year’s day but thanks to our decision to isolate before travelling we actually ended up doing nothing for New Year’s Eve anyway.
To be honest, we’d already started isolating even before Christmas. We’d been planning this trip for years and it had actually been postponed a few times already so now that we had confirmed plans in place, we wanted to do our very best from our end to try not to test positive.
Oh, and we’d also made plans to arrive in Argentina a few days early to explore the cities we would be in before boarding the ship to Antarctica but we’d totally forgotten that due to isolation, we wouldn’t be exploring those city before our trip either.
Anyway, so fast forward – we arrived in Buenos Aires at the crack of dawn and went over to our hotel – The Alvear Palace hotel.
Thankfully, even though it would normally be too early to check in, we were allowed to check in and without skipping a beat, we promptly fell asleep for the next 9 hours.
The rest of the time in Buenos Aires was pretty chilled. Evening drinks at the bar downstairs – incredibly socially distanced, I might add.
Dinner of Argentine steaks and Malbec at an incredible restaurant next door called Fervor, which we were told by our hotel concierge that the Prince of Belgium thoroughly enjoyed earlier that week. She did like to name drop a bit.
There was one exception though. So, local flights in Argentina have a weight limit of 15kg per suitcase (that’s 33 pounds if you’re not used to Kilograms). That can be extended to 23kg or 50 pounds but you do have to pay extra for that.
We however arrived in Argentina with 1 suitcase each, both of which weighed at least 30kg each.
Oh and I almost forgot to say, if your suitcase is any higher than 23kg, it has to be sent by cargo which means it will arrive many days after you arrive at your destination.
So we decided we had to buy extra suitcases and split our luggage between our old and new suitcases. To buy a new suitcase though we needed to get some cash out.
Turns out you can’t just take cash out in Argentina easily. That’s a whole story for another day but after hours of trying we managed to get just £7/$10 out of a cash machine, but that cost is a £7/$10 charge for the withdrawal meaning taking £7 out actually cost us £14 in total.
So, we were presented with another option – sending cash to ourselves via Western Union money transfer. The rate is actually good – you get twice the amount of local currency in exchange if you do that.
But to do the Western Union transfer, we needed to have a local phone number. So, we went out to look for a local sim car but that meant we needed cash to get one and so this cycle of constantly looking for something new just continued.
Eventually, thanks to the £7 from earlier, we eventually got SIM cards but they needed to get activated. The process is a whole dance in which we had to send messages on Facebook or Twitter, sending passports over, then take photos of ourselves with our passports and more.
After all of that, the SIM cards then didn’t work and eventually, while making our way through town in search for suitcases, we made it to a mobile phone shop which is where we were told that it would take at least 4 days for the SIM cards to be active so there was no point in expecting that we would be able to use them at any point that day for the Western Union transfer.
It was a whole ridiculous dance and this is genuinely how we spent the better part of a day in Buenos Aires. Moral of the story – arrive in Buenos Aires with cash.
And no, not Pounds, that won’t be much use, Euros are slightly better but American dollars is key! Take dollars with you. If you exchange cash, you can get that incredible double exchange rate I mentioned earlier meaning your money is literally worth twice as much as if you’d paid with a card.
The next leg of the journey involved a flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world… and the inspiration for the name of one of the most famous clubs in Ibiza. Again, in Ushuaia, we decided to keep very low key and stick to our hotel (except for a stint in town to shop for sea sickness tablets).
For dinner and drinks, we stuck to our hotel, the Wyndham Garden Ushuaia Hotel del Glaciar, which to be fair, had a pretty decent wine list… which we proceeded to work our way through.
From Ushuaia, we would then have to cross the most powerful sea convergence in the world and the most treacherous sea voyage in the world – the Drakes passage. This is where the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean and the waves here can be up to 12 metres / 40 feet high. And that’s before winds of up to 50 knots. (I don’t actually know what that really means but I’m told it’s a lot).
Or you can have a rather calm crossing – all of which is totally dependent on the weather.
For that crossing, and the key reason why we came to Argentina to begin with, we got on board the Ocean Victory ship by Albatros Expeditions.
Ocean Victory is a brand new luxury ship and totally defies the expectations you have of going to Antarctica. Years ago when we started planning our trip, we were expecting to have to do it in a hard core expedition type vessel with limited amenities.
We were not expecting a ship with a spa, gym, pool, incredible dining room, gorgeous social areas and beautiful bedrooms. Suffice to say, the moment we found out about Ocean Victory, it was such an easy yes.
I’ll show you all about what that’s like in the next episode but yeah, that’s how we got to Antarctica.
Once you’re done with the Drakes Passage, the next stop is Antarctica – where your cruise ship will be your home for however many days you’re choosing to spend there, with lots of opportunities to get off the boat and go cruising or go on land to meet the locals of Antarctica.
Catch you in the next post for all of that.