A number of websites offer helpful information about Antarctica. Here are a few of the best:
www.iaato.org: This is the official website of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. It is important that your tour group be a member of the IAATO. Statistics, general information, and news can be found on the website.
www.70south.com: This site includes links to other Antarctica-oriented websites, as well as weather and event information and message boards.
www.antarcticconnection.com: This site offers travel information, tour operator links, and items for sale, including maps and videos.
No single country claims Antarctica as its territory, so visas are not necessary, but you will need a passport for unscheduled stops and your first stop either in Argentina or Chile.
When To Go
Tours to Antarctica are conducted between November and March -- after March, temperatures dip to lows of -100°F (-73°C) and the sun disappears until September. The opposite is true of the summer, and visitors can expect sunlight up to a maximum of 18 to 24 hours a day, depending on where you are in Antarctica. Summer temperatures near the Antarctic Peninsula vary between lows of 5°F to 10°F (-15°C to -12°C) and highs of 35°F to 60°F (2°C-16°C).
What you see during your journey may depend on when you go. November is the mating season for penguins and other birds, and visitors can view their offspring in December and January. The best time for whale-watching is during February and March.
Extreme Weather -- Cold temperatures, the windchill factor, and perspiration all conspire to prohibit the body from keeping itself warm. Travelers, therefore, need to outfit themselves in the highest-quality outdoor clothing available. Tour operators are constantly amazed at how underprepared visitors to Antarctica are, and they therefore will provide you with a packing checklist that will include items such as rubber boots; ask your tour company if it provides its guests with waterproof outerwear, or if you are expected to bring your own. The thin ozone layer and the glare from snow, water, and ice make a high-factor sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses absolutely imperative.
Special Health Concerns -- Everyone should bring anti-motion sickness medication. If you suffer from a special health problem or are taking prescription medication, bring a signed and dated letter from your physician for medical authorities in case of an emergency. Delays of up to 4 weeks have been known to happen on guided trips to the interior, so visitors should seriously consider the extremity of such a trip, submit themselves to a full medical exam before their departure, and bring the quantity of medication necessary for a long delay.
Medical Safety & Evacuation Insurance -- All passenger ships have an onboard physician in the event of a medical problem or emergency; however, passengers should discuss an evacuation policy with each operator. Emergency evacuation can be hindered by poor weather conditions, and anyone with an unstable medical condition needs to keep this in mind. Also, check your health insurance to verify that it includes evacuation because it can be unbelievably expensive -- from the Shetland Islands alone, it costs $35,000 to evacuate a person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.