How Much Does It Cost to Visit Antarctica? [+ How to Visit For Free]

You are currently viewing How Much Does It Cost to Visit Antarctica? [+ How to Visit For Free]

Any visit to Antarctica is sure to be one to remember, but planning a voyage to the White Continent isn’t cheap.

The average trip to Antarctica costs between $7,000 and $40,000 per person, including pre- and post-adventure travel. But some ultra-luxury voyages can cost as much as $140,000 per person while budget-friendly trips often sell out quickly.

To help you plan your next visit to Antarctica, we’ve put together this introduction to all the costs associated with a trip down South. We’ll discuss what it costs to venture to Antarctica, how to get good deals on cruises, and whether it’s possible to visit Antarctica for free.

Antarctica Travel Cost

Traveling to Antarctica is a major endeavor, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you sign up. Here’s a breakdown of all the major costs associated with a trip to the Antarctic:

Expedition Cruise

The biggest cost involved with a trip to Antarctica is the expedition cruise itself. Expedition cruises to Antarctica vary in cost depending on what kind of traveling you like to do. 

On average, you can expect the following per-person prices for a berth on an Antarctic cruise:

  • Budget – $5,000 to $9,000
  • Mid-Range – $9,000 to $25,000
  • Luxury – $25,000 to $60,000

Note that, while there are a few “budget-friendly” tour operators that offer relatively low prices on single berths in shared cabins, these tend to sell out quickly. Additionally, the cost of a luxury cruise can be much higher than our estimate depending on your tour operator and the type of cabin you choose.


Expedition Extras

Most prices you see for a berth on an Antarctic cruise are designed to cover the base cost of your voyage.

These prices include things like meals, basic beverages (water, tea, and coffee), and daily excursions, such as Zodiac cruises and landings. However, they generally exclude tips, drinks at the onboard bar, laundry, Wi-Fi, gifts and souvenirs, and expedition add-ons (kayaking, camping, etc.).

Here’s a quick look at how much you might spend on these extras based on your personal travel style:

 BudgetMid-RangeLuxury
Tips (Per Day)$10$12$15
Laundry (Per Voyage)$0$50$200
Drinks (Per Day)$10$20$100
Gifts & Souvenirs (Per Voyage)$0$200$1,000
Wi-Fi (Per Voyage)$0$100$500
Expedition Add-Ons (Per Voyage)$0$500$3,000
Total (12-day Cruise)$120$1,200$6,000

Expedition Gear & Clothing

When you book an expedition cruise to Antarctica, you need to come prepared with the right clothing and gear for your adventure. If you already have all the clothing you need, you won’t need to spend a lot on more gear. But if you don’t frequently travel to cold environments, buying the gear you need for your voyage can get expensive.

Most cruise companies will give you a suggested packing list for your voyage. If you have to buy everything on the list, you could spend about $500 (budget), $2,000 (mid-range), and $5,000 (luxury), depending on what kind of clothing you buy.


Pre- and Post-Cruise Flights

The majority of Antarctic expeditions start from cities in South America or New Zealand. Therefore, you’ll have to cover the cost of traveling to your embarkation port.

Unless you happen to live in South America or New Zealand, the cost of a plane ticket to these locations is no small expense. Pre- and post-cruise flights vary in cost depending on your starting location and travel style. But here are some average costs to keep in mind:

  • Budget – $1,000 to $2,000
  • Mid-Range – $2,000 to $5,000
  • Luxury – $5,000 to $20,000

Pre- and Post-Cruise Lodging & Food

As a general rule, you’ll want to plan to arrive in your cruise’s embarkation city at least a couple of days before your trip starts. 

Flight delays and other travel issues can and do happen, so it’s best to play things safe and build some extra time into your trip so you don’t miss your cruise. You may also want to give yourself a day after your adventure to relax before you start your trip home.

Most major Antarctic gateway cities (i.e., Ushuaia and Punta Arenas) have a range of accommodation options to choose from. Average pre- and post-cruise lodging and food costs are as follows:

  • Budget – $200 to $400
  • Mid-Range – $400 to $1,000
  • Luxury – $1,000 to $3,000

Visas & Insurance

Finally, as is the case with any international travel, you have to budget for the cost of visas and insurance for your trip to Antarctica.

There’s no visa requirement to go to Antarctica, but you may need visas to travel to your embarkation city (normally in Argentina, Chile, or New Zealand).

One expense that all travelers to Antarctica should budget for, however, is the cost of insurance. Travel insurance is strongly encouraged for anyone going to Antarctica and medical evacuation coverage of $1 million or more is ideal.

Visa and insurance fees can vary, but most people will spend:

  • Budget – $200
  • Mid-Range – $1,000
  • Luxury – $2,000

How Much Does it Cost to Visit Antarctica

The below summary table shows how much it costs to visit Antarctica on three different budget levels:

 BudgetMid-RangeLuxury
Expedition Cruise$5,000 to $9,000$9,000 to $25,000$25,000 to $60,000
Expedition Extras$120$1,200$6,000
Expedition Gear & Clothing$500$2,000$5,000
Pre- and Post-Cruise Flights$1,000 to $2,000$2,000 to $5,000$5,000 to $20,000
Pre- and Post-Cruise Lodging & Food$200 to $400$400 to $1,000$1,000 to $3,000
Visas, Insurance & Vaccinations$200$1,000$2,000
Total$7,000 to $12,200$15,600 to $35,200$44,000 to $140,000

Note: These estimates are calculated based on average costs of a 12 day Antarctic expedition. Longer voyages that include travel to South Georgia or the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) tend to be more expensive than what’s quoted above.


How to Get the Best Deals on Antarctica Cruises

Going to Antarctica is expensive, but you can sometimes get a good deal on an expedition cruise if you know where to look. Here are some top tips for getting the best deal on an Antarctic cruise:

  • Look for Flash Sales – Most tour companies offer flash sales and seasonal discounts on their cruises to help entice potential guests. You can take advantage of these sales by signing up for the mailing lists of different expedition tour operators so you get early notification of any potential discounts.
  • Opt For The Shoulder Season – The busiest season is between December and February which is the best time to visit Antarctica, but many expedition companies offer cruises in November and March. These cruises rarely reach full capacity, so you can often get a good deal on a voyage if you’re willing to travel in the shoulder season.
  • Book A Shared Cabin – Many Antarctic expedition companies let you reserve a berth in a shared cabin (rather than reserving the whole cabin) at a big discount. Doing so is a great option for slashing your cruising costs and it can be a cool way to meet other like-minded travelers, especially if you’re adventuring on your own.
  • Get a Last-Minute Booking in Ushuaia – When Antarctic expedition companies have last-minute empty berths to fill on their cruises, they contract travel agents in Ushuaia to sell those spots at a steep discount. If you really want to save money on a trip to Antarctica, strolling down Avenida San Martín in Ushuaia and window shopping for good deals at travel agents is a solid option. That said, you’ll need to be flexible in your timing and itinerary to take advantage of these deals, so it’s not a great method for people on a strict vacation schedule.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly Over Antarctica?

Antarctica flightseeing tours cost approximately $700 to $6,000. The price of each flight varies based on when you fly and what kind of seat you book (economy, business, first, etc.).

That said, there are only a few companies that run commercial Antarctic flightseeing tours. Most trips that fly over Antarctica begin in Australia, so you also have to factor in the cost of travel to Australia if you don’t already live in the country.


Can You Visit Antarctica for Free?

If the price tag associated with traveling to Antarctica is enough to make your wallet run away with fright, you might be wondering if it’s possible to visit Antarctica for free.

The short answer? Yes, you can go to Antarctica for free, but it’s not easy to do. There are a few different tried-and-tested ways to get a free ticket down south, though each one of them requires jumping through quite a few hoops that aren’t possible for everyone.

With that in mind, here are 3 ways to visit the Antarctic without paying a dime for your travel.

1. Employment at a Research Station

The first way to get to Antarctica for free is to be employed at a research station. There are over 70 scientific research stations and bases in Antarctica, each of which is managed by one or more countries.

Every research station needs to employ a number of support staff to help manage its operations. Support staff includes everyone from plumbers, mechanics, electricians, and doctors, to cooks, housekeepers, and waste management professionals. 

The cool thing about working as support staff is that you don’t necessarily need Antarctic experience. If you have solid work experience in a skilled trade or in hospitality, you may be eligible for a job at a station.

But here’s the catch: These jobs are super competitive and you normally have to commit to a 4 to 8 month contract. However, if you’re lucky enough to get a research station job, it might just be one of the coolest experiences of your life.


2. Work as an Expedition Guide

If working at a research station doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, another way to go to Antarctica for free is to work as an expedition guide. Every expedition cruise company needs a solid team of guides to run their trips, so this is one of the best ways to go on a voyage and get paid at the same time!

Each ship that operates in the region employs between 4 and 30 expedition staff, so there are many opportunities for work. However, getting work as an expedition guide in Antarctica isn’t easy. It’s a competitive field and you need to have the right skills for the job. 

You don’t necessarily need to have been to Antarctica before to be employable. But a combination of outdoor guiding experience, expertise in an Antarctic-relevant topic (e.g., biology, geology, or history), and excellent customer service skills are essential if you want a good chance of getting job offers.


3. Volunteer as Crew on a Yacht

One of the most overlooked ways to get to Antarctica for free is to volunteer as crew on a yacht. 

There are a number of websites where you can find volunteer sailing opportunities, including CrewSeekers and CrewBay. On both sites, yacht owners and skippers post advertisements detailing the type of vessel, the voyage location and dates, and expectations for crew. 

In some instances, you might need sailing qualifications to volunteer, but many skippers welcome sailors with a range of experience levels. However, you’ll definitely need to be comfortable at sea, willing to work, and ready for an adventure to join a yacht heading to Antarctica.


Related Questions

Why Is it So Expensive to Visit Antarctica?

Visiting Antarctica is expensive because the Antarctic continent is so remote. There’s also very little infrastructure to support tourism in the Antarctic. Therefore, anyone going to Antarctica needs to pay for a journey to a difficult-to-access area on a charter flight or small cruise ship—both of which are expensive.

Kieren

Kieren is the founder of Polar Guidebook. After visiting both of the polar regions and meeting the scientists and tour guides that work there, he developed a keen interest in the animals, climate, and geography of the Arctic and Antarctica.