Reaching the southernmost continent can be quite a challenge (even planning so) if the proper information and resources are not available. But no need to worry any further because this blog is going to answer all your questions. Read on to find how simply you can book a trip to Antarctica from India (or from anywhere in the world)!
The first question which people most often ask is 'Why Antarctica' ? The answer to this question can be answered very simply by saying 'It's the last place on earth which is as pristine as the day it was discovered!' And yeah, that is true because IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) has very stringent norms in place which goes to ensure that the biggest desert of ice remains unaffected by human activities (of research, travel etc). Its pristine beauty, deafening silence, endless stretches of icebergs and glaciers and the play of natural light on them creates an ambience where time stops and only contemplation on the true meaning of life exists. Also, one gets to see the cute penguins and the lazy big seals.
Well, this is the million dollar question for which this blog is being published. For travellers, Antarctica can be reached by cruise or planes. The planes are very few and extremely expensive and is mostly suited for people who are in the field of research. The cruise is the most feasible and a readily available option. There are more than 30 tour operators who operate in the Antarctic and the Arctic regions. The names of some of the big ones are:
6. Silversea Cruises Limited (ultra-luxury)
For the full list of tour operators refer to this link https://apps.iaato.org/iaato/member/list.xhtml
I travelled with Poseidon Expeditions. They have a direct agency called Expedition Voyages in India with offices in Kolkata (managed by John Ambat) and Chennai (managed by Shanthini). I booked through Expedition Voyages for an 11 day trip from 14th - 25th Dec 2017 and John helped me get a really good discount! Very professional and helpful attitude, transparent dealings, and extending their help in whatever way they can makes me recommend them highly for anyone who is interested in doing any polar region cruise. They are also direct agents with G-adventures and Hurtigruten.
The cruises embark on the expedition mainly from Ushuaia (the southernmost town in Argentina. It is reached by a 3.5 hours from Buenos Aires. Tour operators are Aerolineas Argentinas, LATAM and IBERIA). It's a beautiful small town surrounded by the famous and picturesque Tierra Del Fuego National park which offers many opportunities for hiking.
For travellers from India, one needs to secure an Argentina Visa. This has to be done by applying to the Argentina Embassy in New Delhi. I used the services of Jetsave India tours for my visa application. A few salient points for the Argentina visa are:
1. All letters (cover letter, itinerary, leave letter from employer etc) needs to be translated to Spanish and notarized.
2. The original copy of the cruise confirmation letter from the travel Company is needed with the seal of the company.
3. The embassy calls the applicants for a brief face-to-face interview. Applicants have time to plan it as the embassy usually gives a time frame of 2 weeks.
4. It pays off to reach early on the day of the interview!
Jetsave carried out the services of English to Spanish translation, notarization and application to the embassy. The entire process of Visa application cost me around 6000 INR. I just had to reach for the interview on time and voila, everything was taken care of! Cheers to you guys at Jetsave Delhi office for your professionalism!
HOW MUCH ?
The most important question - what should be one's budget for a trip to the Antarctic peninsula. Well here are the variable and break-ups:
1. Cruise cost - The cruise cost varies between 8000 USD to 14000 USD for a room on a twin/triple sharing basis depending on the season and the size of the ship. Here's a tip : Always choose a ship with a smaller passenger size since it can reach closer to the Antarctic peninsula than a larger ship.
The more lavish and expensive suites cost upwards of 16000 USD to 25000 USD even. They have a larger space, bigger bathrooms and butler service.
Some of the ships are M/V Sea Spirit (Poseidon Expeditions), M/V Ortelius, MS Fram, Ocean Adventures, Silver Sea, M/V Orion etc.
2. Flight cost - If booked in advance, a round trip flight ticket from India to Ushuaia costs a minimum of 2500 USD. The cheapest option is to fly with Emirates ex-Mumbai. Qatar Airways also operates via Doha but is more expensive, although the travel time is less. It takes more than 36 hours of flying time (including layovers) to reach Ushuaia from Mumbai!
The Emirates route is as follows: Mumbai to Dubai to Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires one has to change airlines and go to Ushuaia, which is a 3.5 to 4 hour non-stop flight.
a. Frequency of flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia is more from the domestic airport than the International Airport.
b. Many travellers prefer taking the British Airways which connects through Heathrow, but in 2017 there was an instance when Heathrow got closed due to snow! One passenger nearly missed his cruise but somehow managed because he was arriving in Ushuaia 2 days before the cruise embarkation date.
3. Other expenditures - If one decides to do the glacier trip in Calafate or the Iguazu waterfalls or decides to spend more time in Buenos Aires, then it is going to add up to the cost starting somewhere from 300 USD to 1500 USD.
I hope this blog has been useful in helping you decide how you want to reach Antarctica and more importantly, how much you need to save before you start planning !