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Antarctica Travel Advice

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Risk level

Antarctica - Exercise a high degree of caution

Exercise a high degree of caution in Antarctica due to the adverse and unpredictable weather conditions, as well as the lack of infrastructure and emergency services.

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Safety and security

Weather conditions

Antarctica is subject to extreme and unpredictable weather conditions. It is cold, dry and windy, with 99% of the continent covered by a permanent ice sheet.

These conditions put you at risk of frostbite and sun overexposure, which can result in dehydration and eye damage.

Ensure that you have equipment and clothing that meet Antarctic standards.

Communications

There are no public phone or other public communication services in Antarctica. In case of an emergency, you may have difficulties in obtaining outside assistance.

Research stations can house satellite telephones and postal facilities. However, they are fully dedicated to scientific research and, with rare exceptions, have no capacity to provide support of any kind to tourists or casual travellers.

If you plan to visit Antarctica as an independent traveller, ensure to be self-sufficient from the time that you leave the departure country until your return.

Tourism

There are no tourist facilities on land, except a privately run base on the interior ice that caters to mountaineering-type expeditions

Travelling to Antarctica may have a potential harmful impact on the environment. As a result, you should avoid any travel that is not part of an international scientific expedition or organized through a tour operator. Various tourism companies can arrange excursions to the continent.

International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators

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Entry and exit requirements

Antarctica is governed through an international treaty system and is not owned by any one nation.

Passport and visas

You may need a Canadian passport and/or a visa for the countries you transit as you travel en route to and from Antarctica.

Refer to the separate Travel advice and advisories for those countries.

Expedition permits

All Canadian travellers require a permit to visit Antarctica. Expedition tour operators will usually make necessary arrangements to obtain it on your behalf. Confirm this information with your tour operator before travelling.

Should you need to apply for a permit yourself, you must submit your request to the Antarctic Environmental Program at Environment Canada.

Apply for a permit - Environment Canada

Children and travel

Learn about travel with children.

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Health

Relevant Travel Health Notices

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Antarctica. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Insects and Illness

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. 

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Medical services and facilities

There are no search and rescue or emergency evacuation facilities in Antarctica. In case of emergency, you will be responsible for the costs of your search, rescue and evacuation.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

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Laws and culture

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.

The Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection—the Madrid Protocol—designates Antarctica as a natural reserve with established protected areas. Not owned by any one country, Antarctica is the site of environmental preservation efforts and scientific research.

Canada has implemented the Madrid Protocol into Canadian law with the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act. In doing so, the Canadian government now regulates the activities of its citizens in the Antarctic.

The Antarctic Environmental Protection Act prohibits Canadians and Canadian vessels, where applicable, from undertaking the following activities, except where a permit has been granted:

  • activities related to mineral resources other than for scientific purposes
  • interference with wildlife indigenous to the Antarctic
  • introduction of animal or plant species that are not indigenous to the Antarctic
  • any activity related to waste disposal
  • any activity in a specially protected area

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Natural disasters and climate

The weather in Antarctica is extreme. From March to September, temperatures can drop to -60C near sea level, and even lower in the interior. At the peak of winter, the continent receives little to no sunlight. Organized tours don’t operate during this period.

 

During mid-summer, from December to January, temperatures are around -2C to 4C. On the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures can reach the low double-digits. There is sunlight up to 24 hours per day, depending on the location.

Blizzards are rare. However, in coastal areas, katabatic winds regularly reach speeds of 100 km/h. Gusts of up to 160 km/h are not uncommon.

 

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Need help?

Local services

Emergency services

There is no centralized number to reach emergency services.

Consular assistance

There is no Canadian government office in Antarctica. Canadians visiting Antarctica should advise Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa of their travel plans prior to leaving.

For emergency consular assistance, contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Disclaimer

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services.

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