This post has been a while in coming believe me and I’m about to reveal the cheapest way for a traveller or a backpacker to get to Antarctica without working on a ship or working in Antarctica. This is how to book a cheap trip to Antarctica as a traveller and backpacker. You can do it, and you SHOULD do it. Antarctica is the best place I have been so far.
But before I go into detail, you should know that this trip was always a huge dream of mine and I find it hard to believe now, that I did it. Years of planning and research also went into it. I remember being bored in my tent in Poatina one night and I had my Wireless Internet connected and I started to look up what might be the best Antarctica cruise or the Antarctica backpacker option.
Yes indeed, you may have read my story of how I lived in a tent in the mountains of Poatina in Tasmania, working 7 days a week and 10 – 12 hour days on farms just to afford my trip to the white continent. Well I lived my dreams and did it. Yes I landed in Antarctica and completed my quest to visit all seven continents. But I didn’t actually do it the cheapest way possible! I booked my place in a cabin on the boat months in advance. I booked it in Melbourne, Australia in April 2010 and ended up going in November 2010. I needed something big to look forward too and I was chuffed when I had it booked and just worked and counted down the days until my adventure. I paid around $5,000 Australian Dollars at the time, BUT that’s NOT how to book a cheap trip to Antarctica…read on…
How can you get to Antarctica for cheap?
OK this is for travelers only, NOT workers or scientists. We know boat staff, captains, expedition staff, waitresses and scientists all go to Antarctica with work all the time, but here’s how to do it as a backpacker.
Five key words: DON’T BOOK ANYTHING IN ADVANCE!
That’s right, if you really want to go to Antarctica on the cheap, do NOT book a trip to Antarctica. It makes sense for travel companies, agents and tour groups to have remarkably high prices for these trips and they do! The cheapest tour you will get to Antarctica by booking in advance is probably around $4,000 US and it will be one of the shorter trips. Perhaps only 5 days on the actual continent and 2 days there and 2 days back. That in itself is good but you have it booked already. If you want to do Antarctica on the cheap, don’t book anything. That’s the first step.
How to get your Antarctica trip booked
The second step is this simple – turn up in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego in Argentina in October, November or December and book into a hostel. Spend a few days and nights exploring the world’s southernmost city and walk past the travel agents in the city centre. There are LOTS of them. Go inside and book a last minute trip to Antarctica to leave the next day! Yes, that my friends is how to book a CHEAP trip to Antarctica!!
If you book yourself on a boat to leave to Antarctica the next day you will get it for as cheap as $3,000 US Dollars! How’s that for a saving!!
This is how it works
Most boats heading to Antarctica are never full. They end up upgrading those already booked and paid, into the larger rooms, which frees up the 3 and 4 bed dorms and cabins on the boats. The travel companies then need to sell these beds in a rush as the departure date nears. It’s all or nothing for them. If the boat is leaving the next day and that bed is empty, they get ZERO $0 US Dollars. That’s why they can offer you a bed in a dorm for around $3,000. That’s why you can get to Antarctica for cheap!
So head to Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and book your trip to Antarctica for the very next day! Or if that boat really is full, you’ll only have to wait a few days. There is always space for more. Antarctica only attracts 30,000 tourists a year (the rest of the visitors are scientists or working there or on boats). It’s not high on most people’s list and it’s not cheap but treat yourself to it and you’ll love it! I paid $5,000 US Dollars (also a special offer at the time) and it was worth every penny or cent. Imagine if you get it for $3,000 US! You will have the time of your life.
If you’re still not sure you want to visit Antarctica, check out my stuff on it…
Here are some of my best memories from Antarctica to get you in the mood for your trip:
1. Arrival in Barrientos
This magical island called Barrientos was my first landing on the white continent so it will never be forgotten. Blizzards and penguins, I was in love.
2. Visiting Port Lockroy, the British Base and Museum
A total highlight for me was getting my British passport stamped at the British Base of Port Lockroy. I also posted postcards there from the world’s southernmost post box.
3. Landing on Mainland Antarctica
The real highlight was our landing on mainland Antarctica at Neko Harbour. It was just magical!
4. The Mystical wonder of Deception Island
Shaped like a “c”, Deception Island is a place of wonder. We spent a full day exploring different parts of it including Neptune’s Window, Whaler’s Bay and Telefon Bay.
5. Swimming in Antarctica
Yes the water is cold, but I went in for a NAKED dip and loved it. We had our “swim” at Whaler’s Bay in Deception Island. I showed my willy to a load of my crew mates!
6. Happy Hour
The onboard boat had a happy hour on it and I loved taking advantage of it, but I also brought my own beer on to save money and even had a beer on land. Check out my places to drink in Antarctica.
8. Hiking up Cuverville
We did a mini hike through the deep snow up to the top of Cuverville Island for an outstanding view. It was simply sensational!
So I’ve sold Antarctica to you!! Now all you need to do is head to Ushuaia in Argentina and book your trip on the spot for the next day. It’s not just the quality terrain, landscape and beauty of the white continent…the amount of awesome travellers you meet on board the ship is phenomenal. We even had a massive “cabin party” in our cabin bedroom on the last night! And I met my girlfriend in Antarctica. If I have to go to the bottom of the world to meet the girl for me, it must be a special place. (A story for another day on Don’t Stop Living).
So that’s my best memories from Antarctica and my NUMBER ONE tip on how to do Antarctica on the cheap, inspired by my travelling Hong Kong girlfriend Panny Yu who did exactly that. Yes she just turned up in Ushuaia and booked a cheap trip to Antarctica the next day… She’s travelled more than me, and on a tighter budget. Take her advice, live your dreams and head to Antarctica on the cheap!
This post is written by Jonny Blair of course, but inspired by Panny Yu.
One of over 100 videos I made in Antarctica: