How To Book A Cheap Trip to Antarctica!

getting a cheap trip to Antarctica a lifestyle of travel

How to book a cheap trip to Antarctica! Enjoying the freedom of the cold continent a few years ago!

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.

Sailing towards Antarctica

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.

Beach on Barrientos Aitcho Islands Antarctica cheap trips to Antarctica

Arrival on Barrientos Island in Antarctica. I worked bloody hard for this trip, but I’m here to tell you how to get it even cheaper!!

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 to get to Antarctica for cheap

The magic of Antarctica – snow and penguins! Check out my tip for doing it all on the CHEAP!

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!

Elephant Island the Pardo head statue

The Pardo Head Bust Statue on the edge of Elephant Island. One of many highlights from my Antarctica Adventure!

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!!

Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego Argentina gateway to Antarctica

To get a cheap trip to Antarctica, just turn up in Ushuaia and book it there and then!

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!

Boarding the MS Expedition for Antarctica in 2010

Boarding my boat bound for Antarctica in 2010. I got it quite cheap, but you can get it even cheaper!!

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.

Barrientos Island, Antarctica

Antarctica Highlights – Barrientos Island

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.

postcard writing in Port Lockroy British Antarctica Base

Antarctica Highlights – Writing a postcard at the British Base in Port Lockroy

3. Landing on Mainland Antarctica
The real highlight was our landing on mainland Antarctica at Neko Harbour. It was just magical!

Jonny Blair flies the Northern Ireland flag on the Antarctic mainland

Antarctica Highlights – Arrival on the Antarctic Mainland at Neko Harbour

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.

Whalers Bay Deception Island doing Antarctica on the cheap

Antarctica Highlights – The magical Deception Island

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!

Polar plunge swimming in Antarctica Deception Island

Antarctica Highlights – Getting naked in the waters at Whaler’s Bay

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.

Happy hour in Antarctica cheap drinks in the cold continent

Antarctica Highlights – Happy Hour on the Boat! Loving it!

7. The Drake Passage
Crossing the roughest stretch of water in the world was quite amazing. I loved crossing the Drake!

How to get a cheap trip to Antarctica

Antarctica Highlights – Relaxing on the Drake Passage, just incredible.

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!

Jonny Blair in Antarctica at the top of Cuverville Island

Oh yeah! The freedom of the world from the top of Cuverville in Antarctica!

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).

How to travel Antarctica for cheap by Panny Yu

Panny Yu, The travelling Hong Kong girl I met in Antarctica – she knows how to get to Antarctica on the cheap!

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:

Join 15,017 Monthly Readers! If you enjoyed this article and LOVE travel and SAVING money, get e-mail updates from Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel! (It’s Free) 😉 Jonny

65 thoughts on “How To Book A Cheap Trip to Antarctica!

  • Thank you so much for this post! We’ve wanted to go to Antartica for a long time but all the options on the web seem SO expensive and are WAY out of our budget. Even your option is pricey but as you say it is worth it so I think we’ll give it a try. Thanks for the advice. Looks like you had a nice time and got the most out of every moment there. 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment Mindy and Ligeia – believe me just go to Ushuaia and book it – it’s an amazing trip to be on. You can of course get a job on board a boat and go there for free, but I wanted to see it as a traveller. Get a bargain for $3,000 and live your dreams to see Antarctica. It is sensational and inspiring!

  • Hey Jonny,
    Antartica looks incredible.. I love the tips on how to get there for cheap. I had a wee look into getting there from New Zealand and it seems like jumping on a cargo ship in Christchurch would be the cheapest way (if you could get on there)!…

    You have had so many crazy adventures!
    Adam Finan recently posted…Want To Make Money Online? Watch Out!My Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Adam – I lived in Tasmania (Australia) for 6 months and it was after my visit to the Antarctic centre (south of Hobart) that inspired my trip. Initially I was just gonna apply to become a waiter on a cruise to Antarctica, then I got assigned onto 3 months of constant broccoli work, so I was working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, living in a tent. When I finally got out of the mountains and checked my bank account, it was my girlfriend who got it even cheaper by turning up in Ushuaia and booking it the next day.

    More crazy shit to follow hopefully!! Jonny

  • Hi all! Antarctica sounds amazing! Does anyone know if it is possible to just rock up in Ushuaia and find a job on a boat?

  • Hi Tom – of course – anything is possible! Go for it. Working for a tour company, as a scientist or as a waiter are the best bets. Give it a try and let me know how you get on. The bar and waiting staff are 98% from the Philippines. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Tammy thanks for your comment. Antarctica is not actually that cold by the way (bit of a travel myth there). A few of us were in t shirts hiking and drinking out on deck. Yes it’s cold, but bearable! I’d definitely recommend going there. At a push these days you could probably get a cruise as a tourist for around $3,800 (the lower figure I quoted was from 2010) and I’d recommend just heading to Ushuaia with nothing booked and sort it out there. Keep me updated! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Thanks for all the advice. I WANT to go to Antarctica this season. I have emailed some of the local tour operators in Ushuaia and told them I can be there within 10 days for any last minute specials. If I dont hear anything in December, I may just go to Ushuaia (from Johannesburg) anyways.
    It’s my dream!

  • Thanks for the comment Zaid – if you want something enough you will get it, I believe that. Hopefully you will make it – most people that head to Ushuaia without Antarctica booked secure a budget last minute deal! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Loving your Antarctica blogs. So turn up in Ushaia with a couple of grand and voila! It’s on the bucket list 🙂

    You said you didn’t go to the central South Pole part because it’s too expensive? How does that work? Is that a specific extra tour you need to book as well?
    Nomadic Boys recently posted…Buying a good backpack for travellingMy Profile

  • Hi Nomadic Boys, Yes just turn up in Ushuaia in October/November time and book a last minute deal. Unless you’re working on the ships or pull off a “working discount” this is the cheapest way to do it. Very few trips to Antarctica include the South Pole. It’s hundreds (maybe thousands) of kilometres inland, so you can’t exactly hike it! Best way is to fly in, or be a hardcore traveller like that Japanese guy years ago who motorbiked from the North to the South Pole. Safe travels. Jonny

  • How do you handle your return air flight from Buenos Aires to your home? I’m sure you purchased round-trip airfare in advance. So how far apart was your arrival and your departure, so that you would have plenty of time for your adventure? Then, from Buenos Aires, how did you get to Ushuaia?

  • Hi David, I’m a global nomad so I don’t have a “home” as such though I was based temporarily in Montevideo, Uruguay at the time. Before that I was in Australia and booked a one way flight to Chile. I had no onward trips booked however and spent 3 months backpacking in South America after I returned from Antarctica. Good luck! Jonny

  • Hey, how long are these trips down to Antarctica? What is the shortest period? Just curious as this is the only continent I have not been too. Love your tips on cheap Antarctica travel!!!

    Thanks
    AV

  • Hi Alex thanks for the comment. The trips vary – you can do it from 7 days to a month, or even longer. The shortest would probably be 7 days, but for me if you’re going to spend that much money on the trip you might as well see the place, so I did a 13 day tour. I’d recommend that. The difference in price between 7 and 13 days won’t be much. You’re basically paying for the staff and the fuel that takes you there and back. Final piece of advice – DO IT!! Safe travels. Jonny

  • I’m not sure if this is a valid technique anymore, unfortunately. We were in Ushuaia in February this year and it was impossible to find a cheaper ticket last minute than you could find online. Every travel agent we talked to said they sell last minute fares online up 2-4 weeks in advance and very rarely have any openings the day before (and if they do, they don’t discount it).

    Most trips were averaging around $4,500 to $6,000 per person as a last minute price, and one trip 2-weeks later was hitting $3,900 but already had a waiting list longer than most people would like to get on. We even tried asking about some ships that left the next day but no spots were available (and most said there were waiting lists there, too).
    Jeremy recently posted…Are You Heading Off On a RTW Trip in 2015? Living the Dream is Hiring!My Profile

  • Thanks for the update Jeremy however this post and idea refers to October and November and I know of 2 people who did this in 2013 and got last minute deals, so perhaps you just went at the wrong time? Or maybe things are changing now, which I hope not. I trust you just paid the full whack and went anyway? $4000 is still a bargain in my books!! Trip of a lifetime! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Allison thanks for the comment. At the time I was travelling alone, as I did for most of my 2007 – 2010 adventures but I met my girlfriend on that very boat! You don’t need a few years to save up if you put your mind to it :-). I did 5 weeks of broccoli farming earning over $1000 AUD a week and after 5 weeks I had enough to book it ($5000). Hope you can do something similar and live out your dreams as this place is special! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Johnny,

    Love you page. Great advice about booking for antartica, I noticed you specified October. November, December. Would this approach not work in Jan/Feb/March?

    As that is when I would be looking to go.

    Cheers

    Jaime

  • Hi Jaime. Thanks for your comment. It’s a genuinely good question but the main reason I mentioned October – December is because that is the Summer in Antarctica and peak season. It seemed to me that most backpackers were heading in those months. But if I were you, I would give it a try in Jan – March and please let me know how you get on! I hope it also works for you then, by the way the minimum price would be more than $3000 now with inflation etc. but get it as cheap as you can!! Safe travels, Jonny

  • Hi Jonny, I dreamed it when I studied in school about our south pole. Now you guys inspired me. There is no way to stop me now. The argentine flights are expensive, and with this 4000-5000 USD ??? May I bring my mother while her age is 65 years and fit enough? Is there any legal issue about age or medical checkup, anybody knows? Many thanks to all of you.

  • Hi Joydeep, thanks for the comment. Yes it’s an expensive trip but please note the 4,500 – 5,000 was 5 years ago – I went there in 2010 so no doubt the price will have gone up since then. There is a medical check up and insurance needed ahead of the trip – but the company you book through will tell you all of that. There were definitely people over the age of 60 on my trip so it shouldn’t be a major issue. Good luck and safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny, thanks for detailing all this. I’ve been to the Arctic many times and now I’m planning my trip to Antartica (it’s my dream) hopefully next year and trying to avoid the peak seasons to save money. I hope last minute prices still exist like they did a few years ago but I’ll prepare myself for spending a little more just in case.

    Hope you had fun in Poznan!
    Shing recently posted…The Pitons in St Lucia: The Gateway to My Happy PlaceMy Profile

  • Thanks Jonny; I am a Youth Minister all I enjoying travelling and viewing places; so far travelled four continents. Wish could see Antarctica, Australia andNorth America,

  • For cheap trips to Antarctica join these 2 groups on Facebook who regularly publish specials:
    – Freestyle Adventure Travel (who I traveled to Antarctica with in Dec 2013).
    – Antarctica Travels

    Freestyle’s latest special:
    Feb 9 -18 (10 days) Classic Antarctica from $5,640 USD
    Feb 13-23 _11 days) Antarctica + Falklands from $5,990 USD
    Feb 28 – Mar 6 (11 days) Classic Antarctica from $5,495 USD

    Antarctica Travels latest special:
    Sailing Expedition of 26 / 28 days to the Antarctica.
    Only 6 pax on board, totally personalized expedition.
    Starts Feb 6th coming back around March 4th.
    Special price U$ 9,500 per person!!
    Email us for more details: contact@antarcticatravels.com
    Zaid recently posted…The Funniest Travel Videos of 2015My Profile

  • How does one pay for these last minute bookings? Are credit cards accepted? Surely, they can’t expect people to bring that much cash with them.

  • Hi Tony, yes Argentina is pretty well developed and if your credit card is not accepted, there are plenty of ATMs in Ushuaia to withdraw cash from. Banks have US Dollars a plenty too. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Jonny, thanks so much for your quick reply. The information is very helpful and much appreciated. Tony

  • Hi Jonny,
    Great upkeep of the site… been dropping by for a while now…
    Just a request to anyone dropping by the website who’s tried the above in the past year or so… does it still work the same way, and if so, what prices are we now looking at. Leaving a note here would be really appreciated!

    Again, great work, Jon!
    – Presley

  • Hi Presley, thanks for the comment, glad you like my website. Yes, Antarctica was 6 years ago now – 2010 so things will have changed. I don’t have any insights myself so maybe some readers can update – worst case scenario just backpack your way to Ushuaia and try and get a cheap trip booked from there! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny

    Your post is encouraging and I am debating the idea of turning up there and looking for a cheap tour! I am sort of backpacking around the world and now in LA, as I am quite near this option of turning up there is very tempting.

    I’ll let you know if I do this.

    Cheers.
    Sonia

  • Hi Sonia, thanks for the comment and for checking out my Antarctica stories. It was a marvellous trip, I hope you can get a last minute deal there. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi, I loved your article and your blog! I am still a student but I plan to save up and start travelling soon. Also, looking forward to going to Antarctica which has always been a dream for me. I just wanted to personally ask you how do you find jobs in other countries, especially when there are visa restrictions (like employment pass etc) to work in any country. I have recently started a travel blog of my own and would really really love your advice on how I can go about living my dream.
    Looking forward to your reply:)

  • Hi Madhurima, thanks for the comment. I hope you can follow your dream and visit Antarctica. For jobs in other countries, I work hard – check these articles – http://dontstopliving.net/working-wednesdays-the-easiest-5-jobs-to-travel-the-world-with/ and http://dontstopliving.net/sundays-inspiration-top-5-tips-on-becoming-a-professional-travel-blogger/ and http://dontstopliving.net/sundays-inspiration-10-easy-steps-to-travel-the-world/
    Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey Johnny, quick ? On what to wear food or snack to bring just on how to prepare for the antarctica. Thanks

  • Wow, that’s a pretty good advice! I had a great experience in Antarctica a few years back, there were penguins everywhere! I hope your article helps a lot of travelers to make Antarctica their next destination!

  • Hello Johnny,
    Just checked the QUARKEXPEDITIONS (only can self check the price here, no more websites for me) and it is $10,095 for 14days from Ushuaia to Antarctica during Jan.14-27,2018.

    Is it still possible NOW to get a last deal ticket in USHUAIA according to what you suggested?

    Thank you Jonny.
    YUGUO

  • Few have done travelling to Antarctica
    It is the first destination in my bucket list
    Hi Jonny, I am a student from Thailand saving up for ATCC
    I wanted to ask you How do I know when to leave for Ushuaia?
    What if there are no agents going to ATCC the very next day? Maybe a week
    All travel agents scheduled on the same day?
    Or the boat leave every day?
    Looking forward to your reply
    THANK YOU

  • Hi Danny, thanks for the comment. Antarctica is one of my favourite countries for sure. In terms of your questions, you are better to ask a tour operator or someone who toured there more recently than me, but here are my answers (7 years old though):
    1. The tour company tells you all the details. Once tour is booked, they give you a meeting point. Get on board and leave. It’s very well organised and simple.
    2. I don’t know what ATCC is sadly. You won’t need an agent.
    3. Travel agents schedule boats on whatever day they want – they didn’t have rules in 2010.
    4. Same as 3.
    Best regards and have a safe trip to the real land down under.
    Jonny

  • Hi Yuguo, thanks for the comment. Apologies for the delay in reply, I was in deep depression and I don’t work here anymore – the site is finished. You’ll have to go there yourself and check. When I was there, I had pre booked my trip for $5,000 AUD in 2010. My girlfriend got her trip (same boat with just one less night in hotel) for $3,000 US. Good luck with it! Safe travels, Jonny

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