World Borders: Crossing The Drake Passage from Argentina to Antarctica

Crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica

World Borders: Just chilling on the Drake Passage, the roughest stretch of water in the world, between Argentina and Antarctica

This latest post in my series of World Borders is WITHOUT doubt the best border I have crossed in my travel repertoire. It is the longest ever border crossing I have done between two countries (yes, MUCH longer than flights), the most exciting and the most inspiring. This my friends is the “dreaded drake”, it’s the roughest stretch of water in the world. It’s the Drake Passage and it separates Argentina and Chile, from Antarctica. Crossing the Drake Passage was magical! This isn’t just a border between countries (and strictly speaking Antarctica isn’t really a country), this is a border between:

– 2 continents

– 2 oceans

– the civilised world and the land where no humans ordinarily alway live

This was an epic trip, and I’m glad to share it again today and include it in my World Borders Series.

Map onboard the Antarctica cruise showing the Drake Passage

We’ve entered the Drake Passage – you can check your location onboard the boat on the screens

How to get from Argentina to Antarctica (crossing the Drake Passage)

There will be more posts to come on routes, travel tips etc. but let’s make things concise here. Book yourself a trip to Antarctica and most likely it will leave from Ushuaia in Argentina. So to get from Argentina to Antarctica, you will leave the port of Ushuaia, first sailing along the marvellous Beagle Channel and secondly entering the Drake Passage. Your destiny my friends is no longer in your own hands. It’s in the hands of the able crew and captain plus the joys that Mother Nature provides the ship with. When crossing the Drake Passage, the ship will rock and it will roll. The tour I booked was with GAP Adventures and they included an onboard itinerary every day of the trip, here’s the one from the main day of crossing the Drake Passage…

Crossing the Drake Passage in Antarctica trip daily bulletin on board.

Our on board itinerary of what was in store for us during the crossing of the Drake Passage

How long does it take to get from Argentina to Antarctica?

On the Drake Passage, it takes roughly two days, but ours was less than that. From the exact moment that you leave the port of Ushuaia until you land in Antarctica on soil will be about 42 – 48 hours. If I remember correctly we left on a Saturday night around 6pm and made our first landing in Barrientos, Antarctica on the Monday afternoon around 2.20pm.

Ushuaia, Saturday afternoon boarding the boat:

Boarding the boat for the drake passage to Antarctica

Boarding the MS Expedition boat in Ushuaia, Argentina before heading on the Drake Passage to Antarctica

Barrientos, Antarctica, Monday afternoon stepping on land:

Arrival in Antarctica after the Drake Passage

After the Drake Passage I made it safely onto land two days later at Barrientos, Aitcho Islands, Antarctica

What Visas do you need to get from Argentina to Antarctica?

Visas are NOT REQUIRED for visits to Antarctica. You can get your passport stamped at the bases you visit, but no passports or documents will ever be checked on landing. You don’t see penguins waiting in booths, or anything remotely political like that. Antarctica is a natural wonderland of sheer bliss. In terms of other things you need then it’s warm clothes and travel insurance. The rest sorts itself out.

Port Lockroy passport stamp Antarctica

No visas are required to visit Antarctica but you can get your passport stamped at the bases. This one was from Port Lockroy.

How rough a crossing is the Drake Passage?

I won’t lie to you – the seas are rough. It’s the roughest stretch of water in the world. But having said that, I didn’t find it particularly rough so perhaps we were lucky. I have spent 2 years of my life working on boats however and I love life on the ocean so that could also be a factor. You’ll have time to relax and enjoy it, or if you do get ill, you’ll be able to just sleep it off. Don’t worry too much. It’s worth going through rough seas to feast your eyes on Antarctica!

Relaxing on the Drake Passage Antarctica

Relaxing on the Drake Passage – plenty of time to take photos like this and enjoy the fantastic views!

How to prepare for the Drake Passage

This is very much an “each to their own” to be honest – do what you feel you need to do for your own health and body – don’t listen to others too much. Generally I don’t get sea sick so I’m not a good person to comment on this. However I did have a one hour headache on the first morning of the Drake. I had drank some cheap wine the night before to toast to the trip with my room mate Mark, so that possibly affected it. Here are a few things I advise (but do your own thing)

– Drinks lots of water and tea.

– Eat lots for breakfast and lunch.

– Don’t move about too much.

– Sleep well.

sunset on the Drake Passage to Antarctica

A sunset on the Drake Passage as the boat shakes from side to side!

– Avoid alcohol if you get remotely sea sick.

– Relax.

There isn’t too much to worry about really and your feelings and illnesses will soon disappear when you see Antarctica for the first time! You will be buzzing!!

Aitcho Islands Antarctica arrival

Any illness you will feeling on the Drake Passage will be soon eased by your first sighting of the land of white! Magical – arrival in Antarctica!

What is there to do while crossing the Drake Passage?

Are you kidding? There is an abundance of things to do!! You will be busy, here are some things you can do:

– head out on deck and go bird and whale watching (amazing views and birds follow the boat, plus fresh air)

Bird watching on the drake passage

Things to do while crossing the Drake Passage? Go bird watching out the side of the boat for some waves and fresh air!

– sleep (you have a comfortable bed to catch up on all that travel sleep you missed out on)

– drink tea and coffee (unlimited free supply on board – I got my money’s worth)

– update your travel blog (I am constantly writing posts for my travel blog. I most most of them offline so I took time during the Drake to write about my recent stuff)

– mingle and mix (get to know everyone on the boat!!!! They’re all fellow Antarctica travellers like you and they’ll be very talkative and have great stories)

– visit the onboard library (ours was a Lonely Planet library – I got lost in there reading about Uruguay for a few hours!)

– visit the swimming pool and gym

– attend all the onboard lectures and documentaries (held in the lounge and highly informative)

Lectures during the Drake Passage crossing

There’s loads of things to do on board the boat – attending the onboard lectures is one!

– have a drink (the bar is open for happy hour and at night – be sociable)

– relax

– plan your next travel adventures

Like I say you won’t be short of things to do or people to talk to and the time will pass by in a flash. It’s a fantastic journey and if you haven’t yet been, get out there and do Antarctica!!! I have about 30 other Antarctica related posts on here and have also guested on these sites writing about it:

Backpacking Spirit

Inspiring Travellers

Almost Fearless Backpackers

It’s the best place by far I have travelled to, just an incredible experience.

My Videos from the Drake Passage (WORTH WATCHING):

First morning on the Drake Passage:

First Day on the Drake:

Second Day on the Drake:

Arrival and first sighting of icebergs in Antarctica:

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About Jonny Blair

I'm Jonny Blair, a travelling Northern Irishman. Since leaving my hometown a decade ago I have managed to visit over 100 countries and over 600 towns or cities across all 7 continents. Along the way I have worked in countless jobs! Join my journey on Don't Stop Living - a lifestyle of travel as I provide you with tips and inspiration to live your travel dreams! Safe travels! Follow me on Jonny Blair Google Plus
This entry was posted in Antarctica, Antarctica Travel Tips, Argentina, Barrientos, Boats, MS Expedition, South America, South Shetland Islands, Top Posts, Ushuaia, World Borders, X tips. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to World Borders: Crossing The Drake Passage from Argentina to Antarctica

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  3. Ray says:

    I didn’t realize you used GAP Adventures for your Antarctica trip! I love GAP Adventures! I used them for my trip to Peru in 2011, and will be using them again for my World Cup trip in Brazil this June. While I am not big on “booked tours,” GAP seems to provide top notch Customer Service for the low budget backpacking crowd. Oh, Man! Now that I know you went with them, I am going to have to put this trip on my bucket list now!
    Ray recently posted…How Do You Know About Albion Island?My Profile

  4. Jonny Blair says:

    Thanks for the comment Ray. Except – I won’t recommend them. They didn’t treat us well at all. We all have our differing opinions and I won’t be using them again. I think I covered it before in a post about a horrendous hotel that Gap put me in. In fact I only used them this once for that trip and things were badly organised. Safe travels.

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  6. Paul says:

    Just looking through the pics and I see Frank Todd the Penguin guy doing the lecture! This amazing gentleman was on my trip to Antarctica this November and I found him a really knowledgeable and interesting person. I was quite unlucky on the Drake, I was seasick on the first full day on sailing, but then went to the ship doctor and got some tablets – They worked a treat and I was fine for the second day and return journey (except a massive hangover on the first day of the return journey)

  7. Jonny Blair says:

    Hi Paul, Wow Frank Todd – what a hero – our entire ship loved him – he was just out there on his own level glorifying the flights of cormorants while everyone was just chilling out! My first day on the Drake was spent in bed for a bit too as Mark and I went on the (far too) cheap Argentinian wine on the first night! I still made it for the meals though, as long as you recovered is the main thing. Safe travels. Jonny

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