If you are reading this article, it means you haven’t booked your tour yet, and that’s great because in this article we would be suggesting you some of the tips to visit Antarctica on budget.
Here comes the key question, how much does it cost to visit Antarctica?
Read our full guide on How to travel to Antarctica, all you need to know?
Antarctica is not a bargain, even a budget trip will cost you around 6,000 USD on average and prices are increasing every year exponentially. But following our budget tips, you can expect saving between 30 – 40%!
So, how can we reduce the cost?
1) Last-Minute Deals
For people who have flexibility (and courage) to travel last minute, this option is really great. You can book a tour for as cheap as 3,500 USD. This is the cheapest we saw right before starting our expedition in Feb 2017.
Turn up in Ushuaia, Argentina and book yourself into a reasonable accommodation. You will find dozens of travel agents in the city center. Last-minute deals will be simply highlighted on doors of tour agencies. If you manage to find a tour which is leaving the next day, you can book it for even 3,500 USD. Deadly Deal!
You might not be lucky on day one, but one-week period gives you a fair chance to catch a bargain tour. And while you’re in Ushuaia, there are lots of beautiful places to explore around. Trust us you won’t get bored! So you are not just waiting for the right tour to appear, but also having fun.
2) Book in Advance (8 Months up to 1 year)
This is for people who do not have enough flexibility to choose a last-minute tour. For those who for example need to get their leave approval well in advance in order to take 3 weeks off work (that’s us).
In every vessel there are triple and quadruple sharing cabin which are the cheapest one. They are booked up to a year in advance. There are not many such cabins, so make sure you book in advance. And in case of Antarctica expedition “in advance” means at least 8 months before planned departure. Since you are booking early, do negotiate the price with an agency.
Compare the rate with as many agencies as you can find. With proper negotiation you can reduce the cost up to 30%.
3) Look for a Flash Deal
To explain this, let us take you through the Antarctica Tour booking process. To get a booking, you first pay 30% deposit. Then 3 months before your tour departure you have to make the full payment. That’s when cancellations start happening (typically, around September/October) and tour agencies start offering discounted rates for these newly opened spots. To be updated on new spot rates, sign up for mailing lists of every Ushuaia agent you can find on Internet. Follow same tour agents on their Facebook page. Book a spot the minute you see a deal. The cheapest flash deal we saw was 4,200 USD. The only disadvantage of this option is that it works well for 1 or 2 travelers. If you are a big group, it’s unlikely that you all will be able to get into the same cabin type or even same vessel.
IMPORTANT: LOOKING FOR AN EXTENSIVE CONTACT LIST OF ANTARCTICA TOUR AGENCIES? SIMPLY SUBSCRIBE TO OFFBEAT WANDERLUST AND RECEIVE A READY-MADE LIST WE COMPLIED DURING OUR RESEARCH.
4) Avoid the Peak Season
December and January is the peak time for Antarctica expeditions. Prices are at their extreme and tours are booked months in advance. Early November and March are considered to be “off season”. When we were booking our trip, we were a bit skeptic about booking our trip during the off season. We simply did not have any first-hand information and we did not want to miss out on the adventure of a lifetime. But after deeper research, we did take the risk. We booked our expedition from Feb 26 to March 8 in 2017 and the weather was PERFECT. There were thousands of penguins and other wildlife. It was amazing. One of my other friends booked a trip for early November and loved every second of it. In conclusion, Antarctica is beautiful in all the season. It might be a couple of degrees colder as compared to the peak season but that’s about it . So go ahead and book it without a doubt. The cheapest price we found for early November expedition was 4,200 USD and it wasn’t even a last-minute deal.
5) Go for a Cheaper Vessel
There are plenty of options to book an Antarctica expedition. You have all kind of cabins and vessels available. But if you are on a budget trip, consider booking a cheaper vessel.
We booked our tour on a boat called M/V Ushuaia. We can assure you that even though the price was relatively cheap, the service was outstanding. Originally built for the US Oceanographic agency, this ice-strengthened vessel is designed for polar travel and Antarctica expeditions. So, it is indeed a boat for scientists and backpackers alike.
In addition to that M/V Ushuaia has a capacity of only 92 passengers. This is actually very important folks, as Antarctica regulations allow not more than 100 people to land at the continent at any given point of time. This means that if you’re on a boat with more than 100 passengers, you can do only one landing a day. While smaller boats generally manage two landings. So, less price and twice the fun!
6) Book with Local Tour Agencies
You will find a number of agencies in your home countries to book a trip to Antarctica. But in most of the cases these agencies will be making the booking with some local tour agency. So you end up paying double margins and double taxes by booking through such intermediaries. Our recommendation is to go ahead with local Argentinian agencies. This way you get a better deal and also support local business. We booked our trip with a tour agency called Antarctica Travel and we are highly satisfied with end-to-end Planning and execution.
7) Group Booking
If you find (or organize) a group, then you will be able to negotiate better with tour agencies. So try to reach out to as many people as you can before making a booking. In addition to cost, also negotiate with the agency to provide local tours in Ushuaia as a bonus. Also try negotiating to rent gear for Antarctica expedition, as it can save you some money. We managed to negotiate cost, local tours as well as gear with our agency just by having a group of 4.
8) Avoid Extra Cost Activities like Kayaking/Diving
Activities like diving or kayaking offered in Antarctica are an additional cost and it can shoot up your budget. Paying 800 USD for kayaking in Antarctica is not worth, as Zodiac cruises offer the same experience and are already part of your expedition cost. Opt for free activities such as hiking, polar plunge and zodiac cruises to keep your cost balanced.
9) Work on the Ship
Chef, engineer, doctor, tour guide, sailor, cleaner are some of the staff on board on any of the vessels. You will be able to travel free to Antarctica if you have a skill set for any of the above mentioned professions. The trick is you’ll probably have to commit to a full season of five Months. To be able to get a job on an Antarctica expedition boat.
Having said all the above, your Antarctica trip will still be one of the most expensive adventures you’ll take and you should be ready to pay at least 3,500 USD
So is it Worth Going to Antarctica?
The answer is big YESSSS.
It’s a life changing experience and every penny you spend on this trip is worth it. Just looking at our pictures makes us want to visit Antarctica again.
Let us know if you have any more questions or any additional tips to make the trip cheaper.