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An uninhabited wilderness, completely removed from what we recognise as life, awaits in Antarctica. The largely untouched seventh continent has never even had an indigenous population set foot on its icy desert.1 In fact, in the past 35 million years before 1820, Antarctica was a silent and secluded paradise for its wild inhabitants.1

This otherworldly landscape is accessible to adventurous travellers. However, there are some precautions you should take before packing your snow gear. Here we break down everything you need to know about travel insurance for Antarctica and more!

Travel insurance basics for Aussies going to Antarctica

Going to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From the titanic icebergs to penguin colonies, there’s so much to this magnificent icescape that can’t be described with words alone.

While you can only visit Antarctica through a cruise, each cruise will offer a variety of activities. However, certain risks come with going to the most isolated continent in the world.

Things can go wrong on any holiday, so taking out travel insurance can help you prepare for the unexpected events that may cause you financial loss. These instances may include flight cancellations due to bad weather, stolen luggage, or other events listed in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Without travel insurance, you may be left out-of-pocket for these expenses.

Do I need travel insurance for Antarctica?

Antarctica is remote, meaning that medical attention and evacuation can be extremely expensive. Because of this, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a responsible tour operator who doesn’t demand that you get travel insurance.

That’s to say, while travel insurance isn’t mandatory for all cruises, some cruises may deny boarding if you don’t have an adequate level of coverage. The level of coverage required may vary depending on your tour operator and your individual circumstance and needs.

What should my travel insurance for Antarctica include?

Antarctica is a unique destination for the ultimate adventure. There are unique ways in which you can prepare for your trip and a great way to start preparing is with travel insurance.

Cover for emergency repatriation

Cruises to Antarctica may require passengers to have international travel insurance that covers medical expenses, hospitalisation, emergency repatriation, evacuation and emergency travel.

You can normally get covered for all of these with comprehensive cover, but you should always check your product’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before purchasing.

Ships may have basic medical care, but any serious injuries that require emergency care will require you to evacuate to the nearest country, which may leave you thousands out of pocket. Travel insurance can help cover these costs.

While Smartraveller hasn’t listed any necessary vaccinations for Antarctica, you may need additional vaccines depending on your health and medical history. Contact your local general practitioner for more information on how you should prepare for your adventure.

Cruise cover

Most travel insurance policies don’t automatically include cruise cover. That’s to say, if you purchase travel insurance without including cruise cover as an optional add-on, you may not be covered for a significant portion of your trip.

Having an adequate level insurance can financially protect you when things don’t go as planned. Cruise cover can provide insurance for:

    • overseas medical and hospital expenses
    • medical evacuation at sea
    • cabin confinement due to sickness
    • cancellation costs for pre-paid travel arrangements
    • trip delays and rescheduling fees
    • missed cruise departure
    • missed pre-paid shore excursions
    • lost, stolen or damaged luggage or personal belongings
    • additional expenses
    • 24-hour emergency assistance.

Remember to always read the policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for before purchasing.

Adventure sports cover

Unless you’re planning to stay inside the cruise ship for the entire trip, you may also want to get adventure sports cover. This plan will let you participate in a range of adventure sports with the safety of knowing that you’re covered if anything goes wrong.

Some sports that this type of policy covers may include, but isn’t limited to:

    • glacier walking
    • kayaking
    • trekking
    • ice fishing.

Check your policy’s PDS for more details on what type of activities you’re covered for.

Theft and loss of belongings

If someone steals your cash, breaks your luggage or there are delays to your trip and you need to buy food or toiletries, this feature may cover some or all of the expenses.

Be mindful that you won’t be covered if your belongings were stolen while they were unattended, as you didn’t appropriately protect your possessions.

Cancellation and delays

Cancellation and delay cover will normally be included in cruise cover. This type of cover is crucial as Antarctic cruises are often delayed due to severe weather.

Outdoor activities like kayaking, camping or exploring the magnificent glaciers may be cancelled last minute. If you’ve missed out on a pre-paid shore excursion or have a non-refundable deposit for an activity, your travel insurance may reimburse you for those costs given the cruise hasn’t already reimbursed you.

Antarctica is uninhabited apart from the scientists that come and go, which means that there are no indoor activities or local cafes to pass time in if the weather goes awry.

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Antarctica travel insurance: exclusions to watch out for

All travel insurance policies have specific exclusions that may not be covered. Exclusions will vary depending on your insurer and policy, but in general, some common exclusions may include:

  • If you didn’t disclose any pre-existing conditions. If you try to claim because of an incident related to a pre-existing condition that you didn’t disclose, you may not be covered.
  • If you leave your belongings unattended. Your belongings will only be covered if you took the necessary precautions to keep them safe.
  • If you go skiing off-piste. Although you should get snow and ski cover if you plan on doing snow activities, most insurers won’t cover you if you go skiing on an off-piste slope. All ski slopes in Antarctica are off-piste and may not be regulated or have the equipment to keep you safe.
  • If you go against the advice of your activity guide. If you ignore your cruise or activity guide’s advice, your insurer may not cover you in the event of an accident.
  • If you were intoxicated when you were injured. Drug or alcohol-related injuries usually aren’t covered.

Find out more about what’s not commonly covered by travel insurance policies and visit our page on common travel exclusions. Your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) will specify any exclusions applicable to your cover.

Enjoying the adventure of a lifetime

Sea kayaking with whales

Go sea kayaking in the icy blue waters of Antarctica. Admire the humpback whales, penguins, leopard seals and other animals in their natural habitat as you navigate the tranquil seas. If you’re not one for kayaking, you can also go on a zodiac cruise (a guided tour on a small inflatable boat) to explore the majestic seascape.

You can see pods of whales break up the surface of water and ice right next to you at almost any time of day. Kayaking is one of the best ways to whale watch.

Camping by starlight

If you love the outdoors, you’ll love camping in Antarctica. You may have to wait until the weather clears up, but once you go, it’ll be an unforgettable experience. You’ll have the opportunity to get your hands dirty and build your campsite on a glacier.

Keep in mind that your tour guide may ask you to be environmentally responsible and stay at least two metres away from wildlife. However, the curious penguins in Antarctica may waddle right up to you while you camp.

The lack of people living in Antarctica means there’s no pollution clouding the skies. Watch the sky change colours as it hits dusk and a speckled milky way lights up your night. It’s possibly one of the best places in the world to stargaze.

Have a drink at the Vernadsky Research Base

The only bar in Antarctica exists in the Vernadsky Research Base. Scientists at the research base, who’ve taken up the hobby of distilling vodka, supply this bar. It’s the southernmost bar in the world and a great place to have homemade vodka!

Two chinstrap penguins sitting on a snow covered mountain

Is Antarctica safe?

While between 1,000 and 5,000 scientists live in Antarctica depending on the season, there are no permanent residents, towns, cities or commercial industries.

While it can be very safe if you go with a guide, it’s the coldest place on earth. In fact, the top of Antarctica’s ice sheets can reach -100 degrees Celsius. Extreme cold can put travellers at risk for hypothermia and frostbite.2

Antarctic operators may provide you with some safety equipment, such as proper boots and warm jackets. However, you shouldn’t rely on this, and make sure you bring warm clothing. You should also take care to keep any gear and camera equipment warm as the extreme cold can freeze expensive equipment.

While severe weather can delay cruises, they’ll still travel in moderate weather conditions. The journey from Australia to Antarctica can go over rough seas, which can put travellers at risk for seasickness. If you’re prone to seasickness, make sure you bring sea-sickness pills prescribed by your doctor.

Top travel tips for Antarctica

1. Plan ahead

The best months to travel to Antarctica are in the summer months (between November and March) when the sun rises above the horizon to melt the ice for safe passage. These warmer months are ideal for penguin chicks, whale calves and seal pups, not to mention you’ll enjoy it more as well, considering that you won’t be travelling in freezing temperatures.

Make sure you have extra coverage for all activities that you intend to enjoy. Unlike other countries, many cruise operators won’t allow you to travel unless you have travel insurance for Antarctica. So, it’s a good idea to look up how much travel insurance you’ll need to be able to board your cruise.

Make sure you have extra coverage for all activities that you intend to enjoy (i.e. adventure sport cover and cruise cover).

2. Pack well

Even though you’re likely going in the summer months, it’s still going to be extremely cold. Make sure you pack enough warm clothes and grip shoes. If you get seasick, prepare for the long ride to the Antarctic glaciers by getting everything you need to ease your seasickness.

Don’t forget to bring a good camera as well – you’re about to head on the adventure of a lifetime!

3. Be mindful of the environment

Antarctica’s biodiverse environment and ecosystem can be destroyed quickly by human impact. While cruise operators and scientists work hard to educate visitors and minimise their environmental footprint, it’s ultimately everyone’s responsibility to protect this vulnerable natural reserve.

Antarctica is also the largest wilderness area on Earth and it remains relatively pristine.3 Littering is strictly monitored and regulated, and you may be asked to take other precautionary steps to minimise your impact on Antarctica.

4. Travel visa-free!

You won’t need a visa to travel to Antarctica, but you’ll need a valid passport and a permit. Your cruise operator will normally organise this for you; however, it’s a good idea to double check with them just in case.

If you’re considering a holiday somewhere other than Antarctica, check out our guide to travel cover for other countries.

Compare travel insurance for Antarctica

If you’re looking to get travel insurance for Antarctica, try our travel insurance comparison service! You can compare a variety of policies from some of Australia’s top insurers in minutes.

Simples!

Sources

1 Aurora Expeditions. (2020). Do people live in Antarctica?. Accessed 10 August 2020.

2 Smartraveller. Severe weather: Hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, tornadoes and flooding. Accessed 11 August 2020.

3 Australian Antarctic Division. Visitor guidelines.Accessed 11 August 2020.

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