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Antarctica

Antarctica
Antarctica
Exercise increased caution in Antarctica due to environmental hazards posed by extreme and unpredictable weather.

Exercise increased caution in Antarctica due to environmental hazards posed by extreme and unpredictable weather.  

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Antarctica. 

Read the Safety and Security section on the information page.

If you decide to travel to Antarctica:

  • Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation.
  • Travel with a professional guide or organization. 
  • Contact the Department of State’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs for information at Antarctica@state.gov
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:


Required by transit countries

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


May be required by transit countries.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


None for Antarctica. May be required by transit countries.

VACCINATIONS:


None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


None

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Embassies and Consulates

The United States does not maintain an embassy or consulate in Antarctica. If you are in need of U.S. consular services while in Antarctica, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country next on your itinerary or nearest to you for assistance. Links to the embassies and consulates most commonly called upon to provide services are below: 

24/7 Emergency Contact at the Department of State:
From within the United States: 1-888-407-4747
From outside the United States: 1-202-501-4444

Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Antarctic webpage for information on U.S. diplomatic interests in Antarctica.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Passports and Visas: A U.S. passport is required for travel through the country or countries that you transit through en route to and from Antarctica. Please refer to the separate Country Specific Information pages for those countries.

Expeditions to Antarctica:

  • The Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty do establish certain obligations on the Treaty Parties with regard to expeditions to the Antarctic Treaty area. 
  • The Treaty obliges each Party to give advance notification of all expeditions to and within Antarctica, on the part of its ships, aircraft, or nationals, and all expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from its territory.
  • U.S. tourists who have booked passage to Antarctica on a commercial cruise regulated by an Antarctic Treaty Party normally would be covered by the vessel operator’s and/or tour company’s advance notification unless the tourist intends to conduct independent activities while on the commercial vessel. Always check with your tour operator about advance notification coverage.
  • All U.S. nationals organizing private expeditions to Antarctica in the United States, or proceeding to Antarctica from the United States, are required to provide notification to the Department of State at least three months prior to the intended travel to the Antarctic Treaty area.
  • Contact the Department of State’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs for complete information at Antarctica@state.gov 
Safety and Security

Environmental Hazards:

  • The greatest threats to travelers to Antarctica are environmental hazards posed by the severe elements and changeable weather. 
  • Among the more common threats are frostbite, dehydration, eye damage from reflected glare, overexposure to the sun, and maritime accidents.

Dangerous Confrontations Related to Whaling Activities:

  • U.S. citizens should be aware that dangerous confrontations have occurred involving Japanese whaling vessels and private vessels in the waters off the coast of East Antarctica near the Ross Sea.
  • U.S. citizens are urged to avoid involvement in activities that violate U.S. law, the laws of foreign countries, or international law.

Victims of Crime:

U.S. citizen victims of crime may contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to your location. See the Embassies and Consulates Section above for contact information.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

For further information:

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: Some Treaty Parties, including those that claim territory in Antarctica, may seek to apply their laws to persons in Antarctica.  

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of Treaty Party laws. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctica Treaty designates Antarctica as a natural reserve.

  • Several areas are afforded special protections as they have been designated as having ecological, scientific, historical, or other significance.
  • It is forbidden to bring any non-native species into Antarctica. This includes live poultry, pet dogs and cats, and household plants or seeds.
  • It is prohibited to take or harmfully interfere with Antarctica wildlife except in accordance with a permit issued by a national authority.
  • Visit the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators website for more information on visitor guidelines.
Health

Antarctica has no public hospitals, pharmacies, or doctor’s offices. Although cruise ships have the capacity to deal with minor ailments, medical emergencies often require evacuation to a country with modern medical facilities.

  • There are no organized search and rescue groups in Antarctica. Cost of search and rescue efforts are borne by the person/s in need of the assistance.
  • There are no emergency evacuations facilities in Antarctica. Cost of medical evacuation is borne by the individual/s.
  • Travelers to Antarctica should obtain adequate medical evacuation and travel insurance before leaving home.
  • We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.  

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Travel and Transportation

There is no direct air service from the United States to Antarctica. Flights to and over Antarctica are operated from a number of countries to include Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Argentina, and others. If you are traveling to Antarctica, please check our Country-Specific Information page for the country from which you are departing to get more on aviation safety standards in that country. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Antarctica should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website portal select “broadcast warnings.”

Last Updated: January 30, 2018
Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

The United States does not maintain an embassy or consulate in Antarctica. If you are in need of U.S. consular services while in Antarctica, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country next on your itinerary or nearest to you for assistance.
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Antarctica Map