An Antarctic Adventure (Part I): Navigating My Trip via Buenos Aires

The tiny airport of Ushuaia, Argentina

By Joann Deutch

It’s been my dream to get to the Antarctic for several years now. I was bowled over by my trip to Tromso, a city above the Arctic Circle in Norway, and it only made sense to me that I should also visit below the Antarctic Circle – the time-honored “compare and contrast.” I’m booked on the ship, the Sea Spirit, a 114-passenger luxury expedition ship operated by Poseidon Expeditions. Booking with Poseidon Expeditions is easy, but there are many other logistical things to consider in order to make this adventure come off without a hitch.

How do I get to the ship?

The jump-off point for Poseidon Expeditions is the seaport of Ushuaia, Argentina, and my departure was from Los Angeles. After a significant amount of fiddling with different airlines and their routes, I discovered that flight options into Ushuaia – located in the spectacular Tierra del Fuego region and considered the southernmost city in the world – are pretty limited. The best routes were through Buenos Aires, although I also looked at connections through El Salvador, Mexico and several other Latin America countries.

Buenos Aries has two airports: Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), which receives international flights, and Jorge Newbery Airfield (AEP) for domestic flights. I would be landing in Buenos Aires at EZE and departing for Ushuaia, where I would embark on the Sea Spirit, via AEP. The two airports are about an hour apart, but you have to allow time to claim your luggage, take a shuttle or taxi to AEP, clear security, and budget for flight delays. I was hesitant to book a flight with less than a 5-hour layover, thinking I’d rather be better safe than sorry. If I missed my connection, and then the ship, my Antarctic adventure would be done for. I opted for the long connection and booked a hotel room in Buenos Aires.

I arrived on time and my travel from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia went off without a hitch. However what did surprise me is how long it took to board the plane in Ushuaia to come home. The airport is teensy, and the line took over 2.5 hours to snake to the check-in desk to drop off my luggage.

Do I need a visa?

Another planning hurdle was figuring out whether, as a U.S. citizen, I needed a visa to transit through other countries. I’d recently transited through Istanbul and learned that I could not exit the airport without a visa, even for a few short hours. My planned layover in Buenos Aires was for 12 hours and I certainly didn’t want to spend that much time walking around the airport. Fortunately, I determined that I didn’t need a visa, which made it easy to head into Buenos Aires and explore the city before continuing my adventure to Antarctica.

My long layover meant I could book a hotel room to rest, and still have time to explore Buenos Aires. The private car sent by my hotel was there to greet me and take me to the hotel, which was ideal because the Internet said not to take curbside taxis in Buenos Aires. I spent the day exploring the city (pictured) using the hop-on, hop-off tour bus, wandering around, sightseeing and peeking in shop windows. I bought a local transformer which is unique to Argentina, and it turned out to be a handy purchase.

Do I need travel immunizations?

Next on my checklist was the question of travel immunizations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends most travelers to Argentina get immunized against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Yellow Fever is only recommended for those traveling to rain forests. I was worried about the Zika virus, and it is present in Argentina so that is something to be aware of. (See the CDC’s health information page here.)

Planning tips and things to know

  • Flights are not included in the cost of Poseidon Expeditions’ voyages, however the company can arrange your flights upon request. I opted to book mine independently.
  • Antarctic voyages are only available for a short winter season, November through February, and the ship books up quickly. Plan your trip as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance is not included in Antarctica packages, but it is required for all passengers. Purchase a policy before you travel.
  • Poseidon Expeditions provides an official parka as part of their expedition packages, and loans waterproof boots when they’re needed. You’ll be provided with a packing list in advance of your departure. Passengers coming from California and other warm climates might not own some of the recommended items (e.g. thermal underwear, waterproof pants) and will need to do some pre-trip shopping. The list includes some surprising items too, such as sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself against intense sun rays reflected off the white ice.
  • Know that there is always a medical doctor onboard the Sea Spirit, and the ship includes an equipped clinic area. However you must bring any necessary prescription medications with you.

[Read Part II of An Antarctic Adventure series here.]

Disclaimer: California News Press and its contributors may have received goods, services and/or other professional courtesies to facilitate this review. All opinions are those of the author.

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