Money & costs
Antarctica isn’t cheap. It’s remote, and operating tours there is expensive. Expect to pay at least US$5000 for your trip, with prices rising quickly from there; high-end berths can cost eight times that.
It’s sometimes possible to find bargain prices in Ushuaia since ships ready to sail may have empty berths. However, most Antarctic ships are fully booked months in advance – particularly the small ships, which have fewer berths. Very early (November and early December) and again late in the season (mid-February onwards), you may be lucky. Expect to pay at least US$4000 to US$4500; the ‘last-minute’ price is the same for all cabins, even, rarely, a suite! ‘Last-minute’ South Georgia costs between US$6000 to US$8000. One good place to seek these fares is Ushuaia Turismo.
Solo travelers pay a premium for a single cabin (1.4 times the regular fare, or more). If you’re willing to be matched with another solo traveler of the same gender, you each pay regular fare.
Each ship runs its onboard economy differently, but in general a chit system is used, whereby you sign for items and pay at the end of the trip.
These bills can be settled with cash, traveler’s checks or credit cards.
No matter what country is operating them, most bases expect tourists to pay in either the national currency or in US dollars, with the latter preferred almost everywhere, sometimes even over the national currency. Tourists won’t be able to access any ATMs or banks while in Antarctica, so have cash or credit cards ready. For a list of exchange-rate conversions to US dollars, see the inside front cover.
Tipping is not included in the cruise fare and so is an additional, although optional, cost. While tipping is always at your discretion, it’s considered an appropriate supplement to crew and staff wages for service. Near the end of the voyage most tour operators distribute tipping guidelines (between US$7 and US$10 per day), which are just that: suggestions only and not requirements in any way.