Guidance

Visiting Antarctica

This guide sets out who has to apply for a permit, how to apply and explains the other rules covering travel to Antarctica.

Requirements for visiting Antarctica

The Antarctic Treaty signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 preserves the Antarctic continent for peaceful and scientific use.

The Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection, signed in 1991, is the only international agreement designed to protect an entire continent. It ensures that all human activity in Antarctica is carefully planned and managed. It enables a range of human activity to take place in Antarctica including scientific research, well-managed, environmentally sensitive tourism, and exploration. Crucially, the Protocol prohibits commercial mining and protects vulnerable areas, animals and plants.

The Antarctic Treaty does not prevent tourists, military personnel or scientific researchers from being present in Antarctica - but they do require an appropriate permit from a Treaty Party.

Permit criteria

Anyone on a British expedition to Antarctica or taking a British vessel or aircraft into Antarctica will need to apply for a permit from the Polar Regions Department of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

A British expedition is one organised in the UK (including a British overseas territory, or a Crown Dependency) or one where the last place of departure for Antarctica is the UK, a British overseas territory, or a Crown Dependency. ‘Expedition’ consists of a single person or group, undertaking a tour or journey of any purpose, including activities such as landing ashore, skiing, kayaking, small boat activities, climbing, diving or any related activity. A British (including OT or Crown Dependency) flagged vessel or registered aircraft also requires a permit even if the expedition is organised elsewhere.

You do not need a permit for:

  • ships or aircraft travelling to an immediate destination outside Antarctica
  • fishing vessels, unless they are carrying out functions related to an expedition
  • expeditions organised in and authorised in writing by another contracting party (country) to the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty

It is also unlikely that you will need a permit if you are a passenger on an organised visit to Antarctica, as your tour operator would usually arrange this. However you should confirm this with them before travelling. Contact the Polar Regions Department if you are still unsure.

Applying for a permit

You should submit applications for permits as far in advance as possible. This should be at least 4 months for a new or unusual application, or at least 2 months before the date of your departure if you have previously obtained a permit for summer activities. Late applications may not be considered.

Organisers must demonstrate that they are sufficiently prepared for a visit to Antarctica. You should discuss your plans informally with the Polar Regions Department before you begin completing the permit application. This is especially important if your expedition involves specialist activities such as extreme sports, extended trips or multiple transport options.

Application forms and guidance

For a land or vessel based expedition you can download the permit application form and guidance below. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department.

Expedition Permit application form (ODT, 93.4KB)

Expedition Permit application guidance notes (PDF, 1.18MB, 16 pages)

If you plan to undertake more specialist activities in Antarctica (such as wildlife monitoring or scientific research) it is likely you will need a separate permit. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department.

Specialist Permit application form (ODT, 74.5KB)

Specialist Permit Application guidance notes (PDF, 1.14MB, 12 pages)

Historic Site and Monument application form (ODT, 69.1KB)

Once the expedition is complete, you will need to complete a Post Visit Report. Permit holders who are members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) need only to provide the Polar Regions Department of the Post Visit Report prepared for IAATO.

Expedition, Vessel and/or Aircraft: post visit report (ODT, 58.6KB)

Specialist Activities: post visit report (ODT, 54KB)

How to contact the Polar Regions Department

Telephone: 020 7008 5000

Email: polarregions@fcdo.gov.uk

Address:

Polar Regions Department
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Room W2.80
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Publishing application details

Applicants should be aware that within 10 days from the Polar Regions Department confirming receipt of any permit applications, the FCDO will openly publish information relating to these applications on this website. This will include application type, applicant name, duration of visit, proposed itinerary and the contact details of the applicant.

Please also see our privacy notice

UK Antarctic enforcement policy and procedures

The FCDO is responsible for ensuring that the UK’s Antarctic legislation is fully complied with. See our UK Antarctic Enforcement Policy and Procedures page for further details.

Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations (CEEs) received for activity in Antarctica 2020 to 2021

No CEEs have currently been received. When received, we publish the name, company, purpose and location, and date received and CEE.

Initial Environmental Evaluations (IEEs) received for activity in Antarctica 2020 to 2021

Name Company Email address Purpose and location Date received and IEE
Eleni Antoniades Snell, Project Environmental Lead White Desert Ltd eleni@white-desert.com White Desert IEE Update Report 2020 September 2020 - available at www.white-desert.com

Applications received for expeditions from the 2020 to 2021 season

Permit applicant Email address Vessel/Aircraft name Purpose and date of visit Brief itinerary
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com Naia Tourism 17 December 2020 to 2 January 2021 Antarctic Peninsula
Bertie Gregory bertiegregory@live.co.uk   Commercial Filming 20 February 2021 to 08 April 2021 South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Leigh Hickmott leighhickmott@theopenocean.co.uk   Scientific Research 20 February 2021 to 08 April 2021 South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Patrick Woodhead patrick@white-desert.com   Logistics 25 October 2020 to 28 February 2021 Dronning Maud Land
Tom Hart tom.hart@zoo.ox.ac.uk   Scientific Research 29 December 2020 to 13 January 2021 Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands
Prof Anthony Edward Hill ehill@noc.ac.uk RRS James Cook Scientific Research 29 January 2021 to 04 March 2021 Northern Weddell Sea
Prof Dame Jane Francis janefr@bas.ac.uk RRS James Clark Ross Science and Logistics 01 November 2020 to 30 May 2021 Antarctica including Antarctic Peninsula
Pete Convey pcon@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 01 November 2020 to 31 March 2021 Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
Simon Morley smor@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 October 2020 to 14 October 2021 Rothera Research Station and Ryder Bay, Antarctic Peninsula
Katrin Linse kl@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 30 October 2020 to 01 April 2021 Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
Mike Dunn mdunn@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 01 November 2020 to 15 April 2021 Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
Norman Ratcliffe notc@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 01 November 2020 to 15 April 2021 Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
Cecilia Mary Liszka ceclis56@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 December 2020 to 31 March 2021 Southern Ocean
Kevin Hughes kehu@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 November 2020 to 30 April 2021 Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, and islands within Ryder Bay, Marguerite Bay
Kevin Newsham kne@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 November 2020 to 30 April 2021 Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Published 16 May 2013
Last updated 4 November 2020 + show all updates
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