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 conducting research fishing or 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

If you plan to undertake commercial fishing activity in the Southern Ocean, you must seek separate authorisation for your vessel, as set out in the guidelines to CCAMLR fisheries for British registered vessels fishing for profit.

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 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.

Consistent with the agreement by the Antarctic Treaty Parties, the UK will not authorise operators organising or conducting tourist or other non-government activities to undertake any off-ship activities in Antarctica from vessels carrying more than 500 passengers. Exceptions will be made in cases of emergency and for the purpose of enhancing human safety. The UK will also not normally authorise the use of helicopters for recreational purposes in areas with concentrations of wildlife, including the Antarctic Peninsula region.

It should also be noted that for safety reasons the UK will not authorise snorkelling activities in the Antarctic.

Applying for a permit to conduct research fishing

You must conduct research fishing in the Antarctic Treaty Area in accordance with the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), in particular its Conservation Measure 24-01.

Research fishing under paragraph 2 of CM24-01 involves taking less than 50 tonnes of finfish. If you are proposing to conduct research fishing under paragraph 2, you must:

  • confirm that you will comply with all relevant CCAMLR Conservation Measures
  • confirm that you will meet the requirements of CCAMLR Conservation Measure 24-01
  • complete an Expedition Permit Application Form and submit this to the Polar Regions Department
  • provide the information required in CM 24-01 Annex A, Format 1

This paragraph does not apply for catches of krill and finfish of less than one tonne.

Research fishing under paragraph 3 of CM24-01 involves taking more than 50 tonnes of finfish. Any proposals to conduct research fishing of this nature will be approved at the annual CCAMLR meeting in October or November 2024.

If you are proposing to conduct research fishing under paragraph 3, you must:

  • confirm that you will comply with all relevant CCAMLR Conservation Measures
  • confirm that you will meet the requirements of CCAMLR Conservation Measure 24-01
  • complete Sections 1 to 6 of an Expedition Permit Application Form, and submit this together with the required Research Plan to the Polar Regions Department by 12 May 2024. The CCAMLR scientific working groups will consider applications, including at the annual CCAMLR meeting in October or November 2024
  • provide all the information required in CM 24-01 Annex A, Format 2

Application forms and guidance

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

Expedition Permit application form (ODT, 97.4 KB)

Expedition Permit application guidance notes (PDF, 1.03 MB, 15 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 contact the Polar Regions Department.

Specialist Permit application form (ODT, 69.3 KB)

Specialist Permit Application guidance notes (PDF, 1.02 MB, 11 pages)

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

Once the expedition is complete, you will need to complete these post visit reports:

Post Visit Report: Part 1 (ODT, 50.5 KB)

Post Visit Report: Part 2 (ODS, 147 KB)

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. 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 2023 to 2024

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 2023 to 2024

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

Applications received for expeditions 2023 to 2024 season

Permit applicant Email address Vessel/aircraft name Purpose and date of visit Brief itinerary
Heather Cruickshank Heather.cruickshank@talesmith.tv   Commercial filming 4 December 2023 to 10 January 2024 Atka Bay
Tim Cochrane (Noble Caledonia) timc@noble-caledonia.co.uk MS Island Sky Tourism 1 November 2023 to 31 March 2024 Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands
Orla Doherty (BBC) orla.doherty@bbc.com Hans Hansson Commercial filming November 2023 to January 2024 Antarctic Peninsula
Emil Grimsson (Arctic Trucks) emil@arctictrucks.is   Tourism and scientific research 2 November 2023 to 20 January 2024 Union Glacier, South Pole
Jason Roberts (Polar X) info@polarx.com V6 Tourism 15 November 2023 to 15 January 2024 Antarctic Peninsula
Dr Laura Grange l.grange@bangor.ac.uk Bark Europa Scientific research 30 January 2024 to 8 March 2024 Antarctic Peninsula
Leigh Hickmott (Open Ocean Consulting) leighhickmott@theopenocean.co.uk Hans Hansson   Scientific research 15 November 2023 to 15 January 2024           Antarctic Peninsula & the Gullet
Erin McClymont erin.mcclymont@durham.ac.uk    Scientific research 20 November 2023 to 1 February 2024   Dronning Maud Land
David Small  david.p.small@durham.ac.uk    Scientific research 4 December 2023 to 31 January 2024   Pensacola Mountains
Tom Hart   t.hart@brookes.ac.uk   Scientific research 5 December 2023 to 27 January 2024 Antarctic Peninsula
Dr Emma Nicholson  emma.nicholson@ucl.ac.uk   National Geographic Resolution Scientific research 12 January 2024 to 22 January 2024   Antarctic Peninsula
Professor Dame Jane Francis (British Antarctic Survey) janefr@bas.ac.uk   Rothera estates improvement works 28 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Rothera
Professor Dame Jane Francis (British Antarctic Survey) janefr@bas.ac.uk   Rothera modernisation programme Phase 1 1 December 2023 to 31 May 2024 Rothera
Professor Dame Jane Francis Janefr@bas.ac.uk   Rothera runway repairs 22 December 2023 to 31 May 2024 Rothera
Peter Convey pcon@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research November 2023 Antarctic Peninsula
Mark Porter mater@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Rothera Estates Project 15 November 2023 to 1 May 2024 Rothera
Simon Morley smor@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Rothera Estates Project 10 November 2023 to 31 May 2024 Rothera
Mike Bentley m.j.bentley@durham.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 November 2023 to 1 April 2024 Union Glacier, Ellsworth Mountains
Peter Fretwell ptf@bas.ac.uk Quark cruise Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 31 January 2024 Antarctic Peninsula
Peter Davis petvis@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 31 March 2024 Fimbull Ice Shelf
Rowan Whittle roit@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 December 2023 to 31 March 2024 Seymour Island, Vega Island
William Wycherley wilche@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 22 December 2023 to 31 April 2024 Sky Blu
Kevin Hughes kehu@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Rothera
Simon Morley smor@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 31 October 2024 Rothera
Katrin Linse kl@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 November 2023 to 1 April 2024 Signy
Jennifer Jackson jack@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 1 January 2024 to 31 May 2024 Signy
Norman Ratcliffe notc@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 15 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Signy
Michael Dunn mdunn@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 10 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Signy
Connor Bamford conord48@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Rothera
Christopher Williamson c.williamson@bristol.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Signy
Andrew Meijers andmei@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 31 May 2024 North Weddell Sea
Karen Heywood K.Heywood@uea.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 1 January 2024 to 1 April 2024 Weddell Sea
Kevin Hughes kehu@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 1 January 2024 to 15 March 2024 Signy Island
Tracey Dornan tarna70@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 1 February 2024 to 1 June 2024 Scotia Sea, Antarctic Peninsula
Tom Jordan tomj@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific Research 5 November 2023 to 30 April 2024 Rothera
Claire Padian claire.boston@port.ac.uk HMS Protector Scientific Research 15 December 2023 to 25 January 2024 Western Antarctic Peninsula
Fay Couceiro fay.couceiro@port.ac.uk HMS Protector Scientific Research 15 December 2023 to 25 January 2024 Western Antarctic Peninsula
Emma Nicholson emma.nicholson@ucl.ac.uk National Geographic Resolution Scientific Research 10 January 2024 to 25 January 2024 Antarctic Peninsula

Updates to this page

Published 16 May 2013
Last updated 10 April 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated application dates for permits to conduct research fishing

  2. Addition of 3 new permit applications from Emma Nicholson, Fay Couceiro and Claire Padian

  3. Twenty-two new permit applications from the British Antarctic Survey added.

  4. Addition of two new permit applications from British Antarctic Survey

  5. Addition of 5 new permit applications

  6. New permit application from Dr Laura Grange added

  7. New permit applications from Arctic Trucks and PolarX added

  8. New permit application from Orla Doherty (BBC) added

  9. New permit application from Tim Cochrane (Noble Caledonia) added

  10. New permit application from Talesmith TV added.

  11. Expedition Permit application guidance notes updated.

  12. Applying for a Permit section has been updated.

  13. Withdrawal of permit application from Sonja Heinrich

  14. Updated guidance on applying for a permit to conduct research fishing section. Two new permit applications added: British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Sonja Heinrich. Withdrawal of permit application from Nathan Robinson.

  15. Two new permit applications added - Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and Nathan Robinson

  16. Addition of 4 new Initial Environmental Evaluations (IEEs) received for activity in Antarctica 2022 to 2023.

  17. New permit application added for Tom Hart.

  18. Four new permit applications added: Robert Dougall McCallum for the vessel Nansen Explorer; Arctic Trucks; Dr Robert David Larter; and David Small.

  19. New permit application added for Robert Dougall McCallum for the vessel Legend.

  20. New permit application added for Christopher Aldridge

  21. Updated Post Visit Report form: part 2

  22. Updated post visit report - Part 1 and Part 2

  23. New permit application added

  24. New permit application added

  25. New permit application added

  26. 2021-22 permit applications deleted for the 2022-23 season. New 2022-23 permit application added.

  27. The expedition permit application form and guidance notes have been updated. The specialist permit application form and guidance notes have been updated.

  28. Updated guidance on Applying for a permit to conduct research fishing for 2021/22 season.

  29. Additional permit application added

  30. Additional permit and IEE application

  31. Additional permit applications added.

  32. Additional permit applications added.

  33. Added another permit application received and a new link to additional IEE for EYOS.

  34. Dates updated for expedition onboard 'Legend'

  35. Added additional permit application

  36. Added additional permit application

  37. Added additional permit applications received.

  38. Added additional permit application received.

  39. Added additional permit applications received.

  40. Added 5 additional permit applications, and one Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE).

  41. Added additional permit applications received.

  42. Two new permit applications added to table

  43. Added additional permit application received.

  44. Added additional permit application received.

  45. Added additional permit application received.

  46. Added additional permit applications received.

  47. Added two additional permit applications received.

  48. Added details of permit applications for 2021-22.

  49. Added new information about permit requirements for commercial and research fishing vessels.

  50. Added additional permit applications received.

  51. Added additional permit applications received. Withdrawn application removed.

  52. Added additional permit application received.

  53. Added Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) and an additional permit application received.

  54. Added additional permit application received. Withdrawn application removed.

  55. Additional permit application received

  56. New application received.

  57. Added details of permit applications for 2020-21.

  58. Updated Expedition application form and guidance notes added

  59. Additional permit application received

  60. Additional permit application received

  61. Additional permit application received

  62. New Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) added

  63. Additional permit applications

  64. Added new permit to table.

  65. Addition of an Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE)

  66. New permit application received

  67. Additional permit applications received

  68. New permit application added.

  69. Additional permit applications received.

  70. Added two new permit applications to the table.

  71. Two new permit applications added to table.

  72. New permit application added

  73. New permit application received

  74. Updated details for permit applications received for 2019-20 Season

  75. Attached new expedition permit form and guidance for 2019

  76. Added details of another permit to the table.

  77. Additional permit application received

  78. Additional permit applications received

  79. Added another permit applicant

  80. Additional permit applications

  81. Further permit applications

  82. Further permit applications received

  83. Additional permit applications

  84. Additional permit applications added to the list

  85. Addition of IEE information

  86. Additional permit applications received

  87. Change of postal address. Addition of further permit applications.

  88. Additional permit application received

  89. added another permit to table.

  90. Additional permit application

  91. I have added two permit applications on the table called “Applications received for expeditions from the 2018 to 2019 season”.

  92. New information added to table.

  93. Update to 2018/19 permit application received

  94. Additional permit applications received.

  95. Additional text explaining the requirements for visiting Antarctica, updated forms and guidance and revised Post Visit Reports.

  96. Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation Added

  97. Additional permit application

  98. Additional permit application added

  99. Additional permit application

  100. permit application added

  101. Additional permit applications

  102. Additional applications

  103. Additional permit applications

  104. Addition of further permit applications

  105. Updated permit applications for season 2017-18

  106. Initial Environmental Evaluation added and permit applications updated

  107. Added new applications for expeditions in the 2017 to 2018 season

  108. page updated.

  109. updated applications received for 2016 to 2017 expedition season

  110. Revised formatting of permit applications

  111. Additional Application form and Guidance

  112. First published.

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