SJ Mobilità Travel Diaries

December 27, 2019

Travelling to Antarctica?

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 12:42 pm

This is going to my first blog about my travel diaries, and it’s more exciting to start writing about Antarctica which remains a distant dream for many. I will try to cover as much details as possible to help the readers. Being an Immigration Expert, my target would be to guide more on the immigration/visa part as well for the international travel.

About Antarctica:

Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. It’s known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins.

Antarctica is not just one-time life experience and also this is the most expensive one. Hence it helps to plan well in advance. Ideal time for Antarctica is from November to March as that is the summer time there and it’s mostly undertaken by cruise, for which the embarkation point is Ushuaia, Argentina. There are other countries as well but we had settled with Ushuaia.

Cruise: Our cruise was from 9 nights and it was Antarctica – Discovery and Learning Voyage with M/V Hondius (Oceanic Expeditions) and our bookings started way back in March 2019. A friend of mine referred Mr. Prabhat from offbeat travel when we were telling her about our Antarctica plan. Since she referred personally, we went ahead and booked the trip through his company.  By the time we had finalized in April 2019, most of the lower categories of the cabin got sold out and we could get only the top 2nd and 3rd cabin which is Grand Suite with Private balcony and Junior Suite as 4 of us were travelling on a twin sharing basis.

Cruise Booking Contact: Mr. Prabhat Verma – prabhat@offbeat.travel – +91 9717704083

Visa: You don’t need a visa for Antarctica, however you need to apply for a tourist visa to Argentina as the cruise embarkation point is from Ushuaia. It’s a little nightmare to get the Argentina visa from India as you have to go through getting Spanish translations & notarizations etc. which came as a little surprise as even the Spain Embassy didn’t ask for it when I had applied for a visa last year in 2018.

ETA (Online): If the purpose is tourism then, you can apply for ETA – For the holders of Valid B2 US Visa (Valid for 6 months) OR For the holders of valid Category C Schengen Visa (Valid for 6 months)

Link: http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/ave/index.htm

Step 1: Pay the fees of USD 50 and there is receipt generated which carries the sticker number

Step 2: File ETA (login details will be your passport number and reference number which is the sticker number)

Note: When you upload the passport copies, do ensure to scan the entire pages of passport including the blank pages. In the same way if your valid US visa is in old passport then scan the entire old passport and submit. Please note, its recommended that the visa has to be valid for 6 months from the travel end date, otherwise there is a possibility of denial of ETA.

Processing Time: 20 working days

Validity: 3 months from Date of Issue with multiple entries

Contact: ave@migraciones.gov.ar

Tourist Visa at the Consulate: If you are applying in India, then you must apply at the New Delhi (If you are residing in states other than Maharashtra & Karnataka) or Mumbai (People residing in Maharashtra & Karnataka only)

Fee – Gratis for Indian Nationals

Documents Required:

  1. Passport: must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the intended date of entry and have at least one completely free page left for the visa.
  2. A completed visa application form: (Refer the link below) Answer ALL questions BLOCK letters and fill with Blue Ink (Do enter the Aadhar details in the q.no 10 in application form (local id number details – Mandatory for Mumbai)           https://cnyor.cancilleria.gob.ar/userfiles/fsv_2019_ingles_editable.pdf
  3.  One recent passport style photograph (4X4 cm in white background)
  4. Confirmed Flight ticket (round trip)
  5. Confirmed Hotel reservation
  6. Personal bank statement of the last six months in original with seal and signature from the bank
  7. Cover Letter (English & Spanish): A letter explaining the purpose of your trip and the complete itinerary from the day you land to the day you depart. This letter must be notarized and duly translated into Spanish by a professional translator (the translation does not need to be notarized).
  8. HR letter from the employer (English & Spanish) A letter from your employer, authorizing the trip, confirming that you are currently employed by the company and for how long. This letter must be written on company letterhead, signed by the person in charge, notarized and duly translated into Spanish by a professional translator (the translation does not need to be notarized)
  • Contact for Translation – Ulka Ghorpade – ghorpade@anzsolutions.in – +91 9619622760
  • Notarization – Contact the local notary office, they would attest the English documents as Spanish is not required, if you wish you to do the Spanish, then the translation has to be signed by the translator with the seal and signature so that the notary people can sign as they wouldn’t know Spanish.
  1. Last month salary/pay-slip (Recommended last 3 months pay slips)
  2. Last 3 year’s Income Tax Return – ITR
  3. Company Id copy (Recommended)
  4. Insurance booking details for the entire trip (Neeru Dua – info@travelindiainc.com –9311530053) It’s mandatory for Antarctica, which has to be shared to the cruise while filling up the personal information form. Antarctica’s weather conditions can change in a minute, so its mandatory to get one, Mr. Prabhat from offbeat had recommended to book with Travel India Inc.

In our case there was a search and rescue operations that our vessel got involved while returning from Antarctica, as the Chilean aircraft C-130 Hercules crashed in drake passage enroute their Antarctica base. Our vessel was close by at that time hence Maritime board had asked to do the search and rescue until the Chilean Navy reaches which would take minimum 24 hours to reach the Drake Passage. So our vessel delayed to reach Ushuaia and many passengers had to reschedule their flights on their own as Vessel had issued the letter mentioning the reason for delay so that the insurance can refund the reschedule cost. Vessel had helped with the accommodation only.

  1. Aadhar card copy (Mandatory for Mumbai consulate)

Process:

  • Submit all the documents in person, it can be the applicant or anyone who is authorized to submit on your behalf. For Mumbai consulate, would recommend submitting in person as they can come up with varied requirements and even we were informed that the visa application form was incorrect when the same form was accepted by New Delhi. So it helps if the pax is present so that you can clarify if there are any concerns.
  • Submission Time:
    • 10-11 AM (New Delhi – Embassy of the Argentine Republic in New Delhi, F-3/3 Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057, India – +91 11 4078 1900)
    • 30-10.30 AM (Mumbai – General of the Argentine Republic in Mumbai (CHANDER MUKHI Building, 10TH Floor, NARIMAN POINT – MUMBAI, 400 021 Mumbai, India – +91 22 2287 1381/1383)
  • Status update within 72 hours on the below (For Mumbai consulate it would be updated in person) on any one of the points as mentioned below
    • If the application meets all the requirements then interview date is scheduled with the time, mostly it might be in person, sometimes it might be scheduled through whatsapp video call (Mumbai: the documents will be handed back to the person who went to ask for the status and it has to be re-submitted in the morning of the interview date by 10 AM)
    • If the application doesn’t meet the requirements, then it would be rejected and handed over the documents
    • If any additional documents are required then that would be communicated
  • Once the interview is done, they would update by when the passport would be ready for collection, usually it’s 5 working days from the interview date
  • Someone who is authorized can collect the passport with the authorization letter.

Note:

The authorization letter is required only while collecting the passport with visa, it’s not required for submission/status update

Applicant has to travel in person only if he/she is called for interview in person

Accommodation: It’s recommended that you reach in Ushuaia a day before the embarkation and also depart a day later to keep in mind for any exigencies. We had booked our stay in Mysten Kepen B&B in Ushuaia.

Airport Transfer: Mysten Kepen can arrange for the same for an additional cost, please note from our personal experience most of the taxi drivers in Ushuaia had charged as per meter which came much cheaper. Be prepared that in Argentina, very few spoke in English. Hence be prepared with google translator which would help with Spanish translation. However people are very friendly, helpful and they go out of their way to understand. In return it helps that we try to speak Spanish, that would be much appreciated as we can’t expect them to speak our language in their home country.

Flight: Most of the flights directly to Ushuaia are from New Delhi. We had booked the Ethiopia Airlines which was literally a marathon of almost 29 hours of flight to reach Ushuaia.

Ethiopia – Transit:

  • Transit visa is required only if the stopover is more than 12 hours or more
  • All the flights to Ushuaia goes to Buenos Aires (EZE – Ezeiza International Airport) which is the International Airport and then it goes from (AEP – Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery) which is for Domestic flights to Ushuaia. Do note the airport is different for both locations, please keep at least 2-3 hours as you have to get out and travel for approximately for 45 minutes to 1 hour to go the AEP from EZE by car

Yellow Fever Vaccination: Vaccination is required if the stop over is more than 12 hours or more for Ethiopia

Packing for Antarctica:

  • Boots (Provided by the cruise), ensure it’s filled in the Personal Information Form (individually) once the payment is done, Jacket, Wind Sheeter, Thermal Inner, Sweater, Layer Jackets, Monkey Cap, Muffler, Ear muffs, Gloves, Socks, Pant (Water proof), Goggles, Binocular, Electric Jacket, Water bottle, Torch, Swim Suit, Sunglasses, Adapter, Sunscreen, Lip Balm, Body Lotion, Motion Sickness Tablet (carry as many as you can), Personal Medical Kit, Water proof cover for Mobile/Camera

While landing in various Islands in Antarctica, there might be wet landing hence it’s required that the outer layer is water resistant.

Some of the island, we may not be able to land, hence binocular is mandatory so that you don’t miss out the sightings

Cruise would provide the water proof boots hence you need not carry extra.

While standing in the dock for sightings, most of the time you might get wet hence it’s recommended to wear the water proof clothes on the top layer

Activities in Antarctica: Camping, Hiking, Polar dip & Kayaking

You can either choose hiking or Kayaking and we had finalized for hiking, camping is charged extra which need to be bought while booking the cruise.

Please note if you opt for Kayaking then you will only do kayaking for all the landings.

Cruise: Be prepared for almost 2.5 days on the Drake passage enroute Antarctica which is treacherous and do expect to have a very bad motion sickness. Once you reach Antarctica its normal for next 4 days before we return back through Drake passage. We had landed in Useful Islands, Orne Harbour (Continental Landing), Damoy Point, Port Charcot, Vernadsky Station (Ukrainian Research Station), The Yalour Islands, Deception Island & Whalers Bay. It all depends on the weather conditions and ice conditions. We couldn’t land in Yalour due to ice where zodiac couldn’t land, hence expedition team had compensated with another island which is Whalers Bay which got added later.

Also there are multiple lectures by the expedition team starting with bio security check, mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) briefing on safety and wildlife regulations in Antarctica, camping regulations, kayaking briefing, on sea birds, acoustics of wild life, seals, whales, penguins, polar bear, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Transantarctic Expedition,  meaning of the sea in paintings, Introduction to photography and videography, impact due to global warming etc. through which you are kept busy. Would recommend to attend all the lectures which helps to know more about the wild life in Antarctica as many of us hardly read about it unless we are traveling there.

This was such an amazing and informative expeditions and due to delay we reached in the evening instead of morning. Since we had booked the flight next day we didn’t have any problems. We reached in Ushuaia and then took the flight next day. Aerolíneas Argentinas (Argentina Airlines) while boarding from Ushuaia had rerouted our flight to EZE airport so that we needn’t change our airport, that was very thoughtful of them.

Ethiopian Airlines: We had a little stressful experience with Ethiopian Airlines. The ground staff in Delhi could not assign the seat as the website for the second leg of journey was not open for some reason and they said we can get the seats allocated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When we reached the customer service as soon as we reached Addis Ababa, she had said to go to the gate and figure out as she said she couldn’t do anything. There were few more who had the same issue and then when those guys were insisting whether their seats would get confirmed she scared us by saying that the flights are running full and seats would be allocated on first come first serve basis and she was not sure that we our seats would be confirmed. So we got into panic mode as we couldn’t afford to miss the flight and we went to the gate and they said until boarding starts they cannot do anything. So literally we were sitting next to the gate to make sure we don’t miss any chance and every staff came there we were asking for an update. Finally once the boarding started, our seats were assigned to our relief. However since we didn’t go any rest room break/water for almost 3 hours we went to the rest room and it was not well maintained to our surprise. Then we came to the water dispenser which was empty, there was a house keeping lady who maintains the rest room was standing near and I asked her for water, she came and checked and she just ignored saying there is no water. We couldn’t go back to the main where all the shops were there as we had to board. I haven’t seen such heights of bad customer service.

However the airline staffs were good and didn’t have any concerns and when we returned our seats were allocated in Buenos Aires and we also were prepared to be at main gate so that we didn’t have issues and were prepared this time.

Finally we reached back after a marathon of flights.

If you get a chance, please do this expedition, it may be expensive but its worth.

Disclaimer: Please note, the immigration requirements change frequently so please ensure to check for the latest update before travel. Do let me know your feedback and I am reachable at jani.jermans@sjmobilita.com.

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