Yes. It isn’t illegal or anything. As the 7th, and southern-most continent of the world – encased in a splendor of snowy landscape (about 98% of it) – it’s hard to believe that any traveler would want to go there on vacation or ice sightseeing (most people go to cross off their bucket list), but yes, it is possible to go. Moreover, no one country has claim to the region so travelers won’t have to face immigration border, with Penguins most likely, stamping passports. You might require visa if you’ll be passing through several countries, and you might need permissions from your government if its part of an environmental treaty, but most tourist agencies handle this.
Even though Antarctica is the unofficial continent of Penguins, dolphins and whales, there are certain rules travelers must adhere to, and certain expectations they must have before embarking on their journey.
What Not to Expect
#1. Accommodation: while some 1000 to roughly 5000 scientists live on the continent for research purposes, there are no actual buildings on the continent. This is primarily to preserve the natural habitat of the continent for the animals that live there (humans have 6 other continents to do as they please). So if you’re going, don’t expect to actually live in a building. Some tourists arrange for “camps” on the continent, but they’ll involve sleeping bags, tents and not much else. Most people who work on cruise ships actually live in Ushuaia, Argentina, while researchers live in shores, islands or boats nearby.
#2. Souvenirs: while souvenirs are the hallmark of every tourist trips, with souvenir shops dotting virtually every street, Antarctica is free of those, and it’s actually illegal to try taking something for yourself, even a tiny penguin-like pebble to give a loved one. Your only memory of that place will be of the photos you take (which to be honest might look like many other snowy landscapes unless a penguin photobombs you) and your boating ticket.
#3. Southern Lights: the southern lights are a major attraction, unfortunately they’re mostly visible during non-tourist months (with tourist months being between November and March).
Don’ts While in Antarctica
#1. Don’t Step on any plant. Antarctica experiences at least six months of darkness, is covered in water or ice, but a few plants – lichen and moss – do grow there. These plants are oh so precious, and not to be taken for granted and trodded on like you would anywhere else. Tourist guides are always super careful when guiding land expedition trips, but it doesn’t pay to be extra knowledgeable and careful.
#2. Don’t interfere with the animals. Don’t help a seemingly lost or trapped penguin, or prevent an animal or fish from being eaten. The idea is to allow the environment have as little inference as possible from human activity.
#3. Don’t disturb any site. Whether historic or current. They could either be research or emergency blizzard sites, so try don’t to disrupt them.
#4. Don’t litter. This includes all types of environmental pollution from empty bottles of water, all the way to the more extreme – your cigarette ashes. Yes, if you happen to smoke in one of the designated areas, you have to take the ashes with you. We can’t risk turning Antarctica into one of our beaches, so pollution by travelers is heavily frowned upon.
So even though it’s entirely legal for travelers to venture out to the coolest place on earth, there are still a ton of rules you must adhere to. Thankfully immigration won’t be one of them.