Chile allows entry for Antarctic cruise tourists | Polarjournal
Punta Arenas in Chile is one of the starting points for cruises to Antarctica. Chile aims to make the largest city in South Patagonia (126,000 inhabitants) THE “gateway to Antarctica.” Photo: W. Bulach/Wikimedia Commons

After Argentina, Chile is now daring to make a push toward opening up to foreign tourists. Chile’s National Tourism Service Sernatur has listened to the pleas of tourism organizations and regional and municipal authorities and will allow expedition cruises to Antarctica despite the pandemic. However, the conditions are very strict and it remains to be seen whether tour operators will follow.

The positive development in the Magallanes region of southern Chile in terms of the pandemic and the high vaccination rate prompted the national director of Sernatur, Andrea Wolleter, to allow foreign tourists traveling to Antarctica on cruise ships to enter the country, as announced by Sernatur on its website. Cruises are to be allowed to operate under a strict hygiene protocol in which travelers remain within their “bubble.”

The penguins could soon get visitors again after almost two years, if cruise operators decide to offer trips in the coming season after the announcement. Photo: Dr. Michael Wenger

Of course, with this step, the government also has Chile’s position as the “gateway to Antarctica” in mind. José Luis Uriarte, Secretary of State for Tourism in Chile, explained that this is excellent news not only for tourism, but also for the country. He expects that the announced opening will allow Chile to position itself as a strategic partner for tourism companies. Wolleter added that this announcement “represents a tremendous opportunity for the region because it could be the beginning of the consolidation of Chile as a gateway to Antarctica, but also because it allows us to guarantee the first steps of reactivation by ensuring the health situation, which is currently very positive.”

Foreign tourists wishing to travel to Antarctica must meet the following requirements:

  • Travelers wishing to enter Chile must be fully vaccinated (two or three vaccinations), present the C19 electronic sworn declaration prior to entry, and present a negative PCR test that is not older than 72 hours
  • Travelers need a health insurance of at least 30,000 US dollars
  • The transfer to Punta Arenas must be made directly by charter flight
  • If there are days between arrival in Santiago and departure for Punta Arenas, travelers must remain in quarantine until departure.
  • Before embarking on the cruise, travelers must quarantine at an approved transit hotel in Punta Arenas (the duration of the quarantine was not specified)
  • Before disembarking at the end of the cruise, passengers must take an antigen test
  • All transfers between airport and hotel and hotel and cruise ship must be in exclusive private vehicles

Even though many providers of cruises to Antarctica have been chomping at the bit and eagerly awaiting a signal, with these strict requirements it remains to be seen whether and how many of them will take up this offer and provide voyages in the coming Antarctic season.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

Link to the announcement on Sernatur (in Spanish):

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