Falkland Island travel advice
March 20, 2006 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I want to spend a month in the Falkland Islands next year. A few questions.

I know this is kind of a long shot here, but --

How much money will I need for that long of a stay?

I am hoping to be able to do it for under 5000US per person.

What are some things that I absolutely must do while I am there?

The penguins and the war stuff of course, but what about a short trip to Antarctica? How feasible is that?

What is the best way to break out of the tourist trap there?

This is a potential scouting trip to see if I like the island actually, I may want to move here -- so meeting some real people would be nice.
posted by bigmusic to Travel & Transportation around Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (16 answers total)
 
Also I can't find any blogs of people that live in the falklands, does that mean no high speed internet? I know penguin pie lives there though.
posted by bigmusic at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2006


Also see penguin pie's response here.
posted by driveler at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2006


What is the best way to break out of the tourist trap there?

From my experience, you're unlikely to fit into the tourist trap to begin with. It consists entirely of the bay front road in Port Stanley. Total time to visit the entire thing: 2 hours, if you stop to chat 15 minutes with every merchant.

Antartica is two to three days across some of the bumpiest seas in the world. If you're going to visit, I'd suggest one of the major cruise lines out of Ushuaia, Argentina. Some of them stop at Port Stanley, so you may be able to work out a deal.

This is a potential scouting trip to see if I like the island actually, I may want to move here -- so meeting some real people would be nice.

I certainly didn't find them to be shy. If you're having trouble starting a conversation, mention Argentina and then see if you can get them to shut up. Exchange I had with a B&B owner:

"Will anyone take my Argentine Pesos?"
"Well, you could break into someone's car and leave them."

Really, who you meet largely depends on what you intend to do with your time there. It is a extremely sparse, barely populated place outside of Port Stanley. And frankly you can walk the entirety of Port Stanley in less than a day. If you do meet people who share your interests, I hope you like them -- you'll be seeing a lot of them.

Numerically -- there are 2000 people in Port Stanley, and another 1000 spread out across the rest of the islands.

...does that mean no high speed internet
I wasn't able to locate any. I'm sure the airport/military base has some, but there was no public access I could find.

In Ushuaia, the DirectTV satellite dishes were all 3 feet across and pointed directly at the northern horizon. I don't know if they were able to get highspeed downlinks that way or not, but it obviously worked for TV.

I didn't notice any satellite dishes at all in the Falklands, but that is probably because I wasn't paying attention.

What are some things that I absolutely must do while I am there?

Pay a local guide for a war tour or nature tour. They'll have better cars than you, and will know which gates are there to denote private land versus just to keep the sheep penned in.
posted by tkolar at 2:54 PM on March 20, 2006


With a total population of 3,000 people and remote location, I'd bet very strongly against high-speed internet in the Falklands.

Ushuaia is an interesting place. It was the victim of a boom-bust cycle, and is a half-deserted ghost town with tourism as its only real industry. There are plenty of penguins to be seen, and Argentina is relatively cheap. Internet access in Ushuaia was limited to very slow dialup - very slow.

There are cruise ships that leave from Ushuaia and cruise Antarctica.

(Chile is substantially more expensive than Argentina, by the way.)
posted by jellicle at 2:58 PM on March 20, 2006


For what little it may be worth, my travel log from the Falklands.
posted by tkolar at 3:09 PM on March 20, 2006


looks like it is not a litle difficult to get to from the States, which is a shame as it is a destination I'd like to check out at some point.
posted by edgeways at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2006


Because of the location, the winters there are reputed to be vicious. If you're actually thinking of moving there, I would recommend that you visit in the winter (i.e. July) to see how awful it gets. Visiting in summer (January) is likely to give you a false idea of the climate.

What are some things that I absolutely must do while I am there? Avoid the mine fields. I believe that there are still some areas that are unsafe. They're all marked, however, so it's not really a risk.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2006


looks like it is not a litle difficult to get to from the States

It's not hard, actually. You just need to fly through Chile.

Of course, it should be trivial to get there through Buenos Aires, but the Argentines are being a bunch of weenies about it.
posted by tkolar at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste wrote...
Avoid the mine fields.

Ironically, these were one of the major reasons I was excited to go. There are not many places in the world that have well-marked mine fields that you can walk right up to the edge of.

As an engineering geek it was fascinating to examine the problem firsthand: what could I do to that acre of land that would leave me 100% sure that it was cleaned out?
Now there is a Nobel prize waiting to happen...

Couple of interesting tidbits on the minefields, by the way:

1) The main beach by Port Stanley was mined, meaning that it is now off limits to humans. The penguins, however, do not set off the mines. They have taken over the beach and some nearby dunes as breeding habitats. (hardcore environmentalists take note....)

2) The Argentine forces did not keep accurate maps of the minefields. They were located by taking the captured minefield engineers out to the sites and having them make a good guess as to where they put everything down. Despite this, there have been no incidents of humans triggering the mines, and only a few sheep have been harmed.
posted by tkolar at 7:59 PM on March 20, 2006


If it's of any interest, I spent a couple of weeks visiting the Falklands recently and wrote up my experience. There are more links to info at the bottom there.

There is only dial-up access for consumers, via Horizon - they even offer a service where they'll download large files and put them on CD for you! Maybe there's some kind of always-on connection for (or only affordable by) businesses, but I'm not sure.

As others have suggested, Stanley is pretty small, and you'll probably want to get out and explore. The best way is probably to book yourself into accomodation on the smaller islands and fly out to them. Yes, this might seem touristy but... if you want to explore completely as a non-tourist I think your only option would be to hire a 4x4 (assuming there's a hire place in Stanley) and drive around on your own, unless you make friends with people who will take you. Roads are few and far between outside Stanley, so you'd have to be used to serious off-roading!

As for money, bear in mind that at the moment there's no ATM in Stanley, and places don't seem hugely keen on taking credit cards (it involves a call to a centre in Africa somewhere!).

Anyway, I hope that helps a bit, and hopefully someone who actually lives there will be along soon!
posted by fabius at 3:20 AM on March 23, 2006


FALKLANDS MEETUP!!!
sorry, bit overexcited

OK, I finally made it (thanks for the tip off fabius...). I do indeed live in Stanley, email’s in profile, but for the record…

1. I came here on holiday in summer for 2 weeks and loved the place so much I emigrated. The winters are much less fearsome than in my previous home of London: the temperatures are a couple of degrees higher and skies are blue. I’m always amazed by the greyness of the UK in winter when I see it on TV.

2. Don’t come in winter, though, because there will be nothing going on (I mean, less than usual…). Most of the tracks will be too wet to drive, half the population will be on holiday, it will be dark from about 4.30pm. The best weather is usually just after Xmas, though summer is November to March.

3. To get here from the US, you need to get to Santiago or Punta Arenas in Chile (unless you're booked on a cruise ship, but then you'll only get a few hours here). Flights from Chile go in and out of the Islands every Saturday, takes about half a day from Santiago, hour and a half from Punta. I’m not sure about the cost from the US – return flights from the UK cost around £1K. These people are your best bet as they are based in the Islands, book these flights all the time, and, well, have heard of the Falklands. They can also book accommodation and internal flights but I don’t know if it’s more expensive going through them than booking direct.

Of course, it should be trivial to get there through Buenos Aires, but the Argentines are being a bunch of weenies about it.

To be fair to our neighbours, I think Argentina would love to fly here more often but I don’t think the Falkland Islanders are really too big on the idea. Once a month you can fly from Rio Gallegos in Argentina, spend a week here, then return to RG.

4. Tourist trap (chuckles!) We’re trying hard to build a tourist trap but we’re not quite there yet… It’s true that Stanley (pleease, not Port Stanley, guys) can be done in a day, though if you like walking there are some nice walks just out of town. You can pay guides to drive you to Volunteer Point (very bumpy off road ride to hundreds of king penguins, plus gentoos and magellanics) and various other points not too far from Stanley, which are mostly wildlife related except for the battlefield tours. Unless you’re an experienced off road driver you shoudn’t try driving yourself. Even in summer, this place is boggy.

After that, as fabius says (well, he had an excellent tour guide for his visit, ahem), you need to get out to town and head for the Islands and settlements: Saunders, Pebble, Carcass and Sea Lion Islands are the main ones with tourism accommodation and wildlife, with various combinations of 4 species of penguin, albatross, sea lions, elephant seals, orcas etc., all very accessible. For more of an eating loads/farm/general wilderness experience, there are also lodges at Port Howard (huge sheep farm) and Darwin (close to Goose Green, apparently does good battlefield tours if you’re into that). My current favourite spot is Saunders Island.

5. Antarctica – the main way people get south from here is if they’re already on a cruise ship. There are occasional charter yachts, e.g. the Golden Fleece which take people south, but it’s pretty expensive, and wouldn’t fit with your estimated budget. You might be able to get a helicopter day trip from somewhere like Ushuaia, but I'm not sure.

6. The people – "Will anyone take my Argentine Pesos?" is the kind of comment that makes people think you’re either extremely stupid or just deliberately being an arsehole. It depends on your perspective whether you think that’s more revealing about you or about them. Whatever your personal take on the politics, if you’re tempted to be flippant you have to bear in mind that you could be talking to someone who once lived in a very tranquil backwater, then had a gun pointed at their head or their children by a stranger in a uniform, and has never got over it.

One of the things that made me wanna move here was that everybody who lived here really loved the place – Falkland Islanders have the right to live and work in the UK so anyone who doesn’t want to be here has gone, and you’d only emigrate here if you really wanted to, so generally people are pretty positive. Unlike many island communities, loads of young people come back after University etc. It’s true that you’ll probably see a lot of the same people repeatedly and it’s up to you whether you like that or not.

7. Internet – we’ve been promised broadband within the month but noone’s holding their breath.

8. And finally - there's zero unemployment here, so you can only emigrate if you have a job that can't be done by a local.

Just shout if I've missed anything...
posted by penguin pie at 5:48 AM on March 23, 2006


"Will anyone take my Argentine Pesos?" is the kind of comment that makes people think you’re either extremely stupid or just deliberately being an arsehole.

No disrespect was meant. My arrival in the Falklands was unplanned, and I had a lot of Argentine money with me. Imagine my surprise when the bank refused to change it.

In fact, I'm still surprised that there wasn't somebody in Stanley who would have taken them off my hands, even at extortionate rates.
posted by tkolar at 10:28 AM on March 23, 2006


Yeah, I'm surprised actually that the bank wouldn't change it... I was assuming you meant over the counter in shops...

Fortunately there are plenty of people who you can have a reasonable discussion about Argentina with, but you never know quite what you're gonna get.
posted by penguin pie at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2006


penguin pie wrote...
To be fair to our neighbours, I think Argentina would love to fly here more often but I don’t think the Falkland Islanders are really too big on the idea.

Is this really the case? I was led to believe that Argentina was being as restrictive as they thought they could get away with, to prevent Stanley from challenging Ushuaia as the base for Antarctic cruises.

Stanley really is a much more attractive base than Ushuaia -- Ushuaia is a fairly boring spot, and the only reason I would ever suggest that someone go there is to meet a cruise ship. Stanley's tourism business would go straight off the charts if ships were leaving from there....
posted by tkolar at 5:28 PM on March 23, 2006


Actually yeah, that's an interesting point. A couple of years ago Argentina stopped giving permission for charter flights from Chile to cross Argentine airspace on their way to the Falklands - which are the ones that serviced cruise ship turnarounds. That was widely seen as a move to boost Ushuaia at the expense of Stanley.

Weekly scheduled flights from the Islands to Chile are protected by an agreement known as the '99 Agreement and I suspect, but don't know, that Argentina would like to see one of its own carriers flying direct to the Islands instead to increase contact/accessibility/make a political point and also to give the business to an Argentine company rather than a Chilean one.

Interested in your comments on Ushuaia, though, tkolar, I'd heard it was very attractive.
posted by penguin pie at 4:35 AM on March 24, 2006


penguin pie wrote...
Interested in your comments on Ushuaia, though, tkolar, I'd heard it was very attractive.

From a straight aesthetics standpoint, I'd say Ushuaia and Stanley are equally quaint little towns (although Ushuaia is about 25 times the size of Stanley), each with their own style.

For history, Stanley wins hands down. Among other things, the history of the Falklands Islands Company and its relationship to the residents of the Falklands is utterly fascinating to me. Of course there was also the war, and my aforementioned interest in minefields. Ushuaia's big claim to fame is that it was a prison colony -- which is interesting, but hardly unique.

For wildlife ... well, I guess I'm just being a language snob. I've found over the years that local guides are the best way to tour remote places, and its always nicer when we share a common language (although you lot do tend to speak English, instead of proper American).
posted by tkolar at 12:41 PM on March 24, 2006


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