Adventure of a lifetime! 20 tips for visiting polar regions of the world

From spotting concealed wildlife with a camera lens to using vodka as an anti-freezer – we reveal the must-know tips for your polar trip, as recommended by Wanderlust readers...

6 mins

"A bit of vodka in your water bottle, stops it freezing when it's really cold." – Stuart Francis

"Make sure you go on a boat with less than 100 passengers. We did and were on shore in less than 30 minutes morning and afternoon." – Paul Townson

"Melt some snow before bed and keep it in a bottle in your sleeping bag over night. Not only will it help keep you cosy, but it will save you time in the morning as you will have water ready to heat for a cup of tea in the morning, without having to dig for more snow." – L Stokes

"The Arctic isn’t all snow and ice. Depending on the time of year, the heaviest concentration of mosquitoes is not in the jungles but in the Arctic tundra. So cover up with a mesh insect screen over your head and keep the cuffs of your shirt and trousers tucked in. Use a strong repellent for additional protection." – Lloyd Martin

Cruising around Antarctica (Dreamstime)

Cruising around Antarctica (Dreamstime)

"The most important tip we were given was to keep base layers and anything that touches the skin dry. If they get wet, they will freeze and provide little warmth as a result." – Beth Lovering

"You will definitely need good sunglasses. It never hits you how bright snow can be until you see sun shining on snow all around. A decent set of crampons wouldn't go amiss, along with some hand and feet warmers." – Deepak Devi

"Remember to respect the culture as well as the nature. For example, Arctic dogs are not pets, respect that and try a private home stay. The daily life in the Arctic is very different from the tourist life." – Anne Mette

“If visiting Antarctica, travel on a small vessel which gives you the option to walk outdoors all the way around the ship. That way you can race around the 'promenade' to see sights on all sides (or shelter from the wind). Be ready to stay outside from dawn to dusk to experience the scene at all times of day – you'll probably only be there once. Include South Georgia for its outstanding scenery and book a kayak adventure to get close to the wildlife.” – Derek Mepham

“Wear tights under your trousers – they keep the wind from whistling where it shouldn't.” – Trevor Adams

Polar bear and cubs (Dreamstime)

Polar bear and cubs (Dreamstime)

"Take a good dry bag. They take up no room but give great peace of mind when carrying cameras or just dry clothes onto zodiacs and ice camping. They can also double up as a pillow if you trap air inside." – Andrew Heppleston

“Try to experience the amazing scenery at different times of day, from early dawn until sunset, as the quality of light is astounding whether for photography or not. You will be humbled by the experience in the polar areas and by the wildlife. Also take a notebook to record exactly where you go, as well as what you see and do.” – David French

"Take the biggest, brightest plastic peg you can find for your wellies. Yours will be easy to find in the boot room" – Zara Taylor

“The main tip to survive in the cold is to bring the right clothes. It has to be made from modern membrane materials that will keep you warm, but prevent sweating. If you wear several layers of wrong clothes that will make you sweat and feel cold. So ensure that you have modern membrane material clothes.” – Svetlana Meani

“Stay in a log cabin with a sauna. When I visited the Arctic, I stayed in a beautiful log cabin in the woods with a sauna that had a large window looking out onto the snowy trees. There is nothing more beautiful and surreal than feeling so warm and toasty whilst looking out at your freezing surroundings.” – Emma Walker

Experiment with variations of polar lighting (Dreamstime)

Experiment with variations of polar lighting (Dreamstime)

Polar photography tips

"Search for a polar bear in the far distance by zooming in on the snow field, using your camera lens as binoculars. Once spotted, click, and you have that amazing photograph that is your memory of a once in a lifetime experience." – Judy Lyster

"Keep your camera close by, fit a polarising filter and underexpose your picture a little to bring out the best texture of snow." – Peter Mclean

"Photographs make amazing memories and photography is addictive in polar light. But never forget to also enjoy breathtaking moments of wildlife with your own eyes rather than through the lens. They will stay with you forever." – Louise Cartwright

“One thing I would highly recommend to take is not only a good camera, but also a few spare batteries. This way you can capture the perfect scenery, or the rare moment a whale or a polar bear come close to your lens reach. The cold drains batteries so quickly that they might run out a few minutes after putting new ones in and the same happens to phones.” – Angela

“We know that just being there is important, but if you want a good record shot of a polar bear, note that they are not all like you see in magazines. Most of the time they are a long way off. If you haven't got one, borrow a decent camera with telephoto capabilities – a 400mm lens would be good on a DSLR.” – Graham Brace

“Sometimes you just need to put that camera down and watch nature at its best. You miss all the happenings when behind the camera, trying to get the best shot and finding the correct lens that before you know it you've missed that moment. Simply watch, be mesmerised and create lasting memories. The Antarctic is pure magic.” – Neena Kumar​

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