The French Southern and Antarctic Lands are a collection of several islands in the southern Indian Ocean and Antarctica. They are French Overseas Territories, divided into five districts:
Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands
The Scattered Islands
Used almost exclusively for research purposes, the French Southern and Antarctic Lands are only inhabited by 150 to 300 people, depending on the season. There are no permanent residents. Travel to these remote islands is typically only done as part of an arctic expedition or research mission, making it extremely important to have the right
travel medical insurance or
The landscapes of the French Southern islands are a well-preserved treasure trove of biodiversity; an exceptionally rich territory, with a unique heritage coming under the responsibility of France. If you're planning a trip to one of these remote outposts, read on to discover some of the places to see and explore.
Top Tourist Destinations in French Southern and Antarctic Lands
The French Southern and Antarctic Land are not traditionally known for tourism. They are protected ecosystems ideal for study by scientists, researchers, and biologists.
Human presence took on a new dimension in the 1950s and 60s when permanent weather, space monitoring and research bases were set up. Researchers live in the scientific bases every year working on numerous programs for major French research laboratories.
If you head 13,000 kilometers southeast from France, you'll reach the Kerguelen Archipelago, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean near Antarctica. These rocky clusters are nicknamed the "desolation islands," and are home to one of biggest maritime nature reserves in the world. The archipelago has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2019.
Adelie Coast, also called Adelie Land, is an ice-covered stretch of islands and territory running from the Southern Ocean to the South Pole. Adelie Land is home to Dumont d'Urville Station, an Antarctic research facility hosting 30 to 40 scientists at a time. The station is known for its study of emperor penguins.
Crozet Islands consists of various small, uninhabited islands of volcanic origin in the southern Indian Ocean. They have been earmarked as a national conservation area, and are home to several species of penguins, seabirds and seals.
Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands
Saint Paul is a volcanic island that was annexed by France in 1843 together with Amsterdam Island. A permanent research and administrative station was established on Amsterdam Island in 1949. Interestingly, Saint Paul represents the farthest land in the world from the geographic center of the United States.
The Scattered Islands consist of reefs, atolls, and four small coral islands in the Indian Ocean. They are all classified as nature reserves, and most are home to meteorological stations.
Key Guidelines for Travelers in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands
The French Southern and Antarctic Land territories are not inhabited by permanent residents. The human presence there is only for research purposes, and remains largely non-intrusive. If you're planning to travel to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, keep these tips in mind:
As the islands are all situated in different locations, their respective climates are diverse. The Scattered Islands can experience almost tropical weather, whereas the islands in the southern Indian Ocean can have climates similar to Antarctica. It's best to consult with your guide or the head of your research team to have a thorough understanding of the average weather on the island you're visiting so you can pack correctly.
There are no airstrips, and commercial flights do not provide service to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. If you are traveling as part of a research team, you may have helicopter access to some islands, but sea travel is more common. However, the only shipboard access is via an oceanographic vessel.
Visiting these islands as a tourist can be extremely expensive. As there are no public accommodations available, you will need to arrange your stay at least a year in advance with the governing body of the French research station on site. This accommodation will need to include payment for all of your necessary food and gear, as there is no option to resupply on the islands. Last-minute changes to your travel plans should be expected.
Travel Medical Insurance for Travelers in French Southern and Antarctic Lands – FAQs
The extremely remote locations of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands makes the purchase of travel medical insurance essential for all practical purposes. These islands are so isolated, it's almost like you are on another planet. Just about any serious medical issue will require emergency medical evacuation, at an astronomical price. You need to make sure you have financial coverage for any illnesses or injuries you may encounter with proper insurance.
Do I need travel medical insurance or the French Southern and Antarctic Lands?
The French Southern and Antarctic Lands are French territories. As such, they are subject to the same insurance requirements as France. If you require a Schengen visa to travel to France, entry to these islands will require insurance with at least €30,000 in medical benefits, and coverage for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.
The exact insurance you will require will be determined by the authorities overseeing your travel and stay in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. It's important to open a line of communication with your research team or guide early, so they can help you understand the exact type of insurance you need.
Why buy travel medical insurance before traveling to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands?
The extreme isolation and harsh climate of these islands can result in any medical issue quickly turning into an emergency. The only medical facilities available will be limited to those designed to serve the existing research teams, so any serious situation will almost certainly result in evacuation. Before planning an expedition to these islands, be sure you are covered with appropriate travel medical insurance.
Trip Cancellation Insurance for Travelers in French Southern and Antarctic Lands – FAQs
Even a trip to a regular destination can need to be canceled from time to time. However, with a location as off-the-map as the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, cancellation is a very real possibility. Since you've likely spent well over a year arranging travel and accommodations just to visit one of these islands, you'll want to have financial protection for your travel expenses with trip cancellation insurance.
Why should I get trip cancellation insurance for my French Southern and Antarctic Land trip?
Owing to the unpredictable climatic conditions of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, and the limited mode of transport, your trip will always be under risks of uncertainty. The remote location also makes it an expensive trip. Trip cancellation insurance can help you recover your money in case a situation was to arise that made travel impossible for a covered reason.
What should I look for in my French Southern and Antarctic Land trip cancellation insurance?
Due to the unique nature of travel to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, it's imperative that you do your research prior to purchasing travel insurance. You will want to make sure the plan you select can provide coverage for the modes of transport you use and the location they're going to. You will also want to ensure the coverage is compliant with the vessel or government aircraft you're traveling on.
Since travel to these islands will likely require several commercial flights and hotels prior to your ocean voyage, you should consider travel insurance with coverage options such as:
Take the time to do your research. The details of every available travel insurance plan will be covered in their policy wording. Examine this wording carefully so there's no question you've selected a plan that meets all of your coverage needs.
Before You Go to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands - Do This
Plan your travel to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands well in advance. You should begin finalizing your plans at least a year before your trip.
Conduct proper research before departure about the limitations and restrictions.
Contact the French Embassy for the most reliable source of travel information.
Pack the right clothes, gear, and equipment for the particular location you're traveling to.
Get insured. Research carefully, and purchase
travel medical insurance or
that offers appropriate coverage.