Are you looking for information to plan a trip to the Falkland Islands? Continue reading!
I had been dreaming of visiting the Falkland Islands for years, so as soon as the opportunity arose I didn’t think about it twice. Since I was already going to travel to South America (I had planned a trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail) I thought it may be a bit easier to get there while I was in the same hemisphere. Turns out that getting there even from South America was quite an ordeal (more about this later) – though let me make this clear: it was totally worth it!
In case you are wondering, allow me to be extremely straightforward: planning a trip to the Falkland Islands is easier said than done. Don’t worry though, since I just got back from my trip I now have a better idea of what you may have to do, and I will do my best to share everything you need to know before visiting the Falkland Islands.
Don’t know if the Falklands are for you? Read my post The Best Reasons To Visit The Falkland Islands.
Everything You Must Know Before Visiting The Falkland Islands
Are the Falkland Islands a good solo travel destination?
For those of you that prefer traveling solo, let me say that they are! Visiting the Falkland Islands solo is a fantastic experience! While many people travel to the Falkland Islands with their partner or family, it’s not uncommon to meet solo travelers – you will probably come across a few of them at the lodges outside of Stanley.
It won’t take you long to realize, once you get there, that meeting people is extraordinarily easy. First of all, the locals are extremely friendly and never pass on the opportunity to talk to tourists. I went out almost immediately after arriving at my hotel in Stanley to go to the Victory Pub (probably the most popular in town) and minutes after walking in I was already engaged in conversation with a couple of locals!
Secondly, the setting at lodges on the outer islands is such that you will just as easily meet other travelers. Meals are communal so you will usually be sitting at a large table with other guests and this is great opportunity to chat, exchange stories and more. I ended up going on a fabulous hike in Carcass Island with some other guests at the lodge, and sharing wine with guests at Bleaker Island one day we were stuck indoors because of the terrible weather. It was like chatting to old friends.
The best time to visit the Falkland Islands
The best time for visiting the Falkland Islands is in the late spring and summer months, between the end of October and March. The best months will probably be November to February, with January and February being the warmest months, when days are longer, temperatures warmer and there are less chances of rain (though lots of wind).
Having said so, the weather in the Falkland Islands can change suddenly, so you can expect cold winds and rain (and even hale and the occasional snow) at any time. I visited at the end of October and while most days were sunny and mild (well, as mild as a coldish winter at home can be), on some days the weather was bad to the point that domestic flights from Stanley to other islands were cancelled and temperatures dropped down to 0°C (32°F) – it was actually almost impossible to walk outside!
The summer is also when you get to see most wildlife – King and Gentoo penguins live in the Falklands all year round, whereas other migratory penguins like Rockhopper, Macaroni, and Magellanic can only be spotted in the summer months. You will have higher chances of seeing whales – southern right whales, minke whales, and sei whales – in the fall months (March and April) but you may be super lucky and spot one even in the summer months.
The summer months are peak season, and it’s when most people will stop in the archipelago as part of their Antartica Cruise or plan a land-based trip to the Falkland Islands – though don’t expect them to be crowded! Having said so, if you are planning your trip to the Falkland Islands in the summer months, make sure to book your accommodation in advance as availability is limited.
Winter in the Falkland Islands goes from May to August and it can be incredibly cold. I don’t really recommend traveling to the Falkland Islands in the winter, which goes from May to August included.
Flights to Falkland Islands
The international airport in the Falkland Islands is Mount Pleasant (MPN) and it’s a military airport that also manages commercial flights. It’s located about one hour drive from Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, to which it is connected via private transport or shuttle buses run by Penguin Travel – they cost £18 GBP (around $21 USD) and can be booked via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There actually aren’t many international flights to Falkland Islands. At the time of writing, there is just one LATAM flight per week – on Saturday morning – from Punta Arenas, in Chile. You will likely have to fly to Santiago, in Chile, the day before, and spend one night either there or in Punta Arenas to be able to be able to make that flight. The same flight also makes an additional stop in Rio Gallegos the second Saturday of each month, so you may fly via Argentina if you prefer.
There used to be weekly flights from São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) every Wednesday, but they are currently not available and there is no information as to when they will be resumed.
Flying through Chile can be quite an ordeal as you will have to go through customs (and your passport will be stamped, no matter how long your layover is) after landing and then collect your luggage from the belt in Terminal 2, and cross all the way to Terminal 1 where you’ll have to check in your bags again, and go through security again.
You’ll have to do this even if you have connecting flights, and even if you already have boarding passes all the way to MPN. Once in Punta Arenas, you will go through customs and they will stamp your passport out.
For some reason, I had to check in again once in Punta Arenas. I pointed out to ground personnel that I already had a boarding pass and my bag was checked in all the way to MPN, but they insisted I should exit the terminal, check in and go through security again. It was rather stressful, as I had very limited time to do that – but if you are checked in already there is no way they won’t let you board!
Alternatively, you could catch one of the Royal Air Force flights to Falkland Island that depart from Brize Norton (about 1.5 hours from London Heathrow, and at a stone’s throw from Oxford) twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. The flight (known as “Air Bridge”) can be bought via the Falkland Island Government Office in London (you can find contacts here).
Are you wondering how it is to fly on a RAF flight? I took that flight to travel back to Europe and it’s actually quite OK! While civilians are allowed on the plane, this is mostly a military flight and the vast majority of people on board will be young soldiers.
The flight makes a service stop in Cape Verde – either on the way to the Falklands or on the way back – to refuel and change the crew; and then continues to the final destination. The total flying time is 15 hours, but as this is a military flight you’ll have to be at the airport super in advance and with the layover in Cape Verde, you will be traveling for around 20-21 hours (but honestly, it took me more than that to get to the Falkland Islands from Lima!).
The in-flight experience is actually quite good – as long as you go prepared. First of all, you will be served a lot of meals (I think we were offered food every 2 or 3 hours!). Make sure to communicate any dietary requirements when booking your flight – the crew told me that they do cater for them.
Meals are no better or worse than those you get on regular airlines (economy, obviously) – if anything, more abundant. If you are worried about the quality of the food, bring snacks. I know I needed mine! Also keep in mind that alcohol consumption is prohibited on the plane.
You will also need to bring a small blanket and a travel pillow, as none is provided on board and it can actually get quite cold. You will be given a small purse with a pair of socks, ear plugs and eye mask.
There are two different planes flying this route apparently: a Jet2 plane that has no reclining seats and no entertainment at all, and an AirTanker that does. I was on the AirTanker so the seats reclined, and we had some small screens for entertainment. Either way, you will be better off bringing your own entertainment and a spare power bank to charge batteries along the way.
RAF flights only fly at 1/3 of their capacity generally, so chances are that you’ll get at least 2 seats to yourself and will be able to nap.
The main thing to keep in mind if you are flying from Europe is that RAF flights can be very expensive (in the region of £2222 GBP or $2650 USD minimum per person round trip from Brize Norton) so unless you are already in the United Kingdom, it’s probably cheaper and easier to fly to Santiago first, spend the night there, and then catch an early morning flight to Punta Arenas for your Falkland connection on Saturday.
The Falkland Islands are also one of the stops along the itinerary of most Antartica cruises, but to do the archipelago justice you should plan to spend at least a week there and not just the few hours that a cruise will allow.
How to move around the Falkland Islands
Within an island, you will typically travel around in a 4×4 vehicle, oftentimes driving completely off road, on tracks that only locals appear to identify. There are regular asphalt and dirt roads on East Falkland and some dirt roads on West Falkland, the two larger islands, but nothing in the remaining 700+ islands.
To get from one island to the other, you will have to get on a FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Services) flight. The plane is tiny and carries no more than 8 passengers, and since it is so small you will have a 14 kg baggage allowance in total – that includes your main bag / suitcase and your carry-on – so you really have to pack light! I ended up having to leave some stuff in Stanley when I went island hopping as baggage allowances are really strict.
There is no fixed schedule for the flights. The first ones will typically leave from Stanley Airport (not to be confused with Mount Pleasant) in the morning and hop around the various islands, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. They usually land on well maintained airstrips and sometimes even on the beach.
When they have a flight scheduled, locals normally check the FIGAS Facebook page after 4:00 pm as that’s when they publish the schedule for the following day, and that will include the names of all passengers on every section of the flights. That gives them a rough estimate for the time they need to be at the airstrip ready for departure.
In any case, you have nothing to worry about: the owners / managers of the lodge / accommodation where you will be staying in the islands will let you know your expected time of departure the day before, and suggest an appropriate pick up time.
So, how is it to fly on those small planes? All in all, a fun experience – especially when you get to sit in the front, next to the pilot. It happened to me 3 times and I certainly enjoyed it.
I had been on one of those planes a few times before, most recently during a flight over the Nazca Lines, so I was somewhat prepared. Nevertheless, when someone before my first FIGAS flight suggested it may be bumpy (it was very windy that day) I decided to take some dramamine as a precaution. It turned out that I didn’t need it: the flight was super smooth, the views along the way simply stunning, and the dramamine ended up making me very sleepy to the point I had to take a nap once I got to the lodge!
How long should you spend in the Falkland Island?
I spent 10 days in the Falkland Islands and wish I had more time! I spent 3 nights in Stanley, from where I explored the East Falkland, and the rest of my time hopping from one island to the other. Most travelers from overseas usually plan to spend 10 days to 2 and even 3 weeks there, depending on which flights they get. Needless to say, the few hours that Antartica cruises passengers get to spend on the Falklands is hardly sufficient to get a good feel for the place.
Accommodation in the Falkland Islands
You have various accommodation options when visiting the Falkland Islands.
In Stanley, there are some short term rentals and two hotels:
- The Malvina House Hotel, a larger hotel close to the center of town (though nothing is ever far in Stanley), in front of the Dockyard Museum. Rooms are comfortable and spacious and meals are available at the onsite restaurant.
- The Waterfront Boutique Hotel, which only has 5 rooms. It’s a truly lovely place in the heart of town, with incredibly cozy rooms and it is right by the jetty, next to the nicest souvenir shop in town. It has a café that serves really good food and has a very good wine selection.
Outside of Stanley you will typically be staying in lodges or cottages. The lodges never have too many rooms – I think the largest has 10 and can fit a maximum of 20 guests – and usually operate on a full board basis, so you will be eating your meals there, at set times and with other guests.
Cottages are usually meant to be self catering, so you would have to bring your own food on the flight, but oftentimes your host will offer you full board accommodation too. That’s what happened to me when I stayed at Coast Ridge Cottage (managed by Nuala and Keith) in Fox Bay and at Markham House (managed by Dot and Alex Gould), in Pebble Island. I truly enjoyed the experience of staying in a cottage and eating with a local family – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcome!
How to plan your itinerary
Planning your itinerary for a trip to the Falkland Islands is actually quite tricky. You can definitely get LATAM flights yourself, but you need to send a request for RAF flights. FIGAS doesn’t appear to have a webpage you can use to book flights directly, so you will have to either contact them via phone, Facebook or request a quote by sending an email to email@example.com.
The only places that are actually available on a booking engine are the Malvina House Hotel which is on Booking.com and a few cottages which are on Airbnb. Only a handful of places (that would include the Waterfront Hotel) have their own booking system, and most places don’t even list their rates – you will need to send an email to enquire. That makes the process of making reservations from overseas rather time consuming.
Given what I have said, it will be enormously easier to simply contact a travel agent, suggest when you wish to visit the Falkland Islands and what places you’d like to explore, and they will arrange an itinerary with flights and accommodation for you. Just keep in mind that availability for accommodation is limited so you should make enquiries and bookings well in advance.
The best places to visit
I have a dedicated post about the places you really should not miss when visiting the Falkland Islands, but here’s a quick overview.
Stanley (East Falklands)
The capital is a small, pleasant city that provides a good initial base for your trip to to the Falkland Island. You will find an interesting museum, two nice churches, a few war memorials, historic houses, bars, pubs and restaurants and some souvenir shops too.
Volunteer Point and Whale Point
Both places can be visited on a day trip from Stanley, and both are incredible!
Volunteer Point is home to a massive colony of King Penguins. You’ll also be able to spot some Magellanic Penguins from there, and occasionally there are some Sea Lions that hang around the beach. You can get there by helicopter (though this is usually only recommended for passengers on cruises) or on a 4×4 guided tour that departs from Stanley.
At Whale Point you’ll be able to admire the massive Elephant Seals, and various species of birds including Gentoo Penguins. It’s a fun day trip, not too demanding.
This is one of the prime tourist destinations in the Falkland Islands. It’s a small island, and when the weather is great you can enjoy hiking around. It’s a great place to spot Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins, Elephant Seals, Striated Cara Caras, Albatrosses, Oyster Catchers and more.
This small island is packed with Falklands War relics and memorials, and is home to a large colony of Rockhopper Penguins, among which you will also be able to spot a few Macaroni Penguins. There are plenty of Sea Lions too.
Fox Bay (West Island)
This was by far my favorite spot during the entire trip. It has a massive colony of Rockhopper Penguins, Sea Lions, Gentoo Penguins and more. You can go on various hikes and there are some gorgeous beaches such as Carcass Bay.
This island is pretty much flat, so super easy to go around. There is a fantastic white sand beach where you can spot Gentoo Penguins and a Leopard Seal, and you’ll also find a large colony of Rockhopper Penguins. One thing unique I was able to spot there was a Macaroni Penguin that had paired with a Rockhopper and they had an egg! You’ll also see Sea Lions and a very large colony of Cormorants.
Head over to my post The Best Things To Do In The Falkland Islands.
You will find that in most – if not all – islands someone from the lodge staff or even the owner of the cottage where you are staying will take you around the islands to see the highlights, check out the local wildlife or historic places, and even join you on a hike.
In some places, if you can drive a 4×4, you may get hold of a car and drive around yourself – but you need to be extra careful because there is lots of wildlife that likes hanging out by the tracks, and farm animals (usually sheep with lambs and occasionally cows too) roaming around, so unless you are an expert driver off-road, I don’t recommend it.
Guided tours to places such as Volunteer Point or Whale Point are offered on East Falkland. You can usually book them via one of the local agents (the same one that would be planning your itinerary) or the tourist information point near the Jetty. Tours will normally be in the range of £200 – £250 GBP (between $230 and $290 USD) for a solo traveler, including transportation and a meal. It’s definitely cheaper if you are traveling with someone you can share the costs with!
What is food in the Falklands like?
Nothing really grows on the islands, and since they are so remote it’s difficult to get hold of fresh fruits and vegetables. Despite that, food is actually quite good and it’s incredible what locals can put together! with the few ingredients available Generally speaking, local cuisine is similar to that of the United Kingdom. You can expect a proper fry-up for breakfast every day! Occasionally, more exotic fare (Thai or Peruvian style food) is also found on the menu.
There are several places to eat in Stanley, which include the popular Shorty’s diner, the Waterfront Café, the Malvina House Hotel restaurant, the Victory Pub, and Deano’s. In other islands, you will be usually eating meals at the lodge or have what the local family who is hosting you is having for dinner. I actually found the home cooked meals were the best! Either way, everyone will go above and beyond to cater to your dietary requirements.
What to wear in the Falkland Islands
If you are planning on doing some island hopping when visiting the Falkland Islands and will be catching FIGAS flights, you will have to pack extra light and that may be challenging if you are carrying any camera gear (which you should: this is a photographer’s paradise!).
Remember people in the Falklands are dressed for comfort and there is absolutely no need to dress up, so pack accordingly! Also keep in mind that even in the best of times, temperatures rarely go above 18°C (64.4°F) and the chilled wind will often make you feel cold, so you should really pack for colder weather.
Here’s a quick summary of essential items to pack:
A super warm jacket
With high chances of cold wind and rain, you will need a jacket to keep you warm and dry. You may even want to consider a ski jacket such as this one.
Quick dry hiking pants
Forget jeans and fancy pants. When visiting the Falkland Islands, all you need is one or two pairs of good hiking pants, best if quick dry. I recommend Kuhl’s Trekr or Freeflex Dash for extra comfort.
A pair of thermal leggings and shirt
These will be your life savers on colder days! Simply use them as base-layers under your hiking pants, or at night when you want to stay cozy in the lodge. I recommend the Toasty Trascender Legging and the Akkomplice Crew by Kuhl.
One or two thick sweaters
Make sure to bring a couple of thick sweaters as even in the summer, days and especially nights can be quite cold. I brought my Kuhl Ascendyr 1/4 Zip and occasionally used my Kuhl Flight Jacket for even extra comfort.
Super warm socks
If you are anything like me, your feet will get extra cold and you will want some super warm socks. I tend to prefer hiking socks as they are a bit thinner and keep my feet at a good, comfortable temperature. You may want to consider a pair of ski socks such as these ones.
This really is all you need in terms of footwear when visiting the Falkland Islands. Make sure to bring something that is completely waterproof. You can scout for good hiking boots here.
Hat, gloves and a scarf
Even when visiting the Falkland Islands in the summer, don’t forget to bring a pair of gloves and a hat to protect your ears from the cold wind – I know I used mine! You may even want to bring a scarf, just in case.
Additional things to pack for the Falkland Islands
A camera with a great lens!
You can get really close to wildlife in the Falkland Islands (the recommended distance is a minimum of 6 meters, which is little less than 20 feet). A smartphone can take really good photos, and I have taken several selfies with penguins (from a safe distance, don’t worry!) with my phone. However, if you are at least a bit into wildlife photography this will be a real treat for you and you should bring a proper camera with a good long lens to go with it.
Sunglasses and sunblock
Make sure to pack your sunglasses and a good sunblock for your trip to the Falkland Islands. The sunglasses will mostly protect you against the wind and dust that it carries, and the sun can be quite strong too and it’s not uncommon to get sunburnt. I normally use a very high SPF (50+ or, if I can get hold of it, even 100) as my skin tends to burn easily. I’d say 50 is the minimum you want to go with.
Make sure to bring a book or two (best if you have a Kindle) and download your favorite series on Netflix for your downtime, after dinner. Dinner is served between 6:30 and 7:00 pm (which is super early by Italian standards) so by the time you are done eating it is still quite early to go to bed.
I was really lucky as in most places I visited there were other guests who were up for an after dinner chat (in fact, we literally spent all day chatting in between naps one day the weather was so bad that we were all stuck at the lodge). Cottages and lodges usually have a TV too, just in case. However, it’s best to be safe than sorry so make sure to bring something to keep entertained at night.
Internet in the Falkland Islands
To make a long story short, you can pretty much forget about the internet when visiting the Falkland Islands. It’s quite a good detox, actually.
The Malvina House Hotel in Stanley will sell internet cards that are valid for a period of 100 minutes, 12 hours or more. I bought the 12 hours one and that costed me £15 GBP (little over $17 USD). However, that card can only be used at the hotel, but it looks like the only hotspot is inside the rooms (it didn’t work in the restaurant).
The Waterfront Boutique Hotel will give you a free Wi-Fi card but it has really limited data.
Other than that, you will have to buy the Sure Hotspot cards to get online, and a £10 GBP (around $11 USD) one will give you just 200 MB of traffic.
I was super lucky to meet a local who shared his Sure Broadband login details (he said he had lots of data and didn’t mind sharing) but even then, internet was slow and spotty and the most I could do was using whatsapp to talk to friends and families. Forget about uploading Instagram photos and stories!
Is traveling to the Falkland Islands expensive?
Visiting the Falkland Islands can be quite expensive, especially if you are a solo traveler and have no way of sharing the costs of accommodation or guided tours. Even after being there, I find it hard to give an exact breakdown of prices. Other than the international flights, accommodation, food, guided tours and all the other small expenses you may have (ie for internet) will all add up to the final costs.
You can have a rough estimate by adding the following prices:
Hotels in Stanley cost a minimum of £150 or $175 USD for a room at one of the two hotels during peak season.
Lodges are more or less the same price – between £130 and £150 per person per night (that’s between $150 and $175 USD) but that usually includes full board accommodation. Prices are a bit cheaper if you are sharing a room.
Self catering accommodation is cheaper, costing around £100 GBP per night (that’s about $115 USD), but that won’t include any meals.
I have no precise information on the price of FIGAS internal flights, but locals told me that they pay around £70 GBP (around $80 USD) for the shortest flights. However, keep in mind prices are generally much cheaper for locals.
Guided tours departing from Stanley are also very expensive – the full-day tour I took to Volunteer Point costed over £200 GBP (about $230 USD) though admittedly I was the only person in the car, so if there are more people traveling it ends up being cheaper.
With all this in mind, you should factor a minimum of £2000 GBP ($2300 USD) per person for a one week’s trip where you do some island hopping – this is a figure for the bare minimum and it does not include your international flights.
Other useful things to know before visiting the Falkland Islands
Finally, here are some other things you may want to know before visiting the Falkland Islands.
It’s very safe
This is one of the safest and most friendly countries you’ll ever visit. Locals generally don’t even bother locking their front door or their car because it is so safe anyways.
You can drink tap water
Yep! Tap water is safe to drink in all islands, which is a welcome change if you are traveling from a country like Peru where that is a big no-no!
The official currency is the British Pound (GBP) but you will find that the notes are different from those used in the UK. Cards are accepted pretty much anywhere.
Tipping is actually not customary in the Falkland Islands. It’s really up to you if you want to do it but locals do not expect it and you should never feel obliged.
Travelers from North America, the European Union countries, Australia or South Africa don’t need a pre-arranged visa to visit the Falkland Islands. Your passport will be stamped upon arrival.
You should definitely get a good travel insurance for your trip to the Falklands.
Get a quote for a good travel insurance here.
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of The Falkland Island as part of the #ilovethefalklandislands campaign. I wish to thank them and Blogilicious for organizing an incredible trip. The views expressed in this post remain my own.