10 things I wish I knew before going to Falkland Islands
In high season, from October to March, if you travel to Falkland Islands, you will see it transforms. In a city of 3,460 inhabitants, the arrival of hundreds and even thousands of people in one day alter its rhythm. Many residents turn to tourism full-time and become drivers, guides, interpreters. Some move from Puerto Argentino to other islands to work during the summer and a large number of foreigners come to the city as temporary workers.
The tourism industry is growing steadily in the archipelago due to its history and the Falkland islands landscape. For this reason, in 2019, the Falkland Islands Tourist Board enthusiastically celebrated The New York Times listing the islands as one of "the 52 places to visit in 2019." Still, many people are unaware of many things about this destination and I would like to share them with you so you know before you get on the plane. Ready? Let’s start!
What to Pack?
Planning to travel to Falkland Islands? You should bring warm clothes. Besides, weather conditions change quickly and without warning, so it is advisable to go prepared with raincoats and umbrellas, as well as for the constant wind, with a speed that reaches up to 16 knots.
After have analyzed what is the capital of Falkland islands, it is essential to wear comfortable shoes since due to the difficult access to certain areas or even on the outskirts of Stanley, you will walk a lot through rocky or uneven areas. Finally, do not forget sunglasses, sunscreen, and a cap to protect yourself from the sun. As for the electrical current, it is 240 volts at 50 Hz, and you would need to bring an adapter since the plugs are of British standard.
An important fact: It is forbidden to wear camouflaged clothing on the islands. Only military personnel serving at Mount Pleasant Base are excepted. You can't wear it anywhere on the island! If you do it, know that you can be reported to the Police. This prohibition applies to ALL who visit and/or inhabit the Islands.
1. Where are the Falkland Islands?
It is true, many people wonder where are the Falkland Islands? they think about the answer for a long time. I don't blame them, it happens to me too! I think it is because just 38 years ago, the Islands had another name (Islas Malvinas) and it has been very difficult to eradicate it from the roots, especially for Argentines.
But, answering the question, the Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic (South America), they are 480 km from the Argentine mainland, and although they were declared as British Overseas territory, they are 13,000 km from the United Kingdom.
The Islands have an area of 12,200 square km and are made up of more than 200 small islands and two larger and main islands: East Falkland and West Falkland, although in Spanish, they are known as Isla Soledad to the east, with 6353 km² and Gran Malvina to the west, with an area of 4377 km². If you were wondering about what is the capital of Falkland Islands, it is called Stanley (or Puerto Argentino) located on the largest island, East Falkland (Soledad island).
Between East and West Falkland, there is a ferry -Concordia Bay- that connects New Haven (Puerto Nuevo) and Howard Port (Puerto Mitre), on either side of the San Carlos Strait and 1 and half hour trip. The service began operating in 2008 and allowed the few residents of the western island to have regular vehicular access to Stanley/Puerto Argentino - every day, except Tuesday - and at a reasonable price: £20 per adult and £50 per vehicle.
2. Falkland Islands weather
Before preparing your flights to Falkland islands, you should first know about its weather so as not to be surprised, although now that you know where are the Falkland Islands, you will assume that we are talking about a fairly cold territory.
The terrain is rocky, with gentle undulations and some mountain ranges of modest height (the highest peak, the Alberdi hill, is 705 meters high) and it is usually cold all year round, although in summer (from December to February) maximum temperatures of 21° C and in winter (from June to August) the temperature drops to -5º C and sometimes, down to -11º C. The problem for many is the wind. This does not give truce and it is common for Falkland Islands weather conditions to change very quickly. They even joke that you can experience all the seasons in one day.
So, with the Falkland islands weather in mind, you should take into account the clothes you can pack.
3. How to travel to Falkland Islands?
An important point: how to travel to Falkland Islands? There are four ways to get to the islands as a tourist: by cruise, by your own boat from the UK, or with the only flight that connects the mainland with the islands, operated by the Latam Airline. Three Saturdays a month, the flight departs from Santiago de Chile and stops in Punta Arenas (Chile).
One Saturday a month, the flight stops at Rio Gallegos, in the province of Santa Cruz (Argentina), on the departure and return. This limited air connectivity means that those arriving by plane must stay on the islands for at least a week.
The round trip ticket has a variable rate, subject to demand, although it usually ranges between $800 and 1,300 dollars. It is customary to buy tickets to flights to Falkland islands with few months in advance because planes are generally full, especially during the summer.
To make up for the scarce air connection, allowing shorter stays, and improve accessibility to and from the islands, a second flight from South America has been planned, also operated by Latam, which would have started operating in November 2019. It would depart once a week from Sao Paulo, Brazil, towards the archipelago, and will make a monthly stopover to and from the city of Cordoba (Brazil).
The only international airport in the islands is at the Mount Pleasant military base, on East Falkland (Soledad Island), almost 60 kilometers from Stanley/Puerto Argentino. In the Arrivals Hall, a sign in English and another in Spanish warn that taking pictures is prohibited. In Migrations, they add by hand on the entry stamp the amount of time that the visitor intends to stay. Upon returning the passport, the officer provides a bilingual brochure with "visitor information" regarding "battle sites and security."
"We imagine that you are aware that some of those who lived through the Falkland Islands war, on both sides, remain sensitive to certain things that have to do with their experiences in 1982, and therefore we ask that you respect the feelings of the islanders as well as we will respect yours", says the brochure regarding the Falkland Islands/Malvinas War.
4. Recommended time of year to travel
Now that you know how to travel to the Falkland Islands, you should plan what month of the year you can go. Beyond your own vacations or free moments, it is recommended to visit the islands between October and April, not only because you enjoy a warmer climate and a few days with more hours of light, but because you can observe a great variety of penguins and other marine species, which inhabit the island at this time, becoming one of the major tourist attractions of the Falkland islands landscape.
What to do on the Falkland Islands?
Many British and specialty Argentines want to visit Falkland islands not only for the war places, but also to stop looking at it only as a sad place where there was a war, closed stages, and heal wounds. Then, you find yourself in a paradise for lovers of wildlife watching: there are 171 native plant species, five penguin species, hundreds of bird species, elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, and killer whales. And many sheep, about half a million are part of the Falkland islands landscape.
For those who are visiting for a couple of days, the typical excursions are a tour of the capital city and surroundings (there are sunken ships like the Lady Elizabeth, white-sand beaches as Bertha’s beach, and transparent water, the lighthouse of Cabo San Felipe; and in Gypsy Cove, there are penguins of Magallanes 7 km from Stanley) or go to Punta Voluntario, two and a half hours off-road, where thousands of king, Magellan and gentoo penguins; and many other sheep live between the beaches and the countryside.
In the capital of Falkland Islands, Stanley, you can visit other tourist spots: the Anglican cathedral, the Dockyard Museum, the Globe Tavern pub, kayak, cycling, trekking, fishing. It is very interesting and very beautiful, the Patagonian beauty and the landscape that does not end.
Tourists who stay longer usually take the opportunity to visit other smaller islands: Pebble Island (103 km²), Keppel Island (36 km²), Saunders Island (131 km²), Carcass Island, Whirlpool Island, and Jason Island (33 km²) which are located about 40 km from West Falkland/Gran Malvina.
The only way to get there is in the planes of the government air service, known as FIGAS. Getting on the twin-engine Britten Norman Islander aircraft is a nice experience.
5. Anyone can visit the Falkland Islands
If you already have planned to travel to Falkland islands then you will be welcomed by its friendly and warm people, but... what if I am Argentine? I understand that before traveling you may have doubts if you have an Argentine passport. You don't know how the islanders would receive you if being Argentine would be a disadvantage, or even if it would make you feel uncomfortable. The reality is that at no point during your stay, you will feel "out of place." You will find friendly people and ready to help you if you need anything. Here, the principal language is English, and Spanish is the second one.
Where to stay in the Falkland Islands?
If it is already clear to you what is the capital of Falkland Islands, here you will find different types of accommodation: hotels, lodges, Guesthouses, Bed and Breakfast, cabin with foodservice and without Self-Catering. Most are cared for by their owners and have limited capacity.
Also, there are no hotels on all the islands. The Falkland Islands Tourist Board recommends that those planning a trip to the archipelago check in advance - and by phone - availability, as in most places there is no "plan B". Or well, although you can also camp, you just need to ask permission from the local police.
As hotel options, you have the Darwin House just 7 km from the Argentine cemetery. It has six rooms. A careful and personalized attention from the manager and his wife. They prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want to stay here, you should bear in mind that there is no other place nearby to eat. Therefore, you must hire a half board or pay for dinner there.
On this page, you can see all the accommodations registered in the Falkland Islands.
6. You can rent a 4x4
If you visit the islands out of season you will surely want to rent a vehicle due to the Falkland Islands weather. The routes in the Islands are mostly gravel or clay with many ups and downs, so to move around, 4 × 4 trucks are usually hired. In case of renting a vehicle, I recommend you ask for a tourist map with the routes and paths with their distances.
An international driving license is essential and here, you drive on the left. Three main roads run from Stanley to San Carlos, Goose Green, and Mount Pleasant. Along the way, it is very common to have to cross private farms, so it is advisable to ask permission from the owners who usually grant it kindly.
7. Necessary Documentation to enter the Falkland Islands
If you have already booked the flights to Falkland islands then you must prepare your documents. To enter the Falkland Islands you need:
• Valid passport for your stay duration.
• Insurance that covers a minimum of 250,000 USD.
• Return ticket.
• Have contracted services (accommodation, activities, etc.).
• Have sufficient funds to cover expenses and services not contracted (Generally, showing a credit card is enough).
• Pay an airport tax (paid on departure) o £25 (cash only).
• You don't need any vaccination certificate.
8. Are the Falkland Islands safe?
The security conditions are unbeatable, in fact, the capital of Falkland Islands claims to be the safest in the world, and they practically do not know the crime.
You just have to be careful on the side of the roads or when walking around when enjoying the landscape of the Falkland island due to the large amount of used ammunition and mines that remain from the 1982 conflict between Great Britain and Argentina, specifically in some areas, which are marked with full maps that you can get at the tourist office.
Until today, no civilian fatalities have been lamented, but we must be very careful.
9. Falkland Islands currency
With your decision made on travel to Falkland Islands, you should know that the official currency is the Falkland Islands Pound (£FK) and its value is equivalent to that of the British pound, which is also accepted.
Some shops, hotels, and restaurants also accept US dollars and euros. However, if you want to exchange money since it is advisable to always have the country's currency in hand, you can do so at the only bank on the island, the Standard Chartered Bank (SBC), also located in Stanley on Ross Road in front of the Police Station. Although there are places where you can pay by credit card (Visa and Mastercard).
Bear in mind that the Falkland Islands pound cannot be exchanged at any exchange office in the world (not even in the United Kingdom), so before leaving the island it is advisable to exchange them for pounds sterling or spend them all. Also, there are no ATMs here.
10. Where to buy food and do shopping in the Falkland Islands?
Knowing what is the capital of Falkland Islands, here you have different options where you can buy good food. One is the West Store which is open 7 days a week. Offers a full range of foods, including frozen foods, wines, sodas, medications, toiletries, tobacco, etc. The supermarket also has a bakery, butcher, fishmonger, and greengrocer.
Also, the Kelper Store is very well known. It is a local chain that is very widespread in the islands and another option is the Chandlery located a few meters from the only gas oil station in Stanly/Puerto Argentino. From Monday to Friday it is open from 8 am to 7 pm. Also, open on weekends and holidays. Offers all kinds of groceries and household items.
As per shopping, the island has a great artisan movement, so there are a large number of works in wool or wood. Jewelry is also presented by jewelers in shops in the capital and even in some more rural areas, and there are many representations of beautiful corners of the island, its fauna and flora or historical sites, which are sold in cafes and restaurants.
The New York Times praised the Falkland Islands as one of the travel destinations to know in 2019. And they are not wrong: they are an invitation to experience all the emotions, from the anguish produced by the scenes of war to the well-being of chatting with their inhabitants with coffee in between and overlooking the sea. You can enjoy the Falkland Islands weather in high season and come home with many souvenirs.
Get your flights to Falkland Islands and have a great experience!
Roxana Acosta Sosa is an Argentinan writer who likes to help different people who are looking for answers when reading a post. She is dedicated to writing on different topics including travel. Many are based on her own travelling experience to different countries and her motivation is to share them with those who want to live new adventures. For the past 5 years, she has been residing in India to experience the culture more closely. She has been invited to give a speech at the International Book Fair in Calcutta city about the Argentine culture and she plans to write a book to tell everything lived in her own flesh as a foreigner in the country. She is known for her love for animals and respect for the environment wherever she goes.