Falkland IslandsFalkland Islands consist of two main islands and several hundred smaller islands in the south Atlantic Ocean, off the east coast of southern South America. They are a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, but nearby Argentina claims jurisdiction under the name Islas Malvinas. Most visitors to the islands come between October and March (Southern Hemisphere summer) to enjoy the spectacular wildlife and quaint rural lifestyle.
- – the capital and port, and the only town in any normal sense of the word. Highlights include the cathedral and its whale bone arch, a history museum, the governor's residence and the penguins at nearby Volunteer Point.
- – a small settlement with numerous remnants of the 1982 war on East Falkland; this was the site of an eponymous battle in that conflict. Although accommodation is limited, it serves as a better base for exploring the southern region of Lafonia than Stanley.
- – a 200,000-acre sheep farm on West Falkland: the only way to access from Stanley is by air, landing in a nearby field. Port Howard is an extremely tranquil part of the world, with far-reaching views and great hiking opportunities.
HistoryAlthough first sighted by an English navigator in 1592, the first recorded landing took nearly a century more by an Englishman in 1690. The French established a settlement later still in 1764 that was later given to Spain. The French called the islands les îles Malouines, after the port of Saint-Malo in Brittany, from where the Falklands' first settlers originated. It is from this that the Spanish name, Malvinas, is derived.
A British settlement followed shortly in 1766 and the islands became the subject of ongoing territorial disputes between Britain and Spain, which subsequently became a dispute between Britain and Argentina. Although the islands have a complex history of settlement and abandonment by various nations, it is generally accepted that since 1833 the islands have been under British control. During most of the 19th century who did or should govern the islands was a non-issue in Argentinian and international politics, and there are even some semi-official maps from that era that show the islands as British. However beginning in the 20th century, nationalist voices in Argentina demanded the islands to be "given back" to Argentina based on the tenuous Spanish claim, that Argentina claimed to have "inherited" and an even shakier claim of Argentinian administration and settlement of the islands prior to 1833, that was violently ejected according to those Argentinian claims.
Open conflict between Britain and Argentina began on 2 April 1982 when Argentina's military junta ordered the invasion of the islands. The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later. After fierce fighting in what is often known as the Falklands War, the Argentine occupation force was forced to surrender on 14 June 1982. Nonetheless, today Buenos Aires still refuses to give up Argentina's claim to the territory, and continues to push for a peaceful transfer of sovereignty, though most Falkland Islanders consider themselves to be British with no interest in joining Argentina. There was a referendum held on the question in 2013, in which 99.8 % voted to remain a British territory.
EconomyThe economy of the Falklands used to be based on agriculture (mainly sheep farming) but today fishing contributes the bulk of economic activity. Income from licensing foreign trawlers totals more than US$40 million per year with squid accounting for 75% of the fish taken. Agricultural activities mainly support domestic consumption with the exception of high grade wool which is exported. Surveys have revealed oil deposits within a 200 mile oil exploration zone around the islands and exploratory drilling is under way. The British military presence provides a sizeable economic boost.
Tourism is being actively encouraged and increasing rapidly with about 66,000 visitors in 2009; a large part of the increase is from visiting cruise liners. The majority of visitors are from the UK but efforts are being made to encourage wildlife and adventure tourism. The main season is November to March but angling for sea trout is most favourable outside of this period.
Flora and faunaThe most popular reason to visit is for the scenic beauty and the flora and fauna. Conservation is high on the islands' agenda. Bird and marine species are the most prevalent fauna and include five species of penguin, four species of seal, albatross, petrels, the Falkland flightless steamer duck (logger duck), other duck species, geese, hawks and falcons. The striated caracara (johnny rook) is a rare bird of prey found only on the Falkland Islands and some islands off Cape Horn. Porpoises and dolphins are often sighted with the occasional sighting of whales.
The terrain is rocky and hilly, with some boggy terrain. Peat is found throughout the islands, leading to potentially dangerous fire conditions; once ignited, a peat fire can burn for months. The deeply indented coast provides good natural harbours. The highest point in the islands is the 705 m Mount Usbourne.
ClimateStrong westerly winds are a constant in many parts of the islands. It is more likely to rain in the southeastern part of the islands with the far western islands getting very little yearly precipitation. Temperatures are cool and snow may occur at any time except for January and February, although accumulation is rare. Most visitors come to the islands between November and March.
The Falklands is a victim of the Antarctic ozone hole, so it is important to wear sunscreen on sunny days during the early summer.
- HM the Queen's Birthday, 21 April
- Liberation Day, 14 June (1982)
- Battle Day, 8 December
- Falkland Islands Tourism. Jetty Visitor Centre, Stanley, Falkland Islands, Tel: +500 22215, Fax: +500 22619,
Visa requirementsWith the exception of those arriving by cruise ship who will not be spending a night on land, all visitors to the Falklands must show that they have a return ticket, accommodation and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the islands. A major credit card will be accepted as proof of funds. A departure tax of £22 is charged when leaving the territory from Mount Pleasant airport.
- Visitors arriving on board a cruise ship and do not spend a night in the islands.
- Visitors who hold a passport from the following countries: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City.
- Visitors who have a passport or international travel document issued by the Red Cross or United Nations.
Mount Pleasant AirportMost international flights arrive here, which is also a military base. The only international carriers to use this airport are LATAM on a weekly flight from Santiago de Chile via Punta Arenas (Chile), Rio Gallegos (Argentina) (monthly) and the UK Royal Air Force who carry commercial passengers direct from RAF Brize Norton (), Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom. Flights from the UK lasted eighteen hours including a stop on Ascension Island en route. This connection has been disrupted by infrastructure problems on Ascension Island, which is expected to be without regular flights until at least 2019 because of potholes on the only runway. The RAF contracts two flights per week which are subject to military priorities. For tickets, you should call the Falklands Island Government Office in London at +44 207 222 2542.
There is also an airport in (PSY) but it has a smaller runway and is used primarily for flights within the Falklands.
It is expensive to get off the islands and a return flight to Santiago (the nearest airport interchange hub) costs approximately £800 per person and is a 7-hour flight. It costs £1600 for a return ticket to the UK if you are eligible for discount (you need to be a Falkland Islands Government employee) otherwise it costs £2100. Veterans of the 1982 conflict and widows of those killed can get a very generous discount on RAF flights, with tickets costing as little as £150. However, passengers flying with this "indulgence" have the lowest priority on place allocations; serving military personnel, islanders and fully paying customers (in that order) have higher priority on seat allocation, which is often only definitive on the day of departure.
The Mount Pleasant airport is 56 km (35 miles) from Stanley. Falkland Island Tours & Travel (Tel: 21775, ) operates a shuttle bus that meets all flights and that can take visitors to and from the capital for £15 per person (one-way). Taxis also take passengers to and from the airport - these must be booked.
By shipLarge cruise ships stop at Stanley's port throughout the island's summer months (October - April). These boats may also stop at some of the outlying islands. While cruise ships can dock at Stanley you should be prepared to come ashore on a zodiac (also called a rigid inflatable boat - RIB) when landing on most other islands. It is also typical for expedition ships en route to Antarctica to include a stop at the Falkland Islands in their itinerary.
FIGAS flights leave twice daily from the airstrip just outside of Stanley and travel to a variety of locations throughout the islands. There is a baggage limit of 20 kg per person which is strictly enforced; you and your baggage will be weighed prior to boarding in Stanley. There is an additional charge of £1 per kg, space permitting. Unless the plane is flying to an island with a very poor landing strip there are almost never weight constraints that would prevent travelling with a few extra kilos of baggage.
Reservations are required for travel and should be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Booking reservations can be done either by calling the airport (Tel: 27219), emailing or visiting the airport in person when it is open (hours vary depending on flight schedules but mid-morning is usually a good time). Flight schedules, including the names of passengers booked on each flight, are announced the night before departure on Falklands Radio, and are also available via a fax service. Most lodges will post the schedule as soon as it is announced.
Flights can be paid for in cash or with credit card. Fares vary by destination but sample fares (one-way) from November 2009 were:
- Stanley to Sea Lion Island: £59.46
- Stanley to Port Howard: £58.75
- Saunders Island to Pebble Island: £25.38
- Pebble Island to Stanley: £64.43
By boatWhile it is possible to get around the Falklands by boat, as of March 2010 there was no regular service available to tourists travelling in small groups to the outer islands; (contrary to reports in guide books, the Golden Fleece does not taxi passengers around the islands). For large groups it may be possible to charter a boat in advance thus providing a great way to visit some of the less-travelled islands. Per-passenger landing fees are charged on many of the islands; contact the island's owner before visiting.
However there is a regular passenger ferry between New Haven, 2 hours car journey from Stanley to Port Howard. Ferry tickets must be booked in advance from Workboat Services on 22300. As of December 2008 example prices were:
Foot passage single £10; Car passage single £25.
Large cruise ships are the most common means for people to visit the Falklands, and most will make several landings at various islands. Note that aside from Stanley all landings from cruise ships are done using zodiacs (small inflatable boats), and in many cases the lack of docking areas will require a quick wade from the zodiac onto shore.
Within Stanley there are two taxi services that can be hired for travel throughout the town and surrounding areas, including the Mount Pleasant airport.
===By Land Rover===
Land Rover rental may be possible from Stanley. Contact either the Falkland Islands Company or Stanley Services () for information. Roads in Stanley are paved, but elsewhere road conditions range from well-maintained dirt roads to boggy mud streams. Unless your travels specifically require having your own vehicle, renting a Land Rover is neither necessary nor a particularly good idea.
Knowledge of Spanish as a foreign language is fairly widespread, as it is a compulsory subject in school, being the lingua franca in much of continental South America. For political reasons, European Spanish as prescribed by the Real Academia in Madrid is taught, rather than a South American variety of the language. There is a very small population of native hispanophones in the islands, including some Argentinians, and the language is also present in some place names.
- Museum - The Museum is situated on Holdfast Road.
The official Falklands currency is the Falkland pound (FKP) whose value is set equivalent to that of one British pound (GBP).
Money can be exchanged at the only bank in the islands which is located in Stanley across from the FIC West store. British pounds will generally be accepted anywhere in the islands and within Stanley credit cards and United States dollars are also often accepted. On the outlying islands credit cards will probably not be accepted, although British and United States currency may be taken; check with the owners in advance to determine what is an acceptable payment method.
It is nearly impossible to exchange Falklands currency outside of the islands, so be sure to exchange all money prior to leaving the islands.
It is difficult to find fresh fruit and vegetables, and they are generally very expensive. A banana will cost £1 and a small orange or one single plum will cost 90p. Cabbage and cauliflower costs around £4.50 for half a portion. Half a portion of lettuce costs around £3.50 and a small cucumber costs £4. Tomatoes for some reason are very expensive, if you buy 2 small tomatoes that will set you back £2.50! There is no fresh milk available and all milk is UHT/long life milk. The only fresh meat on sale in the supermarket is mutton. A frozen chicken costs around £12 for a 2kg bird.
Local specialities include diddle-dee jam, made from red crowberry or diddle-dee (empetrum rubrum), which grow wild on the heaths. If you can stomach the bizarre, translucent appearance, boiled penguin eggs are a delicacy available in the fancier hotels.
While most items in the Falklands are expensive due to the cost of importing, there are no taxes on alcohol making beer prices fairly reasonable. Pubs and lodges offer a wide selection, although most drinks will usually come from a can or bottle rather than a tap.
Accommodation in Stanley includes numerous bed and breakfasts as well as a handful of hotels. Buildings are generally older and the warm hospitality also seems to come from a bygone age. While in camp lodging includes everything from old farmhouses to lodges built specifically for tourism. Camping may be permitted with permission of the landowner. Many places are self-catering meaning supplies will need to be purchased in either Stanley or from a local source, if one is available. When in camp it is essential that lodging be reserved in advance; in Stanley it is generally possible to find lodging without a reservation but it is still recommended that reservations be made.
Like everything in the Falklands, living expenses will be very high. Kerosene (the only form of heating available to most housing here) costs £200 to £300 or more per month to heat a small 3 bed house. The internet is very expensive and it costs around £80 per month for a limited data package of 4GB per month. Overall the cost of living is at least 3 times higher than the UK.
Unexploded ordnance from the 1982 conflict, including land mines, are still found in the islands. No civilians have been harmed by landmines since the conflict ended, and the remaining minefields are all well marked and clearly cordoned off. It is a criminal offence to enter a minefield or to remove minefield signage.
Many animals in the islands can be dangerous when cornered or with young. Elephant seals, sea lions and fur seals are probably the most dangerous; keep a safe distance when viewing these animals. A general rule is that if the animal seems to notice your presence, you are too close. In the long pampas grass on beaches or dunes, it is entirely possible to come across even huge animals without noticing them until you're practically tripping over their bodies, so do take care! Nesting birds, particularly terns and skuas, are quite aggressive when you get too close to their nesting sites, and will mob, scratch and even peck you until you leave their territory. Johnny rooks (striated caracaras) are fearless around humans, unafraid to get very close, and have an unsettling habit of following walkers for miles as though waiting for you to fall into their trap; however they are not dangerous, but are interesting and characterful birds to observe.
The Falklands, being at a far southern latitude, may be affected by the Antarctic ozone hole from August until December. During this time be sure to wear sunscreen on sunny days, as the risk of sunburn is increased significantly. During other months of the year the ozone hole shrinks and the danger from the sun is not significantly greater than anywhere else on the planet. However, it is wise to wear sunscreen as the burning effect of the sun is often under-estimated by visitors to the islands.
There are no special medical requirements for visiting the Falklands. There is a large hospital in Stanley, but outside of the capital there are no medical facilities. For serious injuries, the costs of being airlifted out of the islands are very high. Your travel insurance must cover the costs of medical evacuation.
Tap water is safe to drink.
Among some residents there is still a mistrust of Argentines stemming from the 1982 conflict between the UK and Argentina. You should never refer to the islands as Argentine. In a 2013 referendum, 99.8% of the turnout voted to remain British, and many residents were there during the 1982 war. This should give you a good idea of how likely you are to cause offence, as calling the islands Argentine is virtually guaranteed to irritate and potentially start a fight.
In addition to the above concerns, there exists a Country Code that should be followed by visitors to the islands:
- Always ask permission before entering private land.
- Keep to paths wherever possible. Leave gates open or shut as you found them.
- Be aware of the high fire risk throughout the Islands. Be extremely careful when smoking not to start fires. Take cigarette butts away with you.
- Do not litter; take your rubbish home with you.
- Do not disfigure rocks or buildings.
- Do not touch, handle, injure or kill any wild bird or other wild animal.
- Never feed any wild animals.
- Always give animals the right of way. Remember not to block the routes of sea birds and seals coming ashore to their colonies.
- Try to prevent any undue disturbance to wild animals. Stay on the outside of bird and seal colonies. Remain at least six metres away. When taking photographs or filming stay low to the ground. Move slowly and quietly. Do not startle or chase wildlife from resting or breeding areas.
- Some plants are protected and should not be picked.
- Whalebones, skulls, eggs or other such items may not be exported from the Falklands.
The country code for dialling the Falklands is +500.
The local phone company, Cable & Wireless, sells phone cards which can be used throughout the territory but international calls cost £0.90 per minute. Broadband internet access now exists island-wide although speeds are much closer to dialup, 56 Kbps or less. Several hotels, as well as the visitor centre offer computers that accept Cable & Wireless internet cards and there are an increasing number of Wi-Fi hotspots. Both phone and internet cards can be purchased from the Cable & Wireless office in Stanley (located on the hill past the War Memorial), as well as in some of the stores in town. The larger lodges will also sell phone cards and may have internet cards. More recently a GSM cell phone network has been made available but works only for Stanley, Mount Pleasant and a few other locations on East Falkland.
The postal service in the Falklands is reliable and letters can be mailed easily from Stanley and most settlements. The main post office is located in Stanley town centre across from the FIC West store.