If you love the outdoors and adventure, travelling to Svalbard may be one of the most fun things you can do. From taking in the majestic views to exploring glaciers and fjords, there’s plenty to keep your adrenaline pumping. And with this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about visiting this amazing destination, from where to stay and how to prepare for your trip to how much it costs and what documents you’ll need to bring along with you.
What’s the best season to travel to Svalbard?
There is no better time to visit Svalbard than during the summer when wildlife holidays are available. As well as experiencing the midnight sun between 19 April and 23 August, which provides unrestricted time to observe the fauna and flora of Spitsbergen, small ships can navigate around the archipelago around Spitsbergen and other islands that make up the archipelago because of the break-up of sea ice.
The winter is cold and dark, but that’s when most people choose to visit. The sun doesn’t appear for several months, and temperatures are well below freezing. During these months, you’ll have no choice but to bundle up in layers of clothes, stay inside as much as possible and try to get on with your normal routine. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days for your body to adjust to its new surroundings: we’re not used to such cold climates!
However, once you adjust it can become quite enjoyable; even better than summer because there aren’t many tourists and many hotels offer discounts. Plus, there’s some good skiing if you happen to be a skier/snowboarder.
Is it safe to travel there solo?
The short answer is yes, it’s perfectly safe to travel there solo. It is a sparsely populated country, and you’re unlikely to run into anyone. However, I’d still recommend doing some research about what areas you’ll be travelling in and making sure that your chosen route isn’t too off-the-beaten-path or remote. You should also consider investing in a survival bracelet as well just in case of emergency.
Additionally, if you’re flying from any other part of Europe over to Longyearbyen, make sure you are aware of all restrictions on liquids so that nothing accidentally gets left behind at security upon your arrival there. And finally (and perhaps most importantly), try not to show up with more money than sense; remember that virtually everything is extremely expensive there!
What is the weather like in Svalbard?
Despite being considered part of Norway, it’s actually more comparable to its neighbours to the north. According to Wikipedia, Svalbard has an Arctic climate in spite of its northerly latitude due to the warm North Atlantic Current. The Gulf Stream brings warm water from lower latitudes and keeps ice away for most of the summer.
Additionally, it’s relatively common for a hurricane-like storm (with rainfall!) called a ‘föhn’ to come roaring through. When this happens, you’ll be living in a heat wave for about 24 hours before temperatures return to normal. Be prepared with clothes appropriate for cold weather and pack some warm socks!
Do I need a visa?
Since you’re travelling to a part of Norway, which is in the Schengen Area, you’ll need an onward/return ticket and proof of accommodation. If you have these two items, then it’s possible that your visa might not be necessary for travel. It’s up to authorities whether or not they’ll check your documentation, so make sure you check with them beforehand!
When arriving in Longyearbyen on an international flight from Oslo or Tromsø (the other two major airports), however, everyone must have a valid visa as soon as they step off their plane!
Is English widely spoken in Norway?
All Norwegians speak English well, and most of them are bilingual (Norwegian and English). Remember that there is a big difference between written and spoken English, so check out some lessons to polish your language skills before you go. Nevertheless, if you cannot find anyone who speaks English in a store or restaurant, don’t hesitate to use any of these phrases: Jeg snakker litt Norsk. Kan jeg få hjelp? (I speak a little Norwegian.
How long will it take me to reach Svalbard?
While there is a commercial airport in Longyearbyen, you can get to Svalbard via plane, boat, or even snowmobile. Air travel takes between 10 and 15 hours, depending on your departure point. If you’re flying direct from Copenhagen, you’ll be in for a treat: Svalbard lies just south of Norway and within range of most large European cities.
Greenlandair flies between most major European cities and Longyearbyen, including Amsterdam, Helsinki, Oslo, Paris, and Stockholm. Check out their website to book flights.
Is there internet on Svalbard?
Yes, there is internet access available in all settlements. However, it’s not very fast and quite expensive. You can also access some parts of Facebook (it works at Longyearbyen airport!). The rest of the social media sites are not accessible on Svalbard, and you will have to wait until you get back home.
Where should I stay?: There are hotels on the main islands of Svalbard, but the more adventurous travellers might prefer to stay at a homestay with one of the locals. There are also many opportunities for camping or exploring the area during the day before sleeping outside in your tent by night. Bring warm clothes!
What should I bring with me when I travel to Norway?
Bring enough warm clothes to keep you comfortable. In fact, bring more than you think you will need! Norway is known for being cold and snowy. You can expect temperatures in the winter months to be about 10 degrees lower than what you’re used to during that time of year. During the summer months, it’s usually around 50 degrees.
Make sure to pack appropriate clothing at all times. If you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, dress in layers so you can adjust according to the temperature. Dress for safety, too: make sure your shoes are sturdy and have traction, so you don’t slip on ice or snow.
Do I need insurance for my trip to Svalbard?
Check your existing insurance policies to see if you are covered for travel. Check with a travel agent to make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered by your policy before deciding if it’s necessary to purchase additional coverage. You might find that your health insurance covers you while travelling or that there is no need for extra coverage if you will be visiting family.
Make sure to contact your health care provider before leaving on a trip; some plans do not cover out-of-country trips without a prior authorization form filled out. Before deciding, please talk with your health care provider and make sure they know where you are going and when you plan on returning.
The best way to get to Svalbard is on a charter flight, though it’s also possible to take a cruise ship. Most cruise ships will only travel as far north as Tromsø, but some adventurous travellers are interested in booking a small expedition-style vessel that will venture even further north. There are no roads and few settlements in Svalbard, so charter flights or cruises remain your best options for getting around. If you’re planning to travel by boat, be sure you have an all-weather suit with you the weather can change rapidly, especially when it’s time for winter.