Tips for Visiting Svalbard, Norway

My mom’s planning an upcoming trip to Svalbard with a friend, and I’m so excited for them! She had a bunch of questions about advice for traveling to Svalbard. As I’m typing up my suggestions for them, I realized I should also post them on here to share them with you all. Here are some tips for visiting Svalbard.

General Info

Svalbard is famous for being one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas. When people talk about visiting Svalbard, they probably mean Spitsbergen – the largest, and only permanently populated, island of Svalbard. Fun fact: there are about 3000 polar bears in Svalbard, outnumbering the human population of 2,600!

Location: Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole

Yep, it’s the place outlined in red wayyyyy up there

Currency: Norwegian krone ($1 USD = 8.4 krone)

Visa: Visa-free!

Getting there: You’ll have to fly into their only international airport in Longyearbyen. There are flights from Oslo and Tromso in Norway. Flight times: 4 hours from Oslo and less than 2 hours from Tromso.

Cost: Expensive. Given it’s incredibly remote location, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Stay in Longyearbyen

This is the main town. It’s super tiny, and you can walk everywhere. You won’t need to worry about transportation – a bus will take you from the airport to your hotel (for a reasonable fee).

Pack Layers

It is very cold all year round in Svalbard. If you don’t want to bring a bunch of bulky winter gear, you definitely need some layers to  keep you warm. You won’t have much fun if you’re freezing your butt off.

Grocery Shop

To save money on food (and because Svalbard isn’t exactly known for their top-notch cuisine), stock up at the local grocery store. Their prices aren’t bad, since there is no value-added tax.

Plan a Tour

Tours are the main attraction of Svalbard. Book a tour in advance and get out in nature! Some favorites include dog sledding (snow in winter, on wheels in summer), hiking, skiing, and the glacier boat tour.

Understand the Seasons

It’s important to understand the climate of Svalbard before you plan your trip. Being in the arctic, they have two distinct seasons:

April – May: Spring

Personally, I think this would be the best time to go. You get the best of both words and can experience both winter and summer activities, like boat trip and dog sledding. By the end of April, you’ll still get to experience the midnight sun (when the sun never sets), and trust me, that’s really cool.

June – August: Summer

This is the warmest time of the year for Svalbard, although it’s still pretty darn cold. Come in the summer if you want to experience the midnight sun, hike, and take boat tours.

November – February: Winter

Cold, perpetual darkness…hey, to each his own. If you’re interested in experiencing the Polar night or seeing the Northern Lights, this would be the time to go.

Visit the Karlsberger Pub

To quote a Google review I just read, “the only time we saw darkness during our trip to Svalbard was inside the Karlsberger pub.” When else will you get the chance to walk out of a bar at 1am and be smacked in the face with bright sunshine? Plus, they have a great selection of whiskey, a really fun bar staff, and a unique environment I don’t think you’ll encounter anywhere else in the world.

Any questions about visiting Svalbard?

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