Golden Autumn on Svalbard - Hurtigruten Svalbard - Photo Eveline Lunde
Hometravel to svalbardFrequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Welcome to our FAQ section, where you can find answers to common questions about Svalbard. Whether you're planning your first visit or returning for another adventure, this guide will provide you with essential information to ensure a smooth and unforgettable trip.

About travelling to Svalbard

How can I travel to Svalbard?

The most common means of transportation is by airplane. If you are travelling from outside Norway, you will have to fly via Oslo. Both SAS and Norwegian offer flights to Longyearbyen from Oslo and/or Tromsø.

With a direct flight from Oslo, the trip takes about 3 hours. The flight time from Tromsø is about 1.5 hours. Some departures from Oslo make a stopover in Tromsø, and then the total travel time will be closer to 4 hours.

You can also choose to travel by boat, by joining Hurtigruten's popular Svalbard Line. Read more about the voyage here

Do I need a visa to enter Svalbard?

You do not need a visa to enter Svalbard. However, if you require a visa to enter Norway or the Schengen area, you will need one when traveling through these regions to reach Svalbard. Ensure you obtain a double-entry visa to re-enter the Schengen area (mainland Norway) after your visit to Svalbard.

Do I need a passport or is a national ID card sufficient?

All visitors to Svalbard (Norwegian citizens as well as international travellers) can present either a passport or a national ID card.

Note that Svalbard is part of the Kingdom of Norway, but is not included in the Schengen area or the European Economic Area (EEA). This means that all passengers must go through customs and immigration when travelling between mainland Norway and Svalbard.

On Svalbard

Do I need to worry about polar bears?

The polar bear is perhaps the most well-known symbol of Svalbard. Here, we are always aware that polar bears may appear unexpectedly. However, you do not need to worry about bears inside of Longyearbyen. 

Warning signs are placed at various locations around Longyearbyen’s city limits. You can walk around freely in town, but once you reach a polar bear sign, you should not go any further. It is essential to carry polar bear protection beyond these signs. This means that everyone travelling outside the settlement must have appropriate deterrents and a firearm – and know how to use them. Visitors should not go beyond the city limits unless accompanied by a local guide with the necessary safety equipment.

The safest way to enjoy Svalbard’s stunning landscapes is by joining organised trips led by experienced guides. Hereyou can explore what activities you can choose from, to experience the magic of Svalbard in a safe and responsible manner.

What is the official language on Svalbard?

The official language on Svalbard is Norwegian. Due to the broad diversity of nationalities among the locals, as well as the tourism, you will have no problem getting around using English.

What currency is used on Svalbard?

The Norwegian Krone (NOK) is used throughout Svalbard.

Should I bring cash, or can I rely on card payments?

As of 2021, there is no bank or ATM located in Longyearbyen. The easiest means of payment is therefore credit cards. Common credit cards are accepted at all hotels, tour operators and shops.

What shops and services are there in Longyearbyen?

There are plenty of outdoor clothing & equipment shops, as well as souvenirs, jewellery, and various items from premium Scandinavian brands. Remember that Svalbard is a tax free zone, so you can find great products at a cheaper price than on mainland Norway!

In addition, you will find a supermarket, pharmacy, hairdresser, post office, church, emergency hospital and dentist, taxi and tourist information. Note that in order to purchase alcohol at the store, you need to show your boarding pass from your flight to Svalbard.

Also note that there is no bank or ATM in Longyearbyen.

How is the mobile coverage on Svalbard?

Svalbard is connected to the regular Norwegian Telenor network on the mainland by a fibre optic cable. This ensures good coverage in Longyearbyen and parts of Isfjorden. Outside of these areas you will generally not have any signal. 

In Longyearbyen the rates are the same as the Norwegian mainland.

Experiences on Svalbard

When can I experience the midnight sun on Svalbard?

The midnight sun shines on Svalbard from approximately April 20 to August 23 each year. During this period, the sun never sets. It stays above the horizon for 24 hours a day, resulting in constant daylight, also during the night.

What are the dates for the polar night?

The polar night on Svalbard occurs from approximately November 11 to January 30 each year. During this period, the sun does not rise above the horizon, resulting in continuous darkness, also during the day.

When is the best time to see the northern lights on Svalbard?

You have the chance to see the northern lights as long as there is solar activity, the skies are clear, and it is dark outside.

During the polar night, from November 11 to January 30, Svalbard is bathed in darkness around the clock. That gives you the unique opportunity to spot the northern lights at any time – even in the middle of the day! Svalbard is actually the only inhabited place on Earth where this is possible.

However, we start getting dark evenings and nights already in the beginning of October, until the beginning of March. Any time in this time period offers a possibility to see the northern lights.

How can I best observe polar bears during my visit?

Seeing a polar bear is high up on the wish list for many visitors. There is always a possibility to see one, anywhere at any time, and that is part of the thrill. However, there is never a guarantee. We cannot stress this enough. Most people do not see a polar bear during their visit, and those who do should consider themselves lucky. You should travel to Svalbard with the mindset that seeing a polar bear is a bonus – not the reason for the visit.

No tour operator searches actively for polar bears. If we were to see one, we keep a respectful distance. This is why it is great to bring binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera.


What is the difference between Svalbard and Spitsbergen?

Svalbard is the official name for the entire archipelago, of which Spitsbergen is the largest island. 

In German, you often see the spelling Spitzbergen. This refers to the entire archipelago, i.e., Svalbard.

What driving licence do I need to drive a snowmobile?

If you hold a driving licence in categories A, A1, B, or T, you are also authorised to drive snowmobiles.

Remember to bring it with you on the tour. The guide will check each passenger's driving licence and will refuse participation if it is not valid in Svalbard and Jan Mayen. No refunds will be given due to an invalid driving licence.

For more information and the latest updates about driving licences, please visit the Governor of Svalbard’s website

Last updated: May 25, 2024