Svalbard Travel Info
What to Wear
During the months you’ll be visiting Svalbard, July - September, the mean temperature is +5 C. Due to the wind chill factor, and when travelling to the eastern part of the archipelago, you can experience temperatures a few degrees below zero. There is normally very little rain in Svalbard, which is considered a semi-desert. When going ashore on the Zodiacs, make sure to wear waterproof jacket/trousers and Wellington boots. Below you will find some instructions on how to dress in polar climates, please also refer to the comprehensive packing information available in your journey essentials document post-booking.
A Few Words on How to Dress in Polar Regions
The key is to dress in three or more layers, which get rid of perspiration, insulate you from the cold and protect you from the wind. The layering method also allows you to easily adjust your clothing when the weather and temperatures change.
The Inner Layer
Clothing next to your skin must get rid of perspiration from your body to keep you dry and warm. This layer should be close to your body and should therefore not be too loose, but quite tight. Good materials for this first layer are wool or synthetic ones such as polypropylene. Cotton should never be worn close to the body, or preferably not at all.
The Middle Layer (or layers)
This layer provides insulation and retains body heat without restricting movement. Suitable materials for this layer are polar fleece or wool. This will help you control your body temperature, and on a cold day we recommend two or more middle layers. It is better to wear several thin layers than one thick layer.
The Outer Layer
The main function of this layer is to offer protection against the wind and water, but also to let out excess body heat. Therefore it is good to have a breathable material here such as Gore-Tex. Impregnated cotton materials are not recommended. On cold days you may need extra insulation.
Your mum was right! 80% of your body heat is lost through your head. Your head is like the body’s funnel, and you should always wear a hat. The same principle applies here – preferred materials are synthetic fibre or wool, preferably wind-poof.
Hands & Feet
These parts of your body are extra sensitive. It is important to keep hands and feet dry and warm! The same layering method applies here. Use inner gloves made of synthetic fi bre, silk or wool and cover with a wind/waterproof mitten. Mittens are much warmer than gloves! Please remember to bring an extra pair of mittens. You should wear inner socks of synthetic fibre and cover with layers of wool or synthetic socks. A pair of solid Wellington boots are the secret weapon when going ashore on the Zodiacs. It is also wise to bring wool insoles.
Upon arrival in Longyearbyen, you will be met by our local representative and transferred to your hotel. We have provided local contact details in the accompanying information but if you have any problems please call our 24-hour UK telephone number on +44 (0)7887 637 628.
Expedition ships vary, however we only use the most intimate and comfortable. They will rarely be overly luxurious, but they are exactly what you need to explore the most remote regions of the north. Ice-strengthened and kept small so they can explore the places the bigger ships can't reach.
This will depend on your chosen expedition ship. There will not usually be laundry facilities on-board.
One of the main focuses of your expedition is the wildlife. The north is harsh and the summer’s brief. These brief summers happen to be the only time the animals can reproduce and prepare for the long winters, and coincides with peak visiting season. Make sure you always watch your step and keep to established paths whenever possible, don’t startle the wildlife and avoid trampling on plants. Always listen to your guide and stay with the group. This is for your safety. We also ask that you do not collect natural souvenirs or litter, you must also ensure that you don’t reintroduce any new species by ensuring your boots are washed and there are no seeds in packaging or clothing etc.
Food & Water
You meals will be provided for you on board your expedition ship. Food will usually come second to wildlife sightings, so if there is something especially amazing that needs to be explored, you will usually do that first. If you have any dietary requirements or allergies please do let us know well in advance of travel so your requirements can be catered for.
Each expedition ship has a different means of communication. Some have satellite phones, others will provide you with your own email address on board so you can stay in touch with loved ones. We will send you the details of your specific ship prior to your departure.
Svalbard is 1 hour (+1) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Hours of daylight in Svalbard vary to the extreme depending on the time of year. Svalbard is in ‘polar night’ from October 28th to February 14th with the darkness peaking from November 14th to January 29th. It is then ‘polar day’ between April 19th and August 23rd. During this time the sun does not go below the horizon – known as the ‘midnight sun’.
The electricity supply varies between ships and you will be sent specific details prior to your departure.
The local currency in Svalbard is the ‘Norwegian Krone’ (kr). One Norwegian Krone is divided into 100 øre. Notes are in denominations of 50 kr, 100 kr, 200 kr, 500 kr and 1000 kr. Coins are in denominations of 50 øre, 1 kr, 5 kr, 10 kr and 20 kr.
The currency used will vary depending on which ship your expedition is on, details will be sent to you prior to departure. Tipping is discretionary throughout your trip, a rough guideline is about 10-15US$ per passenger per day. The money is collected by the Ship Manager at the end of the voyage and distributed amongst the crew and expedition staff.
We recommend that you change your money upon arrival or at home before departing, it is more difficult to change money whilst travelling.
Bank timings in Svalbard are usually from 0900 hrs to 1600 hrs Monday – Thursday, 0900 hrs to 1700 hrs on Friday and 0900 hrs to 1200 hrs on Saturday. Be aware that you are in remote areas for most of the trip and will not be able to access these.
Never keep all of your cash in the same place, keep it in different pockets and split it up between different bags.
There is an ATM in Longyearbyen, however do not rely on this as it can often break down. There are ATMs available in airports on your way to Svalbard; it is easy to use these if you are using a credit card on one of the major networks, such as Cirrus. Using the ATMs or getting your money changed in your home country is more convenient than bringing foreign currency or travellers cheques to be exchanged.
It is a good idea to bring cash or a credit card as back up. Most major credit and debit cards, such as Visa / Mastercard are accepted by hotels – however cash is preferred in supermarkets and shops. On all ships, credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Amex) are often accepted. You will be sent further details prior to your departure.
Visas & Embassy Contact Details
Foreign Citizens do not need a visa to enter Svalbard as tourists, however you may need a visa for transit through Norway; this is called a Schengen Visa. Countries that have visa exemption agreements with Norway can stay for up to 90 days without one, however, those from countries not on the list will need to apply for one. Please take a look at the list on the following link for more information and check with your relevant Embassy (USA and UK details are below).
In the UK the Norwegian Embassy is located at 25 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QD
Telephone: 0207 591 5500
Open Monday – Friday 9am to 4pm
In the USA the Norwegian Embassy is located at 2720 34th Street NW, Washington, D.C 20008
Telephone: (202) 333 6000
Open Monday – Friday 9am to 4pm
SafetyAll of our local operators conform to local safety regulations. If you at any time feel that this is not the case please do not hesitate to contact us.
Know Before You Go is an ongoing campaign from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help Brits stay safe abroad, however in our opinion it has useful information for all nationalities. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
- Get adequate travel insurance
- Check the FCO’s country travel advise
- Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
- Check your passport is in good condition and valid, and you have all necessary visas
- Make copies of important documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site
- Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
- Take enough money and have access to emergency funds
We suggest that you go to the Foreign Commonwealth & Office website to get up to date information on your specific destination and important travel tips before you travel.
See the Travel Aware section for relevant and important travel tips to plan your trip abroad.
Svalbard is generally a very safe place for tourists to travel in and incidents are extremely rare, but common sense precautions need to be taken as with any destination abroad. We would recommend taking taxis when travelling at night and not flashing expensive photographic equipment and jewellery around. Do not flaunt money and always use safes when provided at hotels/lodges. Expedition ships will sometimes conduct an 'open door' policy. If in doubt please ask your guide.
For latest travel advice please contact us, at our UK office, or alternatively use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Health & Medical
Always seek medical advice before travelling; please consult your GP or Doctor who will be able to advise you on required vaccinations and anti-malarial prophylaxis.
In the UK we recommended visiting the ‘Fit for Travel’ website.
In the USA we suggest consulting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) - http://www.cdc.gov/
Please bring any personal medication required. You will not be able to obtain any medical supplies while you are on tour, so make sure you bring supplies of any prescription/over the counter drugs you take on a regular basis. Make sure any medications are in the original, labelled packaging. There is a small hospital in Longyearbyen for emergencies so it might be possible to obtain some non-prescription drugs there.
Medical services are not readily available. It is essential you have appropriate travel insurance with adequate medical cover, air repatriation with a 24-hour contact telephone number for emergencies. Securing the necessary travel insurance for your safari is your own responsibility.
It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour.
Proof of the following items of insurance is required on booking; cancellation or curtailment of your trip, medical expenses, repatriation, loss of luggage, personal injury, adventure activities such as white-water rafting, tracking wild animals, theft of personal belongings.
Please report any theft, trip disruption immediately to your guide during your trip and also in writing to Natural World Safaris immediately on return to your home country.
Many ships will not allow smoking aboard.
You international flight will need to arrive in Longyearbyen and will usually change in Oslo, Norway. Upon arrival in ongyearbyen you will be met and transferred to your expedition ship. You may need to stay at night on either side of your safari in Longyearbyen.
Svalbard is situated in the high Arctic, but has a relatively warm climate compared with areas of similar latitude, with an average day temperature of 6 ºC in the summer, going down to -14 º in winter. There is very little rain and thick ice and snow cover the archipelago in the winter. However, in the summer months the ice loses grip and the harsh coast become possible to navigate by boat and you discover the beauty of the midnight sun. Bear in mind that weather conditions can change very quickly in Svalbard.
Please refrain from photography of military personnel, military installations and airports. Always ask for permission when taking photos of local people or alternatively ask your guide for advice. Please bring extra batteries as it may not always be possible to re-charge them at the lodges. In addition it might be useful to bring a car charger (cigarette lighter variety). For photographing wildlife a zoom lens of 300mm or more is highly recommended.
Ensure you check all your equipment before departure and bring extra batteries with you. We recommend you bring twice as many memory cards as you think you’ll need. Bring a tripod, however we also recommend bringing a bean bad for steadier shots on-board your expedition ship.
Charitable Giving & Community Projects
We recommend as part of our responsible travel policy that you do not give money or gifts directly to local people. We have links with local projects/schools that would appreciate your support. Please ask your guide for further details. If you would like to contribute to these donations of clothing, pens and pencils are greatly appreciated.
When you buy an ATOL protected flight or flight inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists the flight, accommodation, car hire and/or other services that are financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong. Company Name: Natural World Safaris Ltd. ATOL Number 9826. For more information please visit their website: www.atol.org.uk.
As a member of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), Natural World Safaris Ltd has provided a bond to meet the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
In the event of insolvency, protection is provided for non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK and other non-flight packages excluding pre arranged travel to and from your destination. Please note that packages booked outside the UK are only protected when purchased directly with Natural World Safaris Ltd.
In the above circumstances, if you have not yet travelled you may claim a refund, or if you have already travelled, you may claim repatriation to the starting point of your non-flight package.
The ABTOT number is 5127.