Frequently asked questions


Below you'll find answers to the questions we get asked most frequently about Svalbard and Longyearbyen.

Is it possible to get to Barentsburg or Pyramiden by car?

No. We only have about 50 km of road in Longyearbyen that can be travelled by car. Barentsburg and Pyramiden can be reached by boat (in the summer) or by snowmobile (in the winter). You can also read “How to get to Barentsburg and Pyramiden”.

Is it true that the polar bears walk around in town?

Polar bears, the king of the Arctic, have been seen in town but is mostly found outside Longyearbyen. The polar bears usually stay close to glaciers and the sea, mostly north and east of Longyearbyen. Nevertheless, we strongly advise that you should be accompanied by a local professional guide when leaving the settlements.

Why am I asked to take off my shoes/boots when I enter hotels, museums etc.?

In earlier days one had to take off shoes and boots when one entered a building to avoid bringing sand and mud mixed with coal dust inside. Several active mines in the proximity to the city center as well as gravel roads make the footwear dirty. Today we do it more as a tradition, than for practical reasons.

Can I climb the mountains around Longyearbyen without a guide?

We advise all our guests to partake in organized trips where a guide maintains your security with regards to the risks of avalanches, mud slides, dangerous paths and polar bears. Also keep in mind that there is a safety distance of 100 meters to cultural heritage (buildings and ruins older than 1946).

Why are the plumbing above ground and not dug into the ground?

The permafrost made it necessary to put the plumbing above ground. Today’s technology makes it possible to put the plumbing in the ground. Parts of the old plumbing was restored a few years ago, and can be seen a few places, for instance in Nybyen.

Why are the houses placed on stilts?

Presently in Svalbard, the permafrost extends approximately 100 meters down into the ground. Building in areas with permafrost can be very challenging. All infrastructure must be placed above ground, and all heated buildings must be placed on stilts so that the heat does not heat the ground further. Basements on houses would be structurally damaged due to the permafrost.

What is the name of the mountain that you look straight at from Longyearbyen city centre?

This mountain is called Hiorthfjellet and it is 926 meter above sea level.

When do you have the best opportunity to see northern lights in Longyearbyen?

Longyearbyen and Svalbard are situated so far north that it is possible to see northern lights both day and night during the Northern Lights Winter. The best opportunity to see northern lights the whole day is during the polar night, from 14th of November to 29th of January. The Northern Lights Winter is the period from 26th of October to the 16th of February. We recommend to join our Northern Lights adventures.

Which activities can I participate in when I use a wheelchair?

All activities that are possible to adapt to wheelchair users are marked with a wheelchair symbol. Please contact the tour operator when booking so that they can give further information.

How come there is a Russian settlement in Barentsburg?

The Russian state-owned mining company Trust Arktikugol bought the settlement Barentsburg from the Dutch in 1932.

What does it really mean, that Svalbard is Norwegian, but still outside of Schengen?

Svalbard is a part of the kingdom of Norway but is outside of the Schengen and EEC. Svalbard was kept outside of the EEC when Norway agreed to the EEC cooperation in 1992. The reason is Norway’s extraordinary judicial responsibilities according to the Svalbard Treaty. The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and its purpose was to remove the border control between the countries and replace it with a strengthened border control in the joint areas outer borders. Norway joined the Schengen Agreement in 1996. As part of the admission policy in the Svalbard Treaty article 3, Svalbard is not included in the agreement about the Schengen cooperation (the right of admission for citizens of countries that have signed the Svalbard Treaty).

This has several practical consequences, among them the lack of showing a visa when coming to Svalbard. If you come from a country that is visa bound for entry to Norway, you must however have a return transit visa because you are most likely to transit through Norwegian mainland on the way to and from Svalbard. As Svalbard is outside of Schengen it also means that there is custom and entry control when travelling from Svalbard to mainland Norway.

Do I need a passport when travelling to Svalbard?

Foreign citizens must bring a passport or a national ID card. Visitors from countries outside of Schengen must also have a transit visa (both ways) to Svalbard since you will transit through Norwegian mainland.
Norwegian citizens can travel to Svalbard with:

- Passport
- National ID card
- Drivers’ license newer than 1998
- Credit card with a photo
- The armed forces’ ID card

For practical reasons Norwegian citizens are advised to bring their passport. You can also read How to travel to Svalbard.

Where can you go hiking without a weapon?

Our general rule is that the city itself is an area where you don’t need polar bear protection. We are then referring to the area where there are houses and human activity. If you walk outside of this area, included up into the mountains, we advise our guests to join organized trips with a guide. The city loop is a nice walk that the people who live here also walk frequently.

Where can I have breakfast?

Several of our hotels offers breakfast to their guests. The cafés in Longyearbyen usually opens at 10am and offer different things to eat.

Where can I have lunch?

In addition to the cafés several of the restaurants opens at 11am or 12 noon.

I am vegetarian and my friend is vegan, will we find food we can eat at the restaurants in Longyearbyen?

The restaurants in Longyearbyen will adjust their menu/meal to your needs, as long as they are informed - preferably in advance, but let them know what you need when you order, and they will find a solution for you. Note that the number of alternatives can be limited due to transport/access issues.

If you have food allergies, which possibilities do you have of finding allergy friendly food in Longyearbyen?

The store, COOP Svalbardbutikken, has a wide selection of gluten free and other allergy friendly food items. Cafees and restaurants will also adapt their menus/meals to your needs. They prefer to be notified in advance, if possible, but if not, let them know when you order and they will do their best to help you.

What is the best time to visit Svalbard?

Svalbard has a lot to offer all through the year. Our different seasons offer unique experiences! You might have to return several times to experience all of Svalbard’s different sides! Please use our activity planner to see what the different seasons can offer of activities.

Where can I find a laundry for washing clothes?

Mary Ann’s polarrigg offers laundry services. You can also buy laundry services at ISS. Some hotels and guesthouses also offer access to a washing machine.

Where can I exchange foreign money/bills to Norwegian kroner?

You will not be able to exchange your foreign money to Norwegian kroner in Svalbard. Many of Longyearbyen’s stores and restaurants will however accept almost any debit or credit card. Most stores will also accept Euro, USD and GBP bills/notes.

Can I pay with foreign money in Longyearbyen?

Most stores will accept Euro, USD and GBP bills/notes. Due to a low exchange rate on cash you are advised to use debit or credit cards. Then you will be credited with today’s rate.

Where can I find the post office?

The post office is situated in the middle of the pedestrian street in Longyearbyen city center.

Where can I mail my post cards?

You will find mail boxes in the post office and at the airport. Several hotels as well as the Tourist Information centre will also accept mailing the post cards for guests.

Where can I store my luggage?

Several hotels offer luggage storage for their guests. There is no special luggage storage in Longyearbyen in addition to this.

Is it possible to fish somewhere in Longyearbyen? Do you need a permit?

You can fish using a fishing rod in Isfjorden and in a few lakes on Spitsbergen if you have a fishing permit from the Governor’s office. The lakes are difficult to reach for visitors, but there a few trips on offer with tour operators that also includes fishing. Fishing from the shore can be hard on Spitsbergen as the fjords have low water levels along the coast.

Where can we rent a rifle and/or a flare gun? Do we need a permit?

You need a permit from the Governor of Svalbard to rent weapons. The stores Longyear78 and Sportscenteret rent out guns. You can also find an overview of rental services in Longyearbyen here.

What are the departure times for the airport shuttle and where does it pick-up/let out passengers?

The airport shuttle services all departures and arrivals from Longyearbyen airport. The airport shuttle stops outside most of the hotels and guesthouses.

Is it possible to walk to the Global Seed Vault?

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is situated outside the city center and in an area where you need polar bear protection. We advise you to participate in an organized trip with a guide that has the necessary safety measures and can tell you more about the seed vault and the area around it.

Which trip can you recommend if I want to see wildlife?

Most wildlife can be spotted on a boat trip. There are several boat trips to choose between through most of the year.

What would be your priority for a weekend trip to Longyearbyen?

There is a lot of different activities in and around Longyearbyen on offer. Trips with dogs (summer and winter), hikessnowmobile tripsboat trips and sightseeing tours (on foot and in bus/taxi). You also have several attractions worth a visit, including a trip to a mine.

Where can I find a public restroom?

Public restrooms can be found in the shopping center Lompensenteret (middle of the pedestrian street). There is also a public restroom at the Port of Longyear.

What does the weather forecast for tomorrow look like?

Local weather forecasts can be found at www.yr.no or www.pent.no. Specific weather stations for Longyearbyen and surrounding areas can also be found on the University of Svalbard (UNIS) website.

Where can I buy a SIM card for my cell phone?

SIM cards can be purchased at COOP Svalbardbutikken (the grocery store) or at Telenor Svalbard’s office.

Does anyone repair cell phones in Longyearbyen?

No companies offer this kind of help, but a few private persons can help with repairs like screen replacements. You can ask for assistance in the Facebook group «Kjøp/salg/bytte/gi bort i Longyearbyen» (a group for buying and selling items in Longyearbyen).

Where can you buy photography/camera equipment in Longyearbyen?

The stores COOP Svalbardbutikken sell some camera equipment. You can also rent camera equipment through Svalbard Camera Rentals.

Is it cheaper to buy trips and tours directly from the tour operators than on www.visitsvalbard.com?

Visit Svalbard’s website sells tours for all their members at the prices that the tour operators state. The same price as they themselves offer on their own web sites.

I want to buy three tours, can I be offered a discount?

If you want to check the possibility of a discount you need to contact each tour operator directly. There is usually no discount if you buy several tours.

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