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Stay safe in Svalbard

Stay safe in Svalbard

We recommend you to read this before you come

Safety in Svalbard

Svalbard’s nature is astonishingly beautiful – but also very unpredictable and full of surprises. 

The climate is rough, the weather can change rapidly, and polar bears can suddenly show up when you least expect them to. These are some of the risks that are ever-present in Svalbard, and which you should be preparred for when travelling in the Arctic wilderness. Good preparations are key in order to minimize these risks and the likelihood of accidents or dangerous situations. Here you will find information on how to safely explore the wilderness in Svalbard, how you can prepare for travelling in the Arctic, and where you can get additional information for your preparations. 

Go organized! 

Go with professional and local tour operators if you want to head into the vast wilderness of Svalbard. The guides are well qualified to take care of your safety, by esteeming the weather conditions, avalanche risk, ice conditions, risks related to polar bears, and a range of other factors that one should keep in mind when travelling in Svalbard. They also bring the required safety equipment, both general and activity-specific equipment when needed, in order to safely lead you through the wilderness. For general safety, guides leading tours outside of the safe zone in Longyearbyen always bring the required equipment for polar bear protection, as well as long range communication systems when travelling outside of areas with phone reception.

You can find information about organised tours and how to book these by clicking here.
Some local tour operators also offer the option to book a private guide. To check if there are available guides for a private tour you should contact the tour operators directly.

If you're travelling in the wilderness on your own; think safety and environmental protection in all your planning and preparations. Here are a few tips:

  • Bring adequate clothing and equipment for the trip. To give some examples, this includes equipment such as wool baselayers, insulating middle layers, a windbreaker, food, hot drink, necessary safety equipment for your trip.

  • Try asking in the local shops selling sports and outdoors equipment in town for further advice on how to dress and equip yourself for the Arctic.

  • Make sure someone knows that you will be out in the wilderness, and when they can expect you to be back from a tour. If you are unable to get back to town safely they will be able to notify rescue and safety services for you. 

  • Check the weather forecast, and keep in mind that the wheather changes rapidly in the Arctic. The weather forecast for Longyearbyen, Svalbard may be found here. Be aware though that there may be considerable variations locally.

  • There is phone reception in Longyearbyen, but once you are outside of the town you will either have very limited reception or no reception at all. Therefore it is highly recommended to bring a satellite phone and a distress beacon if you plan to venture out into the wilderness. You'll be able to rent these at some local shops or through tour operators. 

  • Polar bear protection is required when leaving the settlement. Suitable equipment for polar bear protection includes a flare gun and a rifle or shotgun. (Detailed information regarding firearms can be found at the Governor's webpages by clikcing here) A flare gun and rifle might be rented at several local shops or through some tour operators.

Make sure to familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations regarding where you can go and what you can and cannot do in the wilderness to ensure the caretaking of nature and the protection of cultural heritage. The tourist information and the Governor’s Office might advice you on this. See the Governor's webpages by clicking here for more information.

Read up on the Svalbard Guidelines to get a brief overview of what you should take in consideration before leaving the settlements in Svalbard.

If you are a guest aboard an expedition cruise visiting Svalbard then you can find AECO's expedition cruise-specific visitor guidelines by clicking here.

Longyearbyen Hospital

Longyearbyen Hospital is a public hospital. Since the EEA rules do not apply to Svalbard, the European Health Insurance Card does not apply here. Entries are expensive and must be covered by the patients themselves (not applicable to citizens of the Nordic countries and those covered by the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme). Everyone has to pay deductible for consultation at the hospital. This also applies to citizens of the Nordic countries.

The safe-zone in Longyearbyen

Keep in mind that you should not venture out from the settlements in Svalbard without the proper safety equipment as listed above. In Longyearbyen there is a safe-zone within which you do not have to carry any equipment for polar bear protection. The safe-zone is marked with red on the map below. You can get a free copy of this map in the tourism information office in Longyearbyen.

  1. Svalbard Guidelines
    We recommend you to read these important guidelines before coming to Svalbard.
  2. Sustainable Destination
    Longyearbyen is one of Norway's sustainable destinations.
  3. Polar Bear, King of the Arctic
    The polar bear is one of the world’s largest carnivores. There are around are 3 000 animals in the Svalbard archipelago.
Visit Svalbard Sustainable Destination

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