Visiting Svalbard – tips, tricks and suggestions

Visiting Svalbard – tips, tricks and suggestions

Svalbard, the ultimate arctic diamond, worthy of visiting in every season and incredibly full of activities, is not exactly known to be a budget destination. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Despite that factor, it is extremely rewarding to visit it and all boils down to your priorities and preferences when it comes to planning the trip.

The main expenses are: traveling to Svalbard, booking the place you’ll stay at, activities you want to do and food which will give you the fuel while visiting it. Let me break them all down for you.

Coming to Svalbard

There are several ways to reach Svalbard and its “capital”, the main settlement, Longyearbyen. Besides coming on one of the cruise ships which were very popular in pre-covid times, flying to Svalbard seems to be the easiest and by far the cheapest option. SAS and Norwegian airlines offer regular flights to and from Svalbard and if you book them early enough, you can significantly save money. The cheapest ticket from Oslo for a round trip was 1 000 NOK with Norwegian airways. The flight duration from Oslo to Longyearbyen is approx 3-4 hours, and count on layover in Tromsø and probably Oslo if you are coming from another country (I just checked using Zagreb, Croatia as an example – there are 3 layovers – Copenhagen, Oslo and Tromsø during 29 hours of traveling).

Pro tip: when traveling there, book an F seat, in order to have an outstanding view of the mountains and glaciers. :)

Booking a room in Svalbard

The expense which probably leaves the deepest dent in your wallet will be paying for a room in a hotel. The prices range from those considered to be kinda affordable to those who are truly hefty pricey. Using a random week just to get the reference for prices showed me today a wide range, from 5 000 NOK to 38 000 NOK for 6 overnights (500 eur to 3 800 eur).

I personally couldn’t care less about the luxurious rooms and offering me any stuff such as saunas/massage/spas is an absolute waste of time, due to the fact that I am a true spartan type. I prefer to have my trips simplified and extremely and exclusively outside oriented; I have no intention to spend any time in the room besides while sleeping and showering. Very often I leave the room at 5 AM and return at 9 PM. I will probably have the most of my breakfast on the mountain or a lunch in a restaurant when I return, as I do not even think about fancy restaurants or anything similar. This is why I always book literally the cheapest room available at least 6 months before the trip, and will show you that Gjestehuset 102 is probably the cheapest option (the one which showed 5 000 NOK for a week).

Pro tip: book the room directly with the hotel/hostel instead of the aggregator sites such as (this way all the money goes to the hotel/hostel and they do not pay provisions to anyone).

Exploring Svalbard

My general plan is always to save the money on the room and redirect the fund entirely to the activities outside. Luckily for us, there are many of them in Svalbard, and not one single of them I could consider to be a waste of time or money. Svalbard is the perfect playground for nature lovers.

There are literal hundreds of guides which cover countless outdoors activities, spread evenly throughout the year in this incredible place. Boat tours, dog sledding, whale spotting, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking and mountaineering, visiting Russian settlements frozen in time, visiting glaciers, observing wildlife, going on fossil tours, fishing, photo tours, multi day expeditions by foot/snow scooter/kayak… I cannot imagine being bored here. I also loved having interaction with guides because they are very talkative, knowledgeable and have amazing stories from the wilderness. These activities are not cheap, at least most of them, but they are more than worth their money.

Not everyone is happy because the activities need to be paid for, even the smaller ones like hikes in the vicinity of Longyearbyen. You are paying for a guide who knows the safest paths and is armed with a rifle, as there is a constant danger of polar bears. They are skilled, trained and certified to guide you in activities and know how to behave in crisis, if it arrives. It is not allowed to go alone/without a rifle outside the so-called Pink zone. This means that you are not allowed, f ex, to go by foot from the airport to the city center. I saw people walking on their own without guns and I cannot preach to them about that, but in the end it boils down to their own responsibility. If any incident does happen, you have only yourself to blame.

Food selection in Svalbard

Many people assume that Svalbard is a barely civilized raw northern settlement in which the polar bears sleep in front of the houses and the food options are limited to fishing through holes on ice. That is far from the truth. The city offers a range of designer jewelry and artisanal shops, so it seems to be logical to have nice and high quality restaurants available which offer excellent meals. The prices are not much more expensive than those in norwegian mainland in their own respective categories. I did try several restaurants, found a nice burger place and an excellent sushi and ramen restaurant, but my personal goal was to eat outside, as much as I can. I rely heavily on DryTech’s Turmat when it comes to that – I prefer to sit on a stone while devouring their incredibly tasty meals.

I saw that some tourists are cooking their meals in the hostel. Due to the fact that the food at the supermarket is more expensive than the one on the norwegian mainland, and the restaurant meal has decent prices for the meals they offer, I see no point in cooking there (and I am one of those who are both thrifty and love cooking).

Also, in order to spend as much as possible time outside, my entire day’s schedule revolves around tours, excursions and exploring the area, and redirecting time to making meals looks like a huge waste of the most important resource you have while in Svalbard – time. Don’t waste it, use every possible minute to the maximum, you won’t regret it.