Things to Consider
- The most common route to reach Svalbard is to fly via Oslo, Norway to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen
- Longyearbyen airport is the world’s most northerly airport to receive regular scheduled flights
- Flying time is 3 hours between Oslo and Longyearbyen
- There’s no regular boat service to Svalbard at any time of year
- The only way to arrive by ship is as part of an expedition cruise (9 - 14 days)
Flying to Svalbard
Being a remote archipelago nearly 1,000 km from its nearest neighbour, flying to Svalbard is definitely the most expedient way to get there. In spite of being so far north, regular scheduled flights bookable online means that Svalbard is a lot more accessible and less expensive to get to than many other places on a similar latitude. Useful things to know:
- The only airport on Svalbard is at Longyearbyen, the main administrative town on the largest island of Spitsbergen, which is also the main visitor hub
- All flights to Longyearbyen depart from Norway only. Most flights depart from Oslo and fly to Longyearbyen in 3 hours. There are also direct flights from Tromso
- These scheduled daily flights are operated by Scandinavian (SAS) & Norwegian Airlines and fly throughout the year
- Scandinavian Airlines is the dominant airline with the most number of flights between Norway and Svalbard
- Outside the busy summer months there’s often only one flight arriving and departing Longyearbyen per day
- Flight timings in and out of Longyearbyen can be at awkward times and may require an overnight in Oslo, where there are convenient airport hotels
- Spring and summer are the busiest visitor months on Svalbard and booking flights early is strongly recommended
- Flight prices can vary quite significantly, even between similar dates, so it’s worth checking both airlines websites
Travelling by ship to Svalbard
The first important thing to note if this is something you’re considering is that there is no regular boat or ferry service to Svalbard from anywhere. The distances are considerable even from Norway and a ship would only be able to operate for part of the year once the ice breaks up in the spring. However there is an alternative:
- The only way to reach Svalbard by boat is on board an expedition ship as part of a multi-day cruise
- These trips start from either Norway, Iceland, Scotland or East Greenland
- They are typically 9 - 14 days in duration, depending on the itinerary and start point
- Are available only during the summer months, May-September
- There are only a limited number each season
- Prices vary but start from around USD$6,000 per person in a shared cabin
The big advantage of Spitsbergen is that it’s the most easily accessible place in all the High Arctic, courtesy of regular scheduled flights from Norway.
Flying versus Sailing
For the majority of visitors keen to experience Svalbard’s pristine landscapes, calving glaciers and abundant wildlife, the expediency and reasonably priced flights make the decision to fly there a no-brainer.
However, for those with a little more time, who want to combine Svalbard with another region or simply like the idea of journeying northwards experiencing the transition in habitat and climate, travelling by ship is definitely worth considering.
While cheap international flights have made all corners of the world so much more accessible over the last 30 years, sometimes we forget that the journey can be just as important a part of travel as time in the destination itself.
Trips that arrive by plane
This 11-day Svalbard voyage is a ‘classic’ providing ample time for near guaranteed polar bear sightings, alongside encounters with the region’s other plentiful wildlife and exploring its dramatic scenery. Phippsoya, 14th of July glacier and Hinlopen Strait are all popular…
Trips that arrive by boat
Setting sail from Iceland’s capital, journey northwards across the Arctic Circle via little visited Jan Mayen before arriving in Svalbard where you’ll spend 6 full days exploring. Experience three very distinct islands in a single voyage with optional kayaking for…
Arriving in Svalbard
On arrival visitors will need to go through passport control. While Norwegian authorities do not require a visa for visiting Svalbard, as you will be transiting through Norway, nationals with visa requirements for Norway or the Schengen area will need a valid visa. No visa is required for EU passport holders.
Getting to your hotel
The airport itself is conveniently located only 1.6 miles (3km) to the northwest of Longyearbyen and there are frequent shuttle buses and taxis available to make the 7-10 minute journey.
Shuttle bus: This departs as soon as all arriving passengers have collected their luggage. You can purchase tickets on board, which cost NOK 75 for adults and NOK 25 for children.
Taxis: Approximate costs for guidance: Airport to Spitsbergen Guesthouse NOK 170 (1-4 people) Airport to the town pier NOK 100
Getting around Spitsbergen
There are only around 46 kilometres of road on the Svalbard Islands. Driving off-road is strictly prohibited.
Winter & Spring: As there are no roads outside of the settlements of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Ålesund and also no roads actually interconnecting them, snowmobiles are the main mode of transport on Spitsbergen when there is snow on the ground. Snowmobiles can be rented in Longyearbyen.
Summer: During high summer, when western Spitsbergen becomes largely ice free, smaller boats and RIB’s provide access for visitors to remoter places outside Longyearbyen, including Isford Radio, and the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden.
FAQs on how to get to Svalbard
Flights from the Norwegian capital, Oslo, take 3 hours.
Flight prices can vary quite significantly between different dates and flight prices typically only increase with time, which is why booking early is strongly recommended. Return flights Oslo/ Longyearbyen can start from as little as £126/ USD $165 per person with Norwegian airlines, but more typically are around £400/ USD $520 per person
Not for Svalbard itself, but as you will be travelling through Norway non-EU nationals should check what the visa requirements for that country are.
Yes, both shuttle buses and taxis are at the airport and available to transfer you the short journey (less than 10 mins) into Longyearbyen, or to your hotel.
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