Getting to the Northwest Passage

A mother and cubs explore the ice

With such expansive distances to cover, flying to the Northwest Passage is unquestionably the fastest, easiest option. Many expedition trips will start or end in Greenland, with flights into and out of Kangerlussuaq – where a full-sized runway allows for reliable flight service. With a population of only 36,000 living in just 25 communities across the Canadian province Nunavut’s 2 million km², there is little availability or need for air travel or landing sites, so local airlines, Canadian North and First Air offer only limited and irregular scheduled flights.

Arctic ship operators are currently working with international bodies and local port authorities to define Health & Safety Policies that factor in Covid-19. Once these are shared with us we will update this guide accordingly, so you know what to expect. We anticipate that operators will require a negative PCR test result at embarkation as well as onboard testing, mask-wearing and other protocols, as we have seen throughout the course of the 2021/22 Antarctic season.

Entry requirements for Canada

Getting to the Northwest Passage

Fully vaccinated foreign nationals can currently enter Canada without the need to quarantine. All travellers, 5 years of age or older, must provide proof of a negative antigen test taken outside of Canada no more than 1 day before your flight to Canada. Your antigen test must be administered or observed by a laboratory or testing provider. 

If you have a connecting flight, the test must be timed for the scheduled departure time of your final flight that lands in Canada.

When you arrive at the border, you must present a valid negative test result (paper or electronic proof). The proof must include:

  • Traveller name and date of birth
  • Name and address of the laboratory or testing provider that administered the test
  • The date on which the test was taken
  • The type of test taken
  • The test result

Keep proof of your test results with you for the 14-day period that begins on the day you enter Canada.

You may be required to get tested before exiting the airport. To speed you through the process, register in advance with the testing provider for the airport you will arrive at. Fully vaccinated travellers only need to do an arrival test if they are selected for randomized arrival testing.

Visa requirements

In travelling to the Northwest Passage, which is part of the Canadian Arctic, you will need to ask your local embassy or consulate if you need a visa.

  • United States passport holders can visit Canada without a visa for up to 180 days
  • British Citizens don’t usually need a visa for Canada, but do need to secure an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) prior to travel
  • If you are starting or finishing in Greenland as part of your trip, you will need to check immigration regulations but generally, USA and British citizens do not require a visa
Getting to the Northwest Passage

Entry requirements for Greenland

Getting to the Northwest Passage

All fully vaccinated travellers (EMA-approved vaccines) over the age of 11 can currently enter Greenland without the need to quarantine.

It is no longer a requirement to present a negative PCR test at check-in before departure to Greenland. There is also no longer a requirement for re-testing on entry. As of 10th February 2022, there are no longer any restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals (EMA-approved vaccines).

For the purpose of travelling to Greenland, you are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the last vaccine shot. The following EMA-approved vaccines are applicable for incoming travel to Greenland:

  • Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech)
  • Spikevax (Moderna)
  • Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

Health & safety

It is not yet confirmed what Covid-19 testing will be required as part of your ship operator’s health and safety policy, or how the process will work if you are heading from the airport directly to your ship. We expect to receive further updates on this in the coming weeks and will update this guide accordingly.

It is possible that the information shared in this guide will evolve as we near the start of the season. We will continue to provide updates as soon as they are available.

Getting to the Northwest Passage

Booking flights

Getting to the Northwest Passage

When you are booking your flights you will need to check your trip dates carefully and ensure you are arriving in plenty of time. If you are late, the ship will not wait for you.

Pre-pandemic, airlines would release flights 11 months to a year before the travel date, so booking early would usually secure the best availability and often the best prices. This wasn’t guaranteed as airlines price ‘dynamically' to maximise revenue. Covid-19 changed this pattern and airlines are responding to the pandemic on a more reactive basis. This makes it difficult to predict when the best flight availability, pricing and flexibility will be live.

Booking your international flights will depend on your personal circumstances. Some of our passengers are choosing to wait to purchase flights, while others are preferring to book their flights to take advantage of current availability and pricing. We would recommend that you seek the advice of an airline or flight specialist.

Changeable/refundable tickets will give you peace of mind and flexibility should anything unexpected happen. Whatever you choose, we strongly recommend that you opt for flexible ticket options.

Pre-voyage arrangements

We strongly advise building in a minimum of two nights at the start of your itinerary to provide a buffer in case of travel delay. This allows time for any mandatory pre-embarkation arrangements, including Covid-19 testing, and ensures you’re refreshed and ready for your adventure. Some cruise packages may already include one night of pre-voyage accommodation; please check your itinerary for details.

The cruise will not wait for you if you are delayed arriving at the start point, so it is sensible to plan in plenty of time for your travels.

Getting to the Northwest Passage

Your lodge in the wilds of Greenland

Charter flights

WG-Domestic-flights

The Northwest Passage is sparsely populated, and it is not an easy place to get to. Anyone travelling by air will be bound by a handful of fairly unreliable scheduled flights between the communities. This does make independent travel in the region something of a major challenge and adventure!

Because of this, our expedition trips rely on chartered flights in and out of the more substantial settlements where it’s possible to land larger jets. These flights go from Calgary, Yellowknife, Ottawa or Toronto to settlements including Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Resolute (in the Northwest Passage), or Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. 

To find information on your charter flights, please refer to your itinerary or reach out to your Customer Experience Coordinator with any questions.

Please note you will still need to arrange your international flights. Swoop does not have an in-house flights team, so you will need to book your international flights directly with the airline, or use a local flight agent.

Arranging your travel insurance

We anticipate that your ship operator will require you to have medical insurance that explicitly covers any expenses relating to Covid-19.

You should bring your complete travel insurance policy with you when travelling in order to provide evidence of Covid-19 coverage, as needed. As well as ensuring your full policy is available on your phone or tablet, we recommend that you carry a printout and a spare copy in case you lose one.

If your insurance policy does not explicitly mention Covid-19 – for example, if it is included as standard – then you should request evidence in writing, such as an email you can print off, from your insurer.

It is your responsibility to check with your insurance provider to ensure that you have the appropriate cover in place.

Getting to the Northwest Passage

Views of Greenland in winter, near Ilulissat

Returning home from the Northwest Passage

It is possible that your home country (or onward destination) may require you to test prior to travelling from Greenland or Canada.

We are collating information regarding potential costs and where testing sites will be located. Once we have this information, we will share them in our guide to Returning home from the Arctic.

Getting to the Northwest Passage

Other essential information