Interesting Facts About Svalbard, Norway — Andrea Stories

Only visa-free zone in the world

Andrea Makoto
5 min readMay 19, 2024
View outside our guesthouse in Longyearbyen, Svalbard | Source: Author

I recently visited Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, from 3 to 8 May 2024. That period was also known as “polar summer”. We stayed in a cozy guesthouse in Longyearbyen town and went on various day tours during our short stint there. Here are some interesting facts I learnt from our tour guides and my experience there!

All Are Welcome

Fun fact: Svalbard is the only visa-free zone in the world! Foreigners are treated equally as locals.

Regardless of citizenship, you can enter and stay for as long as you want, so long as you fulfill 3 conditions:

  1. You have an income. For children, this applies to their parents or guardians.
  2. You have a place to stay.
  3. You are healthy.

Keen to visit or live in Svalbard? Please read official information, starting here, and do your own thorough research.

Delving more into point 3

For point 3, being “healthy” enough means you don’t require regular assistance to go about your daily activities. I guess minor illnesses like flu don’t count.

Reason for this condition is there is no healthcare system or relevant social network in Svalbard.

An extension to this condition is that no one is allowed to die in Svalbard, or more specifically, be buried there. There are no cemeteries. So once people reach old age or have any serious health condition, they have to go back to mainland Norway, where a more robust healthcare system is available.

Beautiful Longyearbyen town, Svalbard | Source: Author

No One Is Born There

Another interesting fact is that no one can be born in Svalbard. Pregnant ladies will have to return to the mainland before their due date.

So there are no natives at all in Svalbard. Svalbard is currently inhabited by around 2500 people in total, with a huge majority being Norwegians and the rest from at least 50 other countries.

On day tours, I’ve met “locals” from Canada, Spain, Phillipines, Thailand. I was surprised to know of Southeast Asians going all the way there to work! I mean, I didn’t even know of this place till my mum told me so. I was curious and asked some of them why they chose to work there.

What was the big drawing factor to Svalbard? That one does not require a visa to enter and stay as long as they want. Also, the average pay there is most probably much higher than most SEA countries.

Home of Arctic Wildlife

Being so close to the North Pole, Svalbard is home to many arctic wildlife animals. On my trip there, we were lucky enough to spot a few while on cruise or nature walks. We saw foxes, polar bear, reindeers, seals, walruses, and birds like Fulmar and Brünnich’s Guillemot!

Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars!

By law, if you’re heading out of the town settlement, you have to be equipped with a rifle and a flare gun to protect against polar bears. I think there are more polar bears than humans in Svalbard 😮 I learnt of this from every tour guide’s brief at start of the activity. They would inform us about their weapons and assure us that it was not loaded, but they have ammunition handy should they need it.

Here are some photos, skillfully taken by my uncle with his cool Nikon camera! (My phone could never…)

Wildlife spotted in Svalbard | Source: Author

Heaven for Snow Sports Lovers

When we arrived at the airport, people were carrying huge bags full of ski equipment. And I thought to myself: “everyone is here for the same reason”. 😂

Even in summer, the weather was cold at -2 to -5 degree Celsius and mountains were still covered in snow. I’ve seen numerous people skiing on the outskirts of Longyearbyen town.

Other than skiing, there are also other activities available, such as riding snowmobile, riding a dog sleigh and exploring ice caves!

Our snowmobile guide in Svalbard | Source: Author
Dog sleigh ride in Svalbard | Source: Author
Nature walk in Bear valley, Svalbard | Source: Author
Exploring ice caves in Svalbard | Source: Author
Cruise towards Pyramiden, Svalbard | Source: Author

If you love snow activities, Svalbard is definitely a good place to consider visiting 😃

Author’s Note

I took this at 11pm from our guesthouse, the sun didn’t set! | Source: Author

Svalbard is a beautiful place, with a richness of Arctic wildlife. Everyone is pretty friendly with each other! Summer brings about the “midnight sun” (24 hours of daylight), while winter brings forth total darkness, both of which can be a new experience for many. If you have the chance, I hope you can visit too. 😄

p.s. I found this informative article sharing more facts about Svalbard, have a read if you’re keen!

Thank you for reading!

Originally published at on May 19, 2024.