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Svalbard: Protection of environment and cultural heritage, safety

The list you find below will draw your atten­ti­on to some important facts and rules, but is not com­ple­te. If you want to tra­vel in Sval­bard, make sure you have all infor­ma­ti­on rele­vant for your plans – espe­ci­al­ly if you tra­vel on your own; for orga­nis­ed tours, this will be done by the tour ope­ra­tor. If you igno­re the rules, you risk trou­ble – be it a hea­vy fine from the Nor­we­gi­an gour­ver­nour or safe­ty-wise in the field. Fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on regar­ding the legis­la­ti­on may be obtai­ned from the Sys­sel­man­nen (Gou­ver­nour) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. 

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

See also the news and sto­ries sec­tion on this web­site for updates. Click here for some important updates for new regu­la­ti­ons coming in 2025.

Rules regar­ding natu­re pro­tec­tion

  • All traf­fic in most parts of Sval­bard has to be noti­fied to the Sys­sel­mes­ter (gou­ver­nour) well befo­re depar­tu­re and are sub­ject to per­mis­si­on. For this, an insu­rance which covers cos­ts in case of search-and-res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons will be requi­red, among others. Expect at least 2 months pro­ces­sing time.
  • The­re is a num­ber of pro­tec­ted are­as with dif­fe­rent sta­tus and pro­tec­tion levels up to the bird sanc­tua­ries, Mof­fen and Kong Karls Land, all of which are no-go-are­as for tou­rists (Kong Karls Land year-round). You may not even get clo­ser than a defi­ned distance. Make sure you know the regu­la­ti­ons and whe­re the are­as are.
  • From 2025, rest­ric­tions will app­ly regar­ding whe­re pas­sen­gers taking part in orga­ni­zed ship-based trip on ships of any size (inclu­ding yachts, in other words) can land within the natio­nal parks and natu­re reser­ves. Click here for details.
  • Keep your distance from bree­ding birds, espe­ci­al­ly all ground-bree­ders such as geese, ducks, Arc­tic terns. If the adult birds lea­ves the nest, then the egg will cool down quick­ly or it will be snat­ched by pre­da­tors (fox, birds,…). Don’t be tempt­ed to take pho­to­graphs of expo­sed eggs – just move away quick­ly if you see any.
  • If you are atta­cked by Arc­tic terns, then you are very likely too clo­se to their nests. Move away, don’t go clo­ser – you don’t need that pho­to. The birds attack your hig­hest part, just hold up your hand, wal­king stick, tri­pod etc. Never try to hit the birds, they will not harm you, but you may quick­ly inju­re them.
  • Around Lon­gye­ar­by­en, cam­ping is allo­wed only on the offi­ci­al camp site.

Air raid

Air raid defence.

  • The­re is no infra­struc­tu­re out­side the sett­le­ments (tracks, huts etc.).
  • The­re are no huts for tou­rists in Sval­bard, except from 3 owned by local tour ope­ra­tors which are used for their orga­nis­ed tours (they can not be ren­ted out to indi­vi­du­al tou­rists due to rele­vant legis­la­ti­on). Almost every hut in Sval­bard is owned by some­bo­dy, and wit­hout per­mis­si­on of whoe­ver the owner is, you can’t use it. Bad wea­ther does not jus­ti­fy an excep­ti­on.

Pro­tec­tion of the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge of Sval­bard

  • The­re are spe­cial rules regar­ding the pro­tec­tion of the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge. Ever­y­thing that is older than 1946 is auto­ma­ti­cal­ly pro­tec­ted, how insi­gni­fi­cant ever it may seem to you, such as a rus­ty nail or a pie­ce of bro­ken glass. Youn­ger sites can also be pro­tec­ted A lot has been tramp­led or sto­len alre­a­dy; make sure that future visi­tors can also see what is the­re when you get the­re. You are not allo­wed to camp near cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites, even when they are snow-cover­ed and thus not visi­ble. A num­ber of his­to­ri­cal sites is clo­sed to all traf­fic.

Polar bears & wea­pons, gla­ciers, rivers

  • You need a sui­ta­ble wea­pon as soon as you have left the sett­le­ments in case of polar bear cont­acts, and you need to know how to use the wea­pon and how to react. This is also valid for the sur­roun­dings of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, e.g. Pla­tåf­jel­let, Bjørn­da­len, Advent­da­len, Lon­gye­ar­breen (the gla­cier behind Lon­gye­ar­by­en) etc. Sui­ta­ble fire­arms can be ren­ted in Lon­gye­ar­by­en pro­vi­ded you hold a licen­se that allows you to have the same wea­pon in your home coun­try. Alter­na­tively, you can app­ly for per­mis­si­on from the Sys­sel­mes­ter.

This should dri­ve every reason­ab­ly min­ded polar bear back.

  • Polar bears are quite rare within the sett­le­ments! Don’t walk through Lon­gye­ar­by­en like John Way­ne, or through Barents­burg etc. Excep­ti­on: the aban­do­ned mining sett­le­ment Pyra­mi­den – you must have a wea­pon to walk around here safe­ly. You are not allo­wed to car­ry a wea­pon with you insi­de any public buil­ding such as the super­mar­ket, restau­rants and others. Some public places offer short term wea­pon sto­rage while you visit, for exam­p­le the muse­um and the Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken (super­mar­ket) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. If you can’t avo­id car­ry­ing a wea­pon in a sett­le­ment, make sure it is visi­bly unloa­ded (remo­ve the bolt from the rif­le) and take the shor­test rou­te from A to B (from whe­ree­ver you pick up the wea­pon to whe­re you start your tour).
  • If you want to walk on gla­ciers or cross rivers, you need rele­vant expe­ri­ence and equip­ment.
  • For cam­ping in the wil­der­ness, you need some kind of polar bear alarm sys­tem. If you don’t have the man­power to do night­watch and you don’t have a good polar bear watch dog, then a trip­wire is the com­mon tech­ni­cal solu­ti­on. Make sure you have got your trip­wire well ahead of time, at the time of wri­ting (2012) they are almost impos­si­ble to get in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Check for exam­p­le Ice Bear Alarm to obtain a trip­wire.



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last modification: 2024-03-20 · copyright: Rolf Stange