There is a bike rental in Longyearbyen, great, as it is quite tedious to slog around the streets of Longyearbyen, especially if you live up in Nybyen; it also enables you to get out of town. Just be aware that you bike fast enough so the polar bears do not eat you.
Their web pages are not so informative and detailed, but you will find the bikes for rent at the Basecamp hotel in Longyearbyen centre.
It is easy to get the bus to and from the Airport to the center of Longyearbyen.
It is sat outside the terminal of the airport having dropped off people for the next flight.
Tell the driver where you are going and put your luggage in the bus.
THe fare was 50 nok in 2010 and that is from the airport to any accommodation. Discounts for students and minors.
To get it to the airport. Just wait on the opposite side of the road from where you got dropped off. Check times with Tourist Info, but it starts at Nybyen at a set time and just picks people up when it gets to them.
You luggage might get stuck at Oslo or whichever airport you are flying from. When i was there it was often that that happened. But it definitely get there the next day and they deliver it to your hotel. So keep 1 day worth of clothes in your carry on
There is a bus that picks up passengers from the airport and transports you to the hotels/guesthouses in town, the price is now one-way NOK50 for adults and NOK30 for students. The bus will also pick up at the hotels for the return flight at fixed times. Once in town, there isn't any public transportation, it's either by taxi, walking, or bicycle. If staying in Nybyen at the Spitsbergen Guesthouse or Guesthouse 102 it is about a 15-20 minute walk down to the rest of town.
LYR has a new terminal building with much better baggage handling and plenty of space for passengers, visitors and baggage. Still only one baggage band, but, hey, where is the other plane???
On arrival the bus to the hotels will be there waiting for you, the bus driver huddling inside the terminal building for warmth. If you want a taxi, approach the drivers directly, but better pre-order before you board.
On departure, the check-in and baggage handling is efficient. The security is thorough, not the least because of the lax gun practices on Svalbard. Staff is very well used to handle all sorts of hand guns and rifles.
Once through security you enter a big and airy departure hall. There is a shop selling some basic food and drinks, plus souvenirs. At the oppostite end of the hall is boarding facilities. You can check in by using finger prints.
A short walk across the tarmac and you are on board for the 2 hrs 50 min flight to Oslo - or 1 1/2 hrs to Tromsø.
THE INFO POSTED HERE IS SOMEWHAT REDUNDANT, SINCE LYR HAS A NEW TERMINAL BUILDING WITH MUCH BETTER FACILITIES. SEE A NEW TIP ON THIS, WHILE I LEAVE THIS BASIC INFO AS MOST OF IT IS TRUE...
LYR is a simple but rugged airport. They have frequent cancellations due to bad weather combined with a hefty landing approach route.
Once there you will have plenty of time waiting for your baggage as big, burly polar-macho male Norwegians aged 40-55 crowd the baggage band instead of standing back of the yellow line giving everyone a view of the baggage that comes rolling in. The baggage handling on arrival is inadequate. While you wait, there is delivery of special baggage through a side door, and posters to read about the dangers of polar bears, and a nice, albeit stuffed one exhibited in a glass case. Check the people around you, your neighbour may be skiing to the North Pole tomorrow - many interesting types here. The airport staff are very adept at handling special baggage here - your expedition gear, kayak, sleds, skis, guns, rifles etc. are not unique here.
The exit from the airport is equally simple and you will find the bus right there - or your pre-booked taxi. In the winter, walking into Longyearbyen from here (5 kms) is not an option due to polar bears and the cold. The Longyearbyen Camping site for avid tent dwellers is very close to the airport - walk there.
Snowmobiles can be rented on an individual basis. It is probably easier to join an organised trip, but if this is not for you do it on your own. One recommended outfitter is Svalbard Snøscooterutleie. You need a driver's licence and knowledge of using a snowmobile before you are let off. Probably some kind of comprehensive insurance coverage also. The outfitters will be able to inform you. I only took an organised tour, but I asked if individual rental was possible and the response was yes.
Getting to Svalbard is no easy feat. You first need to get to Norway and then book an additional flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen. Flights to Longyearbyen only run in the summer due to the high tourist season and climate conditions.
I searched on the web for several weeks to find an affordable flight and chose Iceland Air as it is the shortest route from the West Coast/California to Norway and offers a free stopover in Reykavik. The flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen is booked through Scandinavian Airlines-the only carrier to Svalbard.
A trip to Svalbard is not for the budget conscious so for many this might be the trip of a lifetime.
As Artic Circle cruises are available only the months of June, July & August with July the ideal month especially to see polar bears.
Most of these cruises are booked by February for the summer due to high demand and short cruise season.
I chose Peregrine Adventures as I took an Antarctica cruise with them several years ago. They focus on smaller cruise ships (110 passengers) and socially responsible travel. The larger cruise ships are unable to navigate into the smaller areas around the archipelago.
I paid extra ($350) for kayaking however it was not as spectacular as Antarctica.
We did not use snowscooters, because we were in Spitsbergen during the summer season, but quite a few of them were still standing there....
Snowscooters are a common means of transportation in Svalbard and there are a lot of snowscooter tours offered to various places - I can very well imagine that it is a lot of fun riding on them!
On several occasions we had the chance to walk around a bit: the excursions on Svalbard were rather soggy, so it was essential to have good hiking boots or even rubber boots, because we had to overcome snow, melting water and quite a bit of mud!
On the second day we went on a tour from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg and the only possible way to go there was by boat. There are two tour companies offering day trips and they are basically identical. The departure times differ a little and what I heard, the food as well! We decided to take the earlier tour and were quite satisfied with it! The two companies are Spitsbergentravel and Wildlife.no.
Even with a small vessel like the Professor Molchanov we could not manage to land in most of the places, so we used the zodiacs. At first I was a little scared, but with a little bit of practise I felt absolutely safe! And the zodiac drivers were superb! By the time we reached the Svalbard coast we all were experts and enjoyed our shore excursions a lot!
Oh, what can I say? What a wonderful ship - a former research vessel now designed for up to 54 passengers. Nice cabins, wonderful crew and staff, delicious food, open bridge and a concept of a very ecologic type of tourism - I loved every second of the cruise and would highly recommend it without hesitation!
For some more impressions of this wonderful vessel, please have a look at my "hotel/accomodation tips"!
To get from Longyearbyen/Spitsbergen to Tromso/Norway we went with SAS Braathens. We only paid 90 € p.p., but did book way in advance! The flight schedule was a little mean - we had to get up at 3.30 a.m., because the plane left around 6 a.m. .... hahaha - but you can't have it all!!!
P.O. Box 500, Longyearbyen, 9170, Norway
Good for: Families
The SAS hotel has a very central location only 100 m from the main shopping area. It has 95 rooms...more
P.O. Box 500, Longyearbyen, I 9171, Norway
Good for: Business