The Svalbard archipelago consists of nine main islands located midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Svalbard’s largest island, Spitsbergen, is also home to its largest settlement and administrative center, Longyearbyen. As a territory of Norway, Svalbard is administered by the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice through a governor (Sysselmann) residing in Longyearbyen. Unlike Norway’s mainland, Svalbard is not party to the Schengen Agreement and air travelers to Svalbard from Norway will depart the Schengen Zone prior to boarding.
In recent years, Svalbard has become increasingly accessible to tourist travel, with air and ocean transportation options available from the Norwegian mainland. Travelers to Svalbard, however, face unique hazards given the extreme weather conditions and limited transport infrastructure. Although road systems exist within the three largest towns, Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, and Ny-Alesund, they do not connect with each other, making sea, snowmobile, or limited air service the only options for traveling throughout Svalbard. Further, tourism to Ny-Alesund is restricted due to its status as a research facility and the danger of polar bear attacks. There have been several reported instances of death or injury to tourists in the Svalbard archipelago due to animal attacks and boating incidents, often involving unpredictable weather or ocean conditions. In cases of illness or injury, a clinic in Longyearbyen can provide limited emergency care until medical evacuation to Tromsoe is available.
You should consult the Sysselmann’s Office and the Svalbard Tourist Board for the latest travel conditions and information before you go. It is very important to verify that you have adequate travel and medical insurance to cover the potential costs of medical treatment or repatriation before you travel to Svalbard. The U.S. Embassy has no direct representation on Svalbard, limiting its ability to provide emergency consular services.