Are you planning a trip to Greenland? Then here is some practical advice and information to help you on your trip!
There’s no doubt about it – a trip to Greenland really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It really is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been, so much so it’s now my favourite country in the world. Honestly, I can’t tell you enough how amazing Greenland is. If you’re sitting on the fence about going or not, go – you won’t regret it.
I was full-on planning my trip to Greenland for at least a year before I finally visited. In a country that only gets around 75,000 tourists a year (most of those cruiseship passengers), there’s not a huge amount of advice on Greenland online. Even though I read loads of blogs on Greenland, I still wasn’t prepared.
After travelling around Greenland for a couple of weeks and really immersing myself in the country, there are a few things I learned about the country that I wish I knew before I visited.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Greenland, these are all of my travel tips to help you on your way. Hopefully these will help you fall in love with the country as much as I did!
Greenland is expensive so be prepared
When I say Greenland is expensive, I really mean it. Expect Scandinavian prices and then some. Greenland is a desolate place – it is so barren trees can’t even grow there – that means they have to import virtually everything to the island which is why it’s so expensive. Make sure you research how much things cost beforehand and come up with a daily budget.
For me, I set myself a budget of about £100 per day. I know that sounds like a lot but even having a simple sandwich at lunchtime will set you back £10. Add on transport, tours, accommodation and dinner and it can quickly wrack up. To save some money, I resorted to buying and making my own packed-lunches so I didn’t have to eat out every day.
Bring lots of layers with you
If you’re travelling to Greenland during the summer then make sure you pack lots of layers. When the sun is out, it can actually get quite hot in Greenland. Think t-shirt weather. However, as soon as that sun dips behind a cloud it can get pretty cold again. Bring layers so you can easily put on and take off clothes.
If you’re planning a trip to Greenland during the winter, bring even more layers. It can get as cold as -40 during the winter so it’s important you have the appropriate clothes. Thermals are a must, as are waterproofs. My advice here is if there’s skin, cover it.
Make sure you have warm clothes for the evenings
When I was in Greenland it went through a heatwave with a record high of 26 degrees. However, that didn’t mean it was warm in the evenings too. At one point it was so cold I had to wear two pairs of trousers, so make sure you bring thermals so can wrap up warm at night, even in summer.
In winter, never get out of your thermals!
Also, make sure you bring sunglasses
Another good travel tip for Greenland is make sure you bring sunglasses. It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling to Greenland during summer or winter, make sure you’ve got a pair. The sun can be fiercely bright off the snow and cause snow blindness, a condition that can actually lead to blindness. Polarising ski-goggles are great during the winter and UV sunglasses are great during the summer.
Bring insect repellent
This isn’t a lie, but I have never seen so many mosquitos as in Greenland. During the winter all the mosquito eggs are frozen, but once it warms up and the ground thaws they come out in style. Bring the strongest insect repellent you can (I always use this insect repellent with 50% deet) and if you’re doing lots of hiking I would suggest bringing a mosquito facenet too.
Don’t drink alcohol in the streets
Surprisingly, alcoholism is a serious problem in Greenland. As such, alcoholic drinks can only be sold in shops from noon to 6pm during weekdays and from 11am to 1pm on Saturday. If you want to buy drinks then these are the times you can do it – just don’t drink on the streets as it might be seen as encouraging to the locals. Because there’s such a high level of alcoholism in Greenland, the suicide rate is ridiculously high too. Please bear this in mind when talking to the locals and don’t make any stupid comments.
Take water taxis everywhere
Greenland only has 80kms of paved roads which makes getting around the country interesting. If you’re short on time then there are a number of internal flights in Greenland and helicopters are a common mode of transport too. However, during summer most people get around by boat. If you’re heading south from Nuuk you can catch the Arctic Umiaq Line to Qqartoq, and once you’re south it’s a lot easier getting water taxis from place to place. During winter, every gets around by dog sledding and skidoos.
Speak to the local people
One of the things I loved about Greenland was speaking to the locals and hearing their stories. Greenlandics are exceedingly proud people and have strong cultural values, so it’s really important to talk to them about these. Also, I think it’s fascinating hearing all about what it’s like living in one of the toughest climates in the world.
If you’re lucky, you might be invited along to kaffemik. This is an open house celebration where every shares stories and has a bit of a party. I went along to a kaffemik in Nuuk and I was so surprised at how quickly I was accepted there – it was just like a celebration with old friends!
Make sure you leave your cultural misconceptions at home
In Greenland everyone eats musk ox, seal and whale. Is it shocking that they eat these animals? Not at all, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t survive. A lot of travellers find it quite difficult when they find that out, but this is the way Greenlandics have lived their whole life. Don’t force your cultural misconceptions onto other people. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, respect that hunting is a huge part of culture and life here. You can learn more about the food in Greenland here.
Always try and bag the window seat
When it comes to flying, usually I like sitting by the isle. However, one of the best flights of my life was flying to Greenland. I managed to score a window seat and it was by far one of the most beautiful flights I’ve ever been on. If you want these views, make sure you bag the window seat even if you have to pay for it!
You can only fly from Copenhagen in Denmark or Rekjavik in Iceland
Despite the fact Greenland is closer to Canada than either of those countries, as it stands you can only fly from Copenhagen and Rekjavik. That means if you’re flying from north America it is most likely you’ll fly over Greenland only to double back on yourself.
Greenlandics are Christian
If you were wondering, the main religion in Greenland is Christianity. Church services are very common on a Sunday around the country. If you’re religious, these are a great way of getting to know the community and seeing how important religion is to Greenlandic culture!
Are you planning a trip to Greenland? What are some of the things you’re doing while you’re there? Make sure you let me know in the comments below!
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