There are countries in the world we are all quite familiar with. However you would be forgiven for never having heard of Svalbard and Jan Mayen. We are about to find out more about them here though, not to mention the currency they use. You may at least be vaguely familiar with this, since it is the Norwegian krone. Read on to find out more about both the currency and where it is used.
The Norwegian krone is referred to as kroner in the plural and is divided into 100 ore. However the ore is not in use anymore so the only coins you will find are those denominated as kroner. These are the 1, 5, 10 and 20 kroner coins.
In addition there are four banknotes you can use while in Svalbard and Jan Mayen. These are the 50, 100, 200 and 500 kroner notes. There is a 1,000 kroner note as well, but this is exceedingly rare so there is a good chance you won’t actually come across it at all.
There is little available information on the history of the Norwegian krone in this island area. However the Svalbard Treaty, originally signed back in 1920, gave Norway sovereignty over the archipelago. There is certainly no evidence that the islands have used anything but the krone for many years, so it is likely this has been the case for some considerable time. It does however make one wonder what would happen if Norway ever adopted the euro – would Svalbard do the same as a result of the krone falling out of existence, or would it (and the other three territories that use it) continue with it in some form?
The Norwegian krone is a fairly easy currency to get hold of when compared to some other currencies in the world. Since it is used in Norway you should find many bureaux de change stock it for exchange with a variety of other currencies. Do make sure you compare different providers though, since this is more likely to result in you finding a good deal financially-speaking.
One thing to bear in mind if you do ever visit Svalbard is that it tends to be rather expensive. This means you have to think carefully before estimating how much cash you think you are likely to need prior to a trip to this part of the world. Longyearbyen is probably going to be the extent of your foray into Svalbard, and if this is the case you should know there is a bank here. This means you should have a chance to get more cash from the bank if you need to. Indeed, since this is an area that is used to having a certain influx of tourists, there are a number of services that are set up to make it easier for you to get by while staying here. However even in the case of Longyearbyen we are talking about a town rather than a large city! This means you should be aware of the services (and sometimes lack thereof) before visiting, so you know what to expect.
While you have no doubt heard of the Norwegian krone before you may not be familiar with the typical exchange rate it enjoys against other currencies in the world. The solution to this is to find a good currency converter you can check the latest rates with. It is worth remembering that you will only ever get a basic exchange rate when using this method. All bureaux de change will either charge a fee for exchanging currency or they will offer their services ‘free’ with a slightly less attractive exchange rate from your point of view. It does however give you a good starting point, which is something good for you to consider.
Svalbard is known as an unincorporated part of Norway. You can access the official government website for Norway at https://www.regjeringen.no/en/id4/; there is a search facility that reveals some additional information about Svalbard whenever it becomes available.
The good news is that safe travel in Svalbard and the surrounding areas is really quite easy in terms of keeping your possessions and money safe. It would be incorrect to say that crime here is very low. Actually it would be more accurate to say it is virtually non-existent. Of course this doesn’t mean you should be completely lax with your possessions – it just means the biggest chance of losing them would be to leave them lying around and to forget to take them with you!
In terms of safe travel the biggest danger you have to face here is polar bears. We have all seen pictures of fully-grown polar bears and their cubs, and there is no doubt they all look incredibly cute. However the reality is somewhat different. While these animals do look attractive, majestic and cute, they are capable of killing humans very easily indeed. This is something to be aware of and to respect if you ever pay a visit to Svalbard or to the capital of Longyearbyen.
We should state that the odds of you meeting a polar bear in the wild near Longyearbyen are remote. However this is probably one of those parts of the world where it could actually happen. It has been several years since anyone was killed by a polar bear near the capital but there is the potential for it to happen. That’s why respect for this species and adequate preparation is a very good idea indeed if you want to stay safe.
While Svalbard and Jan Mayen are typically referred to as one area, Jan Mayen is actually situated some distance away from Svalbard and its surrounding islands. To give you an idea of their positions, Jan Mayen is situated to the east of Greenland (as is Svalbard) but Jan Mayen is a lot further south than Svalbard is. While you would say Jan Mayen is to the west of Norway, Svalbard and its nearby islands are located to the north of Norway’s northern coastline.
As we now know, the capital of Svalbard is Longyearbyen. This town is situated in a valley and it is the town occupying the most northerly position in the world. Its northerly position means it enjoys both midnight sunshine and polar nights throughout the year. If you visit anytime from mid-April through to the latter part of August, you won’t see any darkness at all. The sun shining at midnight can be quite strange but it is something to experience for sure. The town also goes through a polar night that lasts from late-October right through until the middle of February. This means they basically don’t see any sun for this part of the year.
Svalbard is a place that is chock-full of natural sights, not least the polar bears, but there are many other species here as well. Those people who do go to Svalbard for a holiday book onto organised trips. These can really open your eyes to life in this cold part of the world. The other thing to remember about organised trips is they will keep you far safer than you would be on your own. For example you can happily go hiking in Svalbard but you will be safer with an experienced guide who carries a loaded rifle with them. This is not intended to use to kill animals but to scare them away. It would be foolhardy to go out without such protection given the dramatic sense of nature that abounds here.
However you do have the chance to do things you may never do anywhere else in the world. Think of dog sledding for example, or heading out in a boat to spot seals and other animals in certain areas.
Finally we should take a brief look at Jan Mayen. The largest place on this island is called Olonkinbyen. This is not the capital, and indeed there are merely a handful of people living here. The only people there are responsible for operating the weather station on the island, so this is not somewhere that is set up for tourists in any way.
As you can see this archipelago is not the most frequently-visited of places in the world. As an area that is settled in the far north of the world it should come as no surprise to find it is quite remote and perhaps too cold and sparse for many to wish to visit.
However if you know the dangers and are prepared to travel with a guide, you could see a side of the world you have never seen before in Svalbard and beyond.