Practical information

On this page you will find useful tips and advice on how to prepare for your studies at UNIS in the best way. Please read this information carefully as it contains relevant tips for your stay at UNIS and in Svalbard.

Measuring snow characteristics in Advendalen. Icing in snow reduces the reindeer's access to plant forage. Photo: Børge Damsgård/UNIS

Photo: Børge Damsgård / UNIS

Winter fieldwork in Adventdalen. Photo: Børge Damsgård/UNIS

Photo: Børge Damsgård / UNIS

Travel related preparations

When you have accepted a course of study at UNIS, you should arrive on, or a few days before the deadline specified in the acceptance letter.
You can find course specific dates here.

Buy airline tickets
There are two airline carriers that fly to Svalbard: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian. Both companies have discounts for travellers under 26 (search for youth ticket at or use the campaign code UNDER26 at Norwegian). The travelling time is about 1.5 hours with plane from Tromsø and about 3 hours from Oslo (if direct flight).

Apply for housing
The student housing facilities in Longyearbyen are owned and administered by The Arctic Student Welfare Organisation (Norges Arktiske Studentsamskipnad). You have to apply for housing directly via Samskipnaden´s webpage. Remember to apply as soon as you have accepted your admission as there are limited rooms available. Apply for housing here.

Make sure you have a valid passport (and visa)
The identity of all travellers to Svalbard will be checked both upon entry and departure. This applies to both Norwegian citizens and foreign nationals (i.e. both individuals covered by the EEA agreement or the EFTA convention and third country nationals). Passports, or national identity cards, satisfy Schengen regulation requirements for identity verification. Norwegian citizens can also prove their identities by presenting driver’s licenses issued after 1998, bank-issued identity cards, or the Norwegian Armed Forces’ identity card. No visa is required for staying in Svalbard. But, if you are an international student from outside the European Union and travelling to Svalbard through Norway, you are required to obtain a transit visa if citizens of your country need a visa to go to Norway.

Please see the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s webpage for more information about visa regulations.

More important public information about coming to Norway can be found here:

More important public information about coming to Svalbard can be found here: Entry and residence in Svalbard.

Buy insurance
All UNIS students must have insurance, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate types of insurance. You also need to make sure that your insurance is valid in Svalbard. This applies to travel, accident and health insurance. UNIS students are not insured while in the Svalbard Science Centre (UNIS building) taking classes or studying, working in the laboratories or during leisure time in general (at UNIS or elsewhere on Svalbard). UNIS has an accident insurance during UNIS field activities, that covers a single payment of 15G (G=Norwegian National Insurance Scheme basic amount, currently NOK 90 068) in case of 100 % invalidity. For those who are members of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme (Norsk Folketrygd), this insurance also covers treatment cost up to NOK 50 000. This insurance only applies when students are properly registered in the field log before leaving UNIS.

Read UNIS’ insurance policy here

Get a certificate of good conduct
As part of the “UNIS policy for polar bear protection” students and staff are required to bring rifles and flare guns during fieldwork. UNIS will of course provide the necessary training in how to handle both rifle and flare gun in a safe and efficient manner. UNIS requires that students who get access to rifles and flare guns through UNIS must complete and pass our weapons training, and follow our internal rules for handling and storage of weapons. UNIS also require that students who get access to weapons at UNIS can present a valid weapons license from a police authority, or a certificate of good conduct from a police authority. Access to weapons is not a requirement for study at UNIS. If a student does not pass the internal training or is not able to present a weapons license or a certificate of good conduct, the person will still be able to study at UNIS.

Norwegian citizens and foreigners who have resided in Norway the last 5 years can apply for a certificate of good conduct directly from The Governor of Svalbard by filling out this form.

Read more about routines for lending firearms here.

Photo: Lise Gjellestad / UNIS

Photo: Lise Gjellestad / UNIS

Packing related preparations – what to bring

Longyearbyen’s location in the High Arctic at 78º N requires proper gear. The high latitude results in a generally colder and more severe climate than on the mainland of Norway, with an average temperature ranging from -14° C to +6° C. UNIS courses are to a great extent based on fieldwork and excursions. Thus, proper clothing is essential. When packing for studies at UNIS, the most important of all is to always remember the 3 W’s: Wool, Windproof, Waterproof! In addition to the 3 W´s you will find our best tips for what to bring to Svalbard in the lists below. -And please; don’t panic if you don’t have all the stuff on the list. There are a lot of sports shops in Longyearbyen, and you can buy all the items there.

Need to have: 

  • Passport (and visa if necessary)
  • Insurance papers
  • Solid (winter) boots (NB! Thick soles)
  • Hiking boots
  • Indoor shoes/slippers (to be used at UNIS)
  • Warm jacket
  • Windproof jacket
  • Outdoor trousers
  • Fleece/down jacket
  • Warm sweaters
  • Long underwear
  • Warm socks
  • Hat/caps
  • Scarf/fleece/wool tube (also known as “buff)
  • Gloves/mittens
  • Sunglasses (March–September)
  • Bed lining (pillowcase, sheets and duvet cover)
  • Towels

Nice to have:

  • Face mask and/or balaclava (winter/spring)
  • Goggles (winter/spring)
  • Gaiters
  • Sports-/Swimwear
  • Thermos bottle
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Headlamp/torch/flashlight
  • Ski equipment (for leisure time during winter/spring)
  • Sleeping bag (for leisure time)
  • Bicycle

UNIS clothing from Helly Hansen
As a UNIS student you can buy UNIS clothing from Helly Hansen at a discounted price from the UNIS reception. Both jacket and pants are shell outer wear.

Technical details and prices (PDF)
NOTE: The jacket and pants are only sold in the UNIS reception (not at Sportscenteret). 

Arrival in Longyearbyen, safety training and lectures

Longyearbyen is a small city, and the airport is only a couple of minutes outside the city center. You will find the airport shuttle bus outside the airport, and if you tell the driver you are a UNIS student, you will get a discount. You can pay the ticket in cash (NOK), or by card. Make sure you tell the driver where you are going – Sjøskrenten or Nybyen – and the driver will stop when you are there.

Student housing at Sjøskrenten and Nybyen
Make sure you have your housing info with you when you arrive. In the information you have been given from the housing staff, you will find your barrack number, floor number and room number. The door to your room will be unlocked, and you will find your key inside your room.

If you have any questions regarding your housing, please contact the housing staff at email

Time schedule and safety training
Below you will find a link to the time schedule called TimeEdit. In TimeEdit you will find details such as when and where your lectures and safety training will start. Make sure you check TimeEdit often as changes occur.

Please note that it takes approximately 30 minutes to walk from Nybyen to UNIS, and 5 minutes from Sjøskrenten to UNIS. There is no public transport in Longyearbyen, and you need to walk or use a bicycle when going to UNIS. Make sure you have enough time so you’re not late.

During the safety training you will stay outside most of the time, so make sure you bring lots of warm clothes. We also recommend you to bring lunch as you will have limited or no time to buy lunch at UNIS.

Click here to see your schedule in TimeEdit

If you want to buy breakfast/lunch before your first day at UNIS, the opening hours of Svalbardbutikken (supermarket) are:

Monday-Friday: 10:00–19:00
Saturday: 10:00–16:00
Sunday: 15:00–18:00

The opening hours of Mix Isbjørnbutikken (kiosk) are:
Monday-Thursday: 09:00–22:00
Friday: 09:00–04:00
Saturday: 10:00–04:00
Sunday: 11:00–22:00

Startup info
When you arrive at UNIS you you’ll be given a letter with start-up information including username/password for accessing the UNIS wifi and computers. You will also be given a personal ID card, this also gives you access to the UNIS building outside office hours. Contact the UNIS Reception during office hours 08:00-15:30 to collect both welcome letter and ID card. If you are a former UNIS student and already have an ID card, please bring it with you so it can be revitalized.

Semester fee and course cost
There is no tuition fee at UNIS, but in order to attend a course at UNIS all students must pay a semester fee of NOK 590 (ca. EUR 79). Students already registered at a Norwegian university will pay the semester fee to their home university (accessible via StudWeb). Students not registered at a Norwegian institution will receive an invoice upon arrival.

For some courses there is also a course specific cost for board and lodging during field work. The cost is specified in the course description, and must be paid in the reception.

If you have any questions please send an email to and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

AG-209 students on field cruise, May 2016. Photo: Maria Jensen/UNIS

Photo: Maria Jensen / UNIS

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