On a Short Budget Trip To Svalbard: What To Do?

Is it at all possible to visit Svalbard on budget? Well, it is. We did it last year. We went there for just 3 days and spent great time.

How To Get There on Budget

In fact it’s not hard especially if you are already in Europe. The cheapest way to Svalbard is by plane from Oslo. The low cost carrier Norwegian flies there for about $100 – $200 (varies) for a round trip. It’s surprising so many Norwegians have not visited the place thinking that flights are too expensive!


You can also fly from Tromso or even from London or Berlin, but honestly the easiest and most affordable route is through Oslo.

Once you land at the airport in Longyearbyen in Svalbard, take the Svalbard bus to the town. The cost at this time is NOK 75. It is possible to walk as well if you are a bit adventurous. We didn’t do it with heavy backpacks as we had enough to walk from the town center to our hostel in Nybyen anyway.

Where to Sleep

The older guides about Svalbard mention just a guesthouse and hotel, but nowadays there are more places to sleep. We stayed in Spitsbergen Guesthouse and it was great. You will be in old miners cabins which are rather comfortable, with free wi-fi and history pictures on the walls. There was excellent all you can eat breakfast too. The main downside of this hostel is that it’s in Nybyen which is about 2-3 km away of the Longyearbyen center. So you’ll have to walk a bit.

There are also hostels and guest houses in Longyearbyen but the prices are a bit higher. Whenever you stay, everything is at a walking distance so don’t worry about location that much.

What To Eat

If you are on budget, restaurants are out of reach. The only reasonable option is to buy food at the supermarket and eat it in your hostel. The supermarket provides good choice of sausages, cheeses, bread, eggs, and even some fruits and vegetables. The prices are… well, good for this part of the world 🙂

If your hostel or guesthouse has cooking facilities you can always get some pasta and eggs and go really really cheap.

I highly recommend you to prepare at least some cash for drinking tea outside. The weather is cold most of the time and you’ll need it.

What To Do and See

The typical guide will tell you to go to Pyramiden and Barentsburg and go on a snowmobile trip. This is all good, but not if you are on budget and for 2-3 days there. Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Just walk around. It’s an amazing place with amazing nature. Enjoy. Spend some time outdoors without hunting for specific attractions.
  • Go to the beach (no, you won’t be able to sunbath or swim).
  • Svalbard Museum is not expensive and well worth a visit
  • Walk up to the church and have a look at the abandoned mining buildings
  • Walk to Nybyen if you are not staying there.
  • If you have the chance to take a cab or time to walk you can go all the way to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (you won’t be able to enter though)

Don’t rush things, you are at one of the most interesting and unique places on Earth. Just experience it. It’s not a disaster if you don’t go to Barentsburg. Lonyearbyen is pretty interesting by itself. You’ll remember this visit forever.

Going to Kathmandu? Here is Some Practical Advice

There are a lot of guides which will tell you what to see in Kathmandu and Nepal. This is not one of them. Go see what you want to see.

This is a bunch of practical advice – for backpackers from backpackers. Most tourist guides do not talk about these things.


Get on a tuc-tuc if you feel adventoirous

On Arrival in Kathmandu

99% of more of the foreign visitors in Nepal arrive at Kathmandu airport. Most probably you’ll be one of them too. So let’s see what to do there:

Have a pen. You have to fill an immigration card. You’ll need to find a place where to do it – maybe propped on the wall or you may find place on some of the tables. Don’t overthink the immigration card, they won’t read it anyway.  Fill your data and go ahead on the queue.

Have money for the visa. Visas for Western travellers start at $30 depending on the length of the stay.  Give it to the guy on the first queue along with your passport. He does not need any other papers, they are for the next desk.

Have a picture. It’s best to have a passport-sized photo of yourself on arrival. It is required unless you have submitted the online visa application. I recommend you to use the online version, it will save you time at the airport.

Once finished with the formalities, proceed to take your luggage.

Exchange some money. Many sites online will tell you the rate is bad. I didn’t notice. It’s worth it to exchange a couple of dollars so you are not bound to going to specific place i Thamel with the taxi driver. There is one exchange desk at the arrival hall on the airport and another one on the exit.

Going to the city. The prepaid taxi drivers will meet you at the exit. They currently ask for 750 rupees which is a bit steep. If you want to save some go outside and negotiate with the drivers. You should be able to go to 500 – 600 ruppes to Thamel. Maybe even 400 if you are good in bargaining.

There is also a bus. If you are not in a hurry and don’t have too much luggage, go outside of the airport area and you’ll find the bus stop (I think you have to go left). Buses are very cheap (paid inside, on going out) – something like 20 rupees per person. They are usually crowded so don’t use a bus if you have too much baggage.

Ho(s)tel. Choose and book in advance. There are many hostels in Kathmandu and many of them have websites and list on Hostelworld etc. Why rely on a random driver choose your hostel? Makes no sense – it’s better to choose yourself based on price, pictures, reviews. Insist that the driver brings you to your hostel and not another one. Don’t listen to shit like “this area is dangerous” and so on. They tell you this to take you to a hostel where they take commission.

We slept in Elbrus hostel just at the edge of Thamel. It’s a great place to stay with excellent breakfast and staff. If you have more than 1-2 days in Kathmandu I recommend you staying in a hotel in Boudhanath. It’s the Tibetan neighbourhood and is less crowded than Thamel.

Being There

Go outside of Thamel. Huge number of visitors go only to the tourist area of Thamel  and then leave Kathmandu. This is not the real city. The real city is outside of Thamel. Go outside of Thamel and you’ll see areas that are less crowded, and people that don’t look at you as a source of easy money.

Eat and drink in the city. It’s cheaper and not worse than the tourist places. Of course don’t go in the dirtiest restaurants. There are good places in the malls. See where the young people collect, these are usually the good places to have momos or other dishes.

Veg momos

Veg momos

There is one restaurant in Thamel  that is definitely good for visiting. It offers Tibetan kitchen and hot Tibetan beer. Try it, it’s really interesting and hard to find elsewhere.

The hot Tibetan beer

The hot Tibetan beer

How to use the buses and how to go in the city and nearby places? Buses in Kathmandu are often crowded but are very cheap and offer a good way to meet locals really close. When a bus comes to the bus stop one person usually hangs on the door and shouts the names of the destinations it’s going to. If you hear your destination, jump in. If you don’t hear, feel free to ask the person  while the bus is on the stop. The cost is paid when you are going out of the bus.

I recommend using local buses to go the nearby places like Bhaktapur for example. It’s a nice experience and will cost you about 50 rupees or less. (Somehow it was 25 rupees for us when we went Kathmandu – Bhaktapur, and 45 rupees on our way back.

The toilets.  Most toilets in Kathmandu are horrible. Only some of the restaurants in Thamel have decent toilets. The tourist guides online say that the toilet at the airport is unusable, but it is actually not that bad. Especially if you compare it to the rest of the city. So be prepared and bring disposable wipes with you as you may need them.