If you are going to move around in nature on foot in Greenland, it is important that you have considered all eventualities with respect to safety, and have the right clothing and equipment.
In general, Visit Greenland strongly recommends everyone who is heading out of the towns to bring a GPS device which can send emergency calls, so the Search and Rescue (SAR) team has the GPS position of those in need. You can also read our article on safe hiking in Greenland.
Before you head out into the landscape, you should always inform the police or someone else where you are going. There are also a number of concrete risk scenarios you should be particularly aware of.
Over the course of the long winter (October – May), the roads are not cleared to the same extent as in the rest of the world, because this is not practically possible. Furthermore, salt is not used on the roads (with the exception of the bus stops in Nuuk), but grit is spread every now and then. Instead, people drive with studded tires. This means that locals are used to ice on the roads, by the side of the roads and where pedestrians walk.
These conditions, in combination with steep roads and strong wind gusts, can easily cause pedestrians to lose their footing and injure their limbs or head. Pedestrians who are not used to these conditions or who are not so mobile should be very careful, and if necessary have a steady person to hold onto. Sturdy hiking boots are strongly recommended, and you should also consider snowshoes or crampons/studded shoes, according to where you are walking. In most bigger towns you can hire this kind of equipment.
If you visit Greenland as a tourist, you can expect to be treated by the local health system, but be aware that not all destinations have hospitals or healthcare professionals. All the major cities have a hospital staffed by doctors, but it is only Queen Ingrid’s Hospital in Nuuk that has specialised departments, and even here, it is often necessary to send patients who require particular kinds of treatments to Denmark.
It is extremely important to remember to bring extra doses of medication, if you take medication for severe conditions, such as heart disease. You cannot expect to be able to get special medication in hospitals in Greenland. You will find practical information about hospitals in Greenland on this page.
Before you travel, check if your health or travel insurance covers transport home in case you get so badly injured that you can’t make it home yourself.
In March 2020, Greenland was closed to tourists until the 15th of June, when a phased reopening strategy was introduced. It has moved through several phases, each with its own entry restrictions.
You, as a traveler, are yourself responsible for having travel insurance that covers all eventualities during your trip, and for ensuring that it covers transport home if you are injured and need special transport home that is not covered by other insurance policies, or by the conditions attached to your plane ticket. This also applies to any necessary quarantine and special transport home related to COVID-19.
Greenland presents a number of risk factors by virtue of its raw, desolate, expansive and changeable nature, but as long as you use common sense and take good advice and guidelines from professionals, travel agencies and authorities, as well as locals, you can safely move around Greenland, both on land and on the water.
Those elements that make Greenland potentially dangerous to travel in are simultaneously the things that make the country so beautiful, impressive and fascinating.
Article by: Mads Lumholt
Marketing Analyst at Visit Greenland