Greenland is remote and isolated, and travellers to our otherworldly destination are at the mercy of the Arctic weather and a mighty landscape. This means that, although the rewards are incredible, Greenland can be an expensive and time-consuming travel destination.
But do not despair! We know the best ways to get around these challenges. Here are our top tips for saving time and money when travelling to and within Greenland.
Save money: Before you go
#1 Travel in the shoulder
and low seasons
Summer in Greenland (June to September) is the high season, so accommodation and experiences are more likely to be expensive and full. If you travel in the shoulder or low seasons (autumn, spring and winter / October to May), you are more likely to be able to book that cheaper accommodation option or to nab a cheaper deal on activities.
#2 Book in advance
Where possible, book accommodation and activities in advance for the best prices and to make sure you have the best variety of options available. Don’t know where to start with planning? Check out our specially written guide for first-timers in Greenland.
#3 Look into the details
Travelling in Greenland is different to travelling in other parts of the world, and there are details to consider that you might not be used to. One example is your phone usage. Using mobile data in Greenland from an international phone is very expensive, and WiFi can be too. So if being online is important to you, you might want to consider buying a local SIM card. You can buy these in major towns at Tele-post shops.
#4 Look out for flight deals
Air Greenland has an ongoing deal called Fly’n’Sleep. With Fly ‘n sleep Air Greenland offers a cheap way to travel between Greenland and Denmark with a stop over in Kangerlussuaq from only DKK 1,995 one-way. Your one night in Kangerlussuaq offers a great opportunity to experience the ice sheet, Russell Glacier or going hunting for musk ox and reindeer.
#5 Pack consciously
Airlines in Greenland are strict on their 20 kg baggage allowance – so if you go over, you will have to pay. Try and pack light and only bring the essentials. For the really thrifty packer, take advantage of the 8 kg cabin baggage allowance, and go checked baggage-free!
When booking on the Air Greenland website, select the Takuss tab at the top of the booking portal, to show only the Takuss tickets in your search results.
Save money: How to travel
#1 Go by boat
When travelling domestically within Greenland, it is cheaper to go by boat than by plane or helicopter. The coastal ferry, Sarfaq Ittuk, travels all the way from Qaqortoq in the south to Ilulissat in the north, stopping off in all major towns and settlements along the way. Of course this takes a lot longer than flying between destinations, but time is something you have to compromise if you want to save money on domestic travel.
There are also regional ferry operators that replace helicopters on local journeys: check out Disko Line and Blue Ice Explorer. If you can’t find the route you want, try asking a local boat tour operator if they can charter a boat to your required destination.
#2 Stay local
Many accommodation providers also offer self-catered apartments where you can cook your own meals to cut costs. You will find some properties on AirBnB in the bigger towns in Greenland, and also in some of the settlements, too. And there are some hosts on Couchsurfing who will open their homes for free to friendly travellers.
#3 Buy local
If you’re looking for souvenirs, venture into the small, less touristy workshops where you can speak directly with the artists. It is normally cheaper to buy directly from the artist, and they are always welcoming and friendly, even though their English might not be great. You might see local artists selling their work on the street or at street markets – these are (generally speaking!) not a scam and can usually save you some money.
#4 Make friends
This is the golden rule anywhere, really – it’s who you know. But it is relatively easy to make friends in Greenland – it is quite normal to strike up conversations with strangers in the street, so get chatting to people and see what opportunities arise!
#5 Don’t eat your greens!
The reason food is generally quite expensive in Greenland is because almost everything needs to be imported from Europe – there are not many places where we can grow fruit or vegetables here. So the cheapest way to eat is to choose local produce – this is mainly fish, seafood and local meats like reindeer, muskox, seal and whale. You can find these in grocery stores.
In most towns you will also find a meat market where local hunters sell their catches directly to customers – pop in here and see if you can get yourself a great bargain and a cultural experience all rolled into one!
Save money: What to do
#1 Roam free
Greenland is one of the few places on earth where all of the land is publicly owned. This means that you are free to walk wherever you want or camp wherever you want (within reason, of course – please do not set up camp in people’s gardens!). One of the best ways to save money, therefore, is to hike, bring your tent, and camp in the wild. Check out our Ultimate Greenland Hiking Guide for all you need to know about hiking in Greenland.
#2 Do free stuff!
There are free things to do all over the place in Greenland. Many of our museums are free, playing in the snow is free, whale watching (from the shore) is free, the midnight sun is free, the northern lights are free, the freshest and most invigorating air on the planet is free, the cleanest and purest drinking water is free! All of these once in a lifetime experiences are totally free!
If this isn’t enough for you, check out our event calendar, which allows you to plan your trip around the many free events that take place in Greenland all year round.
#3 Be your own guide
There are many activities in Greenland that can be done without a guide if you have the right tools and information. A good example is the Nuuk Art Walk – pick up a guide for free at the Art Museum or at Hotel Hans Egede’s reception, and spend an afternoon exploring the city as your own guide, through the lens of art. Discover the best viewpoints in Nuuk and Ilulissat on your own, with the help of previous travellers. Many hikes can be completed without a guide, if you have some hiking experience and download the Greenland GPS app, which features marked trails that you can download and follow offline. However, if you are inexperienced in hiking, don’t have the right emergency gear, or are unsure about your navigation skills, please make sure you take a guide with you. Greenland’s backcountry is a vast wilderness and you need to have the equipment and experience to take care of yourself in an emergency situation.
Save time: Before you go
#1 Plan, plan, plan
Greenland is the kind of destination where you can plan your trip as you go, but if you choose this option, you are going to spend some time waiting around. Travelling around Greenland is logistically a bit challenging, so you cannot expect that your desired route is available right when you want it. In order to make the most of the time you have in Greenland, research and plan all of your domestic journeys and tours in advance, to make sure that everything fits together in the most time-efficient way. But remember…
#2 Don’t pack too much in
As much as you plan ahead, it is likely that there will be something that has to change. In Greenland, the elements are in charge and if the weather gods decide you’re flying or sailing later than planned, then there’s nothing you can do about it. So don’t build an itinerary that is too tight, with many connections in one day. Consider planning buffer days or layovers in transfer destinations.
#3 Choose a package tour or plan with an agency
A simple way to save time is to let someone else do the planning for you. Book a package tour or let an experienced travel agent do the work for you, to make sure you get the most out of your trip.
#4 Choose the right season for you
- Summer: Endless days. Above the Arctic Circle in the summertime, the sun never sets, which means you have 24 hours of daylight, and much more time to be out and about. The long hours of low light make this season perfect for photographers.
- Spring: Two seasons in one trip. In Greenland’s ‘springtime’ (April – May) you can actually experience two different seasons in different parts of Greenland at the same time. No need to make a separate winter and summer trip – just start in the North where conditions stay wintery for longer, and then make your way down south where the snow has already disappeared and summer is creeping in!
- Winter: One of the world’s longest. We pride ourselves in having one of the world’s longest winters. Our streets stay snowy sometimes up to nine months of the year. This gives you snow-chasers much more time to enjoy all of the winter activities that Greenland has to offer.
#5 Pack for comfort
Greenland is a rugged destination, which is great because it feels really authentic and adventurous. But this also means that you need to be well-prepared, even if you are not planning on a particularly active holiday. Even walking around in towns and cities, roads can be rough and uneven. It is very important that you pack for comfort, with good, sturdy, broken-in footwear and clothing for all weather conditions. If you can move around easily and in comfort, you will fit in more activities and save time shopping for extra gear you didn’t realise you needed.
Save time: How to travel
#1 Air over water
It is of course much quicker to fly around than to sail, so if you can afford it, choose to fly and take in more destinations in one trip.
If you don’t have very long in one destination, take a flightseeing or helicopter tour, so you can experience as much of the surrounding landscape as possible in a short time.
#2 Wheels over walking
There are local buses in Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, and Kangerlussuaq. They usually go more or less anywhere there is a road, since the towns are pretty small. This is also a ‘save money’ tactic – simply hop on, pay cash to the driver, and get a cheap bus tour of the city! In some towns you can also rent a car or a bike as a quick way to see the city.
#3 Get on Greenlandic time!
Greenlanders are famously relaxed with their sense of time, often preferring to judge things by the changes in the weather or by what nature deems appropriate. Try readjusting your perception of time so that you ‘go with the flow’ of what’s possible, and you will realise that this is the best way of making the most of the time that is available to you.
We cannot promise you the cheapest holiday you’ve ever had, and you will need to spend more than just a weekend here – but we can guarantee that a trip to Greenland will be worth all of the time and money you invest in it. This special destination will stay with you for much longer than you think…