So you've finally decided to head to Tromso to hunt the Northern Lights, spot some whales, experience the Midnight Sun or simply enjoy the gorgeous Arctic nature. You've booked your flights and hotels and possibly a few tours but what else is there to do?
Let me give you a quick rundown of everything you need to do before heading to Tromso!
1. Pack appropriate clothing/gear
No matter what time of the year you plan on visiting the Arctic, you need to bring appropriate clothing.
While summer temperatures range between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius (20 if you're lucky), winter temperatures range between +5 and -5 during the day but can fall to -20 during the night in some cases, and it's not unusual to have -20 degrees during the day in January too.
It is the Arctic after all, people!
So what you need to bring year-round are fleece jackets, woolen sweaters and socks, scarfs, gloves and a water/wind-proof jacket during summer, a proper down jacket during winter, and hiking boots with a good grip.
Crampons during winter are also a must cause when temperatures rise and the snow melts, we get a several centimetre thick ice cover on the streets in Tromso, causing you to slip and fall if you think you can pull off your Converse sneakers.
Depending on what you want to do during your stay, a few other things might come in handy, like a tripod for Northern Light photography or a thermos flask for longer hiking trips.
If you're however on a budget and/or would only buy these things for your trip to Tromso but don't have a need for them ever again, don't bother. You can rent thick winter clothing at Tromso Outdoor or just wear several layers of clothing at once.
So instead of buying those 200€ ski pants that you'd never need again, you can simply buy long johns and water/wind-proof outdoor trousers for 50€ to wear in combination with a thick jeans or corduroy pants.
It all depends on when you visit, what you're planning on doing and how long you'd be outside in really cold temperatures. Some companies even include clothing for their tours in their ticket fees, for example Arctic Explorer when you go whale-watching or hunting the Northern Lights with them.
And if you're worried about how that bulky Arctic clothing might look on you, fear not cause it's actually possible to dress warmly and in style. Here's some inspiration:
2. Decide on which activities you want to do
Now this seems like a no-brainer but deciding on what you'd like to do in Tromso before you actually come here is not just important to know what you need to pack.
Tromso (and Norway in general) is not exactly a cheap destination so if you're visiting on a budget, it's vital to know what you can do and see for free, and how you can save money on food and transportation.
But even if money is not a problem, your plans might not work out cause of a simple thing called weather. You see, the Arctic weather is unpredictable and it might destroy your plans to see the Northern Lights or go dog-sledding.
In 2016 for example, we didn't get the first snow of the winter until late November and not a consistent snow cover before late January 2017. So if you're planning to go dog-sledding but arrive in early winter (aka the polar night period), you might want to have a back-up plan.
Likewise, if you're short on time, you might want to plan ahead to make the most of your stay in the city and not waste time figuring out where to go and what to do next.
Lucky for you, I wrote a whole guidebook on Tromso that not only includes budget travel tips and info on where to spot the Northern Lights, but also two summer and winter itineraries each, for those short on time.
3. Arrange transportation
Now that you know what to bring and what you'd like to do, it's time to figure out transportation. Do you want to rent a car to be more flexible to explore the Arctic on your own terms?
Or are you visiting on a budget and would rather walk as much as possible and make use of public transport whenever need be?
In any case, it pays off to come prepared!
If you want to rent a car, you should do so several weeks, if not months, prior to your stay. Prices rise with demand so if you try to rent a car a week before heading to Tromso, or worse, upon arrival, prices might just be insane!
Likewise if you're planning to use public transport, don't make the mistake of getting a ticket for the airport shuttle to get into town. Taking the public busses is much cheaper and the travel time is equally long.
As is the case for renting cars, buying bus tickets beforehand is cheaper too. You can do so online at Tromskortet or you can download the Tromskortet ticket app. The local bus service also offers an app with all info on local routes, timetables and real time tracking, which you can find under Troms Reise in the app store.
Note: The apps are available in English but they might occasionally show information in Norwegian anyway. Don't ask me why - Tromso is still a bit behind when it comes to stuff like that...
Last but not least:
Keep up to date with Tromso before your visit to see what the weather will be like, whether or not there'll be any interesting events during your stay or if there's a new tourist attraction.
Note: During the summer of 2016, it was possible to purchase a tourist pass which included free transportation and entrance to several museums in the city but unfortunately the project is currently paused. Make sure to check Visit Tromso before your stay to see if this offer starts again!
Final note: Tromso is in the Arctic after all so it's safe to say that the city is a tad behind when it comes to accommodating visitors from abroad. Don't be surprised if any of the apps aren't working in English or it takes you ages to figure out the local bus system. You'll fall in love with the city for its gorgeous landscapes anyway - and if there's anything you need help with, don't be afraid to reach out!
Useful websites and apps for your stay in Tromso:
Are you planning a visit to tromso? what are you most looking forward to?
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