Tips for Tourists in Greenland

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Here you will find a lot of useful information about clothing, Internet/communications, transportation, language, food pricing, etc. in Greenland (in that order). It is a continual work in progress, and you are quite welcome to leave a message at this blog post with any questions or comments about these topics and others 🙂

I try to consider both tourists and people moving/staying for a while, but much of the information is applicable for everyone.

CLOTHES IN GREENLAND

* Bring items that are durable and have plenty of life left in them. Don’t come to Greenland with clothing that may not make it for the duration of your trip, i.e. jeans, shoes, etc. It’s not that replacing the items is hard, just that it is quite expensive to do so! While it may not be your thing to buy new items before a trip if you already have them, you would be wise to do it anyway if you have any doubt about their lifespan!

* Bring windproof and rainproof outerwear. Definitely bring a good jacket and a pair of pants that are wind- and rain-proof. They will come in handy both on the water for boat trips but also (and maybe more so) on land. The rain itself is not anything out of the ordinary, but rain plus wind makes for the potential to have very wet and uncomfortable clothing!

* Bring sturdy, supportive, and resilient footwear. Most people wear hiking boots or heavy-duty sneakers around town, and if you are going sailing or plan to be in wet areas, waterproof boots (wellies?) are best. If you are buying new shoes prior to your trip, I would highly recommend spending the extra money for a nice pair rather than skimping for something cheap. The worst-case scenario is that you must purchase new shoes in Greenland. As I mentioned before, it will probably be no problem to replace them, but it will be expensive.

* Bring many socks! For one thing, it’s just good to have extras, especially if you will be doing hiking or other outdoor activities. Nothing is worse than sitting in damp socks! For another thing, if you will be staying in or visiting a private home (for example, for Kaffemik or to visit a friend), the custom is to take your shoes off at the door and go around in your socks.

Funny story: I made the silly mistake once of wearing shoes without socks to Kaffemik. When I got to the door and saw all the other guests’ shoes lined up outside, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have socks on! So I ran home real quick to get socks! Fortunately I lived just across the street 🙂

* Bring clothing / accessories for many weathers. Layers are your best friend. The climate in Greenland is a bit tricky because there is very low humidity. What the forecast says and what the air temperature feels like can be two very different things. With no wind, it usually feels much warmer than it is. But if the wind picks up (and it probably will), it quickly starts to feel cold.

Basically, be prepared for many temperatures, many weathers, etc. Use multiple thin layers rather than a few thick layers to regulate your body temperature easily. Keep breathable, non-cotton materials close to your body; layer heavier knit/woven materials on top; always have windproof and waterproof outer layers available. And always have a pair of gloves and a hat available, even in summer.

* Check the weather. Make it a habit to check the weather daily, paying attention to temperature, wind, and precipitation. For one of the most comprehensive weather forecasts for towns and villages in Greenland, see Denmark’s Meteorological Institute – Town Weather.

COMMUNICATIONS / INTERNET IN GREENLAND

* AC Plug: You will need the 2-prong plug typical for continental Europe. It is the same for Iceland and Denmark, Greenland’s two largest connection points.

* Make an Internet game plan. You must pay for Internet in Greenland, and you must pay a lot, so you should decide before your trip whether you need/want to use the Internet or not. You can purchase Internet via wi-fi hotspots or, if you have a smartphone, you could use its data capabilities. (See next bullet.)

Cafés, hotels, airports, etc. use wi-fi hotspot systems in which you purchase a set amount of time (30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hour, 24 hour) and you receive a unique log-in code and password to use. MOST times you are able to meter the time by logging in and out – for example, use 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there, etc. But I have found a few places in Greenland that do not allow metering.

The best rate for Internet I ever encountered was 3 hours of Internet (metering allowed) for 120 DKK (22 USD).

Know your phone’s international capabilities before you leave home. Is it unlocked for use with a local SIM card?  What are the international fees for calling, texting, and data usage? Does it make sense for you to buy a cheap phone for Greenland specifically?

For someone staying in Greenland for a short period, it might make the most sense to use your smartphone (if you have one) and purchase an international data plan via your home carrier. For reference, my international plan via Verizon Wireless is 30 USD for 100 MB of data, plus calling and texting. Every additional 100 MB of data is 25 USD, and it charges automatically.

For someone staying in Greenland for a long period, it might make sense to get a phone with a Greenlandic number, but be aware that probably only the larger towns will have places to buy such a setup (Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, and Qaqortoq are my best guesses). A cheap one can be 490 DKK (84 USD) for the phone and 400 DKK (68 USD) for the SIM card, which comes pre-loaded with a call/text allowance called Tusas. It’s like a debit system for outgoing calls/texts, and incoming calls/texts are free.

General pricing for outgoing calls/texts:

  • Outgoing Local daytime call price (per minute, 7:00-18:00) 1.75 dkk = 0.30 USD
  • Outgoing Local evening call price (per minute, 18:00-07:00) 1.23 dkk = 0.20 USD
  • Outgoing Call tax (one time, per call) 0.15 dkk = 0.02 USD
  • Outgoing SMS price (per 160 character message) 0.33 dkk = 0.06 USD

So, the original SIM card purchase comes with approximately 114 minutes of outgoing calls or 567 outgoing SMS’s.

I personally use 2 phones when I am in Greenland, an iPhone 4S with an American phone # and a cheap Nokia phone with a Greenlandic phone #. I use the iPhone for calls/texts to people in the United States and for Internet usage away from home/office, and I use the Nokia phone for calls/texts to people in Greenland. Simple!

GROUND TRANSPORTATION IN GREENLAND

It is very easy to use the bus system in Greenland. There are buses in Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, and Kangerlussuaq. Nuup Bussii (Nuuk’s bus system) is of course the largest.

In towns and villages without bus systems, you must either walk or use Taxi transportation.

A single ride costs 15 DKK (2.50 USD), and you pay with cash on the bus. Keep your ticket stub because it is valid for unlimited rides for up to 1.5 hours. It is easiest to pay with exact change, and I’m quite certain the bus driver will not accept a bill larger than 500 DKK.

In Nuuk, there are many routes that reach all parts of town, including city center, Nuussuaq neighborhood, the airport, and Qinngorput neighborhood (the new development approximately 5 km/3 mi outside city center). In general, buses run from 6 in the morning until midnight, and they reach any given stop twice an hour. Always consult the Schedule/Route Map for your specific needs. It is available online, and it is posted at every bus stop.

For someone staying in Greenland for a long period, there is the option of purchasing an 11-ride per month card or an unlimited ride per month card. It can only be purchased at the Nuup Bussii headquarters. It makes financial sense to get a card if you anticipate using the bus a lot because there is a slight price break and it is, of course, easier than finding change every time.

For transportation to Greenland, see How to Get to Greenland.

LANGUAGE IN GREENLAND

Greenland is a multi-lingual country. Greenlandic (called Kalaallisut) is the official mother tongue, Danish is the official second language, and English is a third language that children begin learning in the 4th class.

* Language can be a tricky topic. Without going into many details about history and politics, language in Greenland is not clear-cut. There are Greenlanders who are fluent in Greenlandic, Danish, and English. There are others who only know Greenlandic & Danish or Danish & English, and there are others who only know Greenlandic.

* From my personal experience, there are three very general trends regarding language proficiency.

  1. The larger the town, the more likely people are to be bilingual (Greenlandic & Danish or Danish & English) or trilingual (Greenlandic, Danish & English).
  2. The people that have consistent contact with tourists are more likely to be trilingual. This is a broad range of people from guides to restaurant bartenders/servers to airline staff, and so on.
  3. Many people are even proficient in a fourth language. Due to the closeness of the Danish language to other Scandinavian languages, this is typically Swedish and Norwegian. German is another common one!

Signs are most commonly posted in Greenlandic and Danish. As a very general rule: signs are posted in Greenlandic and Danish always and in English sometimes. See my extensive photo gallery of signs around many towns in Greenland for a good idea.

* There are Greenlandic language learning resources available. Here I will give general tips regarding language according to your trip purpose to Greenland, your mother tongue, and your motivation to pick up a foreign language. Below, I will simply list the Greenlandic language learning resources that I am personally familiar with. Others may exist.

The vast majority of Greenlandic language learning resources are produced in Danish.

    • For those traveling to Greenland for a short period (i.e. tourists).
        • For Danish speakers. If foreign language is not your thing, all signs, menus, etc. are posted in Danish so you will not have any problems getting along in Greenland. But if you want to pick up Greenlandic for fun, there is a Greenlandic-Danish dictionary (available online and in smartphone app form) that you can use. There is also a DVD set and a workbook available. See below for both.
        • For non-Danish speakersAs a very general rule: signs are posted in Greenlandic and Danish always and in English sometimes. (See my extensive photo gallery of signs around many towns in Greenland for a good idea.) But don’t worry – spoken English is much more common than written English. If foreign language is not your thing, my honest suggestion for reading signs, etc. that are not available in English is to have a translator tool on hand (for example, Google Translate). It will be easiest for you to do Danish-English or Danish-Your Language because the Danish language separates noun and verb words. In Greenlandic, it can be hard to pick out the nouns and verbs because it is a polysynthetic language and looks different from anything you have probably seen before. But if you want to pick up Greenlandic for fun, there is a Greenlandic-English DVD set available. See below. Or you can use the Greenlandic-Danish dictionary (online or smartphone app) or workbook. You will have to use a translator tool to supplement both of these.
    • For those traveling to Greenland for a long period (i.e. moving/staying a while). Coming soon.
        • For Danish speakers.
        • For non-Danish speakers.

List of Greenlandic language learning resources:

  1. Greenlandic-Danish dictionary, called “Ordbogit”. Produced by Oqaasileriffik (Greenland Language Secretariat). Available online and in Smartphone App form.
  2. Greenlandic-English or Greenlandic-Danish DVD called “Learn Greenlandic with Per Langgård“. Produced by Oqaasileriffik. Available online, and I have also seen it in Atuagkat bookstore in Nuuk.
  3. Greenlandic-Danish workbook called “Qanoq: Opgave- og Grammatikbog” by Helene Brochmann. I have seen it in the bookstore in Sisimiut and in Atuagkat bookstore in Nuuk.
  4. Language Center in Sisimiut, called Oqaatsinik Pikkorissarfik. Provides intensive classroom courses in Greenlandic.
  5. Private Language Courses by Katrine Andersen at Katri.gl.

FOOD IN GREENLAND

This topic is a work in progress, but as a start, here’s a very random list of various foods prices at the grocery store or fresh market. Prices are converted DKK to USD. Please note: the exchange rate will, of course, change constantly, but these prices can give a general idea of the cost of groceries in Greenland.

For this week’s up-to-date information on food/groceries in Greenland, the two grocery stores chains, Pisiffik and Brugseni, post their Weekly Specials flyers online. You will have to convert DKK to your own currency, of course 🙂 test.

Pisiffik – Click on “Tilbudsavis” (Specials Flyer), then “Denne Uges Avis” (This Week’s Fyler).

Brugseni – Click on PDF icon that says “Uge 30” or “Uge 31” etc. (Week 30, Week 31)

* Prices for Greenlandic products (ex: reindeer, muskox, ptarmigan, sea mammals, fish, etc.) are set by the individual municipalities when sold at independent markets like Kalaaliaraq in Nuuk or Qimatulivik in Sisimiut. The prices of Greenlandic products in the Meat section below represent Qeqqata Kommunia, the Arctic Circle Region municipality.

MEAT

Steak 176 dkk/kg = $14.72/lb

Chicken breast 88 dkk/kg = $7.36/lb

Pork chops 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb

Fresh Reindeer 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb

Dried Reindeer 400 dkk/kg = $33.46/lb

Fresh Muskox 90 dkk/kg = $7.53/lb

Dried Muskox 400 dkk/kg = $33.46/lb

Snow hare 150 dkk each = $27.61 each

Ptarmigan 65 dkk each = $12 each

Fresh fish (cod, redfish, trout, salmon, capelin, halibut) 45-60 dkk/kg = $3.74-$5.02/lb

Smoked fish (trout, salmon, halibut) 180 dkk/kg = $15.06/lb

Lumpfish roe (Stenbider rogn) 60 dkk/kg = $5.02/lb

Fresh Whale meat (various species) 45-55 dkk/kg = $3.76-$4.60/lb

Whale mattak (various species) 100-250 dkk/kg = $8.37-$20.91/lb

Seal, various species (meat & organs) 45-60 dkk/kg = $3.76-$5.02/lb

PANTRY

Rugbrød 28 dkk for a loaf = $4.75 for a loaf

Wild Rice 35 dkk for 1000 g = $6.44 for 35 oz

Whole grain cereal 45 dkk for 375 g = $8 for 13 oz

Müsli 28 dkk for 1000 g = $5.15 for 35 oz

Fusili pasta 11 dkk for 500 g = $2 for 18 oz

Pasta sauce 17 dkk for 480 g jar = $3.12 for 17 oz jar

Wasa crackers (Delikatess, Frukost) 22 dkk for 285 g = $4 for 10 oz

Raisins 20 dkk for 300 g = $3.68 for 10.5 oz

Canned beans 17 dkk for 250 g = $3.13 for 9 oz

Marmelade 15 dkk for 400 g = $2.75 for 14 oz

Specialty Pesto sauce 14 dkk for 130 g = $2.58 for 4.5 oz

Pickwick tea bags 22 dkk for a box of 20 = $4 for a box

DAIRY

Yogurt 21 dkk for 1000 g = $3.87 for 35 oz.

Specialty yogurt (Icelandic Skyr) 30 dkk for 500 g = $5.52 for 17.6 oz

Sliced cheese 29 dkk = $4.91 for a pack

Large wedge Parmigiano Reggiano 50 dkk = $8.41 for a wedge

Cheese with Herbs 18.25 dkk for 114 g = $3.36 for 4 oz

FRESHIES

Apples 4 dkk each = $0.75 each

Bag onions 15 dkk = $2.52 for a bag

FROZEN

Mushrooms 22 dkk for 400 g = $3.70 for 14 oz

Haricot Vert Green Beans 22 dkk for 700 g = $4 for 25 oz

Peas 25 dkk for 400 g = $4.20 for 14 oz

Chopped Spinach 13 dkk for 450 g = $2.40 for 16 oz

ALCOHOL

White wine 39 dkk for 200 ml = $6.56 for 8 oz bottle

White wine 89 dkk for 750 ml = $15 for 25 oz bottle

Royal Summer beer 102 dkk for 6 pack = $17 per 6 pack, or $2.83/beer)

Beer & soda bottle deposit 2 dkk per bottle (refundable) = $0.33 per bottle – Greenland imports almost all of its beer and all of its soda, but it bottles the beverages locally.

Beer at a Bar 40 dkk for 200 ml = $6.80 for 6.75 oz (or $1/oz)

Beer at a Bar 75 dkk for 400 ml = $12.75 for 13.5 oz (or $0.94/oz)

Beer at a Bar 98 dkk for 600 ml = $16.70 for 20 oz (or $0.84/oz)

TOILETRIES

Nivea shower gel 51 dkk for 750 ml bottle = $8.63 for 25 oz bottle

Tampons 37 dkk for box of 20 = $6.26 for box of 20

Generic shampoo 12.45 dkk for 750 ml bottle = $2.11 for 25 oz bottle

Disposable razors 12.5 dkk for bag of 4 = $2.12 for bag of 4

KAFFEMIK IN GREENLAND

Kaffemik is a fun gathering of friends and family to celebrate birthdays, births, graduations, new homes, and other milestones! The person of honor hosts at his or her own home and provides coffee, tea, cakes, sweets, bread, and oftentimes Greenlandic specialities like reindeer, muskox, whale, seal, fish, etc. Kaffemik events are extremely common and can happen any day of the week, but they are most common on weekends when many people are free. The entire event typically lasts for multiple hours, but guests usually only stay for a short visit.

Should you be invited to Kaffemik, these are some general guidelines to being a delightful guest. Please note, some tour companies do offer Kaffemik as an activity. In this case, the gift is not necessary. Please consult the tour company with any questions.

  • Always take your shoes off before entering the person’s home (so wear socks!).
  • Taste as many of the cakes and food as possible! They are delicious!
  • Only stay a short while – enough time for a couple cups of coffee, say – so to give others the chance to take a seat and enjoy also.
  • Bring a gift for the person of honor – something around 50-100 DKK worth (9-17 USD) is nice.
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13 thoughts on “Tips for Tourists in Greenland

  1. Thank you! I m from the Netherlands and I found it hard to find information About moving and living in Greenland this blog was really helpfull

    • Dirtzen,

      Thank you for your comment. I have plenty more information about this topic waiting in the wings. I am hoping to compile it all and upload at the same time. So you can keep a look out for that in the coming weeks. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to message me 🙂 Are you moving to Greenland?

      • Gracias….por toda la información y felicidades por la travesia…algún dia viajare por aquellas tierras……aunque no esperaba fuese tan caro….thanks again…keep traveling….

      • Gracias a tí, también! Espero que puedas viajar a Groenlandia una día! Es LA MÁS bella país del mundo!!! Buenas viajes!

  2. This was very informative. I recently stumbled upon Nuuk, Greenland, when I was exploring google earth, and I’ve been hooked on learning about this village, ever since! I wish I could find some store or supermarket ads, to get an even better idea on the prices. But, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand them anyway. Thank-you for the information. How enjoyable! 😀

    • Thank you for your comment, Donna!

      Nuuk is a wonderful place, and I hope you get so hooked on learning about it that you travel here one day!

      Nuuk is a city in Greenland, the capital in fact, with nearly 17000 inhabitants. There are many supermarket and local market options for buying groceries and Greenlandic specialities, as well as many clothing shops, souvenir shops, cafes/bistros, and even a few high end restaurants.

      RESOURCES:
      You can look at the website for Nuuk Center (http://www.nuukcenter.gl), the first and only shopping mall in Greenland which opened in 2012. It has information about the shops, etc. It is published in Greenlandic and Danish only, but if you put on a translator tool onto your computer, it should do pretty well for translating Danish.

      For supermarket ads, see to the Pisiffik website, http://www.pisiffik.gl (again only in Greenlandic and Danish). Click on “Ugens Tilbud”. Or use this link, http://viewer.webproof.com/pageflip/307/146451/index.html#/page=1. You will have to convert DKK to your own currency, of course 🙂

      Hope this helps a bit more!

  3. Hi.
    I think of moving to Greenland for good. Looks like a place for me. Do you know anyone who moved there and stayed?

    • Hi Kah,

      I can see that! Thank you so much for the readership and for the compliments and questions. I’ll answer them individually.

      -Sarah

  4. Thank you for your interesting blog about Greenland. I am living in Austria and interested in moving to Greenland and living there. I wonder if there is a chance to find work, e.g. in tourism, even if one cannot talk Greenlandic nor Danish. Would be happy to hear your opinion about that.

    • Michaela,

      Thanks for the compliment and for your readership!
      To live in Greenland as a foreigner with no familial relationship, you must have a job offer BEFORE you come to Greenland. In fact, you make an application to the Danish Committee for Recruitment together with your coming employer. Language skill requirements are entirely up to the individual company. For example, Visit Greenland does not have a language requirement, so when I started as an intern back in 2012, it was perfectly fine that I could not speak a single word of Greenlandic or Danish. That being said, I have seen various job postings where Greenlandic, Danish, and English were required, with a fourth language (like German) as a plus.

  5. Fascinating and useful. I am going on a cruise so will be guided all the way but the article was insightful and gave me a taste of what to expect.

    • Dear Binti,

      Thanks for the comment and readership! Best wishes for your cruise in Greenland; I hope you look through some of the other pages on my blog which can most likely still be of use to you no matter what way you travel in Greenland. I would love to hear your impressions after you return, if you think of it!
      Best,
      Sarah

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