Tips for Tourists

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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

Read the latest packing tips from Greenland.com here!

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, snow pants, shoes or boots, 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, and insulated if it’s the winter season. 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 (or snow) 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 in summer or snow boots with good traction in winter, 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.

For winter time suggestions, see this great post about 7 Winter boots that will keep your feet warm by my friend and colleague over at The Fourth Continent!

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.

Don’t know how to read the DMI Town Weather page? Look here for my quick lesson!

COMMUNICATIONS / INTERNET IN GREENLAND

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.

(There is also a bus system in Sisimiut and in Ilulissat.)

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 by 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 mother tongue and your motivation to pick up a foreign language. Further below, I will provide a list of the Greenlandic language learning resources that I personally use, along with links. Others may exist.

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

  • For Danish speakersIf 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, interactive website, and a workbook available. See below for links to all of these resources.
  • For non-Danish speakers. 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.) 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 as well as a Greenland-English interactive website. See below for links to both of these resources. Or you can use a Greenlandic-Danish dictionary (online or smartphone app) or workbook. You will have to use a translator tool to supplement both of these. See below for links to these resources.

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-English or Greenlandic-Danish Interactive Website called Memrise. English site here. Danish site here.
  4. 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.
  5. Language Center in Sisimiut, called Oqaatsinik Pikkorissarfik. Provides intensive classroom courses in Greenlandic.
  6. Private Language Courses by Katrine Andersen at Katri.gl.

FOOD IN GREENLAND

For dining out in cafes or restaurants, see my post with photos of food menus and signs around many towns in Greenland. There are no restaurant chains, only individual restaurants in each town. As a general rule of thumb, the larger towns have the most options and variety, and one can find cuisine ranging from traditional Greenlandic specialties to cafeteria food like burgers and fries to gourmet restaurants.

For groceries, there are two supermarket chains in Greenland, called Pisiffik and Brugseni, that exist in the larger towns on the west coast between Ilulissat and Nanortalik, including Nuuk of course. (See below for their websites). There is also a smaller food store chain, called Pilersuisoq, that is more common in the smaller towns and villages. Buying fresh meat and fish is also possible at local markets, for example Kalaaliaraq in Nuuk and Qimatulivik in Sisimiut. Finally, in Nuuk specifically there is a local food store chain, called Kamik, that often carries international food items. There are also specialty foods at Matas in Nuuk Center or at privately-owned shops like Nerisarfik near the tunnel.

For information about what is available RIGHT NOW at the supermarket in Nuuk or elsewhere in Greenland, you can see Weekly Specials flyers online. The websites are in Greenlandic and Danish, but if you put an auto-translator onto your web browser, it should work pretty well for the Danish. And of course, you will have to convert DKK to your own currency 🙂

  • Pisiffik – Click “Ugens Tilbud” (Week’s Offers) and then “Denne Uges Avis” (This Week’s Flyer).
  • Brugseni – Click “Uge 30” of “Uge 31” PDF icon, etc. (Week 30 flyer, Week 31 flyer, etc.)

Below is a very random list of various foods prices at the supermarket 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.

* Prices for Greenlandic products (ex: reindeer, muskox, ptarmigan, sea mammals, fish, etc.) are set by the individual municipalities. 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.

Read more about Kaffemik here.

14 thoughts on “Tips for Tourists

  1. Hi Sarah, just surf around and see your blog, as I am thinking about the short trip in Greenland in this Sep, may I ask below few questions:-
    1. Internet sim card: In Greenland, support 3G ? If I really need to have pre-paid sim card have call and data, then where I need to purchase ? In those Denmark telephone company like Lebara ?
    2. I am thinking tour in llulissat, do some hiking, see iceberg, which place you like the most ?
    3. AC plug: is it same as Denmark ?

    Thanks and have a nice day

    • Hi Ray – glad to hear about your plans for Greenland! September is a lovely time to visit. Though in most of the country there are no trees whose leaves change colors, the small grasses and low shrubbery do change color!

      1. Internet SIM card: Greenland does support 3G – via Tele Greenland. What part of the world are you coming from? As an American, my carrier, Verizon Wireless, has an international data plan that I set up for my iPhone before traveling, and once I get to Greenland it automatically syncs with the Tele Greenland network.

      2. Ilulissat: Very beautiful, and you will absolutely see all the icebergs your heart desires. The name means “Icebergs” in Greenlandic, did you know? in Ilulissat, there are many marked hiking paths (Blue, Yellow, Red) of various lengths within the UNESCO World Heritage Site that take you along the coastline of the Ilulissat Icefjord, which is packed with icebergs. I would recommend, however, that if you are interested in formal excursions like sailing tours, visits to small settlements, etc. you make the arrangements before you arrive. September is getting to be the end of our high summer season, so I want to make sure you have as many possibilities as possible.

      3. AC plug: Same as Denmark.

      If you haven’t seen it already, visit the “Tips for Tourists” page here on my blog for other practical information like this!

  2. Thank you Sarah for those precious tips. You don’t mention milk. I suppose that it must be difficult to find fresh milk there? I may have to drink UHT milk. Can you find _skimmed_ UHT milk there and would you know how much a litre costs? I’m asking because I may have to go work there for a few weeks/months? And if so, I’ll have lots of questions about the facilities (bathroom, kitchen etc).

    • Hi Cyber, thanks for the message and for the readership!

      Your potential work assignment sounds exciting – when will you come? To where?

      You are very welcome to ask me or others any questions you like.

      About Milk:
      Hehe, no I guess I don’t mention milk, do I? That would be because I don’t buy milk!

      Rest assured, milk DOES exist in Greenland 🙂 But always keep in mind that the stock is never guaranteed – whether it’s milk we’re talking about or some other food product. Bouts of bad weather can keep your favorite product off the shelf for a week or so, even in Nuuk. And if you’re in a smaller town or settlement above the Arctic Circle or on the east coast (i.e. where there’s sea ice and thus few to no container ship deliveries in the winter period), this shortage or lack of variety is even more common.

      Most have learned to stock up on something when there’s a great offer – not only for the cheaper pricing but also for the purpose of creating a small stockpile for yourself 🙂

      Most commonly people buy cartons of milk that have a long shelf life and can be stored dry until opened – all Danish stuff by Arla. And yes, you can find low-fat and skimmed versions both – even lactose-free!

      For the pricing, my educated guess is that a liter is around 50 DKK / 7 EUR / 7 USD. Maybe a little less if there’s a special sale.

      Hope this helps! Keep in touch; I’d love to hear more about your upcoming stay!

      Best,
      Sarah

      • Thank you very much, Sarah for replying. I don’t know yet when or where or for how long or even if this project will go ahead, I may have some idea next week.

        GBP5 for one litre of milk 😦
        vs GBP1 for 4 (imperial) pints i.e. 2.3 litres here in London.

        Yes, this helps a lot. I spent hours online reading everything I could find about daily life in Greenland and yes it will depend on where I am sent, because it looks like in some parts of the north the facilities are much reduced. I read somewhere that they had no running water and no toilet… But I am still very excited about this project.

    • Cyber,

      Thanks for these – YOU BET they interest me! I like the first one very much and I do not like the second one at all. I’m so happy you shared these with me, and the wheels are going in overdrive right now about writing a personal response post here on my blog about each of them.

      Write to me at sarah@greenland.com if you get the chance. I’d love to continue keeping in touch with you about the prospects of your working project in Greenland, and I have a resource for you. It’s a book that was originally published in Danish for Danes but has recently been translated into English and re-written for internationals (Americans, Italians, Brits, anyone).

      Best,
      Sarah

      • No news, so far, but it is only the beginning of the week. What is this book, please?

      • The Danish title is “Inussuk: Pejling mod Grønland”. The English title is: Inussuk: Culture Crossing”. The author is: Lena Lauridsen, a Dane herself who moved to Greenland.

        The English version is not published yet unfortunately, but there are two resources you can use to follow along until it is:

        1. The website: http://www.inussuk.info/. In Danish, but I think you could set up a translation feature on Google Chrome?
        2. The Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/inussuk/?fref=ts. In Danish, but I think you could set up a translation feature on Google Chrome?

        Again, all this is fodder for a new blog post, but I wanted to coordinate it with the the English release date 🙂

        Best,
        Sarah

  3. I explored the website but couldn’t find this book anywhere (amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, waterstones, K&C libraries…) I googled it, found the author on LinkedIn and I read: ‘The english edition will be released in December 2015.’

    • Cyber, yes I could imagine as a Danish language book it had/has very little distribution outside of Greenland and Denmark. I think the English version release will open many doors to get out there in the more mainstream channels like Amazon 🙂

      I’ll give a secret insight: I contributed to one of the chapters for the English version and also proofread the English version. It’s worth the wait!

      If you are willing to say (either here in this comment or private to my work email, sarah@greenland.com), or know the answer, how soon would you potentially be traveling to Greenland? What I mean is, is December 2015 too late for you to get the valuable insight from the book prior to your departure date?
      -Sarah

      • >> how soon would you potentially be traveling to Greenland? <> is December 2015 too late for you to get the valuable insight from the book prior to your departure date? <<
        probably no

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