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Is Greenland Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

Is Greenland Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

The Arctic mass of Greenland, technically an autonomous territory of Denmark, is where dedicated lovers of stark Arctic landscapes flock to see unique nature.

The country receives just under 100,000 visitors each year, but for those visitors, it is the trip of a lifetime. The starkly beautiful Arctic landscapes are the main draw for visitors to Greenland.

From the iceberg coast of Ilulissat Ice-fjord to the northern lights around Qaqortoq to dog-sledding in the Flower Valley, there is so much to see in this picturesque destination.

Make sure that you stop in the capital Nuuk for a visit to the Greenland National Museum and as a jumping-off point to tours such as whale watching excursions.

A visit to Greenland is certainly a trip to remember but traveling somewhere so remote certainly requires a lot of planning. Many visitors are also concerned about their safety when going to a destination that they know so little about.

This travel guide can help you navigate the safety of planning a trip — keep reading for more detailed safety information, including crime.

Is Greenland Safe to Visit in 2024?

Man in a red coat and black gloves holding his arms above his head while he gazes out over an iceberg field for a guide titled Is Greenland Safe to Visit


Yes. As long as you prepare properly, Greenland is safe to visit. The brutal Arctic nature can be dangerous, so you need to do plenty of research and only go out with trusted guides.

In terms of human danger, you don’t need to worry much because Greenland has a very low crime rate, in part thanks to its close-knit community. Most travel advisories are in agreement that the territory is a very safe place to visit.

Canada places Greenland under a Level One travel advisory, only telling its citizens that they need to take regular precautions when they visit. That said, some crime does still occur in the country.

Common offenses include:

  • Petty theft
  • Scams
  • Substance abuse

Greenland does suffer from higher per capita levels of violent crime, including:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault

However, these crimes primarily occur among the local population. Visitors are almost never victims of crime, particularly violent crime. You don’t have much to worry about from your fellow humans when visiting Greenland.

Nature is a different story. The same nature that attracts most visitors to Greenland is very inhospitable. If you don’t take the right precautions, it is easy to get lost or stranded.

Then you are really in trouble — as the UK government warns in its advisory for travel to the Arctic, rescue operations are hard to carry out in these conditions.

The government of Greenland includes tips for traveling through the country safely on its official page for tourists. If you are going hiking, it is recommended that you take a local guide (you are required to in some places, such as glaciers).

If you are going without a guide, make sure that you tell someone where you are going and take a GPS locator with an emergency signal with you in case you get lost.

The terrain in Greenland can be inhospitable, even in the towns. Make sure that you bring sturdy hiking boots that can help you traverse rocky, uneven paths that are icy well into May.

Snow and ice are rarely cleared from the roads because too much falls for it to be practical to do, so hiking boots are the best bet even in towns. Greenland has extreme, rapidly changing weather.

Hurricane-force windstorms, whiteouts, sudden drops to freezing temperatures, and more are all common. Make sure that you bring appropriate items with you such as waterproof clothing, warm base layers made of materials such as merino wool, and a shelter for longer hikes.

Always follow local advice — if someone tells you to get back inside as soon as possible, listen. Getting on the water is a popular activity, as this is both the best way to see icebergs and the best way to get from place to place.

Make sure that you do so with a reputable tour company — it is rarely safe to go out kayaking or sailing alone, especially if you are inexperienced.

Never, ever get too close to icebergs and glaciers as they can flip or break up at any moment, killing anyone that gets too close.

Finally, Greenland’s animals are often dangerous. Everyone knows to stay away from polar bears, but you should give other animals such as walruses and musk ox plenty of distance as well, as they have attacked humans before.

Arctic foxes often carry rabies, so seek medical attention immediately if you get bitten. Fluffy sled dogs are working dogs here and will bite strangers if they get territorial.

Visiting the country safely requires plenty of precautions and research ahead of time. However, with the right preparations, you can have a trip to remember.

Crime in Greenland

To illustrate that Greenland is very safe to visit, a bunch of red and blue homes sit on a cliff in a small village with rocky and grassy hills

Nigel Jarvis/Shutterstock

Crime affecting tourists in Greenland is practically nonexistent. The small, close-knit population doesn’t provide much cover for criminals.

While criminal incidents do occur, especially in remote villages, they are mostly intra-community problems and don’t affect visitors. Greenland’s crime statistics are not the most accurate.

For example, the homicide rate according to World Bank data is 5 incidents per 100,000 people, which seems shocking until you remember that the country’s population is only 56,000 people.

In places with small populations, calculating the rate per 100,000 people makes the crime rate seem far worse than it actually is. According to official Greenland crime numbers, there were about 6,000 offenses of all types in 2022.

Most were reported by the Nuuk police department, which makes sense because the capital of Nuuk has most of Greenland’s population.

The country’s government admits in its counting of crime statistics that violent crimes, or offenses against the person, make up a bigger percentage of local crime statistics than in most Nordic countries.

However, most violent crimes occur between people who already know each other, and incidents that affect tourists are practically nonexistent. The Greenland justice system is unique in that it tries to encourage victims and perpetrators to reconcile whenever possible.

This makes sense in a tight-knit community where people will have to live together after a crime. Most people in Greenland feel safe in their communities.

According to Numbeo, Greenland scores a 37.12 out of 100 on the crime index, a low value. People are concerned about petty offenses such as drug abuse, vandalism, and petty theft, but feel mostly safe in their community.

Petty Theft

Petty theft rates in Greenland are fairly low. However, this is still the most common crime you might encounter as a tourist. Petty theft incidents such as pickpocketing and bag snatching tend to happen in bigger towns such as Nuuk (if they happen at all).

You don’t have to be constantly on your guard against theft in Greenland because it is fairly rare (people have bigger problems to worry about), but taking some basic, common-sense precautions is a good idea.

Never leave valuables such as your purse or wallet unattended. Even in a place with a low crime rate, you never know when someone might decide that the opportunity is too good to pass up.

The Canadian government advises visitors to make sure valuables, especially travel documents, are secure at all times. Put items in secure places such as a zipped bag compartment, inner pocket of your backpack, or front pants pocket.

This isn’t so much to protect you from theft, but to protect you from losing your items — replacing your valuables, especially your passport, is not that easy.

Scams are fairly rare in Greenland. Still, it’s a good idea to research tour companies before booking any activities through them.

Read previous reviews to see what experiences other customers had. You don’t want to show up and realize that you paid a deposit for a company that doesn’t exist — or worse, one with unsafe practices.

Sexual Assault

The beautiful landscapes of Greenland hide a serious societal problem. The island has one of the highest sexual assault rates in the world.

In 2015, Greenland actually topped the list of rape reports per capita according to the UN Drugs and Crime Agency. The vast majority of the victims are local women and girls.

In fact, minors make up nearly 90% of sexual assault victims in certain localities, causing the government to even seek help from Denmark in combatting the problem.

Most victims are women and children from small towns in Greenland. There, societal factors such as alcoholism and high unemployment rates increase the rate of sexual assault.

Plus, the close-knit community of small villages makes victims unlikely to report, and authorities unlikely to take necessary measures.

Until recently, activists criticized the Greenland government for not doing enough to protect victims and allowing perpetrators to walk free, although this has been changing over the past few years.

This problem primarily affects local women and children, but it is good to be aware of it when you visit (at least so you can be sensitive to what local people might be going through).

Female travelers may want to take precautions such as not walking alone in unfamiliar areas at night and being wary of new acquaintances.

Avoiding Bad Areas

There are not dangerous areas in Greenland in terms of crime, but there are places where you need to be more careful.

The entire country has fairly rocky, inhospitable terrain, but hiking on glaciers, inland ice sheets, and in certain remote areas is even more dangerous. Only do so with a guide (and it might even be required by law).

Things to Consider

As a photo for a piece on whether Greenland is safe to visit, a POV photo of sled dogs pulling a sled in Tasiilaq

Yongyut Kumsri/Shutterstock

Here are some additional safety tips for visiting Greenland:

  • You might need a permit or a guide for certain activities. Certain areas of Greenland, such as the National Park or glaciers, require a permit from the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, Nature and Environment for hiking. Make sure you apply for this permit well in advance and do your research if any parts of your route require guides.
  • Sled dogs are working animals, not pets. You’ll see lots of fluffy sled dogs around Greenland, but they are usually chained outside the home. Locals use them as working farm animals. It’s usually not safe to pet them, even though they look adorable.
  • Buy good health insurance. Nuuk has a good hospital, but most specialty cases have to be treated in Denmark. Make sure that your health insurance covers medical evacuations, as that will be expensive if you need a rescue in a remote area.
  • Budget for getting between towns. You can only travel by air, sea, or dogsled as there are no roads. Include that in your budget for time and money.

Frequently Asked Questions

Glaciers tower over a bunch of purple flowers as an image for a guide answering Is It Safe to Visit Greenland

Casper Zuidwijk/Shutterstock

Here are some common questions people visiting Greenland have asked before:

Is Greenland good for tourists?

Greenland is good for tourists who don’t mind a unique experience. The landscapes are truly like no other place on Earth. Plus, the tourist infrastructure has improved a lot recently (including a four-star hotel), although you still shouldn’t expect all the creature comforts of home.

Why is Greenland so expensive?

A trip to Greenland requires a lot of saving up. Remember that the cost of everything is higher here because most necessities, from fuel to vegetables, have to be imported and transported over large distances. Plus, transportation and accommodation that navigates Arctic conditions is expensive.

Does Greenland accept foreigners?

Yes, Greenland accepts foreigners and is open to tourism. However, check ahead of time if you need a visa to visit the area. Most foreigners need a visa to live and work there.

Can I stay in Greenland?

For an extended stay in Greenland, you will need a visa. To get a visa for Greenland, you need to go through the Danish diplomatic mission and get a special visa that will say “Valid for Greenland” as mainland Danish visas are not always valid for the island.

Should I go to Iceland or Greenland?

Iceland is easier to travel to and is a more comforting experience, especially for inexperienced travelers. However, for those in search of truly remote polar landscapes and who want to get away from crowds, Greenland is the better choice.

So, Is Greenland Safe to Visit?

You don’t have to worry much about your fellow humans when visiting Greenland but keep an eye out for nature. Make sure that you prepare for any wild weather and changing conditions on natural expeditions and take a guide if possible.

So, with so much to see and do and an extremely safe environment, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that this picturesque country has to offer. Happy travels!