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For many Singaporeans, catching a glimpse of the mystical and elusive Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is an item on the bucket-list. While it's only possible to see these lights in the northern hemisphere, Singaporeans can enjoy the phenomenon by taking a vacation up north. Aurora season is currently taking place–ranging from late August to early April–so now is the perfect time for a trip. We've looked into 3 popular cities for viewing the Northern Lights, finding approximate costs for travelling to each and offering ways to save.
Tromsø, Norway: Northern Hub of the Arctic Circle
As Norway’s main hub north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø serves as an excellent base for catching the Northern Lights. Nonetheless, you'll likely need to book a tour to find the absolute best viewing spots which are better known to locals. Such tours range considerably in price, depending on the activities involved. While a simple bus trip following the lights may cost as little as S$150, a husky sled ride can cost nearly S$300, and only last for about half the amount of time.
Also, be aware that Tromsø’s cost of living is somewhat higher than in Singapore. A meal at a regular restaurant can set you back by $22. So, if you’re eating out for every meal, expect to spend $60+/day on food alone when in Tromsø. You can save on food by eating (often complimentary) breakfast at your hotel, or by cooking at "home" if you're staying at an AirBnB (which in Tromsø, average S$800–S$1,000 in cost for 7 nights). Another way to save is to charge all other purchases to a travel credit card–spending overseas usually earns more in rewards than local spending, and you can even use accumulated miles to offset your future flight ticket costs.
Reykjavik, Iceland: World's Northernmost Capital
Reykjavik is the largest municipality in Iceland as well as the country’s capital. Since your chances of catching the lights improve outside bright city lights, you should sign up for tour groups that can help arrange for your transportation out of the city. To save overall, you can opt for guided tours that are shorter in duration–there are affordable options that last only 2-3 hours, as opposed to the typically longer tours found at other destinations. Nonetheless, "cost per hour" declines substantially for longer and more comprehensive tours. For example, a S$120 boat tour that lasts 2.5hrs costs S$48/hour, while a S$224 winter tour lasting 16 hours costs just S$14/hr.
Overall, Reykjavik is still a very expensive destination–in fact, a hamburger alone can cost $23+ and a dinner for two, with wine, can cost $100+. Given the high flight cost and general expenses, you may want to consider Tromsø as a slightly cheaper location. If you're set on Reykjavik however, you can always save by "couch surfing" with locals and opting for free walking tours around the city.
Yellowknife, Canada: North America's Aurora Capital
Yellownife, Canada is the farthest destination from Singapore of the three, but is known as North America’s Aurora Capital. Unlike in Tromsø and Reykjavik, it’s commonly reported that you can catch the northern lights on your own within the city. So, if you’d like to take your chances, you can avoid spending $90+ on guided group tours by catching the lights from places you can walk to, like the Pilots Monument and Ingraham Trail.
Yellowknife is still quite expensive however. On top of the costly air ticket, you could end up spending S$1,500 for a week's accommodation at a 3-star hotel, in addition to $85+/day if you eat out for every meal. Fortunately, many local attractions, such as the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre and Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, are free in the city. You can, therefore, keep yourself occupied for no additional cost during the daytime, while you wait to catch the northern lights in the evenings.
Remember to Enjoy Your Flight
If you're set on going to see the Northern Lights and have saved up for your trip, there's one last thing you might want to keep in mind–comfort, convenience, and safety in your travels. In order to enjoy a stress-free trip, consider a credit card that comes with travel perks such as free lounge access, limo transfers, or even expedited immigration clearance. Some credit cards also come with a free, comprehensive travel insurance plan with coverage for personal accidents and injuries, medical expenses, lost or delayed baggage and sometimes missed flights. If you're heading across the world for a rugged, outdoors experience, such protection may be especially useful.