|Population||5,051,000 (Jan 2013)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz (European plug)|
|Time zone||UTC +1 (CET)|
Norway (Norwegian: Norge) is the westernmost, northernmost — and surprisingly also the easternmost — of the three Scandinavian countries. Norway is known for the complex and deep fjords along its west coast, as well as the midnight sun and Northern Lights. Mainland Norway stretches from the North Sea near Denmark and Scotland to borders with northern Finland and the northwestern tip of Russia, as well as a long border with Sweden to the east. Norway also includes the Svalbard islands.
| East Norway |
Østlandet, actually southeast, the region surrounding the capital Oslo, the most densely populated area in Norway with the majority of people living here
| Trøndelag |
Middle Norway, mostly known as Trøndelag, with the ancient city of Trondheim
| Northern Norway |
also with great fjords, the midnight sun and the ancient Sami culture
| Agder |
Also called Sørlandet or South Norway, with the gentle coastline
| West Norway |
Vestlandet, with the famous fjords and Bergen
| Svalbard |
An archipelago in the Barents Sea north of Norway, famous for its harsh climate, coal mines and satellite installations. Except for northeasternmost European Russia the only part of Europe where polar bears live.
| Jan Mayen |
A desolate, mountainous and volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean, partially covered in glaciers with some moss and grass. Military area, admittance only with special permission. Not accessible during winter months.
- Oslo - the capital and largest city of Norway, with museums of national importance, a beautiful setting and lively nightlife and cultural scene.
- Bergen - Once the capital of Norway, old Hanseatic trading centre with a rich culture and dramatic scenery, Norway's second largest city. Wonderfully cute wooden buildings, a magnificent mountain setting, varied nightlife and lots of atmosphere. This is your gateway to the western fjords. The city has been dubbed "the rainiest city in Europe" with an average of 250 days of rainfall a year. Bring an umbrella.
- Bodø - The gateway to the magnificent Lofoten islands. And the place of Saltstraumen, the worlds strongest maelstrom.
- Drammen - Once known as industrial and grimy, but recent refurbishing has made Drammen an enjoyable side trip from Oslo.
- Fredrikstad - A magnificent old town stands out from the rest of the rather nondescript city. Brilliant as a day trip from Oslo.
- Kristiansand - The jolly capital of the South.
- Stavanger - The fourth largest city, and the third largest urban area. Commercially important due to the oil business. The wooden, cobbled central area is one of the most charming places in Norway. Home to one of Norway's medieval churches, you can also visit Iron Age homes, stone age caves, and sites where the Viking kings used to meet at Ullandhaugtårnet. Stavanger is where Erik the Red was born.
- Tromsø - A magnificent, modern cathedral and absolutely no polar bears roaming the streets.
- Trondheim - Famous for its stunning cathedral (Nidarosdomen). Wonderful riverside wharfs, wooden buildings and the best student nightlife in Norway give beautiful, leafy Trondheim its charm.
- Atlanterhavsveien - A nice road with bridges along islands and skerries on the edge of the Atlantic.
- Jostedalsbreen - The largest glacier on the European mainland.
- Jotunheimen - A majestic landscape and home of Norway's highest mountains.
- Lofoten - Experience the midnight sun in this traditional fishing district in the northern province with islands and mountains.
- Nordkapp - This cliff is the northernmost point of continental Europe, overlooking the Barents ocean.
- Sognefjorden - Glaciers, mountains and picturesque settlements are but a few of the sights on the Sognefjord. Flåm and Nærøyfjorden (also a UNESCO World Heritage site) are parts of the mighty Sognefjorden system.
The overall impression of Norway is a country with ample space and unusually rugged landscape. While famous for the great fjords along the Atlantic, also the interior has great valleys, wide forests and fjord-like lakes. Norway is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Water in all varieties is perhaps what characterizes Norway most: The endless coastline, the great fjords, countless waterfalls, crystal rivers, lovely lakes and numerous glaciers.
Although the great outdoors is Norway's number 1 attraction, there are also many interesting and lively cities like Oslo and Bergen. Man-made attractions include Norway's cultural heritage as well as modern structures and architecture - often found in cities but also in terms of impressive engineering in remote corners.
The petty Viking kingdoms of Norway were unified in 872 AD by Harald Fairhair. In the following period, Norwegians settled in many places, such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands and parts of Scotland and Ireland, where they founded Dublin and Waterford. In the beginning of the 14th century, Norway and Sweden were unified as the Norwegian king was also elected king of Sweden. At the end of the century, the two countries and Denmark were unified in the so-called Kalmar Union.
Sweden broke out of the union in 1521. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. Only a few months after the declaration of independence, Norway entered into union with Sweden, but this union with Sweden allowed Norway to keep a great deal of independence.
The union with Sweden lasted until 1905, which is considered the beginning of modern Norway. From 1940 until 1945, Norway was occupied by German forces during World War 2. In the 1960s, oil was found in the North Sea. Oil drilling has brought Norway prosperity, but contrary to many other oil-exporting countries, Norway invests its profits in a very egalitarian way creating an affluent, harmonious society taking advantage of excellent infrastructure and pioneering environmentally friendly technologies in everyday lives. Repeatedly ranked as a country with one of the world's highest standards of living, Norway has attracted migrants from many places all over the world, which add to today's colourful and inclusive society. All this does not come cheap and prices are among the highest in the world.
- I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway. – The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Norway sits on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia. Some 5 million inhabitants share an area about the size of Germany and larger than Britain. Norway is primarily a very long country - driving from the most southern to the most northern cities equals the distance from Hamburg to Malaga (and through much more rugged terrain). Norway's coastline is also one of the longest in the world - if islands and fjords are included the coastline has been calculated as 50,000 to 100,000km. Nordland county alone has a longer coastline than the entire United Kingdom when fjords and islands are included.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The famous fjords are long narrow inlets of the ocean, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. Norway's endless coastline also includes countless islands of all sizes - there are more than 200,000 identified islands along Norway's coast (only surpassed by Greece). The many islands and skerries shelter the coast from the rough Atlantic such that Hurtigruten and other ships can travel long stretches on calm waters. These sheltered (internal) waters (fjords, bays and straits) covers some 100,000km2.
There are more than 450,000 lakes throughout Norway; even inside the city of Oslo there are several hundred lakes. Norway is home to the deepest lakes in Europe. The vast majority of the land (about 95 %) is rocky wilderness and forests, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been protected as national parks. Also outside the national parks, much of the land is largely unspoiled nature - there is in fact no need to visit a national park to experience wilderness and great landscapes. Roads and railways as well as ordinary ferries offer easy access to great panoramas. There are few sandy beaches along Norway's endless shores; shores are typically rocky, steep cliffs or gentle polished slabs of rock.
Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469m (8,100 ft) in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north (Finnmark), there are relatively flat open spaces. Several of the world's tallest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region. While there are mountains all over Norway, some major mountain areas define Norway's main regions. The north-south line of mountain areas (notably Hardangervidda and Jotunheimen) are major barriers and separate West Norway from East Norway. Similarly the wide Dovrefjell separates Middle Norway (Trøndelag) from East Norway. Norway also includes the nearly unpopulated Svalbard archipelago far from the mainland, on the edge of the arctic ice shelf.
The long rugged coast, fjords, countless lakes, tall waterfalls and pretty rivers means that water is the one thing that most characterizes Norway.
Administratively, Norway is divided into counties that are grouped into regions East, South, West, middle (Trøndelag) and North. The landscape of Norway can also be described by zones that cuts across these administrative divisions.
- The "fjordland", the part of Norway dominated by fjords, runs as a wide belt all along the country, 20 to 200km wide. This particular landscape is typically a tangle of fjords and peninsulas, valleys and lakes.
- Island belt, Further out the mainland is sheltered by a belt of islands and skerries, this belt is often wide and complex for instance around Bergen or the Lofoten archipelago. Such belt of islands allows ships safe journey along major parts of the coast. Just south of Stavanger there are neither fjords nor islands, leaving the long sandy beaches unprotected.
- Mountain region: Somewhat inland and partly coinciding with fjords is the high mountain belt running basically South-North through the entire Scandinavian peninsula separating East Norway and West Norway, while further north separating Norway and Sweden. The high mountains vary from wild alpine summits and glaciers towards the Atlantic and more mellow landscapes further east.
- Big valleys: East/South of the central mountains are the land of big valleys that stretch from the lowlands around Oslo to the central mountains. Gudbrandsdal, Hallingdal, Setesdal and Valdres are typical big valleys. In eastern and central Finnmark the fjords instead of high mountains changes into a wide plateau at moderate altitude.
- Central eastern lowland: Greater Oslo, both shores of the Oslofjord (Vestfold and Østfold counties), and around big lakes Mjøsa and Tyrifjorden is the most densely populated and most important agricultural area.
Norway is one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries. With a population of only 5 million people and a land area of 385,802km2, the population density is only 16 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population are Norwegians. The indigenous Sami people traditionally inhabit the northern part of Norway, that along with parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi (or Sameland). Other recognized minorities are the Kven people, Jews, Forest Finns, and Norwegian Romani Travellers. In recent years, immigration, in particular from the European Union, has increased greatly.
Norway is formally a Christian country with a dominant Lutheran majority of around 80%; however, many Norwegians do not attend church.
Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus more similar to southern neighbours like Denmark and the Netherlands. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently (2008) same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager. With that said, some parts along the southern and southwestern coast are fairly conservative, especially in the more rural areas.
Although crime is low, Norwegians like locking things away - in cities you will even see communal washing lines for drying clothes surrounded by a chain-link fence and a padlock to which all the entitled tenants have access.
Economy and politics
Norway's primary income is the oil and gas industry in the North Sea which makes up more than 20 per cent of its total GDP. It also has several other natural resources such as hydro-electric power, wood, fish and minerals, some manufacturing, and a healthy technology sector. Politically, it is dominated by a widespread and continued support for the Scandinavian model, which means high taxes and high government spending to support free schools, free healthcare, an efficient welfare system and many other benefits. As a result the unemployment rate in Norway is extremely low (about 2 percent).
The Norwegian people have rejected membership in the European Union (EU) in two independent popular votes in 1972 and 1994, both times just by a few percent, after being vetoed out of membership by France in the 1950s and 1960s. However, being a member state of the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen agreement, Norway is closely harmonised with the EU, and integrated as a full member in most economic matters, as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic importance to Norway.
As one of the richest countries in the world and with a strong currency, most visitors should be prepared for greater expenses than at home. In addition, Norway has a very compressed wage structure which means that even typically low skilled work is relatively well paid. For the same reason, firms try to keep the number of staff as low as possible, even for low-skilled service staff. On the other hand, many attractions in Norway are free of charge, most notably the landscape and nature itself. Furthermore, you don't have to spend much money on accommodation if you're prepared to sleep in a tent or under the open sky. According to the Norwegian right to access, you may stay for up to two nights in one spot in uncultivated land if you keep away from houses and other buildings and out of the way of other people, provided that you leave no trace. If you move far away from people, you can stay for as long as you want.
- See also: Winter in the Nordic countries
Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway, especially along the coast, is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Although half the length of Norway is north of the arctic circle, the climate is not arctic. Summers can be moderately warm (up to 25-30°C), even in northern areas, but only for limited periods. The length of the winter and amount of snow varies considerably. In the north there is more snow and winters are dark; on the southern and western coast, winters are moderate and rainy. Further inland (North Norway and East Norway) the temperature can easily fall below -25°C. In the interior of Finnmark -25°C to -35°C is common in January (record low at -50°C). Along the coast of Hordaland and Rogaland temperatures only occasionally and briefly drop below -5°C. Some mountain areas have glaciers and permanent snow, but there is no permafrost on the mainland.
While the coast of West Norway is among the rainiest in Europe, East Norway is largely in the rain shadow and relatively dry. In fact, northern Oppland is among the driest areas in Europe (comparable to dry areas in Spain). The interior of North Norway also obtains very little precipitation.
Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Seasonal variations crucially depend on region (distance from ocean) and latitude as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun (north of the arctic circle) also has winter darkness (polar night) when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer (May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get a possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water (melting snow) in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures (typically in May). Complete forecasts and statistics.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Oslo, the sun sets at around 15:30 in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and polar night (winter darkness). However, even at Oslo's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July, these gentle "white nights" can also be a nice and unusual experience for visitors. The polar (or northern) light (aurora borealis) occurs in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes (Northern Norway) but occasionally also further South.
|City||Start darkness||End darkness||Midnight sun||End midnight sun||Notes|
|Bodø||na||na||June 4||July 8||No winter darkness|
|Tromsø||November 27||January 15||May 20||July 22|
|Svolvær||December 7||January 5||May 28||July 14|
|Alta||November 25||January 17||May 19||July 24|
|Nordkapp||November 20||January 22||May 14||July 29|
|Longyearbyen||October 26||February 16||April 20||August 22|
Because of very long twilight at northern latitudes, there is usable daylight 1-2 hours after sunset. In summer this means that for instance in Trondheim midsummer nights are not dark at all.
|City||Sun rise June 21||Sun set June 21||Sun rise December||Sun set December|
|Tromsø||all night||all night||no sun||no sun|
The major holidays are Easter, Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "common vacation" throughout July. In May there are several holidays including constitution day (17 May) - the main national celebration and an attraction in itself.
Public holidays (schools and offices closed):
- January 1 - New Year's Day
- Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday, "Skjærtorsdag")
- Good Friday ("Langfredag")
- Easter Sunday ("påskedag")
- Second day of Easter (Monday) ("andre påskedag")
- May 1 - Labour day
- May 17 - Constitution Day
- Ascension Thursday ("Kristi himmelfart")
- Pentecost (Whit Sunday, "pinsedag")
- Pentecost 2ed (Whit Monday, "andre pinsedag")
- December 25 - Christmas Day ("juledag")
- December 26 - Boxing Day ("andre juledag")
Many Norwegian holidays are celebrated on the day before (Holy Saturday, Christmas Eve etc.). On Christmas Eve ("julekveld", "julaften"), New Year's Eve ("nyttårsaften"), Holy Saturday ("påskeaften") and Saturday before Pentecost ("pinseaften") shops close early. Norwegians also celebrate midsummer at St. John's day on 24 June by making a bonfire late evening the day before - "St.John's Eve" ("St.Hansaften" or "Jonsokaften").
Classical travel journals
- W. Matthiue Williams: Through Norway With a Knapsack (1859)
- Mary Wollstonecraft: Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796)
- Thomas Malthus: Travel journal from Norway (1799)
- Samuel Beckett: The fjords and folk of Norway (1915)
- W.C. Slingsby: Norway: the Northern Playground (1904)
- Dhiravat na Pombejra: A Month in Norway: King Chulalongkorn's travels July–August 1907.
- Robert Everest: A journey through Norway, Lapland, and part of Sweden: with some remarks on the geology of the country, its climate and scenery. (1829)
- Lees, James A. and Clutterbuck, Walter J: Three in Norway (by two of them) (1912)
Minimum validity of travel documents
Norway is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. Please see article Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works and what the requirements are for your nationality.
In autumn 2015 an exceptional number of refugees entering the European Union has prompted some countries to reinstitute border controls within the Schengen area and traffic by some border crossings is much less smooth than normally. Delays may occur in particular in the south-east of the European Union.
Russians who live within 30km from the border may enter Norway visa free for up to 15 days, provided they have been resident in the border area for at least 3 years, and do not travel more than 30km from the border. A border certificate, which is valid for multiple entries, must be obtained from the Norwegian consulate in Murmansk in advance.
Citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, as well as holders of Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports are permitted to work in Norway without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay. However, this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other Schengen countries.
Be keenly aware that Norway is not a member of the European Union. This means, especially if arriving by plane, that all persons entering Norway, regardless of point of origin, may be subject to customs controls at the port of entry. Information on duty-free allowances and regulations can be found on the Norwegian Customs website.
Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (IATA: OSL) is the biggest airport in Norway and the main international hub, at Gardermoen 60 km north of Oslo. The airport is served by many major international and all domestic airlines.
The airport has scheduled flights to around 100 destinations abroad and 24 destinations in Norway. From the United Kingdom there are direct services to Oslo Gardermoen from:
- London Heathrow (Scandinavian Airlines and British Airways)
- London Gatwick (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Birmingham (Flybe)
- Manchester (Scandinavian Airlines)
- Edinburgh (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Aberdeen (Eastern Airways)
- Dublin (Scandinavian Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle)
From the United States:
- Fort Lauderdale, FL (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Los Angeles, CA (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Newark, NJ (United, Scandinavian Airlines)
- New York JFK, NY (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Oakland, CA (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Orlando, FL (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
From Australia and New Zealand, the quickest connection is via Bangkok, Doha or Dubai. Thai Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle fly non-stop from Oslo to Bangkok. Both Qatar Airways and Emirates fly daily from Doha and Dubai respectively, with connections from several destinations in Asia and Oceania
Sandefjord Airport, Torp (IATA: TRF) is located just north of Sandefjord, 115 km to the south of Oslo, and is Ryanair's destination airport in Oslo. Ryanair now operate another service, from London Stansted to Haugesund on the west coast.
Sandefjord Airport Torp has scheduled flights to 14 destinations in Europe and 3 destinations in Norway.
From the United Kingdom there are direct services from:
- London Stansted (Ryanair)
- Birmingham (Ryanair)
- Liverpool (Ryanair)
- Glasgow Prestwick (Ryanair)
- Edinburgh (Ryanair)
- Dublin (Ryanair)
Airlines operating at Moss Airport, Rygge:
From the United Kingdom there are direct flights from:
- London Heathrow (Scandinavian Airlines and BMI)
- London Gatwick (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
- Newcastle (Eastern Airways, Widerøe)
- Aberbeen (Scandinavian Airlines, Eastern Airways and Widerøe)
From the United States there are direct flights from:
- Houston, TX (Scandinavian Airlines)
From the United Kingdom there are direct flights from:
- London Gatwick (Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian)
- Newcastle (Easter Airways)
- Edinburgh (Widerøe)
- Aberdeen (Eastern Airways and Widerøe)
- Kirkwall (Flybe)
From the United States there are direct flights from:
- New York JFK, NY (Norwegian Air Shuttle)
Trondheim Airport, Værnes (IATA: TRD) can be reached by direct flights from several European cities, notably Amsterdam, London and Copenhagen.
From the United Kingdom there are direct flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Tromsø Airport (IATA: TOS) has direct flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air Shuttle twice every week. Nordavia Regional Airlines also operates a flight between Tromsø and Murmansk in Russia.
Several international bus lines run into Oslo from Sweden, the major operators being Eurolines, Swebus Express and Säfflebussen. Service to Gothenburg and Copenhagen is almost hourly. The service to Stockholm is also far more frequent than the train. Lavprisekspressen has cheap bus tickets between the large cities in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
It is possible to enter by road from Sweden, Finland, or Russia. Major roads to Norway include European route E6 which runs through Malmö, Helsingborg and Göteborg in Sweden before crossing the border at Svinesund in the south-east of Norway, E8 which runs through Turku, Vaasa and Oulu in Finland before crossing the border at Kilpisjärvi. There is an enormous number of possible routes and border crossings, but keep in mind that the road standards vary, there are few motorways and that speed limits are low (generally 80km/h). Ferries from Denmark and Kiel (Germany) also takes cars (see boat section), and is a way to avoid long transport legs.
- From Russia: European route 105 (E105) enters from Russia at Storskog border crossing 15 km east of Kirkenes. This is the only overland crossing between Norway and Russia. Crossing by vehicle only, no pedestrians (as of 2015).
DFDS operates a cargo line from Ghent to Brevik with limited passenger capacity which is normally for truck drivers. There are departures once or twice a week. Note that the ferry may be scheduled to arrive at Brevik in the middle of the night.
Color Line runs a daily ferry from Kiel to Oslo. The ferry leaves Kiel at 13:30 and arrives in Oslo at 09:30, the following day. The ferry terminal in Kiel is on Norwegenkai, which is a short walk across the bridge from Kiel's main railway station (note that the bridge may at times be closed for pedestrians due to ship traffic). At the Oslo end of the journey, the terminal is located at Hjortneskai, which is just west of the city. There is a bus from the terminal to the city centre, which departs shortly after passengers disembark.
Several companies run from various harbours in Denmark (Frederikshavn, Hirtshals, Copenhagen) to various Norwegian harbours (Oslo, Larvik, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen).
- Color Line traffic from Hirtshals to Kristiansand and Larvik.
- Stena Line from Frederikshavn to Oslo.
- Fjord Line traffic from Hirtshals to Langesund, Stavanger and Bergen (Seasonal to Kristiansand).
- DFDS Seaways traffic from Copenhagen to Oslo.
There are no ferry routes to the UK from Norway any more, although DFDS Seaways have been to known to allow passengers on their freight service from Immingham to Brevik.
Thompson Cruise ships operate from Harwich and visit Flåm, Bergen, Molde, Hammerfest, Nordkapp, Tromsø, Lofoten Islands, Geiranger and Ålesund in Norway. The duration of the cruise varies from 5 days up to 2 weeks. Sailing time from Harwich to south Norway is 1.5 days. On board the cruise ship are a number of restaurants, bars, casinos, cinemas and also a stage show to keep you entertained during the journey. There are various classes of cabins available, ranging from shared rooms to singles, doubles and luxury suites.
From Shetland, Faeroe Islands and Iceland
Smyril Line used to operate a once-weekly service to Bergen. This service now only operates Denmark-Shetland-Faroe Islands-Iceland.
Norway is a wide country with some very difficult terrain so getting around, particularly up north, is expensive and time-consuming. Because of difficult terrain in large parts of the country, navigation is largely related to landscape features such as valleys, lakes, fjords and islands rather than to towns. Norway is sparsely populated compared to continental Europe; visitors should not expect that every name on the map is served by frequent public transport or offers commercial services such as taxi, cafés and hotels – it may not be a town or settlement at all. The best way to see the Norwegian wilderness and countryside is by having access to your own vehicle. This way you can stop wherever you want, admire the view and venture onto smaller roads.
Air travel is the most convenient method to get from town to town especially in northern Norway, where towns and cities are fewer and further between. Unfortunately, it is also in these areas where ticket prices can be most expensive. Planes between the small airports are small, and they generally have several intermediate stops along the route to embark and disembark passengers.
Flights in southern Norway are cheaper than in northern Norway, and even though this area has better roads and rail, planes are generally faster than taking the train or bus. There are however no air routes between the cities within 200 km from Oslo, use the train or bus for this kind of travel.
If you plan to fly to the many smaller towns in Northern or Western Norway you should consider Widerøe's Explore Norway ticket (unlimited air travel for 14 days in summer for less than a full price return ticket).
The Norwegian State Railways (NSB) operates all railways. Norway's rail network basically connects Oslo to other major cities, there are no rail lines North to South in West Norway between Stavanger and Trondheim, and there are no rail lines North-South in North Norway north of Bodø. These main lines run several times a day:
- Oslo–Kristiansand–Stavanger (runs inland from Drammen to Kristiansand, connections to Arendal)
- Oslo–Skien (serving coastal towns southwest of Oslo)
- Oslo–Bergen (across the mountains via Finse, connections to Flåm)
- Oslo–Trondheim (Dovrebanen, through Lillehammer, connections to Åndalsnes at Dombås)
- Trondheim–Bodø (through Trondheim airport, connections to Sweden)
Trains are generally well-maintained and comfortable.
You can buy a Norwegian Rail Pass or the equivalent InterRail One Country Pass to travel cheap by train through Norway. If your itinerary is fixed and you don't have too many destinations, it might be cheaper to buy 'Minipris' tickets online. If you book well in advance, you can get one-way tickets for as little as NOK199. When buying online, you can choose ticket delivery at the station or at the train, the latter means you only need to know your seat number, the train steward has your ticket. Their website sometimes does not work for people outside of Norway. In that case you can call their call centre, but be sure to mention that you tried on the website first. Phone reservations normally incur a NOK50 fee per train ticket bought.
For long-distance trains and night trains, seat reservation is mandatory, but usually can be done on short notice, e.g., at a train station, since the trains are rarely fully booked. Generally, the trains are most crowded at the beginning and end of the weekend, i.e. Friday and Sunday evening. Shortly before and at the end of major holidays like Christmas/New Year and Easter, trains are usually very busy. If you try booking for these days at a late time, you may find all the cheap tickets sold out. Furthermore, the seat you reserve may be among the least desirable, that is, facing backwards, without recline, and facing towards and sharing the legroom with other passengers.
Night trains operate Oslo - Bergen, Kristiansand, Bergen, Trondheim and Bodø. With a regular ticket, you will get an ordinary seat, blanket and earplugs. Sleeping compartments are available for an extra of NOK750. If you choose to order sleeping compartment, you pay for the compartment, not the bed: 2 people, same price. This also means that you will never have a stranger in your compartment.
For NOK90 you can upgrade any regular train ticket to NSB Komfort, the equivalent of first class, which means a little more room for your legs, free coffee, papers and a power socket. Usually the NSB Komfort coach is either the first or the last coach in the train, resulting in much less through traffic and a quieter environment.
The regular night train seats have a power plug, too. In some trains there is even free Internet access via Wi-Fi; one just needs to register (giving any 8-digit number as 'phone number').
Unlike much of Continental Europe, Norway does not have a high speed rail system, except for the route between Oslo and its airport. Attempts at implementing high speed trains are underway, but have failed so far. Therefore, a journey between the two largest cities, Bergen and Oslo, takes as much as six and a half to seven and a half hours.
In eastern Norway, where cities are closer together, there are several people who make a daily commute, and hence many of these cities have more frequent train service with hourly departures much of the day. This includes the cities in the counties of Østfold, Vestfold as well as Gjøvik, Hamar and Lillehammer. In general, these trains do not have seating reservations available, but it is still possible to upgrade to NSB Komfort.
If you get even closer to Oslo, there are local trains which may have departures as often as every 30 minutes. Local trains never have seating reservations, nor do they have a first class section. Local trains also operate between Bergen and Voss (sometimes to Myrdal), Stavanger and Egersund and around Trondheim.
Car ferries is an integral part of the road network in coastal regions. Prices and time vary with the length of the crossing and amount of traffic, call 177 for more information or check nearby camping sites for information booklets and timetables. Ferries often have information about other ferries in the region. On the main roads ferries are frequent during daytime, typically every half hour. Reservations are usually not needed, drive to the ferry quay and wait in line until the ferry docks. On main roads tourists typically do not have to worry about timetables as there are frequent departures. Note however that most ferries do not run after midnight or they run only every second hour on main crossings.
Stretches with lots of ferries are desirable when bicycling, as the ferries are cheap for bicyclists and offer an often well-deserved break with a great view. Except for some of the shortest crossings (10 min), ferries typically have cafeterias serving coffee, cold beverages, sandwiches and some hot food. Due to numerous deep fjords and islands, driving in West Norway and Northern Norway as a rule (with few exceptions) involves ferries. Although car ferries are very reliable and operate with spare capacity, tourists should allow plenty of time on stretches including ferries. Note that ferries on unusually long crossings (several hours) or ferries crossing open stretches of sea are more frequently delayed or cancelled.
In regions with lots of fjords and islands, that is along all the coast from Stavanger to Tromsø, an extensive network of catamaran expressboats ("hurtigbåt") shuttle between towns and cities, and connect islands otherwise accessible only with difficulty. Service and prices are comparable with trains. Check in advance if you want to bring a bicycle.
One option particularly popular with tourists is the Hurtigruten coastal steamers that hop along the coastline from Bergen all the way to Kirkenes, taking five and a half days for the whole journey. Cabins are expensive and mandatory for multi-day journeys, but deck fares are more reasonable and there's even a 50% off discount with Inter Rail. Prices are summed up for all chargeable elements like persons, fuel charge (app. 1/30 of a person), bike (app. 1/20 of a person), car, cabin (app. 125% of a person). Reservations are recommended for cabins and cars; on deck is usually enough space for persons and bikes.
An extensive range of express buses connect cities all over Norway and even most national parks. NOR-WAY Bussekspress, Timekspressen and Boreal Transport are the biggest operators. Nettbuss also runs some express routes.
Lavprisekspressen offer cheap tickets for Oslo—Trondheim (via Røros and via the Dovre mountain range), Oslo—Kristiansand—Stavanger and back. If you're lucky, you can get a ticket for as little as NOK49, but usually the tickets go from NOK199 to NOK299. The double decker buses are clean and modern with free Wi-Fi internet, coffee and tea.
Bus schedules and frequencies vary greatly, and seating may be limited, so plan ahead. For more information check each operator's website or try the extensive connection search Rutebok.no – available in English, Norwegian and German. Note that some mountain passes are closed all winter, and buses covering these typically run May—September only.
Travelling with cab in Norway can be very expensive, and in most cities it is not necessary as bus, tram and train (or even walking) are easier. Taxis are generally safe as long as you choose a licensed taxi (with a white taxi sign on the roof). In villages there may be no or only one taxi car, so visitors should be prepared to book in advance.
For more details see: Driving in Norway
Norway has right hand traffic, like the rest of mainland Europe. Norwegian roads have varying quality, but all public roads have asphalt. Most roads are two-lane undivided, there is a limited motorway network around Oslo. General speed limit is 80km/h and speed is often slower due to road conditions. Driving in winter requires special equipment, snow and ice experience is highly recommended prior to a winter trip. Some of the scenic mountain passes, notably at Geiranger, Trollstigen and Nordkapp (North Cape), are closed during winter.
Driving is generally easy as traffic is calm, and most drivers are disciplined and law abiding, although moderate speeding is common on highways. However, some city centres (such as Bergen and Oslo) may be confusing to navigate for the first time visitor due to many one-way streets. Traffic is generally light except for city centres and a handful of stretches on main roads (notably E18 near Oslo). Near or inside Oslo the E18, E6 and ring roads can get congested during morning and afternoon rush, as well as during weekend rush (Friday afternoon) out of Oslo. Gas is expensive, starting at around NOK14.50 per litre (approx. USD9.30 per gallon). Manual transmission is regarded as standard in Norway and is found in most private cars. Renting a car is very expensive, but can be essential for easy access to some of the more rural areas, although most areas have a good reliable bus service.
Some rules to note
- Headlights are mandatory even during daylight.
- Off-roading is generally forbidden. Motor vehicles must stay on public roads.
- Don't drink and drive. Your blood alcohol concentration must not exceed 0.2 ‰ (or 0.02 %).
- Rules are strictly enforced, particularly regarding alcohol, speed and overtaking.
While the bicycle seat may be one of the best ways to experience the landscapes of Norway, it can be a gruelling experience for those who are unfit. There are few bicycle paths, and most of the time cyclists have to share narrow roads with heavy transport. Attitudes to cyclists vary. While some drivers show respect, slowing down and giving cyclists a wide berth, others show hostility, driving far too close and at far too high a speed, when passing. Cycling, as a sport, is becoming increasingly popular in Norway, especially since the success of Norwegian cyclists like Thor Hushovd. Attitudes to bicycle tourists vary, but in general is positive. Hostels and camping sites are generally a good place to meet people with similar interests. Norwegians themselves prefer to ride on well equipped, often expensive, bicycles. Good bicycle shops can be found in most cities.
You will find quite a number of travel diaries online. Only few designated cycle paths exist, mostly in the big cities, and they are not fully interconnected. Except for densely populated areas, they can mostly be ignored. While speed limits are relatively low and the vast majority of drivers are responsible and patient, Norway also has its share of speeders and road hogs. At places where a highway is built, the old road is often re-designated as a cycle route.
It is important for cyclists to be seen. The use of highly reflective safety vests, along with flashing lights on the bicycle, is encouraged to help prevent accidents.
In most of Norway, cycling can be physically challenging, due to steep climbs and strong winds. Your equipment should be lightweight and aerodynamic. You will need a wide range of gears: a ratio of 39-27 for a strong cyclist without luggage or even 22-32 for a normal cyclist with luggage is necessary on many slopes. Your brakes should be of high quality and you'll need spare brake pads when doing a trip of more than a few days. Lights are necessary because of the many tunnels. Because of the winds, it is advisable to avoid wide panniers and loose fitting clothes. A lightweight recumbent should be considered as a serious option for those experienced with this type of bicycle, especially when cycling south to north.
The roads are generally paved well, although gravel roads are sometimes unavoidable. As long as you do not go off-road, you will not need suspension or grooved tyres.
Because of the long distances and numerous hills, bicycle tourists are advised to plan well and be prepared to use public transport for the less interesting or difficult stretches. Particularly in western and northern Norway, passenger boats (including longer tourist ferries) can sometimes be used to avoid tunnels, mountain passes or less interesting stretches.
Ferries take bikes for free or a minimal charge. On trains you have to pay a fare. Some buses do not allow bikes, but in all other cases will only be transported if there is enough space (no fare or children's fare). The Norwegian Cyclist Association offers information.
It is legal in Norway (and Finland and Sweden) to put up a tent anywhere for one night. This must not be too near someone's home, or on other unsuitable places. This is particularly suitable for bicyclists, who can roll the bike into the forest at a suitable place. It is more troublesome for car drivers to do this, as it is hard to find a good parking place near a suitable tent place (car parking is not permitted on private roads e.g. in the forest).
Special attention should be given to tunnels, as many of them are forbidden for cyclists, as are a few roads. Some long and narrow tunnels are not recommended for bikes, even if allowed. An online map of tunnels can be found. The tourist information also has a map of those forbidden routes. When renting a bike, you can consult the person who rents you the bike concerning the track you want to take. In many cases, signposts indicate the route for cyclists and pedestrians around forbidden roads or tunnels. Some of the high speed tunnels have bus stops a short distance from the entrance where you can board special buses equipped with bike racks to transport you through the tunnel. On main roads, buses usually run frequently. Some sub-sea tunnels are in addition really steep. If you do enter a tunnel on bike, use lights and safety reflectors (such as reflector jackets or vests). Norwegian drivers do not slow down in tunnels.
Warning: Do not underestimate the number and length of tunnels, particularly in western Norway. On the E16 between Bergen and Lærdal for instance, 30–50% of the road is in tunnel. Frequently, tunnels replace an older road that remains open for bicycles and pedestrians in summer or for local traffic all year. Ask locals or read the map carefully to find your way.
Hitchhiking in Norway is best on the routes from Oslo-Trondheim (E6), Oslo-Kristiansand (E18) and Kristiansand-Stavanger (E39). However, near the cities these are now motorways and it is not possible to stand at the road itself. Hitchhiking is not that common in Norway. If hitchhiking is ever safe, it is pretty safe in Norway, however it is difficult to get a lift and it may be very slow.
When waiting, make sure to stand in a place where the vehicles can see you and have a safe opportunity to stop. Ferry ports and main fuel stations are good places to try. Stretches with low speed limits (50–60km/h) are generally better than high speed roads, as drivers find it less cumbersome to make a halt there. Drivers of heavy trucks in particular prefer to keep a steady speed. Roadside cafeterias where truckers have a break can be good place to ask for a lift.
Good hitchhiking spots from major cities are:-
Bergen and the mountains- if you're daring, try Oksenøyveien (see Kristiansand), but be aware that most cars continue southwards to Drammen. Rather catch the Timekspressen bus, direction Hønefoss, to Sollihøgda.
Trondheim and the north- is getting more difficult as motorway development continues. The best bet inside Oslo is bus stop Ulvenkrysset. Get the metro to Helsfyr, then bus 76, 401 or 411 for one stop. Further outside, to avoid the local traffic, you are best off at the Shell gas station at Skedsmovollen, bus 845 and 848 from Lillestrøm train station. Kristiansand and the south: Few spots beat the bus stop Oksenøyveien, connected by bus 151, 251 and 252. You may be dropped in Sandvika by cars heading towards Hønefoss and the mountains/Bergen. Carry a sign.
Sweden along E6: Highway all the way, except close to the centre. Try the bus stop Nedre Bekkelaget, bus 81 and 83. Sweden along E18: You may try Nedre Bekkelaget, but as most traffic continue towards Strömstad and Gothenburg, you should rather catck the Timekspressen bus 9 to Østensjø stop, just after the Holstad roundabout.
Oslo - Get local train to Arna and try near the entrance to Arnanipa tunnel. Northwards - Go by bus to Vågsbotn in Arna, and try hithing a ride close to the Hjelle bakery. Southwards - Get the light rail to Nesttun, then nearly any bus for three stops to Skjoldskiftet. Hitch southwards along E39.
Trondheim to Oslo - Get bus 46 to the shopping centre City Syd, then go under the E6 and try your luck at City Syd E6 stop. Soon, the city tax on buses will be extended past the Klett roundabout, if this is in effect you should go to the bus stop just after the roundabout at any Melhus-bound bus and try your luck there.
Molde/Ålesund - Get any Orkanger bus to the stop just after Klett roundabout. Soon, Trondheim city tax will extend to Børsa, after which you should stay on the bus for as long as you can, and hitch a ride from there. Northwards - Get city bus 7 or 66 to Travbanen stop. Sweden - To be sure to hitch only on cars going towards Sweden, get a train or bus to Stjørdal and hitch on the E14.
In general, looking polite and friendly is a good trick. Asking cars in line at a ferry quay (if travelling along the coast) is a very good idea, and may bring you very far. Hitching rides from Molde all the way to Bergen are not unheard of, but don't bet on it.
In general though, you can really get to anywhere from anywhere by thumb, just in some places it might take a while.
- See also: Norwegian phrasebook
There is no standard spoken Norwegian (norsk) – a wide range of dialects is used even in public broadcasting. There are even two standard ways of writing it, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Norwegians learn both at school. The two varieties are very close and mutually intelligible with the two other Scandinavian languages, Danish and Swedish. Bokmål is by far the more common form in most of the country, though Nynorsk is prevalent in Western Norway.
Sami is a minority language that has official status in some northern regions. Road signs and other public information there is provided in both Norwegian and Sami. Norwegian and Sami place names may differ – maps will typically use the Norwegian name. Sami is quite closely related to the Finnish language, thus totally unrelated to Indo-European languages such as Norwegian or English (but there are quite a few loanwords).
Almost all Norwegians speak English and you should have no trouble getting around in English; 91% of the population can speak English, making Norway one of the most English proficient countries where English is not an official language. Many people learn French, German and/or Spanish as well.
Foreign films and television programmes are generally shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Norwegian.
Norway has plenty of rural attractions - mountains, fjords, islands, glaciers, waterfalls, forests and small villages. Norway's natural and cultural sights often coincide, such as an impressive mountain road within a great scenery or the ancient stave churches located in the most serene landscape.
Norway has an abundance of waterfalls, in any size and shape. Norway is home to a notable number of the world's tallest waterfalls, particularly in the central mountains and western Norway. Many waterfalls are surprisingly accessible as they are often found close to main roads or railways, some plunge directly into the great fjords. Other attractions worth a visit are the northernmost point of Europe at Nordkapp, the island of Lofoten, the glacier of Jostedalsbreen and the mountains of Jotunheimen.
- For more information on fjords, see the Fjords of Norway article.
Norway's famous fjords are found throughout the country and are not limited to a particular region or location. All major cities sit on the shores of a fjord. While the most picturesque fjords are less populated, most are easily accessible by road. The fjords increases Norway's coastline from a modest 3000km to 30,000km, islands add another 70,000km - in total creating the most complex coastline in the world. Norwegian fjords have twice been rated the best destination in the world by National Geographic Traveler.
There are well over 1,000 distinct (named) fjords in Norway. The vast Sognefjord is some 200km to the far end and includes a number of arms each about the size of the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. Some fjords are very narrow, such as Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, others are wide like bays or enclosed oceans, such as Boknafjord or Trondheimsfjord. In most parts of Norway fjords are the dominant landscape features, traditional districts are often identified by proximity to a major fjord and the district or region often have the same name as the dominant fjord. For instance Sogn is the area surrounding Sognefjord. Fjords are often so deep and/or wide (particularly in western Norway) that they can only be crossed by ferry (a few daring bridges or tunnels have been built). Today fjords remain as obstacles for roads and railways, only cruise passengers experience travel along these vast corridors.
In large parts of Norway there is in fact very little continuous land, instead a wide tangle of islands and peninsulas. These peninsulas are often connected to the actual mainland by (narrow) isthmuses. Such isthmuses are shortcuts between fjords and have always been important transport corridors. Still today main roads often run across these such isthmuses. In many cases such isthmuses sits between a saltwater fjord and a freshwater lake (in effect an extension of the lake), for instance at Nordfjordeid ("Nordfjord isthmus") sits between Nordfjord and Hornindal lake.
- Fjord regions
- Western Fjords: The most dramatic and famous fjords are largely in West Norway, approximately from Stavanger to Molde. Although the western fjords vary slightly in appearance they are generally relatively narrow, surrounded by steep rock faces, tall mountains and extremely deep (particularly the middle and innermost parts). These typical features of western fjords are most pronounced at the easternmost part where fjords intersect with the highest mountains (such as Jotunheimen). Melt water from glaciers flow into major fjords such as Sognefjorden. The fjords of western Norway (represented by fjords of Geiranger and Nærøy) is a UNESCO world heritage site
- Nordland and Troms: These counties are also home to wild landscapes with alpine summits, islands and impressive fjords. The narrow strait into Skjerstadfjorden at Bodø creates the world's strongest tidal current, the Saltstraumen.
- Middle Norway: The fjords of Trøndelag, notably the large Trondheimsfjord, are less dramatic but still dominates the landscape. The Trondheimsfjord runs from the large Hitra island to the interior town of Steinkjer. The central part of this fjord is like a small enclosed ocean.
- East Norway: The fjords in the wider Oslo region, primarily Oslofjord, are also key to the geography of these lowlands and flatlands, similar to the Trondheimsfjord. The Drammensfjord is an important arm of the great Oslofjord. There are no saltwater fjords in the interior of East Norway, but there are countless lakes many of which resemble western fjords and are in fact called "fjord", for instance the long narrow Randsfjorden is a lake.
- South Norway has some scattered fjords, but smallish compared to the wild fjords of the west and the wide Trondheimsfjord.
- The fjords of eastern Finnmark are far less dramatic but these long and wide fjords dominate the landscape.
Many freshwater lakes in the interior are called fjords, for instance Randsfjorden and Tyrifjorden, even lake Mjøsa is called "the fjord" by locals. These lakes are very similar to saltwater fjords with a typical elongated shape and also mostly deep. Mjøsa for instance is 450 meters deep such that most of the lake is in fact below sea level even if water surface is 120 meters. Several lakes in Western Norway are in fact extensions of the main fjord and some were in the geological prehistory part of the saltwater fjord itself. For instance the surface of the very deep Hornindal lake is only 50m above sea-level and separated from Nordfjord by a low isthmus. These western lakes are often so similar to the fjord that only the lack of salt reveals that it is indeed a lake.
Northern lights and midnight sun
If you want to see the northern lights, CNN has Tromsø on top of its list of best places to see it. Tromsø should also be visited during summer to see the midnight sun. Of course both can be enjoyed anywhere in the northern parts of the country. Northern lights is most frequent roughly north of arctic circle (from Bodø and further north). Because the midnight sun occurs in the same area, these phenomena can not be experienced at the same time. As northern lights otherwise is not restricted to a specific location, a dark night and clear sky are the only prerequisites. Clear sky correlates with cold weather, so visitors should be well dressed, particularly November to March. Midnight sun and, more importantly, 24 hour daylight occur around midsummer north of the arctic circle - the further north, the longer the midnight sun season. At midwinter there is a corresponding period when sun is below the horizon and there is no real daylight (so called polar night).
While most people don't pick Norway because they'd like to walk around in cities with museums, monuments, parks streetside cafés or luxurious restaurants, in Oslo and some other cities that's also an option. Just getting around in Norway by car, boat, train, bike or foot usually rewards you with great views. Speaking of transportation... Norway is also where you should head to if you literally want to take a train ride to Hell!
UNESCO world heritage sites of the country are:
- The rock paintings of Alta
- The Vega archipelago
- Urnes stave church in Luster
- The mining town of Røros
- Bergen's waterfront, Bryggen
While Norway's cultural heritage is most pronounced in rural areas, Norway's cities also offer interesting cultural sights, old or new. Cities like Bergen, Ålesund, Kongsberg, Røros, Trondheim and others are interesting because of architecture and history. Norway's cities also offer fascinating modern architecture, most notable in the capital Oslo with landmark buildings such as the new Opera house and the University library, as well as the new controversial skyline downtown.
Outside main cities there are few if any monumental buildings except the local church. Norway hardly had any aristocracy that built palaces or imposing manors. Rural areas is dominated by wooden buildings, including most churches. From the middle ages about 30 idiosyncratic stave churches survived (from perhaps 1000), and some 100 stone churches. Most churches built after the protestant reformation are basic wooden "long" churches (rectangular shape), but there is also a number of other shapes such as the characterisic cruciform (cross shape) design with a central tower. The rare Y-shape exists in a small number of churches. The octagonal shape was used for a larger number of churches and several landmark churches with this largly endemic style can be seen around Trøndelag, Møre og Romsdal, and Nordland as well as other areas. Many church interiors are in a barren protestant style, but there is a large number of churches with elaborate interios such as tolepainted walls, impressive wood cut altar pieces and pulpit designs. A large number of church are log buildings and logs are usually visible on the inside. In stave churches the elaborate construction is largely visible.
Oslo burned down in 1624 and was rebuilt in stone and brick only, and the rapid expansion in the 1800s makes Oslo different from most other towns. Trondheim and Kristiansand were both laid in a "military" grid pattern, while Bergen and many other wooden towns further south grew organically into a charming labyrinths. Ålesund burned down in 1904 and was rebuilt in a unique variant of art noveau (Jugendstil). Towns destroyed during the second world war (Molde, Kristiansund, Steinkjer, Namsos, Bodø, Narvik, Kirkenes) were largely rebuilt in a less charming post-war style, although Kristiansund is an interesting example of bold urban planning. These "burned towns" are also home to the first daring, untraditional church architecture.
Typical for Norway is the widespread use of wood as building materials, even in centres of main cities like Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, and the friendly atmosphere created by the many modest buildings. Some wooden cities have been lost to fire, for instance Ålesund (fire in 1904, rebuilt in local Jugend-style) and Steinkjer (bombing second world war). Molde, Kristiansund, Bodø, Narvik and all of Finnmark were destroyed during the war. Levanger and Trondheim were not harmed by the bombings and their wooden charm is largely retained. The wooden town of Røros is on the UNESCO world heritage list. A number of other towns has notable wooden architecture, for instance Lillehammer, Skudeneshavn, Risør, Arendal, Tvedestrand, Kristiansand, Farsund, Flekkefjord, Lærdal, Brevik and Son village. The wooden towns of the south/south-west coast is Norway's version of "pueblos blancos". The capital Oslo is in fact not very typical as the inner city is dominated by concrete and masonry structures, only small pockets of wooden houses exist in central parts of Oslo. Fire is a constant threat to these traditional towns and neighborhoods, and every year some parts if this heritage is lost.
A great introduction to Norway is the one-day Norway in a Nutshell package on a single ticket from Oslo or Bergen into the mountains, with a boat trip through the fjords. You can break the trip at several interesting cabins for walking or just admiring the view, and even hire a mountain bike for part of the journey. One of the highlights of the 'Norway in a Nutshell' package is Flåmsbana, a 20 km railway that's one of the steepest in the world. Along the way you'll see beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys, waterfalls, and other beautiful sights on your way to the town of Flåm.
- Go on top of the nearest top/mountain. Just for the walk. And for the view.
Norway has endless opportunities for hiking in its wide wilderness, from easy walks in Oslo's city forest to alpine climbing in Jotunheimen or the "alps" of Troms. About 30% of Norway is covered in forest, more than 50% of Norway's total area is barren mountain (little or no vegetation), a mere 5% include farms and all sorts of built-up areas (houses, roads, towns etc). A number of areas are protected as national parks, but most the country is equally attractive and available to the public. Skiing season is generally from mid-November to late April, while bare ground hiking season is generally from mid summer to September. Note that hiking season varies greatly depending on region (and from year to year): In the high mountains there may still be deep snow until July, while in the lower areas and along the coast hiking season start early spring. Visitors should be aware that the tree line is much lower in Norway than in continental Europe and US Rockies, high alpine conditions (no vegetation, glaciers, extremely rugged surface may start even at 1000 to 1500 metres above sea level).
Proper mountain clothing is needed for hikes even in summer in the uplands. The right foot wear is the essential for a successful hike. Hiking boots with ankle support and a sturdy sole on rougher trails and in the terrain, particularly at high altitudes (above 1000 to 1500 metres) where trails often cross wide screes or blockfields.
In Norway, travellers enjoy a right to access, which means it is possible to camp freely in most places for a couple of days, as long as you're not on cultivated land and provided you are at least 150m away from houses and farm buildings. Don't leave any traces and take your rubbish away for recycling.
Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) operates many staffed and self-service mountain cabins, marks mountain routes, offers maps and route information, guided tours, and several other services for mountain hikers in Norway.
Mountainous areas are popular among both Norwegians and tourists. Tourists can visit Galdhøpiggen (2469m), the highest mountain in Norway, or join a musk ox safari in Dovrefjell.
Google Maps can only be used for initial planning, not for navigation in the field. Try the national mapping agency's Atlas.no site, which concords with their excellent printed hiking maps. Hikers in the wilderness should bring a detailed topographical map 1:50,000 (1:75,000 can also be used) and a compass. GPS (satelite navigation) is only supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional map and compass navigation.
Both cross country and alpine skiing are popular sports in winter, and the largest areas, such as Trysil, Hafjell and Hemsedal, compete well with the Alps at lower altitudes. Telemark is also a nice area to ski in. (The birthplace of cross country ski.) Voss, Geilo and Oppdal are other major ski resorts. There is more than 200 alpine ski resorts in Norway, and countless cross-country groomed trails, some with lighting to allow exercise after in winter evenings.
Winter sport resorts typically open in early December, whereas cross-country skiing may begin in November in some uplands. Around Oslo, within reach of the metro and city buses, there is a large park ideal for cross-country skiing, as well as hills for alpine skiing. In Stryn, at Galdhøpiggen and at Folgefonna there alpine ski centres that are open in summer only (May–September), offering unique opportunities for alpine skiing in T-shirt and short pants. Back-country skiing is popular in late winter and spring, and the season lasts until late May in the high plateaus/central mountains.
Dagens Næringsliv, the leading business daily, rated the best alpine resorts 2013:
- Hemsedal - Norway's most complete alpine resort, can be compared to leading resorts in Austria and Canada.
- Trysil - Norway's largest winter resort, best for children, but it also has many steep pistes
- Oppdal - all-over second best
- Stranda - Norway's best offpiste skiing, heavy snowfalls (ahead of Røldal and Narvik)
- Hafjell - best snowpark, stable cold climate, 1994 olympics
- Geilo - well suited for families with diverse preferences
- Voss - ideal for day trips from Bergen
- Kvitfjell - Norway's toughest downhill slopes, 1994 Olympics
- Lyngen - best summit skiing
- Hovden - best in South Norway, 200km from Kristiansand
Best cross-country resorts according to Dagens Næringsliv:
- Sjusjøen - 350 km trails
- Oslo - 2600 km trails (350 km with lights) inside the big city
- Rauland - stable snow in uplands
Dagens Næringsliv in 2014 ranked the winter sport resorts that have the most complete offer (alpine skiing, cross-country skiing in groomed tracks and "summit skiing"):
- Voss - offers everything, more unstable temperatures than the interior
- Tromsø - mediocre alpine facilities, but superb mountainous hinterland
- Hemsedal - all options in a high valley, stable winter
- Sogndal - excellent summit skiing options, lots of powder snow, limited facilities
- Røldal - steep hills and heavy snowfalls, few options for beginners and families
- Geilo - perfect for cross-country skiing and for families, limited off-piste options
- Oppdal - all options in a high valley, somewhat dated facilities
- Narvik - wild mountains directly on fjord, limited offers for families and cross-country skiers
- Lillehammer - excellent cross-country and alpine near the city, no high mountains
- Trysil - great variety of alpine slopes, well suited for families
You can rent a bicycle virtually everywhere in Norway. Cycling routes exist usually near bigger cities; you can find some tours at Cycle tourism in Norway. Some roads and tunnels are forbidden for cyclists as they are life-threatening; read the section By bicycle above. Some city dumps may have a special section where you can pick up discarded bicycles (and other stuff) for free. The charity thrift-stores (FRETEX/ELEVATOR/NMS Gjenbruk) sometimes stock used bicycles.
There are few sandy beaches and water is mostly cold, in salt water as well as fresh water. Some fjords, parts of Oslofjord for instance, can however get pleasantly warm in late summer. The coast is mostly rocky, but some areas have stretches of gently rounded, polished slabs of rock, "svaberg", these get quickly dry and warm in sunny weather, and is a popular hangout in summer.
Norwegian currency is the Norwegian crown (norske krone) NOK, sometimes abbreviated kr or kr., but often just the amount is shown on price tickets. A 1/100th krone is called øre. Be careful when crossing borders to differentiate the Norwegian krone (NOK) from the Swedish (SEK) or Danish (DKK) krone. The exchange rate between the Scandinavian currencies is approximately 1:1. In September 2014, there were about NOK8.24 to one euro. Euros are generally not accepted in shops, except in some airports and international transport (flights, ferries).
Coins come in 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner. While price tags still include øre, for instance NOK9.99, there are no coins smaller than 1 kroner so prices are rounded.
ATMs in Norway are called Minibank. There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At main airports and Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, British pounds, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian kroner. Nearly all stores, with the notable exception of grocery stores and the post office, accept major credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa (bring your passport/driving licence, as you are required to identify yourself when using a credit card).
Norway is an expensive country for visitors. While it is possible to travel in Norway on a limited budget, some care must be taken. Because labour is costly, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Travel costs can also be a killer, because the country is large and distances long, so a rail or air pass can save you a lot of money.
As rules of thumb, subsisting on under NOK500/day will be difficult even if you stay in hostels and self-cater, with NOK1000/day allowing a more comfortable mid-range lifestyle and over NOK2000/day needed for good hotels and restaurants.
Take care when buying alcohol and tobacco. It will most certainly be more expensive than you expect. A 400 or 500mL beer in a pub or restaurant will cost around NOK60 whilst a 500mL can of 4.7% beer in a supermarket costs about NOK25. Cigarettes cost about 100 kr for a pack of 20, and a bottle of 500mL Coke will usually cost NOK20 in shops. On the positive side: Norway has good quality tap water. Buying bottled drinking water is unnecessary and hugely expensive.
Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are also more expensive than in most countries due to the labour costs. A large BigMac menu will set you back around NOK90, the same goes for a Double Whopper Cheese menu. Also, keep in mind that most bakeries, fast food chains, and other types of restaurants that offer takeout, charge more if you eat it at the restaurant than if you take it with you, due to differences in the VAT rate.
If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around NOK1,500 (€190) per day is not unrealistic.
You can save some money by bringing supplies. Be aware of the strict Norwegian border regulations, which allow a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, 1 litre of hard alcohol and 1 1/2 litre of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 3 litres of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 5 litres of beer. As a general rule, tobacco, alcohol and meat will be comparatively expensive. Vegetables, flour, baby articles, car supplies (oil, window wiper fluid and so on), and clothes will have (almost) the same price as in neighbouring countries, or even be cheaper.
Many Norwegians living near the borders with Sweden, Finland or Russia head into those countries to purchase groceries, as the costs are significantly cheaper. While the option of crossing into Russia is not available for most travellers due to Russia's onerous visa requirements, those visiting areas near the Swedish or Finnish borders should consider this option before travelling to other areas, as there are no border controls between Norway and Sweden or Finland. Except for the border areas near Oslo, Sweden and Finland are very sparsely populated near the Norwegian border. Still there are shops near the border, which wouldn't exist without Norway.
Traditionally, the tip has not been common, but is being introduced by outside influence. Tipping should be given only as a token of real appreciation for the service.
In Norway, like most of Europe, waiters are not dependent on tips from customers as they are in the US, as they are well paid. However, tipping is not unusual in mid- to high-end cafés and restaurants, but only if you feel you have been treated well. In restaurants, even though there is a service fee, rounding up is the norm, and 10% is considered generous. It is not normal to tip outside restaurants and bars, but in situations where change is common it is polite to leave the change (for example, taxis). Tipping cab drivers is usual if you travel for more than NOK200, but you will get no reaction from the driver should you choose not to tip, so this may be a new experience to American and English tourists. Tipping is never considered offensive, but not tipping is also rarely frowned upon.
It is possible to exchange money in most banks near tourist information offices, in the post-office or withdraw the money in local currency from the ATM. In some places, however, they don't handle cash in the banks so they only way to exchange money is in the post offices where the exchange fee might be up to NOK75 (€9.09, USD11.78)!
You will get the best rate when you withdraw money from the ATM or simply pay with a credit card. Note that the country is currently upgrading to a new system using computer chips embedded in the card and a pin number. Credit cards with magnetic strips are still accepted throughout the country; however, you will have to let the merchant know that the you do not have a pin code you need to sign instead. It is also important to note that sometimes a merchant system will not allow signatures, so it is a good precaution to have cash on hand to pay if needed.
For example (August 2009) the exchange rate in the bank was NOK8.75 for €1 (taking into consideration that it is not possible to exchange an amount for more than NOK5000 per one transaction and there is a commission of NOK100 for each transaction); in the tourist information office the rate exchange was NOK7.28 (no commissions), by withdrawal from ATM the rate was NOK7.74 (taking into consideration all the bank commissions).
Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (13:00 or 15:00 is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 22:00 or 23:00 on weekdays. You'll often see opening hours written as "9-21 (9-18)" on doors, meaning 9am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm Saturdays. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Coop, ICA and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Meny, Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.
Convenience stores, notably the major chains Narvesen and Mix (all over the country), Deli de Luca (Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen only) and 7-Eleven (bigger cities only), are open from early morning until late at night every day, with 24 hour service in the biggest cities. All over the country you will find gas-stations, Statoil, Shell, fresh/selected, YX (HydroTexaco) (these days turning into 7-eleven with gas) and Esso, On the Run. Virtually all gas-stations serve fast-food, especially sausages and cheese. Also hamburgers, pizza, and so on. The gas-stations have long opening periods, and the bigger stations in cities and near bigger crossroads are open 24 hours. Convenience stores and gas stations are relatively expensive.
Most big cities have over the years been almost exclusively dominated by shopping malls. Although you do have shopping streets like Karl Johans Gate in Oslo, Strandgaten in Bergen and Nordre gate/Olav Tryggvasons gate in Trondheim, you are bound to find malls around the country by Thon Gruppen and other major companies. Norway is also home to Scandinavias biggest mall - Sandvika Storsenter - located 15 minutes outside Oslo by train. In Oslo you have Byporten Shopping Senter, Oslo City and Gunerius located right next to Oslo S train station and Paléet and Arkaden Shopping in Karl Johans Gate, as well as several malls and shopping centres a bit further out.
Getting "good deals" and bargaining is frowned upon, and the service workers are generally not authorized to give you a better price - only larger items such as cars are subject to haggling. The price you see is the price you pay. If you plan on buying tax-free, a good practice is to bring with you the necessary forms. Most stores will have these forms at hand themselves but it is a good precaution. Also, if you pay with a credit card, you might have to sign the receipt which will require some form of ID, driving licence and passport are both OK. This is due to the strict nature of money transactions.
- See also: Nordic cuisine
Traditional Norwegian "farm" food is made by whatever can grow in the northern climate, be stored for a year until new crops come out, and contain enough energy for you to do hard work. Regional variances in traditional food are huge and hence, and what is thought to be "typical traditional" for one Norwegian might be totally unknown to another. Typical examples are variations of yeasted and unyeasted bread and other forms of bakery, porridges, soups, inventive uses of potato, salted and smoked meat, and fresh, salted or smoked fish. Dried cod (tørrfisk) and salted cod (klippfisk) are staples of coastal communities in the west and north and can be seen drying on outside racks in spring and summer. The national dish of Norway is fårikål, a stewed casserole of lamb's meat and cabbage. Other specialities include lutefisk (lyefish) made from dry/salted fish processed in lye, and potato dumplings served with salt meat (raspeball) or mixed with fish (blandeball). Sheep's head (smalahove) and dried mutton ribs (pinnekjøtt) are traditionally served before or during Christmas in Western Norway.
Finer traditional food is usually based on hunted animals or fresh fish. Steak, medallions and meat balls from game, deer, reindeer and elk are highly appreciated foods with international reputation, so are fresh, smoked and fermented salmon varieties as well as a host of other fish products. Traditional pastries like lukket valnøtt (marzipan-covered whipped cream cake) are other original contributions to international cuisine. Cheese of various types is common, but one particularly Norwegian favourite is brun geitost (brown goat-cheese), a mild sweet cheese which bears a remarkable similarity to smooth peanut butter in colour, texture and taste.
Today, Norwegians use plenty of sliced bread for almost any meal except dinner, whereas recipes for hot meals will be taken from almost anywhere in the world, including of course the traditional kitchen, but seldom the most extreme examples. Lunch usually consists of some bread and snacks instead of a warm dish but this is then compensated by eating well at dinner time. Most Norwegians don't go out for lunch, instead have a quick meal in the workplace.
Norwegians are also known for buying a lot of frozen pizzas at modest prices in any grocery store.
Places to eat
Yes, Norwegians eat whale (hval). However, it's very seldom found in most ordinary restaurants, and chances are it might be overly expensive. In freezers at some supermarkets you may encounter whale meat as well.Young Norwegians did not grow up with eating whale because of the moratorium in the 1980s. Although whaling started up again in the early 1990s, whale is no longer a staple food as it once was in the coastal areas. Norway only allows a limited catch of the minke whale as this specific species is not regarded endangered.
Eating out is expensive, with fast food starting from 50 kr and sit-down meals in a decent restaurant nearly always topping 200 kr or more for a main course. Even a take-away sandwich and a coffee at a gas station may cost you up to NOK70 (€9, USD11.50). One way to cut costs is self-catering, as youth hostels and guesthouses often have kitchens for their guests. Supermarkets and grocery stores are not hard to find, even in the smallest village there is usually more than one grocery store. The largest chains are Rimi, REMA 1000, ICA and Joker. Breakfast is often hearty and buffet-style, so pigging out at breakfast and skipping lunch is also an option. Buy/bring a lunchbox before attending breakfast, as most of the bigger hotels will allow you to fill it up for free from the breakfast buffet for eating later in the day.
For a cheap quick snack Norwegian-style, look no further than the nearest grill or convenience store, which will dish up a sausage (pølse) or hot dog (grillpølse) in either a hot dog bun (brød) or wrapped in a flat potato bread (lompe) for around 20-30 kr. However prices can soar as high as 50kr if you buy at the right (read wrong) places. In addition to ketchup and mustard, optional toppings include pickled cucumber (sylteagurk), fried onion bits (stekt løk) and shrimp salad (rekesalat). To get the most for your money, order a (kebab i pita) which is lamb meat roasted on a spit then fried when you order, served together with vegetables in a pita bread. This tastes great, is extremely filling and can be found for as little as NOK40 in central Oslo. Outside, you will have to stick with your grillpølse.
Very few Norwegian cuisine restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu, but will make something if asked, with varying success. Some of the few chains of stores/restaurants where you will always have a vegetarian option is Peppes Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).
Allergies and diets
If you have allergies like lactose intolerance and gluten allergy, going to Peppe's Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, Subway and Burger King are good suggestions. But if you want to eat somewhere a little fancier, asking the maître d'hôtel at the restaurant is always good practice. In some cases, if it is not on the menu, they might be able to accommodate you anyway.
As the regulations for food is extremely strict in Norway, the ingredients for anything you buy is always printed on the packages, and if you ask, you will always be told what is contained in the food you order.
Food safety is very good in Norway. Salmonella is very rare compared to other countries, and health officials inspect restaurants at a regular basis. Also tap-water is usually very nice; Voss water from Vatnestrøm in Aust-Agder is actually exported abroad, including USA.
Norwegian akevitt, a distilled beverage of about 40% alcohol, is distinguished from other aquavits originating in other Nordic countries and Germany because it's always made from potatoes, and aged in used sherry casks. Recipes remain secret, but most Norwegian aquavits are spiced with caraway and anise. There are at least 27 different Norwegian aquavits, suitable to different kinds of food, in drinks or as avec. Aquavit is especially popular with traditional food for Christmas. The classics are Lysholm Linie (a nice all-round aquavit to go with not too heavy food), Løiten Linie (with salted and smoked meat), Gammel Opland (all-round, especially good with traditional lutefisk) and Simers Taffel (to go with herring), you should also try Gilde Non Plus Ultra (as avec) if you enjoy the taste. The "Linie" aquavits have in fact travelled twice across the equator while ageing!
Norway is often described as a "dry" country, because alcohol is highly priced and a glass of wine or beer in a restaurant is in the range of NOK60 and above. When in cities and towns with many students such as Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø, you can very often find lower prices. Ask young people in the streets or at your place of accommodation for hints and tips of where to go. Beer can be bought at the supermarkets, however wine and stronger alcoholic beverages have to be purchased in state owned liquor stores (Vinmonopolet). The Vinmonopolet is a monopoly but maintains high quality and a wide selection of products; the finest products are moderately priced. The price of alcohol, however does not stop the locals from having a good time. They are often found drinking and carrying on in local street parties and on their porches.
The high prices is one reason why the tradition to hold vorspiel and nachspiel before going out is very popular in Norway. The words derives from German and can be translated into pre- and after party. If going out in the weekend, it is not unknown for Norwegians to gather at a friends house and not leave there until after twelve in the evening. So if you've seen Norwegian drinking culture abroad, and are shocked by the empty bar/club at ten o'clock, call your Norwegian friend and ask where the vorspiel is. (If that person one of the many Swedes in Norway, vorspiel would mean foreplay - they would say foreparty.) It's likely to be a whole lot of fun. Clubs tend to fill up around the period immediately after midnight. However this is mostly true at weekends - during normal weekdays, you will often find Norwegians sitting in bars enjoying a couple of beers or a bottle of wine.
You must be at least 18 years old to purchase beer or wine and 20 years old to purchase spirits with an alcohol content of 22% and more in Norway.
Technically, drinking in public is prohibited. This law is very strict, and even encompasses your own balcony, if other people can see you! Luckily, the law is very seldom enforced (cases of anyone being fined on their own balcony are very rare, for instance), and Norwegians do indeed drink in parks. There are calls for modifying the antiquated law, and recently, there has been a debate in media: most people seem to agree that drinking in parks is alright as long as people have a good time and remain peaceful. However, if you bother others and get too intoxicated or a policeman happens to be in a bad mood, you may be asked to throw away your alcohol, and in a worst-case scenario, fined. Drinking openly in the street is probably still considered somewhat rude, and it would be more likely to attract police attention than a picnic in a park, and is advised against. Having a glass of wine in an establishment that legally serves alcohol at the sidewalk, of course, is not a problem.
Be careful about urinating in major cities like Oslo if you're drunk, fines for public urination can be as high as NOK10,000 (USD1,750)! However, this normally isn't a problem if you urinate in a place where nobody sees, like a couple of yards into the woods. Public intoxication is also something you should be a bit careful with, especially in the capital, Oslo. In smaller towns the police will have no problem giving you a night in the local jail if they think you are disrupting peace and order.
In Norway, all alcohol with a volume percentage of under 4.75% can be sold at regular shops. This means you can get decent beer all over the place. The price varies, but imported beer is usually expensive (except Danish and Dutch beers brewed in Norway on licence like Heineken and Carlsberg). Shopping hours for beer are very strict: The sale stops at 20:00 (8PM) every weekday, and at 18:00 (6PM) every day before holidays (incl Sundays). Since the sale times are decided by the local council, it may vary, but these are the latest times decided by law. This means the beer will have to be PAID for before this time. If it's not paid, the person behind the counter will take your beer, and tell you "Sorry pal, too late!". On Sunday, you can't buy alcohol anywhere except bars/pubs/restaurants.
For strong beer, wine and hard alcohol, you will have to find a Vinmonopolet branch. The state shop has a marvellous choice of drinks, but at mostly sky-high prices. The general rule is that table wines are more expensive than in nearly any other country. Expect NOK80-90 for a decent, "cheap" wine. However, as the taxation is based on the volume of alcohol per bottle rather than the wholesale cost, you can often find more exclusive wines at comparably lower prices than in private establishments in other countries. Vinmonpolet is open until 17:00 Monday to Wednesday, 18:00 Thursday to Friday, and 15:00 on Saturday.
Many car borne visitors (and Norwegians on shopping trips to Sweden and Finland) bring alcohol into Norway, but there are import restrictions for private use; 1 litre of liquor and 3 litres of beer without paying heavy duties.
The brands you are most likely to see in pubs are industrial lagers from Ringnes, Hansa, Borg, Aass and Frydenlund (accompanied by a vast array of imported drinks). However, in the last ten years a range of microbreweries and craft breweries have made locally produced beer of all varieties and often high quality available. For instance Nøgne Ø, Ægir, Haandbryggeriet, Kinn, 7 Fjell and many more. Beer from small or specialty breweries are also available in pubs or cafes such as Mikrobryggeriet (Bogstadveien Oslo), Lorry's (Parkveien, Oslo), Ægir (Flåm), Grünerløkka Brygghus (Oslo) or Beer Palace (Aker Brygge, Oslo).
A single hotel room (always book ahead for weekdays) should cost you from around NOK800 and up (special offers are common, look for them), but you can find reasonable cheap lodgings in camping huts (NOK300-600, space for entire family), mountain cabins (NOK150-300 per person), youth hostels (NOK150-250 per person), etc. Most of these will require you to make your own food, bring your own bedsheets, and wash before leaving.
For longer stays (one week or more) consider renting an apartment, a house or a high quality cabin. Several agencies offer reservations on houses or cabins owned by farmers or other locals. This type of accommodation is frequently more interesting than a standard hotel.
Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, do not require a permit and are free to live and work in Norway for up to 3 months (some restrictions apply for recent members of the European Union). In addition, citizens of a number of non-EU countries are permitted to work in Norway without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay (for more information, see the 'Get in' section above).
You may start from the local office of the public agency NAV, to get legal advise and a list of available jobs. They also provide an online guide: Work in Norway. Note that even though the unemployment rate in Norway is very low (3.2% ), short-term employment may be hard to find. (Certainly when not fluent in a Scandinavian language.) If you decide to move there you have to fill in a "Residence Permit" which lasts for 3 years before it needs to be renewed.
Salaries ranged from 15,000 to 35,000 kroner (USD2500–5700 or €2000-3500) per month in 2012.
Norway has a very low rate of violent crime. The most likely crimes for tourists to experience is car break-ins and bicycle theft. Pickpockets do also tend to be an increasing problem in urban areas in the summer season, but it's still nothing like in larger cities in Europe. It is always a good idea to look after your belongings, this includes never leaving valuable objects visual in your car and locking your bike safely.
Single women should have no problems, although ordinary street sense is advised after dark.
Norway is one of the countries in the world with least corruption. Police and other authorities cannot be bribed, travellers are strongly advised against attempting in any form of bribery.
Norway has a unified police force ("politi"). The police force is the government authority in areas like crime, national security, major accidents, missing persons, traffic control, passports and immigration control. Most cities have municipal parking attendants, too, but the attendants do not have any authority beyond fining and removing vehicles.
Norway has an increasing number of electric vehicles, particularly in cities. These cars are very silent and pedestrians should use their eyes, not ears, when crossing roads and streets.
The most unusual dangers to visitors are found in nature. Every year, quite a few tourists get hurt, even killed, in the mountains or on the seas, usually after given, unheeded warnings. For example, do not approach a glacier front, big waves on the coast, or a big waterfall unless you know what you're doing, and do not walk on glaciers without proper training and equipment.
Norway has few dangerous wild animals. Car crashes with the mighty moose or the smaller red deer account for the bulk of wild animal-related deaths and injuries. Also note that in some rural districts, sheep, goats, cows or reindeer can be seen walking or sleeping on the road.
Specific rules and precautions apply to Svalbard, where you should never travel outside Longyearbyen without someone in your party carrying a weapon. The polar bears on Svalbard are a real and extremely dangerous threat for the unprepared, and there are cases involving death and/or injury almost every year. There are more polar bears here than humans. Svalbard is a fragile, dry arctic tundra with large parts almost untouched by humans. The current recommendation is that nonlocal visitors participate on organized tour arrangements only. Breaking the law, disturbing wildlife or being reckless can land you a fine and/or deportation from the archipelago. That said, if you come well prepared with common sense, the visit will be one of the most memorable you've ever had. The nature, scenery and history of Svalbard is simply breathtaking.
As for other wild animals on mainland Norway, there are not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear and wolf in the wilderness. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in mainland Norway, let alone polar bears walking city streets. The Scandinavian brown bear is peaceful and will generally run away from humans. In any case it is extremely unlikely that tourists will even see a glimpse of one of the around 50 brown bears remaining in Norway. Norwegian wolves are not dangerous to humans. In general, there is no reason worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Norway.
When hiking or skiing, be prepared for a sudden shift in the weather, as these can happen very quickly in Norway. If unsure about conditions, ask locals or go on a guided tour. You are expected to manage on your own in the Norwegian wilderness, so you won't find fences or warning signs even at the most dangerous places. Keep in mind that avalanches are common. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, stay in marked slopes when skiing. If you think you know what you're doing, think twice. 12 people were killed in avalanches just in the first three months of 2011 in Norway.
Norway's immense coastline is an adventure for visitors, but also a treacherous area. Huge waves that build up power across the Atlantic crush on slippery rocks and slabs along the outer coast. Every year tourists are in serious danger and occasionally even killed when they challenge the big waves along the shores. Many tourists also leave the sheltered waters and venture onto the open sea in small boats, every year tourists are rescued at sea, some even perish.
Glaciers are one of the most dangerous places for visitors to the Norwegian outdoor. Never underestimate the power of the glacier. Observe warning signs. Never approach the front of the glacier. A glacier is not a stable piece of ice, it is constantly moving and huge chunks regularly fall of.
Do not enter a glacier without proper equipment and a skilled local guide. Sunrays get reflected from the white snow, so it necessary to use sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring warm clothes for tours on the glacier.
If you plan to cross the mountains by car (for instance by driving from Oslo to Bergen) in the winter season, it is imperative that you are prepared for the journey. The conditions are harsh. Always keep a full tank of fuel, and keep warm clothes, food and drink in the car. Make sure your tires are good enough and suited for winter conditions (studded or non-studded winter tires, "all-year" tires are not enough), and that you have the sufficient skills for driving in snowy and cold conditions. Roads are often closed on short notice due to weather conditions. For advice on conditions and closed roads, call 175 in Norway or check the online road reports (in Norwegian only) from the Norwegian State road authorities. Remember that not all parts of the roads have cellular phone coverage.
- Police: 112
- Fire: 110
- Emergency Medical Services (ambulance): 113
If you are unsure which number to call, 112 is the central for all rescue services and will put you in contact with the correct department.
For non-emergencies, the police is to be called on 02800. For casualty treatment (non-emergencies) call 116117.
The hearing impaired using a text telephone can reach the emergency services by dialing 1412.
Roadside assistance is provided by Falck (tel. 02222) and Viking (tel. 06000). AAA members may call NAF on 08505. In case of traffic accident you are supposed to call the police only if individuals are injured or if the crash causes a traffic jam. The police will not get involved if there are damages on the vehicles only.
- The water quality in Norway is mostly adequate and tap water is always drinkable (except on boats, trains etc.).
- The hygiene in public kitchens is very good, and food poisoning rarely happens to tourists.
- Norway can get relatively warm in the summer, but be prepared to bring warm clothes (sweater, windbreaking/waterproof jacket), as they might come in handy. It's hard to predict the weather, and in summer, you may experience severe weather changes during your stay.
- Tourists hiking in the high mountains (above the forest) should bring sports wear for temperatures down to freezing (zero degree C).
- Norway has a high density of pharmacies. Nose sprays and standard pain killers (paracetamol, aspirin) can also be purchased in grocery stores and gas stations.
- The sun is generally not as strong as in southern Europe. Keep in mind that in cool conditions (low temperatures or wind) you don't feel that the sun burns your skin. The air is often very clear and clean in the North and UV-levels can be high despite the low sun. Also keep in mind: the sun is stronger in the high mountains, radiation is multiplied on or near snow fields as well as water surfaces. Even when it's cloudy the light can be strong on snow fields. Do not underestimate the power of the Nordic sun! Bring sunglasses when you go to the high mountains, when you go skiing in spring and when you go to the beach.
- In southern Norway there are ticks (flått) that appear in summertime. They can transmit Lyme's disease (borreliosis) and more serious TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite. The risk areas for TBE are mainly along the coast from Oslo to Trondheim. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). You can buy special tick tweezers from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes.
- There's only one type of venomous snake in Norway: the European adder (hoggorm), which has a distinct zig-zag pattern on its back. The snake is not very common, but lives all over Norway up to the arctic circle (except for the highest mountains and areas with little sunshine). Although its bite hardly ever is life-threatening (except to small children and allergic people), be careful in the summertime especially when walking in the forests or on open fields. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical assistance. The probability of being bitten is however very small, as the adder is very shy of humans.
Contact For minor injuries and illness, go to the local "Legevakt" (emergency room/physician seeing patients without appointment) ☎ 116 117. In cities this is typically a municipal service centrally located, be prepared to wait for several hours. In rural districts you typically have to contact the "district physician" on duty. For inquiries about toxins (from mushrooms, plants, medicin or other chemicals) call the national Toxin Information Office at ☎ +47 22 59 13 00
Norwegians are generally open-minded and tolerant and there are few, if any, dos and don'ts that foreign visitors need to keep in mind. If anything, it is important to keep in mind that Norway is perhaps the most egalitarian country in the world. Behaving in a way that suggest either party is inferior or superior is considered exceptionally rude, and the flaunting of wealth or rank (if any) is frowned upon. Most Norwegians will handle misunderstandings or possibly offensive comments in a friendly manner and almost all will respond well to compliments paid to the country in general.
Many Norwegian people can however be mistaken as somewhat rude and unwelcoming, because they can be very direct and that small talk generally doesn't come easy. This is just a matter of culture; making contact with strangers, such as talking with fellow passengers on the bus, is uncommon. This does not apply to train journeys, or outside the bigger cities where small talk will be made upon the base of curiosity. During hikes in remote wilderness, talking to strangers on the same trail is customary.
Furthermore, Norwegian as a language is very straightforward. The once common use of the polite pronoun is nowadays extremely rare, and so are polite phrases and words in everyday situations, so don't be offended if a Norwegian speaking a foreign language uses a very familiar language. The use of informal language also applies when shopping, checking in at hotels and similar, but do not expect small talk in those situations either. Norwegian does not have something corresponding directly to please (German bitte), some may say unnskyld (excuse me) to call your attention. On the other hand, expressing thanks is important in Norway, this occurs in many situations. For instance after being served food in a private home it is customary to say thanks for the meal (takk for maten), at more formal occasions the "thanks" is often accompanied by a handshake. For instance after a eating or travelling together some Norwegians says thanks for good company. Many Norwegians also express a thanks for last time we met for instance a few days after meeting a party.
The Norwegian culture in general is very informal and Norwegians usually address each other's by first name only, except perhaps in official meetings. The informal culture is not equivalent of that in southern parts of Europe; showing up late for meetings is considered rude, so is talking loud, being too personal with strangers and losing your temper. It is customary to take off your shoes when entering a Norwegian home, in winter this is often a necessity.
Norwegians' reputation for being cold and unwelcoming may be a result of a surprisingly complex unwritten code of conduct with many apparent contradictions. For example; while as noted before it is very uncommon to make contact with strangers at public transportation like buses, the opposite is true when you meet Norwegians in outdoor activities like hiking or skiing: Greeting a fellow hiker or skier is expected, not doing so is often considered quite rude. Another phenomena that often confuse foreigners is the role of alcohol in social interactions. It is best explained as the grease that enables Norwegians to meet and make contact without too much friction, again with exceptions. Fortunately, tourists are exempted from most or all social norms, and Norwegians are in general quite aware, and humorous, about the contradictions in their social norms.
It is increasingly popular among visitors to build stone cairns in wildnerness, along rocky beaches and on mountain passes. Stone cairns are used to mark trails and can in fact be misleading to hikers. Visitors building cairns often pick stones from stone fences, some are actually cultural heritage, some are in use for reindeer, sheep or cows. It is in fact illegal to alter nature like this, even if only with a simple boulder.
Norwegians can also be perceived as somewhat nationalistic. It is common to use the flag in private celebrations (such as anniversaries and weddings), and many will also fly the flag on public holidays. Most Norwegians will speak warmly of their country, in particular about subjects such as nature and the country's economic success. May 17, the constitution day, can perhaps be a bit overwhelming for foreigners, as the country is covered in flags, citizens dress up in their finest clothes and celebrate all day long. Norwegian nationalism is however generally an expression of appreciation of living in a successful community, not aggressive in any way. On constitution day, dress up and try to say gratulerer med dagen (literally "congratulations on the day") to anyone you meet, and you will probably get the same in response and see a lot of smiles, even if you're not Norwegian at all. Norwegians take pride in the fact that the parades on constitution day are made up of school children and families instead of military troops. It should also be noted that May 17 is a celebration of the 1814 constitution that established Norway as a liberal democracy, the constitution is still in effect.
First time visitors not familiar with the country tend to plan a trip in Norway from city to city. Although Norway has many nice cities the country's main attraction is the land itself, the nature, the landscapes, the wilderness, as well as a number of man-made sights in rural districts, notably road constructions and cultural treasures such as the stave churches. Unlike many other countries in Europe, a trip to Norway should ideally be planned according to types of landscapes to visit as well as a selection of cities. Norway is a long country with long distances and complex topography, and travellers should not underestimate distances.
Numbers, time and dates
Norwegians use a comma as the decimal separation sign or radix. For instance, "12,000" means 12 (specified with three decimal places) not 12 thousand, whereas "12 000" or "12.000" means 12 thousand.
Like many countries, Norwegians typically use the 12 hour clock system in speech and the 24 hour clock system in writing, print, signs and timetables. Norwegians don't use pm/am to indicate morning or afternoon. In Norwegian "half ten" ("halv ti") means half past nine, when speaking to a person not fluent in English better not use this form to avoid misunderstanding.
Dates can be seen abbreviated in a number of ways, but the order is always DAY-MONTH-YEAR, for instance 12.7.08 or 12.07.08 is always 12 July 2008 (120708 and 12/7-08 are also common, but regarded as incorrect forms). Monday is considered the first day of the week, while Sunday is the last. In timetables, weekdays are thus often indicated by numbers 1 (Mon) through 7 (Sun). Norwegian calendars will also indicate the number of the week 1 through 53. Timetables for public transport often use the abbreviation Dx67, meaning "daily except Saturday and Sunday".
Norway uses the metric system only. A Norwegian mile, 'mil', is equal to 10km. There is virtually no knowledge of Imperial or US measures. Few Norwegians will be able to convert from Celsius (Centigrade) to Fahrenheit, and weather forecasts use metric units. However, many modern cell-phones have conversion programmes which can be used to understand the metric system.
In Norwegian there is usually no concept of ground floor as in the UK (or "Erdgeschoss" in German), instead the entrance level of a building is called the first floor ("første etasje" or labelled zero, 0) like in the US. Levels are then counted 1, 2, 3 etc.
If purchasing a house and business in Norway do check all legal documents (kjøpekontrakt/takst) and maps (grensekart) are correct. Ask for information in the native language you are used to. Make sure the Estate Agent is registered with NEF.
Mobile phone coverage is universal in urban areas and generally also good in rural Norway, though on occasion some rural valley areas might be badly covered.
Even in the most remote mountain cabins, as long as they are staffed, you will usually be able to send a postcard.
Most Norwegian households are connected to the Internet in some way (often broadband), making cybercafés hard to find outside major cities, due to a relatively small market. Most public libraries have free public access to the internet, but a limited number of computers and limited opening hours.
If you bring a laptop with a wireless connection you will find wireless internet zones just about everywhere (gas stations, city centres, cafés, shopping centres, hotels etc.). Be prepared to pay for it though. It is not unusual for hotels to have a terminal for guest use. Around 60% of camp grounds have Wi-Fi Internet, but if it's crucial for you, best to ask before paying for your camping space.
Telenor (national telecoms provider) sells pre-paid SIM cards for NOK49, providing fast 4G internet access capped at NOK10 per day. Speed is reduced after 500MB in a month, unless you purchase a further data package (another NOK49 / 500MB.Telenor stores (including the one at the airport) ask NOK199 for this SIM card, however you can purchase it in convenience stores for NOK49. Activation on-line requires a Norweigan ID, however Telenor stores can do this instantly for free for foreigners on presentation of your passport. (Prices as at May 2014)
As of August 2011, Telenor (national telecoms provider) sells prepaid wireless 3G internet dongles for computers (NOK700, about €100), NOK150 buy-in must be purchased with the dongle itself, that comes with NOK50 credit and 300MB of data to be used in 4 days. Then, another NOK150 purchase must be made for 15 days unlimited internet access. 3G speeds are very usable, and if 3G service is not available the dongle steps down to 2G (not so much fun). Of course, these prices and conditions may change quickly. There is a mobile phone shop at Oslo airport (landside) that sells phone equipment.
There are other providers; NetCom (part of the TeliaSonera group) offers coverage that is slightly less than Telenor but prices are better; NOK150 gets you a data-only SIM with 1GB data at 4G speeds for a week, NOK29 gets you 500MB for a day, or NOK200 for 2GB/2 weeks or NOK300 for 4GB/month. With voice the packages are 1GB+talk/text for NOK199, 3GB+talk/text for NOK299, and 6GB+talk/text for NOK399.