The best travel tips for Norway, from someone who’s actually been there. Learn everything you need to know about traveling to this beautiful country.
Ever since we went to Norway on our honeymoon (you can read about our epic European adventure starting here), I get a lot of questions about traveling there. We motorcycled through fjord country for nine days, so my perspective is a little skewed to that method of travel and geographical area.
But I thought it might be helpful to round up my best travel tips for Norway, just in case you’re thinking of going yourself! GO. Seriously.
Budget more than you think you should
Any article about traveling to Norway is bound to mention the cost first. My list is not any different. We were shocked to learn how expensive things are in Norway, especially food. We stopped at a roadside diner and paid $58USD for a simple lunch. So when you’re budgeting for your trip, calculate three times more than you think you might spend.
You can definitely save money by eating on the cheap — we found that gas stations actually had fairly decent food (if you’re not too picky). Ryan and I had more than our fair share of gas station calzones and pizza. Not exactly gourmet, but easier on the wallet. We also shopped at grocery stores, though we had limited space to carry food on the motorcycle. This is definitely a good option if you’re going to be in a car.
One thing that we were surprised wasn’t super expensive was fuel. We were on a motorcycle so fill ups were cheap anyway, but in this oil-rich nation you aren’t going to overpay for gas, which is nice.
But don’t let the cost of traveling to Norway deter you. I can guarantee that your trip with be Worth. Every. Single. Penny.
Take a credit card with a pin
Most American credit cards do not have a pin number. You have to request one from your financial institution. Ideally, we would have been able to bring a credit card with a “chip” — these are the standard across Europe. But the US is a late adopter of these chips so if you can’t get one, don’t fret (update: the US is finally starting to issue these cards! Hooray!). A credit card without a pin is pretty much useless, so unless you want to carry large amounts of cash, look into getting a card with a pin. One that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees is hands down the best option!
Cash is helpful too, however, at smaller establishments like B&Bs and for small purchases.
Sleep off the beaten track
Like food, hotels can break your budget quickly. We found alternatives while in Norway, including hostels where we had our own room, guest houses, and “hytter” (little standalone cottages). Airbnb and guest rooms inside people’s homes are options as well. And in some of the larger cities, you may be able to find hotels that take your travel points.
If all else fails, you can pitch a tent and camp pretty much anywhere in Norway for free, as long as you’re not right in someone’s yard. Norwegians believe that nature should be open and available to all. What a beautiful ideal, right?
Norway’s best tourist sites don’t cost a thing
Speaking of nature, the best thing about Norway is the incredible natural beauty of the country. You could spend time in the cities, but I think that would be a mistake. Norway is about experiencing nature at its finest.
I live in California, not too far from Yosemite. Norway is like Yosemite for DAYS. On crack. With very few tourists. And amazingly fun roads, especially on a motorcycle. Ryan and I would come around a corner and see views that would literally take our breath away. Once or twice I might have been brought to tears by the beauty of it all.
And we didn’t have to pay a dime to enter a national park to see it.
I wish I had the words to describe the beauty of Norway. But there are no words. You just have to go.
Top natural sites for us included Geiranger, the Atlantic Road, Trollstiegen, Priekstolen (do the hike at dawn), Dalsnibba, Gudbrandsjuvet, Lysebotn Fjord (take the ferry!) and pretty much every single second we were on the motorcycle in Fjord country.
Don’t underestimate the distances between stopping points
Norway is huge, but only 5 million people live there. The distance between stopping points is often much farther than you’d think. Plus you’ll find yourself stopping often to take it all in. You’ll also need to set aside time for ferry crossings (and waiting at ferry crossings!) and for road construction. And “traffic jams.”
Budget in more time to get to each of your destinations, and always make sure you stop and fill up your tank when you can. Ryan and I were running on fumes one day — I wasn’t sure we were going to make it!
If you’re doing Norway outside a tour group, you have to be a self-reliant traveler. Norway moves on its own schedule and sometimes there are delays. Don’t stress — you’ll get where you’re going! And almost everyone is nice enough to offer directions if you’re lost.
Set aside plenty of time
Because of its vastness, you can’t visit Norway in a few days and expect to see much. You have two options: visit one or two cities and use them as a hub to see things in that area. Or you can spend a lot of time driving and do a circuit. There are also options to travel by train, but I’m unfamiliar with them so I can’t make recommendations.
Because we were on a motorcycle, we opted for the latter, and did a large circuit from Kristiansand to Kristiansund and back over the course of nine days. And we still want to see more (and spend more time in several places we spent the night). If you’re planning a trip, make a list of the things that you really want to see, so you can decide if a hub or circuit travel model is better for your trip.
Visit in the summer
Because the latitude of Norway is so northern, summer days are very long and winter days are very short. Take advantage of the long summer hours to explore the countryside. When we were there in August, the sun rose around 5am and it wasn’t dark until after 10pm. This made the days a lot more enjoyable, and only once did we have to drive in the dark (due to our bad scheduling and a road detour).
Bring rain gear
Yet even in the summer, you’re bound to encounter rain, especially in Fjord country. After traveling for two days in the pouring rain on our motorcycle, we learned that Norway is generally a very wet place. That’s why it’s so gorgeous! This was especially true for us around Bergen (“It rains 400 days a year!” our B&B host joked).
Bring a rain jacket and shoes that will hold up to the wet. Give everything a coating of Scotch Guard before you go, for good measure. It can also be quite warm when the sun decides to make an appearance, so layering is best.
Most people speak English
We rarely ran across anyone who didn’t speak any English. Even if we did, it was easy enough to swipe a credit card for gas or point to something on a menu. So don’t let the language barrier stop you from going! People are generally really nice, and they always seemed pleased to converse with pleasant Americans traveling their country on a motorcycle.
I truly cannot recommend traveling to Norway more. Ryan and I still talk about it all the time and want to go back someday and see the things we missed — and see a few things for a second time! If you’re traveling to Norway and need some specific advice, I’d be happy to answer your questions the best I can in the comments!