What to do in Norway
Norway is known for its incredible natural beauty, from its visually stunning fjords to remarkable rocky landscapes and deep mountain valleys shaped by glaciers. Norway is also a very happy place. In fact, it was named the happiest country in the world in the 2017 UN World Happiness Report (yes, there is such a thing) and has been in the top 10 in every report since.
Bordered by Russia, Finland and Sweden, it is a relatively large country of approximately 149,000 square miles (385,000 kilometers) with a low population density. That means the country has a lot of open space just begging to be explored. Its coastline is one of the longest in the world and meets the Norwegian Sea for much of its length. It is this spectacular coastline, dotted with colorful villages, that is featured in so many photographs taken by holiday travelers and professionals from around the world. Norway is also famous for its magnificent cathedrals, Viking lore, and historic cities such as Oslo, Bergen, Tromso, Alesund, Stavenger, and Trondheim.
Norway is one of the best places on the globe to see the Northern Lights, with numerous coastal towns welcoming visitors from September through late March to view the magical dance of lights in the dark night sky. Cruising up the coast on the Hurtigruten ferry line is another wonderful way to explore.
Useful Travel Information
Basic Facts: Capital is Oslo; country size is 149,000 square miles (385,000 square kilometers); Population is approximately 5.2 million; time zone is Central European Time (CET); country dialing code is +47.
Emergencies – To reach the police, fire department or ambulance service, dial 112. Calling 112 is free from any landline or mobile phone. This is throughout European Union countries, including others such as Switzerland.
Entry Requirements (Passports and Visas) – PASSPORTS: Norway is not a member of the European Union, but it is a member of a broader group of countries called the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen Area. That means citizens of European Union countries simply need a valid identity card. Citizens of any other country seeking to enter Norway will need a passport that is valid for at least four months from the date of your entry into Norway. VISAS: Any citizen of a country outside of the EU will need a visa with the exception of certain countries, such as the United States. Citizens of the United States do not currently need a visa as long as their stay within the Schengen area (of which Norway is a part) lasts no more than 90 days every 180-day period. Click here for more information about the Schengen area and to use the Schengen Calculator. ETIAS: The European Travel Information and Authorization System is a new program to help EU countries (and a few area countries such as Norway) better manage who is going in and out since so many countries have no requirements for entry visas. Plus, it will add more security. It is now slated to be in place in 2022, but not required until 2023. Any visitors will need to have filled out, submitted and have an application approved prior to entry, and the approval will be valid for three years or until the expiration of the travel document it is attached to. For more ETIAS information, go to this website. To complete your application, go to the ETIAS website.
Vaccinations | Health – No vaccinations are required to enter Norway. However, ticks are prevalent between April through November in the southernmost part of Norway and up the coast from Oslo to Helgelandskysten. These ticks can carry Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). Be sure to use insect repellent or wear insect repellent clothing when walking in forests and fields. Ask your doctor about needing a TBE vaccination if you plan to spend significant time walking in these areas.
For over-the-counter medications and other minor health issue advice (sore muscles, cough, cold, etc.) you will go to an "Apotek" or pharmacy. Should you need a doctor or emergency care while in Norway, be sure your health insurance will cover you internationally — and know at what level. We strongly advise purchasing travel health insurance that will cover you in the event of an emergency.
Language – Norwegian is the official language of Norway (Sami is recognized as an official language in some northern parts of the country), though frankly in most areas of the country, you will do just fine with English. Before you go, however, do try to learn a few basic words in Norwegian as it will help break the ice and may even open a few doors for you. To help you in your quest to learn some Norwegian words, be sure to read our story Start to learn languages – Top language learning apps and websites.
Getting around in Norway
- By Plane – Most international flights will arrive and depart from Oslo. However, flying around inside Norway is easy with connecting flights to Bergen, Stavanger, Tromso, Kirkenes, and Svolvaer.
- By Train – It is easy to get to almost anywhere in Norway by train. There are more than 1,864 miles of railway line traveling across 2,577 bridges, through 733 tunnels, and passing by mountains, lakes and, of course, fjords. Rail routes of note include The Bergen Railway connecting Oslo with Bergen, the Flam Railway, The Dovre Railway between Oslo and Trondheim and The Rauma Railway between Dombas and Andalsnes. You can research ticket prices and train routes on Vy's website (formerly the NSB, the official train company in Norway).
- By Bus – If you are looking to go shorter distances, buses in Norway are a great option. But if traveling a long distance, opt for the train as it is typically much faster and less expensive. Vy now owns Nettbuss and operates specific routes throughout Norway. NOR-WAY Bussekspress is another major operator and its routes cover most of Norway.
- By Car – Travel by car is very easy in Norway and renting a car is relatively uncomplicated. But there are a few things to keep top of mind: First, while most roads in Norway are well-maintained, mountain and rural roads can be very narrow, winding and, in the mountains, very steep. Second, speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour and they are strictly enforced – fines for speeding are high and enforced. If you rent a car, know the speed limits (a driver is expected to know them) and stay within them at all times – Norway is such a beautiful country there is no need to race through it after all! Third, all rental cars will be outfitted with an AutoPASS device to automatically pay tolls without stopping and, yes, you will pay a convenience fee for this. No special driver's license is needed aside from your United States license if you are there for less than a year.
- By Ferry – As one might expect, a country with so many fjords and such a lengthy coastline would have a robust ferry service. In addition to numerous express boats and ferries connecting towns and villages, the Hurtigruten serves 30 ports on its daily route up and down the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. It is a classic and amazingly beautiful way to experience Norway, as well as a sometimes more direct way to travel in the coastal area. Be sure to read Hurtigruten Cruises: Travel booking tips.
Managing Money -- The Norwegian Krone is the currency of Norway and is represented most often as NOK. Use the calculator from Oanda below to help you manage your money exchanges and know how much something selling in NOK would cost in dollars. And in Norway, credit cards and other electronic means of making payments, such as Apple Pay are widely accepted.
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