Practical Travel Tips: Norway

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The arrival of Norwegian Air Shuttle service between the United States and Scandinavia has really made travel more affordable for those cities with Norwegian service. However, once you are there, it isn’t cheap. Angie recently went to Norway and here are her practical tips. She’s even made a video:

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With Norwegian Air expanding into the US, Norway is a very accessible vacation destination. With a group of people, one can travel to Norway on a budget, as a few of us did on this flight deal from JFK to Oslo.

Practical Advice

  • You theoretically need an adapter for outlets; however we found that there were plenty of USB charging stations around Norway (from the airport to trains to buses and public areas).
  • In grocery stores, alcohol is not sold past 8PM on weekdays, past 6PM on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays. Light beer (anything with <2.5% alcohol) is sold past 8PM on weekdays.
  • Have cash if you plan on taking the bus without a prepaid pass as most buses are cash only. Otherwise, credit is accepted almost everywhere.
  • Car ferries are crazy efficient and reasonably priced in western Norway – they’re also a great way to experience fjords. Buses will drive onto ferries during routes to cross fjords.
  • Norwegians really respect their student discounts – if under 30 and in school in any way, one should definitely take advantage of this since it can be up to 40% off regular prices.
  • Having a car for three days cost about $90 per person, in addition to about $30 per person for gas. At $40 a day, the car was by far the most economical and flexible option for us. Norwegian roads are incredibly well-maintained (even in the winter).
  • In Norway, punishment for speeding is 18 days in prison. Needless to say, we drove slowly.

JFK -> Oslo

A lot of passengers on the 10PM Friday night JFK to Oslo flight were stuck in security when we flew out recently. In our case, it was beneficial for our group of 6 travelers to have one person that arrived early and gave status updates to the gate agents on the group’s security line status as it seemed like the pilot would wait. That said, we were the last people to board before they closed the flight. (Editor’s Note: This is very specific to Norwegian out of JFK – Terminal 1. Security lines can move very slowly so it is best to show up early.)

Arrival in Oslo and Exchanging Money

The exchange rate was close to 8 NOK to 1 USD at airport counters and closer to 9 NOK to 1 USD using ATMs. Exchange rates change so it’s always good to check online first to have a benchmark.

Regarding the need for cash, we found that every place we went (even the most remote of villages) accepted credit cards. The one major exception is taking the bus. Buses almost never took credit card and usually required cash.

Train into the City

Taking the Oslo T-bane (the name of the metro system) train to get from the airport to the city center (specifically the sentralstation stop) costs about $6 per person and is a good alternative to the express train that runs more frequently.

There is also a 24-hour T-bane pass for about $10-$12 per person that would make sense if staying in Oslo for more than a day.

Oslo

  • Opera House – the Opera House is free and open to the public (and next to the central train station). It’s a great place to spend an hour or two as you can catch free performances going on inside occasionally or spend time walking onto the roof, which provides a panoramic view of Oslo.
Opera House, Oslo, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Angie

Opera House, Oslo, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Angie

  • The National Gallery and the Grand Palace – these two places are close together so it might be worth it to stop by the Palace before heading to the National Gallery. The Grand Palace is a quick stop and nice to see – the changing of the guard happens at around noon; during winter, there is often a pile of snow in front that is converted into a giant ice slide for children (and adults) to enjoy. The National Gallery, which has many great works (including The Scream by Edward Munch), is a quick five-minute walk from the palace. Tip: Admissions are free on Thursdays.
  • Lunch – a good, quick and reasonably priced spot near the Grand Palace and the National Gallery is Elias Mat & Sant (it serves traditional dishes like reindeer and fish stew and also has a great salad and cocktail selection – it’s in the $20 per person range but also can be pricier).
  • Tobogganing/Skiing/Wine and Views – a former Olympic bobsledding track and well-known tobogganing hill, the Korketrekkeren (“the corkscrew”) is accessible via a 40-minute metro ride from Oslo. The roundtrip metro ticket to/from the terminal station of Forgnersetern costs about $8. The metro ride is comfortable and provides stunning views of Oslo.
  • Dinner and Nightlife – There are many swanky dinner places in the $20 per person range along the Ankerselva river, which is also close to many hip bars, clubs and speakeasies – two of which, Himkok and Blå, were strongly recommended. Tip: many places charge a cover, so if you’re looking to avoid this, the key is arriving earlier rather than later (even if that means you might have to start the party yourself).
  • Lodging – There are a few hostels that are centrally located and within walking distance to the metro, tram, and train station, in the $20-$30 per person range. Tip: By booking in person at the front desk, one can end up with cheaper rates in some cases.

 

Myrdal, Flam, Stavanger, Bergen, and Stranda

Trains, Boats, and the Flamsbana

The earliest train from Oslo to Myrdal is the 8AM, which is about $60 per person with a student discount. The NSB train is nice and takes about 6 hours with stops on the way. Pro tip: train tickets may be originally sold out at the train station, but talking in-person with the conductor can get you on the train with the understanding that you might have to stand or sit in the café for part of the trip.

From Myrdal, one may be able to catch the Flamsbana train for about $30 per person (with the student discount again). This old-fashioned train is about an hour and was extremely idyllic, with the conductor narrating the scenes and history of the surrounding landscapes (stopping occasionally as well).

Upon arriving at the terminal station, one can take the scenic ferry from Flam to Gudvandgen (roughly $15 per person) and enjoy the stunning Naeroy Fjord.

Fjord Boat, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Angie

Fjord Boat, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Angie

From Gudvandgen, one can take a short bus to Voss (~$8 per person with student discount) for which you will need to pay in cash. And then from Voss, there is a ~$15 NSB regional train that can be caught to go to Bergen.

Pulpit Rock

Hiking pulpit rock is touted as a must-do for Norway. Though I was originally skeptical, I’m now in complete agreement.

From Bergen to Stavanger, there is a 5-hour bus that crosses a few fjords. The earliest bus is at 7AM (again, cash only!) for $50 a person (again with a student discount).

From Stavanger, the drive to Forsand, where the hike to Pulpit Rock (locals will refer to it as Preikestolen) begins and takes about an hour from Stavanger. Though the hike is a bit icy during the winter, ice picks are not essential if you see many Norwegian families and children at the beginning of the trail. All in all, the hike takes about 3.5 hours to summit and back.

When you reach the top of pulpit rock, there are no words to describe it:

Pulpit Rock, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Angie

Pulpit Rock, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Angie

Bergen, Stranda, and Lillehammer

One can see Bergen in half a day, splitting time between the fish market and UNESCO heritage sites.

Driving from Bergen to Stranda takes about half a day as well, and the driving route is quite scenic. As Stranda is a bit smaller, hotel options are a bit more limited in the area so AirBnB may be a better choice as there are a variety of options. There are many AirBnB cabins that are in the $30 per person range and are quite nice.

The Stranda Ski Center is one of the more highly recommended ski centers and provides some great runs for all skill levels. With the student discount, lift and passes came to under $40 per person. One note here is that skiing centers in Norway typically do not rent out cross-country skiing equipment as most Norwegians own their own equipment; moreover, cross-country skis have to be calibrated much more often.

The drive from Stranda back to Oslo is scenic and mountainous, with the 1994 Olympic host city of Lillehammer on the route. Lillehammer is a bustling and energetic city tucked into the mountains and a short, easy 2-hour drive to Oslo.

About The Author:

Angie is a born and raised Midwesterner, who has spent the last five years living on the East Coast. She spends her time running, hiking, and traveling with her “Flight Deal Friends,” who have a pledge to purchase tickets for each other if there is ever a deal (there is an implicit trust amongst the group). Internationally, they’ve been to Chile, Colombia, Kenya, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway in the past year on flight deal trips. Follow her travels on Vimeo at

https://vimeo.com/user24579984

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