Norway //

Travel essentials

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Addresses

Norwegian addresses are always written with the number after the street name. In multi-floored buildings, the ground floor is always counted as the first floor, the first the second and so on.

Alphabet

The letters Æ, Ø and Å come at the end of the Norwegian alphabet, after Z (and in that order). Note that for convenience – rather than linguistic accuracy – we have alphabetized Æ as ae, Ø as O and Å as A throughout this guide.

Climate

The Gulf Stream keeps all of coastal Norway temperate throughout the year. Inland, the climate is more extreme – bitterly cold in winter and hot in summer, when temperatures can soar to surprising heights. January and February are normally the coldest months in all regions, July and August the warmest. Rain is a regular occurrence throughout the year, particularly on the west coast, though there are significant local variations in precipitation (see Average daytime temperatures and rainfall).

Costs

Norway has a reputation as one of the most expensive of European holiday destinations, and in some ways (but only some) this is entirely justified. Most of what you’re likely to need – from a cup of coffee to a bottle of beer – is very costly, but on the other hand certain major items are reasonably priced, most notably accommodation which, compared with other North European countries, can be remarkably inexpensive: Norway’s (usually) first-rate youth hostels, almost all of which have family, double and dormitory rooms, are particularly good value. Getting around is reasonably good news too, as the relatively high cost of normal bus, boat and train tickets can be offset by a number of passes and there are myriad discounts and deals. Furthermore, concessions are almost universally available at attractions and on public transport, with infants (under 4) going everywhere free, plus children (up to 15 years) and seniors (over 67, sometimes 60) paying – on average at least – half the standard rate. Food is, however, a different matter. With few exceptions – such as tinned fish – it’s expensive, while the cost of alcohol is enough to make even a heavy drinker contemplate abstinence.

Travelling by bicycle, eating picnics bought from supermarkets and cooking your own food at campsites, it’s possible to keep average costs down to 400kr a day per person. Moving up a notch, if you picnic at lunch, stick to less expensive cafés and restaurants, and stay in cheap hotels or hostels, you could get by on around 850kr a day. Staying in three-star hotels and eating out in medium-range restaurants, you should reckon on about 1500kr a day, the main variable being the cost of your room. On 2400kr a day and upwards, you’ll be limited only by time, though if you’re planning to stay in a five-star hotel and have a big night out, this still won’t be enough. As always, if you’re travelling alone you’ll spend more on accommodation than you would in a group of two or more: most hotels do have single rooms, but they’re usually around sixty to eighty percent of the price of a double.

Crime and personal safety

Norway is one of the least troublesome corners of Europe, so there’s little reason why you should ever come into contact with the Norwegian police. You will find that most public places are well lit and secure, most people genuinely friendly and helpful, and street crime and hassle relatively rare even late at night. It would be foolish, however, to assume that problems don’t exist. Oslo in particular has its share of petty crime, fuelled – as elsewhere – by drug addicts and alcoholics after easy money. But keep tabs on your possessions and use the same common sense you would use at home and you should have little reason to visit the police. If you do, you’ll find them courteous, concerned, and usually able to speak English. If you have something stolen, make sure you get a copy of the police report or its number – essential if you are to make a claim against your insurance.

As for offences you might commit, drinking alcohol in public places is not permitted, and being drunk on the streets can get you arrested. Drinking and driving is treated especially rigorously. Drugs offences, too, are met with the same attitudes that prevail throughout most of Europe.

Customs

Duty-free limits at points of entry into Norway are: one litre of spirits and 1.5 litres of wine and two litres of beer. Or three litres of wine and two litres of beer. Or five litres of beer if no other duty-free alcoholic drink is brought in. For tobacco, it’s 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco and 200 cigarette papers. For further details, go to
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toll.no.

Electricity

The current is 220 volts AC, with standard European-style two-pin plugs. British equipment needs only a plug adaptor; American apparatus requires a transformer and an adaptor.

Entry requirements

Citizens of the EU/EEA, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand need only a valid passport to enter Norway for up to ninety days. All other nationals should consult the relevant embassy or consulate about visa requirements. For longer stays, including periods of paid employment in Norway, there are different rules for different nationals with EU/EEA citizens having greater ease of access than non-EU/EEA citizens. For further information, contact the relevant embassy in your country of origin, referring first to
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udi.no.

Norwegian embassies and consulates abroad

Australia
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norway.org.au

Canada
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emb-norway.ca

Ireland
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norway.ie

New Zealand
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norway.org.au

South Africa
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norway.org.za

UK
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norway.org.uk

US
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norway.org

Gay and lesbian travellers

In 1981, Norway was one of the first countries in the world to pass a law making discrimination against homosexuals and lesbians illegal. Twelve years later, it followed this up by becoming only the second country to pass legislation giving lesbian and gay couples the same rights as married couples, while retaining a bar on church weddings and the right to adopt children. Further legislation in 2002 and 2003 relaxed the restrictions on gay adoption, and same-sex marriages became legal in 2009. All this progressiveness, however, has more to do with respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual than a positive attitude to homosexuality – Norway remains, in essence at least, very much a (heterosexual) family-oriented society. Nevertheless, the general attitude to gays is so tolerant that few feel the need to disguise their sexuality. The age of consent for both gays and straights is sixteen.

It’s commonplace for bars and pubs to have a mixture of straights and gays in their clientele. There is something of a separate scene in Bergen, Trondheim and especially Oslo, but it’s pretty low-key stuff and barely worth seeking out – and the same applies to the weekly gay and lesbian nights held in some small-town nightclubs. The best source of information on the Oslo scene is Ungdomsinformasjonen or Use-it, a youth information shop near Oslo S train station (
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24 14 98 20,
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use-it.no; For more information, see By commuter train). They produce a free annual booklet, Streetwise, also available online, which includes a “gay guide” to the city. The main gay event in the Oslo calendar, the Skeive Dager (Queer Days;
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skeivedager.no), takes place over ten days each June and includes the city’s Gay Pride celebrations.

Landsforeningen for Lesbisk og Homofil frigjøing (LLH;
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llh.no), Norway’s strong and effective gay and lesbian organization, has its national office in Oslo

Health

Under reciprocal health arrangements, all citizens of the EU and EEA (European Economic Area) are entitled to discounted medical treatment within Norway’s public health-care system. Non-EU/EEA nationals are not entitled to discounted treatment – though some of the countries concerned, for example Australia, do have limited mutual agreements – and should, therefore, take out their own medical insurance to cover them while travelling in Norway. EU/EEA citizens may want to consider private health insurance too, in order to cover the cost of the discounted treatment as well as items not within the EU/EEA’s scheme, such as dental treatment and repatriation on medical grounds. Note also that the more worthwhile policies promise to sort matters out before you pay (rather than after) in the case of major expense; if you do have to pay upfront, get and keep the receipts.

Health care in Norway is of a very high standard and widely available: even the remotest communities are within relatively easy – or well-organized – reach of medical attention. Rarely will English speakers encounter language problems – if the doctor or nurse can’t speak English themselves (which is unlikely) there will almost certainly be someone at hand who can. Your local pharmacy, tourist office or hotel should be able to provide the address of an English-speaking doctor or dentist. For medical emergencies, call
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113.

If you’re seeking treatment under EU/EEA reciprocal public health agreements, double-check that the doctor/dentist is working within (and seeing you as) a patient of the relevant public health-care system. This being the case, you’ll receive reduced-cost/government-subsidized treatment just as the locals do; any fees must be paid upfront, or at least at the end of your treatment, and are non-refundable. Sometimes you will be asked to produce documentation to prove you are eligible for EU/EEA health care, sometimes no one bothers, but technically at least you should have your passport and your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to hand. If, on the other hand, you have a travel insurance policy covering medical expenses, you can seek treatment in either the public or private health sectors, the main issue being whether – at least in major cases – you have to pay the costs upfront and then wait for reimbursement or not.

Insurance

Prior to travelling, you’d do well to take out an insurance policy to cover against theft, loss and illness or injury. Before paying for a new policy, however, it’s worth checking whether you already have some degree of cover: for instance, EU/EEA health-care privileges apply in Norway (see Norwegian embassies and consulates abroad), some all-risks home insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many private medical schemes include cover when abroad.

After exhausting the possibilities above, you might want to contact a travel insurance company. A typical travel insurance policy usually provides cover for loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey and medical costs. Most of them exclude so-called dangerous sports – climbing, horseriding, rafting, windsurfing and so forth – unless an extra premium is paid. Many policies can be chopped and changed to exclude coverage you don’t need – for example, sickness and accident benefits can often be excluded or included at will. If you do take medical coverage, ascertain whether benefits will be paid as treatment proceeds or only after your return home, and whether the policy has a 24-hour medical emergency number. When securing baggage cover, make sure that the per-article limit will cover your most valuable possessions. If you need to make a claim, keep receipts for medicines and medical treatment. In the event you have anything stolen, you should obtain a crime report statement or number.

Internet

Almost all of the country’s hotels, B&Bs and hostels provide internet access for their guests either free or at minimal charge and wi-fi is increasingly commonplace too. Most cafés offer internet access too, as does almost every library, though here services are free but time-limited.

Left luggage

There are coin-operated lockers in most train and bus stations and at all major ferry terminals.

Mail

Norway has a very efficient postal system (
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posten.no). Most post offices are open from 8am/9am–4/5pm and Saturday 9am–1/3pm. Postage varies according to weight, size and urgency. Currently, a standard-size letter or postcard under 20g that is sent “Priority” class costs 9.50kr within Norway, 13kr to the EU, and 15kr to everywhere else. Mail to the US should take about a week, two to three days within Europe. Stamps are widely available from post offices, tourist offices and many hotels.

Maps

The maps in this book should be adequate for most general purposes, especially as they can be readily supplemented by the free local maps given out by almost every tourist office. Drivers, cyclists and hikers will, however, require something more detailed. Buying before you go helps in planning, and often saves a bit of money too.

For Scandinavia as a whole, the AA (
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theaa.com) produces a good-quality road map with the southern part of the region at the 1:800,000 scale, the north at 1:1,500,000. As regards Norway itself, Hallwag’s Norge/Norwegen road map (
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swisstravelcenter.com) is excellent. It has two scales – one for the south (1:800,000) and one for the north (1:900,000) – an index and a handy distance calculator on the back. Michelin (
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viamichelin.com) also publishes a widely available Norway map (1:1,250,000), but although this is very accurate and useful for route planning, the index is very scanty.

Currently, the most detailed book of Norwegian road maps is the Stort bilatlas Norge (1:325,000) produced by Cappelen Damm (
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cappelendamm.no). It has a comprehensive index and includes 75 good-quality city and town maps, but it’s expensive, hard to get hold of outside of Norway, and much too cluttered for clarity in the country’s more populated areas. Best bet is to use it in conjunction with the Hallwag map. Cappelen also produce excellent city maps covering Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim and so on; they are at a variety of scales (1:4000 to 1:10,000) and are on sale locally at any good bookshop.

Cycling maps, with route suggestions, are usually on sale at tourist offices in the more popular cycling areas. Hiking maps are covered under “Hiking trails and maps”.

Money

Norway has its own currency, the kroner; one krone (literally “crown”; abbreviated kr or NOK), is divided into 100 øre. Coins in circulation are 50 øre, 1kr, 5kr, 10kr and 20kr; notes are for 50kr, 100kr, 200kr, 500kr and 1000kr (though note that smaller retailers often look askance at this last, largest note). At time of writing the rate of exchange for 1kr is £0.11, €0.13, US$0.17, Can$0.17, Aus$0.16, NZ$0.20, ZAR1.34. For the most up-to-date rates, check the currency converter website
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oanda.com.

ATMs are liberally distributed around every city, town and large village in Norway, and accept a host of debit cards without charging a transaction fee. Credit cards can be used in ATMs too, but in this case transactions are treated as loans, with interest accruing daily from the date of withdrawal. All major credit/debit cards, including American Express, Visa and MasterCard, are widely accepted. Typically, Norwegian ATMs give instructions in a variety of languages.

You can change foreign currency into kroner at most banks, which are ubiquitous; banking hours are usually Monday to Friday 9am–3.30pm, sometimes till 5/6pm on Thursdays. All major post offices also change foreign currency and they generally have longer opening hours.

Opening hours and public holidays

Business hours (ie office hours) normally run from Monday to Friday 9.30/10am to 4.30/5pm. Normal shopping hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 5pm, with late opening on Thursdays till 6pm, 7pm or 8pm, plus Saturdays 10am to 1pm, 2pm or 3pm. Most supermarkets stay open much longer – from 9am until 8pm in the week and from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays, but close on Sundays. In addition, many kiosks-cum-newsstands open from 8/9am or so till 9pm or 10pm every day of the week (including Sun), but much more so in the cities and towns than in the villages. Many fuel stations sell a basic range of groceries and stay open till 11pm daily. Vinmonopolet, the state-run liquor chain, has outlets in almost every town and large village, but they operate limited opening hours; each store fixes its own schedule, but generally they’re open Monday to Friday 10am–4/6pm and Saturday 10am–1/3pm. Norway has literally hundreds of museums. The more important open all year, but many close for winter from October or November to April, May or even mid-June. Opening hours usually 9.30/10am–5pm every day, including Saturday and Sunday, but some limit their hours on the weekend and many more close on Mondays.

There are thirteen national public holidays per year, most of which are keenly observed and, although much of the tourist industry carries on regardless, almost every museum and gallery in the land is closed. The result is that Easter, when four of these public holidays fall, is not a good time for museum-lovers to visit. Otherwise most businesses and shops close, and the public transport system operates a skeleton or Sunday service. Some of these public holidays are also official flag-flying days, but there are additional flag days as well – for example on Queen Sonja’s birthday (July 4).

Norway’s public holidays

New Year’s Day

Palm Sunday
week before Easter

Maundy Thursday
Thursday before Easter

Good Friday

Easter Sunday

Easter Monday

Labour Day
May 1

Ascension Day
early to mid-May

National (or Constitution) Day
May 17

Whit Sunday
seventh Sunday after Easter

Whit Monday

Christmas Day

Boxing Day
day after Christmas Day

Note that when a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the next day becomes a holiday as well.

Phones

Given the sheer size of the country and its wide wilderness spaces, it’s amazing just how much of Norway has mobile phone (cell phone) coverage – it’s around 80 percent and counting. Norway is on the mobile phone (cell phone) network at GSM900/1800, the band common to the rest of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Mobile/cell phones bought in North America need to be of sufficient specification to adjust to this GSM band. If you intend to use your mobile/cell phone in Norway, note that call charges can be excruciating – particularly irritating is the supplementary charge you often have to pay on incoming calls – so check with your supplier before you depart. You might also consider buying a Norwegian SIM card, though this can get complicated: many mobiles/cells will not permit you to swap SIM cards and the connection instructions for the replacement SIM card can be in Norwegian only. If you overcome these problems, there are myriad deals on offer beginning at about 100kr per SIM card; larger 7-Eleven and Narvesen kiosks sell them. Text messages/SMS, on the other hand, are normally charged at ordinary or at least bearable rates – and with your existing SIM card in place.

Useful telephone numbers

Domestic directory enquiries

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1881

International directory enquiries & Operator assistance

t
1882

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings, including train and bus stations, as well as in restaurants, clubs, bars and cafés. Nonetheless, one in five Norwegians still puffs away.

Time

Norway is on Central European Time (CET) – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, six hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, nine hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time, nine hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and eleven hours behind New Zealand. There are, however, minor variations during the changeover periods involved in daylight saving. Norway operates daylight saving time, moving clocks forward one hour in the spring and one hour back in the autumn.

Tipping

Cafés and restaurants often add a service charge to their bills and this is – or at least should be – clearly indicated. Otherwise, few Norwegians tip at cafés, restaurants or bars and, given the country’s high prices, you‘ll probably be disinclined as well, though restaurant waiters and taxi drivers may be disappointed not to get a tip of 10 per cent. Rounding your bill up by a few kroner to make a round number is, on the other hand, pretty standard and considered polite.

Tourist information

The Norwegian Tourist Board operates an all-encompassing website, covering everything from hotels and campsites to forthcoming events. It also publishes a wide range of glossy, free booklets of both a general and specific nature, which for the most part at least are available at all the larger tourist offices throughout the country. Inside Norway, every town and most of the larger villages have their own tourist office; we’ve given their addresses, opening hours, websites and telephone numbers throughout the Guide. Staff almost invariably speak good to fluent English and dispense, among much else, free local maps, local brochures and public transport timetables; many will also help arrange last-minute/in person accommodation. In addition, Norway is spectacularly well represented on the internet in terms of everything from activity holidays through to bus timetables; we’ve listed a few general websites below – many more are in the Guide.

Some useful websites


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goscandinavia.com

The official website of the joint Scandinavian Tourist Boards in North America, offering a general introduction to Scandinavia, latest travel deals and links to the Norwegian Tourist Board website.


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kulturnett.no

Comprehensive information on the country’s museums, culture and current exhibitions.

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regjeringen.no

Government site which, despite its plain presentation, has everything you ever wanted to know about contemporary Norway and then some. Especially good on political/contemporay issues.

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visitnorway.com

The official site of the Norwegian Tourist Board, with links to all things Norwegian and good sections on outdoor activities and events.

Travelling with children

In general terms at least, Norwegian society is sympathetic to its children and the tourist industry follows suit. Extra beds in hotel rooms are usually easy to arrange, baby-changing stations are commonplace, and highchairs for young children are usually at hand in cafés, if not so much in restaurants. Furthermore, concessionary rates are the rule, from public transport through to museums, and pharmacists carry all the kiddie stuff you would expect – nappies, baby food, and so forth – but this being Norway they cost a lot, so try to bring the gubbins with you. As far as breastfeeding in public is concerned, the Journal of Human Lactation states that in Norway “there is no problem with breastfeeding almost anywhere at any time. A mother might get an ugly glance once in a while, but restaurants, shopping centres, and even government offices allow breastfeeding without any discussion”. As for things to do, Norway’s many adventure activities can be ideal for kids, from kayaking to fishing, horseriding to skiing. Big-city Oslo has perhaps more child-friendly attractions than anywhere else (see Oslo with children).

Travellers with disabilities

There are decent facilities for travellers with disabilities across the whole country. An increasing number of hotels, hostels and campsites are equipped for disabled visitors, and are credited as such in the tourist literature by means of the standard wheelchair-in-a-box icon. Furthermore, on most main routes the trains have special carriages with wheelchair space, hydraulic lifts and disabled toilets; domestic flights either cater for or provide assistance to disabled customers; and the latest ships on all ferry routes have lifts and cabins designed for disabled people.

In the cities and larger towns, many restaurants and most museums and public places are wheelchair-accessible, and although facilities are not so advanced in the countryside, things are improving rapidly. Drivers will find that most motorway service stations are wheelchair-accessible and that, if you have a UK-registered vehicle, the disabled car parking badge is honoured. Note also that several of the larger car rental companies have modified vehicles available. On a less positive note, city pavements can be uneven and difficult to negotiate and, inevitably, winter snow and ice can make things much, much worse.

Getting to Norway should be relatively straightforward too. Most airlines and shipping companies provide assistance to disabled travellers, while some also have specific facilities, such as DFDS Scandinavian Seaways ferries’ specially adapted cabins.

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