As Norway’s craggy coastline and mountainous terrain slow down overland traffic, domestic flights are a convenient option, especially in northern Norway where towns and cities are fewer and further between. Unfortunately, it is also in these areas where tickets 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.
The largest operators are SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe.
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 state-owned railway firm Vy (formerly Norwegian State Railways or NSB) operates all railway lines except the airport express train Flytoget. 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 (Sørlandsbanen, runs inland from Drammen to Kristiansand, connections to Arendal)
- Oslo–Skien (serving coastal towns southwest of Oslo)
- Oslo–Bergen (Bergensbanen – Bergen line, across the mountains via Finse, connections to Flåm)
- Oslo–Trondheim (Dovrebanen, through Lillehammer, connections to Åndalsnes at Dombås)
- Hamar–Røros–Trondheim (Røros line)
Trondheim–Bodø (Nordlandsbanen – Nordland line, through
- Trondheim airport, connections to Sweden), Norway’s longest, crosses the arctic circle
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 199 kr. 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 50-kr fee per train ticket bought. Vy has a phone app for buying tickets, but as of 2016, a Norwegian cell phone number is needed for it.
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 750 kr. 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 90 kr 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, 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 are an integral part of the road network in coastal and fjord regions. The road in principle continues onto the ferry such that for instance Fodnes-Mannheller ferry is part of national route 5. 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. Prices on public roads ferries are set by the Department of roads. Small cars (as of 2018) are up 6.0 meters, longer vehicles must pay a considerably higher price and this often affects campervans.
Ferries often have information about other ferries in the region and other ferries along the same road. 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. Car ferries also take foot passengers. On main roads tourists typically do not have to worry about timetables as there are frequent departures. Most ferries do not run after midnight or they run only every second hour on main crossings. Norwegians refer to car ferries as “ferje” or “ferge”. Vessels that only take foot passengers are refered to as “båt” (boat). To avoid confusion, visitors should use the term ferry only for car ferries.
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. 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, particularly along all the coast from Stavanger to Tromsø, an extensive network of catamaran express passenger boats (“hurtigbåt”) shuttle between towns and cities, and connect islands otherwise accessible only with difficulty. There is no general network of boats connecting every village along fjords and coast, transfer by bus or car to nearest port may be needed. These vessels are also not called ferries. Service and prices are comparable with trains. Check in advance if you want to bring a bicycle. There are also some passengers in the inner part of Oslofjord.
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 (approx. 1/30 of a person), bike (approx. 1/20 of a person), car, cabin (approx. 125% of a person). Reservations are recommended for cabins and cars; on deck is usually enough space for persons and bikes.
Lakes do in general not have public transport by boat, here are however a handful of important exceptions. There is one car ferry crossing the very long Randsfjorden lake. Skibladner, a 150-year-old steam boat, allows tourists to cross lake Mjøsa (at Gjøvik and Hamar) the old way. Telemark canal, Norway’s only proper canal, takes visitors from the coast and deep inland along charming lakes and impressive locks.
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 49kr, but usually the tickets go from 199kr to 299kr. 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. Some mountain passes are closed all winter, and buses covering these typically run May—September only.
In the north of Norway north of Trondheim, there are no private express buses. Instead the provinces organise also long-distance buses, which also stop at local stops, having sparse schedules. There is no bus Trondheim–Bodø, instead the stretch is served by train (Nordlandsbanen line). There are for example comfortable buses Bodø–Narvik, Narvik–Tromsø, Tromsø–Alta and Alta-Kirkenes (they are daytime buses and accommodation is needed at Narvik, Tromsø and Alta if going all that way).
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.
- RingTaxi, 02393 (in country only). Conveys taxis throughout the country. The service, which costs 18kr per call is reachable within Norway only.
- In some cities, like Oslo, Trondheim and Kristiansand are several local taxi companies.
- mivay. By the Taxi app you will easily get in touch with the nearest taxi service center in densely populated areas.
BY CAR OF MOTORCYCLE
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 16.50 kr per litre (July 2018). 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.
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. Norway’s roads have well over 1,000 tunnels. 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.