Difference between revisions of "Norway"
Revision as of 01:14, 21 May 2012
Norway  (Norge) is the westernmost, northernmost — and in fact the easternmost — of the three Scandinavian countries. Best known for the complex and deep fjords along its west coast, it stretches from the North Sea near Denmark and Scotland into the Arctic Ocean where it borders northern Finland and the northwestern tip of Russia.
The petty viking kingdoms of Norway were unified in 872 AD by Harald Hairfair. In the following period, Norwegians settled in many places, such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands and parts of Scotland and Ireland, where they founded Dublin. In the beginning of the 14th century, Norway and Sweden were unified as the Norwegian king was also elected king of Sweden. At the end of the century, the two countries and Denmark were unified in the so-called Kalmar Union.
Sweden broke out of the union in 1521. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. Only a few months after the declaration of independence, Norway entered into union with Sweden, though it must be noted that this union with Sweden allowed Norway to keep a great deal of independence.
The union with Sweden lasted until 1905, which is considered the beginning of modern Norway. From 1940 until 1945, Norway was occupied by Nazi forces.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. The vast majority of the land is a rocky wilderness, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature.
A rugged landscape shaped by the Ice Age, shows forested hills and valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and a long coastline with fjords, islands, and mountains growing directly up from the sea. Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469 m (8,100 ft) in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north (Finnmark), you will find flatter open spaces. Several of the worlds greatest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.
Norway is one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries. With a population of only 5 million people and a land area of 385,802 km2, the population density is only 16 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population are Norwegians. The indigenous Sami people traditionally inhabit the northern part of Norway, that along with parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi (or Sameland). Other recognized minorities are the Kven people, Jews, Forest Finns, and Norwegian Romani Travellers. In recent years, immigration, in particular from the European Union, has increased greatly.
Norway is formally a Christian country with a dominant Lutheran majority of near 90 %.
Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus more similar to southern neighbors like Denmark and the Netherlands. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently (2008) same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager. With that said, some parts along the southern and southwestern coast are fairly conservative, especially in the more rural areas.
Economy and politics
Norway's primary income is the oil and gas industry in the North Sea which constitutes 20 per cent of the total production . It also has several other natural resources such as fish and minerals, some industry, and a healthy technology sector. Politically, it is dominated by a widespread and continued support for the Scandinavian model, which means high taxes and high government spending to support free schools, free healthcare, an efficient welfare system and many other benefits. As a result the unemployment rate in Norway is extremely low (about 2 percent).
The Norwegian people have rejected membership in the European Union (EU) in two independent popular votes in 1972 and 1994, both times just by a few percent, after being vetoed out of membership by France in the 50s and 60s. However, being a member state of the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen agreement, Norway is closely connected to the EU, and integrated as a full member in most economic matters, as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic importance to Norway.
As one of the richest countries in the world and with a strong currency, most visitors should be prepared for greater expenses than at home. In addition, Norway has a very compressed wage structure which means that even the typical low skill work is relatively well paid. For the same reason, firms try to keep the number of staff as low as possible, even for low skill service work. On the other hand, many attractions in Norway are free of charge, most notably the landscape and nature itself. Furthermore, you don't have to spend much money on accommodation if you're prepared to sleep in a tent or under the open sky. According to the Norwegian right to access, you may stay for up to two nights in one spot in uncultivated land if you keep away from houses and other buildings and out of the way of other people, provided that you leave no trace. If you move far away from people, you can stay for as long as you want.
Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway, especially along the coast, is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Almost half the length of Norway is north of the arctic circle. Summers can be moderately warm (up to 30°C), even in northern areas, but only for limited periods. The length of the winter and amount of snow varies. In the north there is more snow and winters are dark; on the southern and western coast, winters are moderate and rainy, while further inland the temperature can easily fall below -25°C. Some mountain areas have permanent glaciers.
Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Seasonal variations crucially depend on region as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun (north of the arctic circle) also has winter darkness (polar night) when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer (May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get a possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water (melting snow) in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures (typically in May).
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Oslo, the sun sets at around 3:30 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and polar night (winter darkness). However, even at Oslo's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July, these gentle "white nights" can also be a nice and unusual experience for visitors. The polar (or northern) light (aurora borealis) occurs in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes (Northern Norway) but occasionally also further South.
The major holidays are Easter, Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "common vacation" throughout July. In May there are several holidays including constitution day (17 May) - the main national celebration and an attraction in itself.
Public holidays (schools and offices closed):
Note that many Norwegian holidays are celebrated on the day before (Holy Saturday, Christmas Eve etc). On Christmas Eve ("julekveld", "julaften"), New Years Eve ("nyttårsaften"), Holy Saturday ("påskeaften") and Saturday before Pentecost ("pinseaften") shops close early. Norwegians also celebrate midsummer at St. John's day on June 24 by making a bonfire late evening the day before - "St.John's Eve" ("St.Hansaften" or "Jonsokaften").
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
Citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, as well as holders of Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports are permitted to work in Norway without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay. However, this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other Schengen countries.
Be keenly aware that Norway is not a member of the European Union. This means, especially if arriving by plane, that all persons entering Norway, regardless of point of origin, may be subject to customs controls at the port of entry. Information on duty-free allowances and regulations can be found on the Norwegian Customs Website.
Oslo Airport, Gardermoen  (IATA: OSL) is the biggest airport in the country and the main international hub, 60 km north of Oslo. The airport is served by many major international and all domestic airlines.
The airport has scheduled flights to around 100 destinations abroad and 24 destinations in Norway. From the United Kingdom there are direct services to Oslo Gardermoen from:
From the United States:
Sandefjord Airport, Torp  (IATA: TRF) is located just north of Sandefjord, 115 km to the south of Oslo, and is Ryanair's destination airport in Oslo. Ryanair now operate another service, from London Stansted to Haugesund on the west coast.
Sandefjord Airport Torp has scheduled flights to 14 destinations in Europe and 3 destinations in Norway.
From the United Kingdom there are direct services from:
Moss Airport, Rygge  (IATA: RYG) is located just outside Moss and approx. 60 km south of Oslo. Moss Airport Rygge has scheduled flights to/from approx 15 european cities and 3 domestic destinations.
From the United Kingdom there are direct flights from:
From the United Kingdom there direct flights from:
Trondheim Airport, Værnes (IATA: TRD) can be reached by direct flights from severeal European cities, notably Amsterdam, London and Copenhagen.
From the United Kingdom there are direct flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Tromsø Airport (IATA: TOS) has direct flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air Shuttle twice every week. Nordavia Regional Airlines also operates a flight between Tromsø and Murmansk in Russia.
Several international bus lines run into Oslo from Sweden, the major operators being Eurolines, Swebus Express and Säfflebussen. Service to Gothenburg and Copenhagen is almost hourly. The service to Stockholm is also far more frequent than the train. Lavprisekspressen has cheap bus tickets between the large cities in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
It is possible to enter by road from Sweden, Finland, or Russia. Major roads to Norway include European route E6 which runs through Malmö, Helsingborg and Göteborg in Sweden before crossing the border at Svinesund in the south-east of Norway, E8 which runs through Turku, Vaasa and Oulu in Finland before crossing the border at Kilpisjärvi. There is an enormous number of possible routes and border crossings, but keep in mind that the road standards are not impressive and that speed limits are low.
DFDS operates a cargo line from Ghent to Brevik with limited passenger capacity which is normally for truck drivers. There are departures once or twice a week. Note that the ferry may be scheduled to arrive at Brevik in the middle of the night.
Color Line  run a daily ferry from Kiel to Oslo. The ferry leaves Kiel at 1.30PM and arrives in Oslo at 9.30AM, the following day. The ferry terminal in Kiel is on Norwegenkai, which is a short walk across the bridge from Kiel's main railway station (note that the bridge may at times be closed for pedestrians due to ship traffic). At the Oslo end of the journey, the terminal is located at Hjortneskai, which is just west of the city. There is a bus from the terminal to the city center, which departs shortly after passengers disembark.
Several companies run from various harbours in Denmark (Frederikshavn, Hirtshals, Copenhagen) to various Norwegian harbours (Oslo, Larvik, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen).
There are no ferry routes to the UK from Norway anymore.
Thompson Cruise ships operate from Harwich and visit Flåm, Bergen, Molde, Hammerfest, Nordkapp, Tromsø, Lofoten Islands, Geiranger and Ålesund in Norway. The duration of the cruise varies from 5 days up to 2 weeks. Sailing time from Harwich to south Norway is 1.5 days. On board the cruise ship are a number of restaurants, bars, casinos, cinemas and also a stage show to keep you entertained during the journey. There are various classes of cabins available, ranging from shared rooms to singles, doubles and luxury suites.
From Shetland, Faeroe Islands and Iceland
Smyril Line used to operate a once-weekly service to Bergen. This service now only operates Denmark-Shetland-Faroe Islands-Iceland.
Norway is a big country and getting around, particularly up north, is expensive and time-consuming. The best way to see the Norwegian wilderness and countryside is by having access to your own vehicle. This way you can stop wherever you want, admire the view and venture onto smaller roads.
It is especially in northern Norway, where towns and cities are fewer and further between, that air travel is clearly the most convenient method to get from town to town. Planes between the small airports are small, and they generally have several intermediate stops along the route to embark and disembark passengers. Unfortunately, it is also in these areas where ticket prices can be most expensive.
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.
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 Norwegian State Railways (NSB) operate all railways. Norway's rail network basically connects Oslo to other major cities, there are no rail lines North-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:
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 kr. 199. 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 center, but be sure to mention that you tried on the website first. Phone reservations normally incur a 50 NOK fee per train ticket bought.
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, and that means 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 kr. 750. 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 kr. 90 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 the last coach in the train and behind the dining coach, 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 wifi; 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 has 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 as well as 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 is an integral part of the road network in coastal regions. 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. Ferries often have information about other ferries in the region. 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. On main roads tourists typically don't have to worry about timetables as there are frequent departures. Note however that most ferries don't run after midnight or they run only every second hour.
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. Note that 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, that is along all the coast from Stavanger to Tromsø, an extensive network of catamaran expressboats ("hurtigbåt") shuttle between towns and cities, and connect islands otherwise accessible only with difficulty. Service and prices are comparable with trains. Check in advance if you want to bring a bicycle.
One option particularly popular with tourists is Hurtigruten  ships that hops 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 (app. 1/30 of a person), bike (app. 1/20 of a person), car, cabin (app. 125% of a person). Reservations are recommended for cabins and cars; on deck is usually enough space for persons and bikes.
An extensive range of express buses connect cities all over Norway and even most national parks. NOR-WAY Bussekspress , Timekspressen  and Veolia Transport Nord  are the biggest operators. Fjord1  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 kr. 49, but usually the tickets go from kr. 199 to kr. 299. The double decker buses are clean and modern with free WiFi 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 extrensive connection search Rutebok.no  - available in English, Norwegian and German. Note that some mountain passes are closed all winter, and buses covering these typically run May—September only.
Traveling with cab in Norway can be very expensive, and in most cities it's not necessary as bus, tram and train (or even walking) are easier. Taxies are generally safe as long as you choose a licensed taxi (with a white taxi sign on the roof).
Norway has right hand traffic, as the rest of mainland Europe. 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 centers (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 centers and a handful of stretches on main roads (notably E18).
Gas is expensive, starting at around kr. 14.50 per litre (approx. USD 9.30 per gallon). In some parts of Norway, the next gas station might be more than 100 km away; a small village doesn't always have a gas station even if it is remotely located. Bring a full jerry can and fill up the tank in time. Manual transmission is regarded as standard in Norway and is found in most private cars. If you prefer to rent a car with automatic transmission, make sure to order one. 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. If you live in Europe, consider bringing your own, but if you arrive during winter (November - April), be aware that winter tires are necessary, do not under any circumstance try to drive without, even if you don't expect snow or ice. Winter tires must have a minimum of 3 mm deep grooves. Cars heavier than 3500 kg are required to bring snow chains during winter and whenever snow or ice can be expected, a minimum of 5 mm tread pattern depth is recommended for trucks and heavy cars.
By Motorhome / Campervan
Several companies hire motorhomes, that are "fully equipped" (beds, small kicthen, fridge, shower, toilet, heating, etc) and as a rough indication they cost about what one might spend on a reasonable hire car and reasonable accomodation - but allow a lot more flexibility.
While technically it's not legal to park overnight on the roadside or in rest areas, the practice is so common that it seems to be unenforced.
There are hundreds of camp grounds that cater to motorhomes (and caravans, or camping with tents - some have huts to rent), and these are well signposted. All have basic facilities (electricity, toilets, hot showers (pay per minute), mostly-flat gorund), and some are more equipped (buy fresh food, hire boats, communal kitchens, tourist info, etc).
Some are of the "industrial" variety (hundreds of vans, spotless facilities, very straight paths, gravel, not grass, keypads to enter, lots of strict rules, right beside the highway), and others are more... loose - occasional visitors, honour system for payment, idyllic surroundings, lots of grass and space. It's impossible to tell from the signs, so a drive-by might be necessary to see if the camground suits your mood and preferences.
As a rough guide (August 2011), a night in a campground with electricity costs around kr. 200, but ranges from kr. 120 to kr. 300.Showers are usually kr.10 for 4 minutes.
There are many rest stops on all major and many minor roads, and there's a fantastic system of National Tourist Routes with particularly spectacular rest stops (and facilities). Most of the rests tops have a toilet and picnic table.
There are tollways in Norway, but most tollways are part of (AutoPass ). Visitors can register their numberplate for the duration of their visit only, pre-buy kr. 300 worth of tolls, and directly debit their (European) bank account or credit card for top ups. Any un-used funds are returned within 90 days. Occasionally, it may be necessary to stop and pay for tolls, but a huge majority are automated (numberplate is photographed while driving under a gantry over the road).
Any driving in Norway is not complete without tunnels. There are thousands of them, and they are fascinating to those unfamiliar with them. The longest seems to be 24kms, but 1 to 3 kms is more common. Tunnels are always lit with "street" lighting, but are a little narrower than the regular roads. Driving out from a tunnel, over a bridge spanning a deep gorge, back into a tunnel, then down a 12% gradient is something to be remembered!
Rules and regulations
Rules and regulations in the traffic are generally the same as in the rest of Europe. Foreign visitors should be aware that police controls are common and that fines are very high, and should take special note of the following rules:
Roads and driving conditions
Norwegian roads have varying quality. The main roads are the European highways indicated with an "E" in front of the number. For instance E6 is the main north-south corridor from Sweden via Oslo to Kirkenes in the very east of Northern Norway. European highways connect cities, regions and countries. E18 connects Kristiansand and towns in South Norway to Oslo and Sweden. E16 connects Bergen to Oslo (via Flåm and Voss), road 7 is an alternate route to Bergen (via Hardangervidda). E39 is the coastal main road from Kristiansand via Stavanger, Bergen and Ålesund to Trondheim. The E-roads are excellent for navigation. Other main roads (national highways, "riksvei") have low one- or two-digit numbers, the most important of these are indicated with white fonts on green background (as opposed to black on white for most highways). Note however that the importance of the road does indicate quality: even the E's may have narrow and slow sections.
Asphalt cover on Norwegian roads is usually coarse and don't get very slippery when wet as can be experienced in some other countries. Note however that studded winter tyres tend to eat asphalt during the winter leaving deep tracks (or furrows). This can make the car sideways unstable, particularly in high speed, and if filled with water tyres may float on the water making the car difficult to control (as if driving on ice or snow). When driving downhill steep mountain roads it is best to use a low gear and let the engine control the speed. Brakes can overheat causing the brake fluid to boil.
Moose/elk ("elg") and red deer can run onto the highway particularly at dusk and dawn so take extra care if driving at those times, particularly through forest. Red deer can also jump onto the highway without warning, particularly in Western Norway during late autumn and winter, special "crossing points" have been constructed several places, be aware. Reindeer may happen to walk on the road in Northern Norway. Note the warning signs. The elk, the most dangerous animal on the roads, is most active at full moon, after heavy snow fall and at dusk/dawn.
Driving a car in winter conditions may be a real challenge without proper training and experience, this particularly applies to mountain passes all over Norway as well as other roads in Northern Norway. The golden rule for driving on snow, ice and slush: don't rush. Braking distance increases dramatically, increase distance to the car in front of you from the standard 3 seconds to a 5-6 seconds or more. Inexperienced drivers should drive very careful until they get used to the conditions and the car, experienced drivers always "feel" the contact between tires and road. A number of mountain roads are frequently closed temporarily during bad weather, and the authorities routinely issue road information on radio, TV and internet. During blizzards on some roads you are only allowed to drive in a line behind a heavy snowplow, a method called "kolonnekjøring", you are then obliged to wait at a gate or sign until the snowplow arrives. Always obtain specific information about mountain roads the day and hours before going. Don't hesitate to ask locals or call 175 for last minute information. Always bring enough clothes and food, always calculate plenty of time. Be prepared to cancel or postpone trips in winter.
Some mountain passes, including popular roads around Geiranger are totally closed during winter (typically Nov-May). Other mountain roads may be closed for shorter periods (several days or only one night) during bad weather. These roads are always closed during winter ("vinterstengt"):
The bicycle seat is a one of the best ways to experience the landscapes of Norway. The sport is becoming increasingly popular in Norway, especially since the success of Norwegian cyclists like Thor Hushovd. As a result, Norwegians generally have a very positive attitude to bicycle tourists, so you'll have a lot of small talk. Norwegians themselves prefer to ride on nice or even expensive bicycles: in most cities good bicycle shops can be found.
You'll find quite a number of travel diaries online. Only few specific cycle tracks exist, mostly in the big cities, and they are not fully interconnected. Except for densely populated areas, they can mostly be ignored. You can safely use almost every road, as speeds are relatively low and the vast majority of drivers are responsible and patient. At places where a highway is built, the old road is often redesigned as a cycle route.
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 don't 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 stretches. Special attention should be given to tunnels, as some of them are forbidden for cyclists, as are a few roads. An online map of tunnels can be found . The tourist information also has a map of those forbidden routes. When hiring a bike, you can consult the person that lends 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. Buses usually run hourly and the departure times are posted.
Ferries take bikes for free or minimal charge, on trains you've to pay a fee and in buses, bikes are sometimes forbidden and in all other cases only transported if there's enough space (no fee or same like a child). The Norwegian Cyclist Association  offers information.
Hitchhiking in Norway is best on the the routes from Oslo-Trondheim (E6), Oslo-Kristiansand (E18) and Kristiansand-Stavanger (E39). However, near the cities these are now motorways and it is not possible to stand at the road itself. Hitchhiking is not that common in Norway. If hitchhiking is ever safe, it's pretty safe in Norway, however it's difficult to get a lift and it may be very slow.
When waiting make sure to stand in a place where the vehicles can see you and have a safe opportunity to stop. Ferry ports and main fuel stations are good places to try. Stretches with low speed limit (50-60) is generally better than high speed as drivers find it more cumbersome to make a halt. Drivers of heavy trucks in particular prefer to keep a steady speed. Roadside cafeterias where truckers have a break can be good place to ask for a lift.
Good hitchhiking spots from major cities are: Oslo to: Bergen and the mountains- if you're daring, try Oksenøyveien (see Kristiansand), but be aware that most cars continue southwards to Drammen. Rather catch the Timekspressen bus, direction Hønefoss, to Sollihøgda. Trondheim and the north- is getting more difficult as motorway development continues. The best bet inside Oslo is bus stop Ulvenkrysset. Get the metro to Helsfyr, then bus 76, 401 or 411 for one stop. Further outside, to avoid the local traffic, you are best off at the Shell gas station at Skedsmovollen, bus 845 and 848 from Lillestrøm train station. Kristiansand and the south: Few spots beat the bus stop Oksenøyveien, connected by bus 151, 251 and 252. You may be dropped in Sandvika by cars heading towards Hønefoss and the mountains/Bergen. Carry a sign. Sweden along E6: Highway all the way, except close to the centre. Try the bus stop Nedre Bekkelaget, bus 81 and 83. Sweden along E18: You may try Nedre Bekkelaget, but as most traffic continue towards Strömstad and Gothenburg, you should rather catck the Timekspressen bus 9 to Østensjø stop, just after the Holstad roundabout.
Bergen to: Oslo - Get local train to Arna and try near the entrance to Arnanipa tunnel. Northwards - Go by bus to Vågsbotn in Arna, and try hithing a ride close to the Hjelle bakery. Southwards - Get the light rail to Nesttun, then nearly any bus for three stops to Skjoldskiftet. Hitch southwards along E39.
Trondheim to: Oslo - Get bus 46 to the shopping centre City Syd, then go under the E6 and try your luck at City Syd E6 stop. Soon, the city tax on buses will be extended past the Klett roundabout, if this is in effect you should go to the bus stop just after the roundabout at any Melhus-bound bus and try your luck there. Molde/Ålesund - Get any Orkanger bus to the stop just after Klett roundabout. Soon, Trondheim city tax will extend to Børsa, after which you should stay on the bus for as long as you can, and hitch a ride from there. Northwards - Get city bus 7 or 66 to Travbanen stop. Sweden - To be sure to hitch only on cars going towards Sweden, get a train or bus to Stjørdal and hitch on the E14.
In general, looking polite and friendly is a good trick. Asking cars in line at a ferry quay (if travelling along the coast) is a very good idea, and may bring you very far. Hitching rides from Molde all the way to Bergen are not unheard of, but don't bet on it.
In general though, you can really get to anywhere from anywhere by thumb, just in some places it might take a while.
There is no standard spoken Norwegian and a wide range of dialects is used even in public broadcasting, and there are even two standard ways of writing it, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Norwegians learn both at school. The two varieties are very close and mutually intelligible with the two other Scandinavian languages, Danish and Swedish. Of the two standard ways of writing it, Bokmål is by far the more common form of writing in most of the country, though Nynorsk is prevalent in Western Norway.
Sami is a minority language which has official status in some Northern regions. Road signs and other public information is then provided in both Norwegian and Sami (note that Norwegian and Sami place names may differ, maps will typically use the Norwegian name). Sami is related to Finnish, but not to Scandinavian languages. Almost all Norwegians speak English, and unless you approach someone really old and isolated you should have no trouble whatsoever getting around in English; 91% of the population can speak English, making Norway one of the most English proficient countries on the planet where English is not an official language.
German and French are spoken by some workers in the tourism industry. However, this does not mean you will actually get by in these languages, and English is what you should stick to if you don't speak the local language or another Nordic language.
Foreign films and television programmes are generally shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Norwegian.
CNN have Tromsø on top of its list of best places to see the aurora, or northern lights. Tromsø should also be visited during summer to see the midnight sun.
A great introduction to Norway is the one-day Norway in a Nutshell  package on a single ticket from Oslo or Bergen into the mountains, with a boat trip through the fjords. You can break the trip at several interesting cabins for walking or just admiring the view, and even hire a mountain bike for part of the journey. One of the highlights of the 'Norway in a Nutshell' package is Flåmsbana , a 20km railway that's one of the steepest in the world. Along the way you'll see beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys, waterfalls, and other beautiful sights on your way to the town of Flåm.
Norway has endless opportunties for hiking in its wide wilderness, from easy walks in Oslo's city forest to alpine climbing in Jotunheimen or Troms. A number of areas are protected as national parks, but most the country is equally attractive and available to the public.
In Norway, travelers enjoy a right to access, which means it is possible to camp freely in most places for a couple of days, as long as you're not on cultivated land and provided you are at least 150 m away from houses and farm buildings. Don't leave any traces and take your rubbish away for recycling.
Den Norske Turistforening (DNT)  (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) operates many staffed and self-service mountain cabins, marks mountain routes, offers maps and route information, guided tours, and several other services for mountain hikers in Norway.
Mountainous aereas ar popular among both Norwegians and tourists. Why not visit Galdhøpiggen (2469), the highest mountain in Norway, or join a [[musk ox safari]] in Dovrefjell!
For maps, bypass Google Maps, whose coverage of Norway is poor, and try the national mapping agency's Atlas.no site, which concords with their excellent printed hiking maps.
Both cross country and alpine skiing are popular sports in the winter, and the largest areas, Trysil,Hafjell or Hemsedal for example, compete well with the Alps. Telemark is also a nice area to ski in. (The birth place of cross country ski.) Voss, Geilo and Oppdal are other major ski resorts. Around Oslo there is large park ideal for cross-country skiing. In Stryn, at Galdhøpiggen and at Folgefonna there alpine ski centres that are open in summer only (May-September), offering unique opportunities for alpine skiing in T-shirt and short pants.
In Norway, you can rent, virtually everywhere, a bicycle. Cycling routes exist usually near bigger cities; you can find some tours at Cycle tourism in Norway . Some roads and tunnels are forbidden for cyclists as they are life-threatening; read the section By bicycle above. Some city dumps may have a special section where you can pick up discarded bicycles (and other stuff) for free. The charity thrift-stores (FRETEX/ELEVATOR/NMS Gjenbruk)sometimes stock used bicycles.
The Norwegian currency is the Norwegian crown (norske krone), abbreviated kr. A 1/100th krone is called øre. When you need to disambiguate the Norwegian krone from e.g. the Swedish or Danish krone, use the official three-letter abbreviation NOK. As of May 2010, there is about 8 NOK to one euro.
Coins come in 50 øre, 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner.
ATMs in Norway are called Minibank. There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At main airports and Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, british pounds, swedish, danish and norwegian kroner. Nearly all stores, with the notable exception of grocery stores and the post office, accept major credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa (bring your passport/driver's license, as you are required to identify yourself when using a credit card).
Norway is an expensive country. While it is possible to travel in Norway on a limited budget, some care must be taken. Because labour is costly, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Travel costs can also be a killer, because the country is large and distances long, so a rail or air pass can save you a lot of money.
As rules of thumb, subsisting on under 500 kr/day will be difficult even if you stay in hostels and self-cater, with 1000 kr/day allowing a more comfortable mid-range lifestyle and over 2000 kr/day needed for good hotels and restaurants.
Take care when buying alcohol and tobacco. It will most certainly be more expensive than you expect. A 400 or 500 ml beer in a pub or restaurant will cost around 60 kr whilst a 500 ml can of 4.7% beer in a supermarket costs about 25 kr. Cigarettes cost about 90 kr for a pack of 20, and a bottle of 500 ml Coke will usually cost 15 kr. On the positive side: Norway has good quality tap water. Buying bottled drinking water is unnecessary and hugely expensive.
Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are also more expensive than in most countries due to the labour costs. A large BigMac menu will set you back around 90 kr, the same goes for a Double Whopper Cheese menu. Also, keep in mind that most bakeries, fast food chains, and other types of restaurants that offer takeout, charge more if you eat it at the restaurant than if you take it with you, due to differences in the VAT rate.
In Norway, waiters are not dependent on tips from customers as they are in the US, as they are well paid. However, tipping is not unusual in mid- to high-end cafés and restaurants, but only if you feel you have been treated well. Tipping cab drivers is usual if you travel for more than 200 kr, but you will get no reaction from the driver should you choose not to tip, so this may be a new experience to American and English tourists. Tipping is never considered offensive, but not tipping is also rarely frowned upon.
If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around 1500 NOK (€190) per day is not unrealistic.
You can save some money by bringing supplies. Be aware of the strict Norwegian border regulations, which allow a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, 1 litre of hard alcohol and 1 1/2 litre of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 3 litres of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 5 litres of beer. As a general rule, tobacco, alcohol and meat will be comparatively expensive. Vegetables, flour, baby articles, car supplies (oil, window wiper fluid and so on), and clothes will have (almost) the same price as in neighbouring countries, or even be cheaper.
It is possible to exchange money in most banks near tourist information offices, in the post-office or withdraw the money in local currency from the ATM. In some places, however, they don't handle cash in the banks so they only way to exchange money is in the post offices where the exchange fee might be up to 75 kr (9.5 €, US$ 12.2)!
You will get the best rate when you withdraw money from the ATM or simply pay with a credit card. Note that the country is currently upgrading to a new system using computer chips embedded in the card and a pin number. Credit cards with magnetic strips are still accepted throughout the country; however, you will have to let the merchant know that the you do not have a pin code you need to sign instead. It is also important to note that sometimes a merchant system will not allow signatures, so it is a good precaution to have cash on hand to pay if needed.
For example (August 2009) the exchange rate in the bank was 8,75 NOK for €1 (taking into consideration that it is not possible to exchange an amount for more than 5000 NOK per one transaction and there is a comission of 100 NOK for each transaction); in the tourist information office the rate exchange was 7,28 (no comissions), by withdrawal from ATM the rate was 7,74 (taking into consideration all the bank comissions).
Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (1 PM or 3 PM is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 10 or 11 PM on weekdays. You'll often see opening hours written as "9-21 (9-18)" on doors, meaning 9 AM to 9 PM weekdays, 9 AM to 6 PM Saturday. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Coop, ICA and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Meny, Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.
Convenience stores, notably the major chains Narvesen and Mix (all over the country), Deli de Luca (Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen only) and 7-Eleven (bigger cities only), are open from early morning until late at night every day, with 24 hour service in the biggest cities. All over the country you will find gas-stations, Statoil, Shell, fresh/selected, YX (HydroTexaco) (these days turning into 7-eleven with gas) and Esso, On the Run. Virtually all gas-stations serve fast-food, especially sausages and cheese. Also hamburgers, pizza, and so on. The gas-stations have long opening periods, and the bigger stations in cities and near bigger crossroads are open 24 hours. Convenience stores and gas stations are relatively expensive.
Most big cities have over the years been almost exclusively dominated by shopping malls. Although you do have shopping streets like Karl Johans Gate in Oslo, Strandgaten in Bergen and Nordre gate/Olav Tryggvasons gate in Trondheim, you are bound to find malls around the country by Thon Gruppen and other major companies. Norway is also home to Scandinavias biggest mall - Sandvika Storsenter - located 15 minutes outside Oslo by train. In Oslo you have Byporten Shopping Senter, Oslo City and Gunerius located right next to Oslo S train station and Paléet and Arkaden Shopping in Karl Johans Gate, as well as several malls and shopping centres a bit further out.
Getting "good deals" and bargaining is frowned upon, and the caterers are not authorized to give you a better price. The price you see, is the price you pay. Although asking for a discount is perfectly ok, getting one will in most cases never happen. If you plan on buying tax-free, a good practice is to bring with you the necessary forms. Most stores will have these forms at hand themselves but it is a good precaution. Also, if you pay with credit card, you might have to sign the receipt which will require some form of ID, drivers license and passport are both ok. This is due to the strict nature of money transactions.
Traditional Norwegian "farm" food is made by whatever can grow in the northern climate, be stored for a year until new crops come out, and contain enough energy for you to do hard work. Regional variances in traditional food are huge and hence, and what is thought to be "typical traditional" for one Norwegian might be totally unknown to another. Typical examples are variations of yeasted and unyeasted bread and other forms of bakery, porridges, soups, inventive uses of potato, salted and smoked meat, and fresh, salted or smoked fish. Dried cod (tørrfisk) and salted cod (klippfisk) are staples of coastal communities in the north and can be seen drying on outside racks in spring and summer. The national dish of Norway is fårikål, a stewed casserole of lamb's meat and cabbage.
Finer traditional food is usually based on hunted animals or fresh fish. Steak, medallions and meat balls from game, deer, reindeer and elk are highly appreciated foods with international reputation, so are fresh, smoked and fermented salmon varieties as well as a host of other fish products. Traditional pastries like lukket valnøtt (marzipan-covered whipped cream cake) are other original contributions to international cuisine. Cheese of various types is common, but one particularly Norwegian favorite is geitost (goat-cheese), a mild smoked cheese which bears a remarkable similarity to smooth peanut butter in color, texture and taste.
Today, Norwegians use plenty of sliced bread for almost any meal except dinner, whereas recipes for hot meals will be taken from almost anywhere in the world, including of course the traditional kitchen, but seldom the most extreme examples. Lunch usually consists of some bread and snacks instead of a warm dish but this is then compensated by eating well at dinner time.
Norwegians are also known for eating a lot of frozen pizza.
Places to eat
For a cheap quick snack Norwegian-style, look no further than the nearest grill or convenience store, which will dish up a sausage (pølse) or hot dog (grillpølse) in either a hot dog bun (brød) or wrapped in a flat potato bread (lompe) for around 20-30 kr. However prices can soar as high as 50kr if you buy at the right (read wrong) places. In addition to ketchup and mustard, optional toppings include pickled cucumber (sylteagurk), fried onion bits (stekt løk) and shrimp salad (rekesalat). To get the most for your money, order a (kebab i pita) which is lamb meat roasted on a spit then fried when you order, served together with vegetables in a pita bread. This tastes great, is extremely filling and can be found for as little as 40 kr in central Oslo. Outside, you will have to stick with your grillpølse.
Very few Norwegian cuisine restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu, but will make something if asked, with varying success. Some of the few chains of stores/restaurants where you will always have a vegetarian option is Peppes Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).
Allergies and diets
If you have allergies like lactose intolerance and gluten allergy, going to Peppe's Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, Subway and Burger King are good suggestions. But if you want to eat somewhere a little fancier, asking the maître d' at the restaurant is always good practice. In some cases, if it is not on the menu, they might be able to accommodate you anyway.
As the regulations for food is extremely strict in Norway, the ingredients for anything you buy is always printed on the packages, and if you ask, you will always be told what is contained in the food you order.
Food safety is very good in Norway. Salmonella is very rare compared to other countries, and health officials inspect restaurants at a regular basis. Also tap-water is usually very nice; Voss water from Vatnestrøm in Aust-Agder is actually exported abroad, including USA.
The high prices are most likely part of the reason why the tradition to hold vorspiel and nachspiel before going out is very popular in Norway. The words derives from German and can be translated into pre- and afterparty. If going out in the weekend, it is not unknown for norwegians to gather at a friends house and not leave there until after twelve in the evening. So if you've seen Norwegian drinking culture abroad, and are shocked by the empty bar/club at ten o'clock, call your Norwegian friend and ask where the vorspiel is. It's likely to be a whole lot of fun. Clubs tend to fill up around midnight-1 a.m. However this is mostly true in weekends, during normal weekdays, you will often find Norwegians sitting in bars enjoying a couple of beers or a bottle of wine.
You must be at least 18 years old to purchase beer/wine and 20 years old to purchase spirits (alcohol levels of 22% and above) in Norway.
Technically, drinking in public is prohibited. This law is very strict, and even encompasses your own balcony, if other people can see you! Luckily, the law is very seldom enforced (I've never heard of anyone being fined on their own balcony, for instance), and Norwegians indeed do drink in parks. There are calls for modifying the antiquated law, and recently, there has been a debate in media: most people seem to agree that drinking in parks is alright as long as people have a good time and remain peaceful. However, if you bother others and get too intoxicated or a policeman happens to be in a bad mood, you may be asked to throw away your alcohol, and in a worst-case scenario, fined. Drinking openly in the street is probably still considered somewhat rude, and it would be more likely to bring the police's attention than a picnic in a park, and is advised against. Having a glass of wine in an establishment that legally serves alcohol at the sidewalk, of course, is not a problem.
Be careful about urinating in major cities like Oslo if you're drunk, fines for public urination can be as high as 10.000 krones ($1750)! However, this normally isn't a problem if you urinate in a place where nobody sees like a couple of yards into the woods. Public intoxination is also something you should be a bit careful with, especially in the capital, Oslo. In smaller towns the police will have no problem giving you a night in the local jail if they think you are disrupting peace and order.
In Norway, all alcohol with a volume percentage of under 4,75% can be sold at regular shops. This means you can get decent beer all over the place. The price varies, but imported beer is usually expensive (except Danish/Dutch beers brewed in Norway on licence like Heineken and Carlsberg). Shopping hours for beer are very strict: The sale stops at 8PM (20.00) every weekday, and at 6PM (18.00) every day before holidays (incl Sundays). Since the sale is decided in the local council, it may vary, but this is the latest times decided by law. This means the beer will have to be PAID before this time. If it's not paid, the person behind the counter will take your beer, and tell you "Sorry pal, too late!". On Sunday, you can't buy alcohol anywhere except bars/pubs/restaurants.
For strong beer, wine and hard alcohol, you will have to find a Vinmonopolet branch. The state shop have a marvellous choice of drinks, but at mostly sky-high prices. The general rule is that table wines are more expensive than in nearly any other country. Expect NOK 80-90 for a decent, "cheap" wine. However, as the taxation is based on the volume of alcohol per bottle rather than the initial cost, you can often find more exclusive wines at comparably lower prices than in private establishments in other countries. Vinmonpolet is open until 5PM (17.00) Mon-Wed, 6PM (18.00) Thu-Fri, and 3PM (15.00) on Sat.
Beers Norwegian beer isn't the best in the world, but it's certainly worth trying. The brands you are most likely to see in pubs are Ringnes, Hansa and Frydenlund (accompanied by a vast array of imported drinks). Local brewer Aas (Drammen) tend to produce beers a notch above the rest, but there are also craft brew available from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, some of which are of very high quality. Other varieties are available at places such as Mikrobryggeriet (Bogstadveien), Lorry's (Parkveien) or Beer Palace (Aker Brygge) all in Oslo.
A single hotel room (always book ahead for weekdays) should cost you from around 800 kr and up (special offers are common and cheaper), but you can find reasonable cheap lodgings in camping huts (300-600 kr, space for entire family), mountain cabins (150-300 kr per person), youth hostels (150-250 kr per person), etc. Most of these will require you to make your own food, bring your own bedsheets, and wash before leaving.
For longer stays (one week or more) consider renting an apartment, a house or a high quality cabin. Several agencies offer reservations on houses or cabins owned by farmers or other locals. This type of accommodation is frequently more interesting than a standard hotel.
Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, do not require a permit and are free to live and work in Norway for up to 3 months (some restrictions apply for recent members of the European Union). In addition, citizens of a number of non-EU countries are permitted to work in Norway without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay (for more information, see the 'Get in' section above).
You may start from the local office of the public agency NAV , to get legal advise and a list of available jobs. Note that even though the unemployment rate in Norway is very low (2.5%) , short-term employment may be hard to find. (Certainly when not fluent in a Scandinavian language.) If you decide to move there you have to fill in a "Residence Permit" which lasts for 3 years before it needs to be renewed.
Salaries range from 25 000 kroner - 110 000 kroner ($3900-$17000/€3100-€14000) per month (2010).
Norway has a low crime rate. The most likely crimes for tourists to experience is car break-ins and bicycle theft. Pickpockets do also tend to be an increasing problem in urban areas in the summer season, but it's still nothing like in larger cities in Europe. It is always a good idea to look after your belongings, this includes never leaving valuable objects visual in your car and locking your bike safely.
Single women should have no problems, although ordinary street sense is advised after dark.
Norway is one of the countries in the world with least corruption. Police and other authorities cannot be bribed, travellers are strongly advised against attempting in any form of bribery.
The greatest dangers to tourists in Norway are found in nature. Every year, quite a few tourists get hurt, even killed, in the mountains or on the seas, usually after given, unheeded warnings. For example, do not approach a glacier front, big waves on the coast, or a big waterfall unless you know what you're doing, and do not walk on glaciers without proper training and equipment.
Norway has few dangerous wild animals. Car crashes with the mighty moose or the smaller red deer account for the bulk of wild animal-related deaths and injuries. Also note that in some rural districts, sheep, goats, cows or reindeer can be seen walking or sleeping on the road. Specific rules and precautions apply to Svalbard. As for other wild animals, there are not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear and wolf in the wilderness. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in mainland Norway, let alone polar bears walking city streets. The Scandinavian brown bear is peaceful and will generally run away from humans. In any case it is extremely unlikely that tourists will even see a glimpse of one of the around 50 brown bears remaining in Norway. Norwegian wolves are not dangerous to humans. In general, there is no reason worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Norway.
When hiking or skiing, be prepared for a sudden shift in the weather, as these can happen very quickly in Norway. If unsure about conditions, ask locals or go on a guided tour. You are expected to manage on your own in the Norwegian wilderness, so you won't find fences or warning signs even at the most dangerous places. Keep in mind that avalanches are common. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, stay in marked slopes when skiing. If you think you know what you're doing, think twice. Only in the first three months of 2011 12 people were killed in avalanches in Norway.
If you plan to cross the mountains by car (for instance by driving from Oslo to Bergen) in the winter season, it is imperative that you are prepared for the journey. The conditions are harsh. Always keep a full tank of fuel, and keep warm clothes, food and drink in the car. Make sure your tires are good enough and suited for winter conditions (studded or non-studded winter tires, "all-year" tires are not enough), and that you have the sufficient skills for driving in snowy and cold conditions. Roads are often closed on short notice due to weather conditions. For advice on conditions and closed roads, call 175 in Norway or check the online road reports  (in Norwegian only) from the Norwegian State road authorities. Remember that not all parts of the roads have cellular phone coverage.
Norway has a unified police force ("politi"). The police is the government authority in areas like crime, national security, major accidents, missing persons, traffic control, passports and immigration control. Most cities have municipal parking attendants, these do not however have any authority beyond fining and removing vehicles.
If you are unsure which number to call, 112 is the central for all rescue services and will put you in contact with the correct department.
For non-emergencies, the police is to be called on 02800.
The hearing impaired using a text telephone can reach the emergency services by dialing 1412.
Roadside assistance is provided by Falck (tel. 02222) and Viking (tel. 06000). AAA members may call NAF on 08505.
Contact For minor injuries and illness, go to the local "Legevakt" (emergency room/physician seeing patients without appointment). In cities this is typically a municipal service centrally located, be prepared to wait for several hours. In rural districts you typically have to contact the "district physician" on duty. For inquiries about toxins (from mushrooms, plants, medicin or other chemicals) call the national Toxin Information Office at 22 59 13 00
Norwegians are generally open-minded and tolerant and there are few, if any, dos and don'ts that foreign visitors need to keep in mind.
Many Norwegian people can however be mistaken as somewhat rude and unwelcoming, due to the fact that they can be very direct and that small talk generally doesn't come easy. This is just a matter of culture; making contact with strangers, such as talking with fellow passengers on the bus, is uncommon. Furthermore, Norwegian as a language is very straightforward. The once common use of the polite pronoun is nowadays extremely rare, and so is polite phrases and words in everyday situations, so don't be offended if a Norwegian speaking a foreign language uses a very familiar language. The Norwegian culture is also very informal and Norwegians usually address each others by first name only, except perhaps in official meetings. The informal culture is not equivalent of that in southern parts of Europe; showing up late for meetings is considered rude, so is talking loud, being too personal with strangers and losing your temper. It is customary to take off your shoes when entering a Norwegian home - particularly in the winter.
Norwegians can also be perceived as somewhat nationalistic. It is common to use the flag in private celebrations (such as anniversaries and weddings), and many will also flag on public holidays. Most Norwegians will speak warmly of their country, in particular about subjects such as the nature and the country's economical success. 17 May, the constitution day, can perhaps be a bit overwhelming for foreigners, as the country is covered in flags, citizens dress up in their finest clothes and celebrate all day long. The Norwegian nationalism is however generally just an expression of appreciation of living in a successful community, not aggressive in any way. On constitution day, dress up and try to say gratulerer med dagen (literally "congratulations on the day") to anyone you meet, and you will probably get the same in response and see a lot of smiles, even if you're not Norwegian at all. Norwegians take pride in the fact that the parades on constitution day are made up of school children and families instead of military troops.
Numbers, time and dates Note that Norwegians use comma as the decimal sign, for instance 12,000 means 12 (specified with three decimal places) not 12 thousand, whereas 12 000 or 12.000 means 12 thousand. Norwegians use both 24 and 12 hour system, spoken often 12 hour system and 24 hour system in writing. Norwegians don't use PM/AM to indicate morning or afternoon. In Norwegian "half ten" ("halv ti") means half past nine, when speaking to a person not fluent in English better not use this form to avoid misunderstanding. Dates can be seen abbreviated in a number of ways, but the order is always DATE-MONTH-YEAR, for instance 12.7.08 (or 120708, 12/7-08 or 12.07.08; the first and latter being the only correct forms) is July 12, 2008. Monday is considered the first day of the week, while Sunday is the last. In timetables, week days are thus often indiciated by numbers 1 (Mon) through 7 (Sun). Norwegian calendars will also indicate the number of the week 1 through 53. Timetables for public transport often use the abbreviation Dx67, meaning "all days except Saturday and Sunday".
Norway uses the metric system only. A Norwegian mile, 'mil', is equal to 10 km. There is virtually no knowledge of Imperial or US measures. Few Norwegians will be able to convert from Centigrade (Celsius) to Fahrenheit, and weather forecasts use metric units. However, many modern cell-phones have conversion programmes which can be used to understand the metric system.
In Norwegian there is usually no concept of ground floor as in the UK (or "Erdgeschoss" in German), instead the entrance level of a building is called the first floor ("første etasje") like in the US. Levels are then counted 1, 2, 3 etc.
First time visitors not familiar with the country tend plan a trip in Norway from city to city. Although Norway has many nice cities the country's main attraction is the land itself, the nature, the landscapes, the wilderness, as well as a number of man-made sights in rural districts, notably road constructions and cultural treasures such as the stave churches. Unlike many other countries in Europe, a trip to Norway should ideally be planned according to types of landscapes to visit as well as a selection of cities. Norway is wide country with long distances and complex topography, and travelers should not underestimate distances.
If purchasing a house and business in Norway do check all legal documents (kjøpekontrakt/takst)and maps (grensekart) are correct. Ask for information in the native language you are used to. Make sure the Estate Agent is registered with NEF.
Mobile phone coverage is universal in urban areas and generally also good in rural Norway, though on occasion some rural valley areas might be badly covered.
Even in the most remote mountain cabins, as long as they are staffed, you will usually be able to send a postcard.
Most Norwegian households are connected to the Internet in some way (often broadband), making cybercafés hard to find outside major cities, due to a relatively small market. Most public libraries have free public access to the internet, but a limited number of computers and limited opening hours.
However, if you bring a laptop with a wireless connection you will find wireless internet zones just about everywhere(gas stations, city centres, cafés, shopping centres, hotels etc), be prepared to pay for it though. It is not unusual for hotels to have a terminal for guest use. Around 60% of camp grounds have wifi internet, but if it's crucial for you, best to ask before paying for your camping space.
As of August 2011, Telenor (national telecoms provider) sells prepaid wireless 3G internet dongles for computers (kr. 700, about €100), kr. 150 buy-in must be purchased with the dongle itself, that comes with kr. 50 credit and 300Mb of data to be used in 4 days. Then, another kr 150 purchase must be made for 15 days unlimited internet access. 3G speeds are very usable, and if 3G service is not availabe the dongle steps down to 2G (not so much fun). Of course, these prices and conditions may change quickly. There is a mobile phone shop at Oslo airport (landside) that sells phone equipment.
Classical Travel Journals from Norway
W. Matthiue Williams: Through Norway With a Knapsack (1859)
Mary Wollstonecraft: Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796)
Thomas Malthus: Travel journal from Norway (1799)
Samuel Beckett: The fjords and folk of Norway (1915)
W.C. Slingsby: Norway: the Northern Playground (1904)
Dhiravat na Pombejra: A Month in Norway: King Chulalongkorn's travels July-August 1907.
Robert Everest: A journey through Norway, Lapland, and part of Sweden : with some remarks on the geology of the country, its climate and scenery. (1829)
Lees, James A. and Clutterbuck, Walter J: Three in Norway (by two of them) (1912)