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Norway

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Norway

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[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Norway]]
Location
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Flag
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Quick Facts
Capital Oslo
Government Constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy
Currency Kroner (NOK)
Area 324,220 km 2
Population 4,593,041 (July 2006 est.)
Language Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk) and Sami
Religion Protestant state church
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +47
Internet TLD .no
Time Zone UTC +1 (CET)

Norway [1] is the westernmost, northernmost - and in fact the easternmost - of the three Scandinavian countries, located in Northern Europe west of Sweden. 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.


Regions

Cities

Map of Norway
  • Oslo - the capital and largest city of Norway, with museums of national importance, a beautiful setting and lively nightlife and cultural scene. Not the most coveted of capitals, but nevertheless enjoyable.
  • Ålesund - a splendid Art Nouveau centre in the very western coast of Norway
  • Bergen - old Hanseatic trading center with a rich culture and dramatic scenery, Norway's second largest city. Wonderfully cute wooden buildings, a magnificent mountain setting and tons of nightlife and atmosphere make Bergen the most enjoyable city in Norway. This is your gateway to the western fjords. The city has been dubbed "the rainiest city in Europe" with an average of 250 days of rainfall a year. Bring an umbrella.
  • Fredrikstad - A magnificent old town stands out from the rest of the rather nondescript city. Brilliant as a day trip from Oslo.
  • Haugesund - Between Bergen and Stavanger lies Haugesund, a city with old traditions from the Viking age. Excellent hub for those who want to discover the fjords. In August SildaJazzen is very popular.
  • Kristiansand - The jolly capital of the South, famous for its international music festival every summer.
  • Skien - The capital of Telemark county, and the birth place of the ski and Henrik Ibsen
  • Stavanger - The fourth largest city, and the third largest urban area in Norway. Commercially important due to the oil business. The wooden, cobbled central area is one of the most charming places in Norway. Home to one of Norway's medieval churches, you can also visit Iron Age homes, stone age caves, and sites where the Viking kings used to meet at Ullandhaugtårnet. Stavanger is where Erik the Red was born.
  • Tromsø - City with the northernmost university in the world, a magnificent, modern cathedral and absolutely no polar bears roaming the streets.
  • Trondheim - Once the capital of Norway, famous for its stunning cathedral (Nidarosdomen). Wonderful riverside wharfs, wooden buildings and the best student nightlife in Norway give beautiful, leafy Trondheim its charm.

Other destinations

  • Geiranger fjord is a part of the Storfjorden, with perhaps the most stunning fjord landscape in western Norway. The fjord is on the UN's list of World Heritage places
  • Jotunheimen - A majestic landscape and home of Norway's highest mountains.
  • Lofoten - Experience the midnight sun in this traditional fishing district in the northern province with islands and mountains.
  • Nordkapp - The northernmost point of continental Europe.
  • Sognefjorden - Glaciers, mountains and picturesque towns are but a few of the sights on the Sognefjord.
  • Svalbard - Islands far to the north of Norway, the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.
  • Svartisen - Glacier in Nordland
  • Sørlandet - The picturesque string of cities between Kragerø and Flekkefjord is one of the favourite destinations for Norwegians.
  • Hessdalen Valley

Understand

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Norway is well known for its amazing and varied nature. 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. Norway was an old Viking kingdom. Economically it is known for its oil and seafood exports.

Norway is a sparsely populated country, roughly the same land size as Great Britain or Germany. It has a population of only 4.5 million people but a land area of 385,155 square kilometers. Thus, for each inhabitant there is 70,000 square meters of land, but the vast majority of this land is a rocky wilderness which is completely unusable for agricultural purposes. As a result, Norway has a large number of completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature, which Norwegians strive to keep unspoiled.

In winter, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and snowboarding are very popular. In summer, hiking and biking are obvious ways to enjoy the enormous mountain areas. For the adventurous, kayaking, wildwater rafting, paragliding, cave or glacier exploration are possible. Car tourists will enjoy driving along the fjords and mountains in the west or to the midnight sun in the north. In short, Norway has a lot to offer in terms of nature.

Norway is located on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia. A large but loosely defined northern part of of Norway and Sweden, as well as parts of Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi (Sameland), which is where the most of the Sami (lapp) people live.

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 (2469m) 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.

Norway's primary income(except for taxes) is the petroleum industry in the North Sea. 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%).

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 couple of percent, after first having 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 still closely connected to the EU, and is integrated as a full member in most economic matters as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic advantage to Norway. However for people moving to Norway from the EU and trying to take a vehicle it means a large "Welcome Tax" of thousands of Norwegian Krone.(Unwelcome Tax) It used to be free to take a vehicle in as it still is in Sweden and was removed without a good reason. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that Norway does not produce vehicles unlike EU countries except an electric vehicle that according to the information is unsuitable for use in rural mountain areas and only for use in Cities. (Cities have buses,trains,cycles,pavements.)

Norway is a Christian country, so Sunday is considered a holy day and most business are closed Sundays. Many gas stations are open 24-7, some warehouses are partly open and restaurants are normally open, but this varies from place to place.

Climate

Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Almost half the length of Norway is north of the polar circle. Summers can be moderately warm (up to 30 degrees 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 fall below -25 degrees C. Some mountain areas have permanent glaciers.

Get in

Norway is part of the Schengen countries, meaning you can travel from any other Schengen country with few or no border checks. Most citizens of industrialized nations do not need a visa to enter Norway for tourism or short business trips. You can find all the timetables you need from Rutebok timetable service.

By plane

Oslo

Oslo Airport Gardermoen (OSL) is the biggest airport in the country and the main international hub, and is located 60 km north of Oslo. The airport had 17.5 million passengers in 2006 and is served by many major international and all domestic airlines.

The fastest way to reach the city of Oslo is with the Airport Express Train, which takes 19 minutes. See Flytoget.

The airport has scheduled flights to 71 destinations abroad and 24 destinations in Norway. New direct routes in 2006 will be Naples (SAS Braathens), Madrid (Norwegian), Rijeka (Norwegian), Florence (Sterling), Palanga (FlyLAL), Saint Petersburg (Norwegian), Bourgas (Norwegian), Heraklion (Norwegian), Rhodes (Norwegian), Varna (Norwegian), Kos (Norwegian), and Ibiza (Norwegian).

Sandefjord

Sandefjord Lufthavn, Torp (TRF) is located just north of Sandefjord, 115 km to the south of Oslo, and is Ryanair's destination airport in Oslo. Here you can spend as much on the coach trip (about £10) as on the flight! 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. New direct routes in 2007 will be to Bremen, Barcelona, and Warsaw.

Airlines operating at Sandefjord Lufthavn, Torp: Ryanair KLM Widerøe Wizz Air

Moss

Moss Airport, Rygge (RYG), recently opened and located 60km south of Oslo carries many flights by Norwegian that can be comparably cheaper than flying into Gardermoen. Either an express bus service (120NOK) or a free local bus to Rygge train station, then a regional service train (119 NOK) can get you into Oslo in roughly just under an hour, and both services are timed around arrivals and departures of flights.

Stavanger

Stavanger airport, Sola has scheduled fligths to/from London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Krakow, Madrid, Nice and some other European cities. The cheapest alternative tends to be Norwegian, a discounter-airline by which you can fly in for as little as €20

Bergen

Bergen Airport, Flesland has scheduled flights to/from major European cities as London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Prague, Warsaw and other cities.

Apart from to previously mentioned airports there are international flights to Trondheim and Tromsø.

By train

There are trains from Sweden to Oslo, Trondheim and Narvik, with onwards inland connections.

For Oslo, daily service from Stockholm, as well as an every-night night train running through Gothenburg. The night train also carries rail cars from Malmö. For Trondheim, the Nabotåget service from Östersund corresponds with one day and one night service from Stockholm, as well as the train from Sundsvall. For Narvik, two trans daily run from Stockholm via Kiruna. Both are overnight.

Train schedule web site: [2]

By bus

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.

For budget travelers be sure to check out lavprisekspressen.no for cheap bus tickets between the large cities in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

The minibus service between Kirkenes and Murmansk run three times per day. Contact Grenseland/Sovjetreiser (yes, they are actually still called that!) in Kirkenes for booking.

Other express lines go from Sweden to Bodø and Mo i Rana, as well as from Denmark to Stavanger.

By car

It is possible to enter by road from Sweden, Finland, or Russia. If you are staying for more that a few days in a region with tollbooths, getting an AutoPass RFID box for your car may pay itself in a very short time (and you don't have to fill out all those formas over again and/or fiddle with change). The same AutoPass box can be used in all tollboths marked AutoPass all over Norway and Sweden.

By boat

From Belgium

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.

From Germany

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 located 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.

Within Norway

Norwegian Coastal Voyage by Hurtigruten (Norwegian Cruise) runs coastal voyages from Kirkenes to Bergen. Originally started in 1893 as a way for residents of remote islands in Norway to get their mail quickly, now it servers as one of the largest cruise providers in the country. On board the ferry 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 Denmark

Several companies run from various harbours in Denmark (Frederikshavn, Hirtshals, Hanstholm, Copenhagen) to various Norwegian harbours (Oslo, Larvik, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen).

Color Line traffic from Hirtshals to Kristiansand, Larvik, Stavanger and Bergen, and from Frederikshavn to Oslo. Fjord Line traffic from Hanstholm to Egersund, Haugesund and Bergen. Master Ferries traffic from Hanstholm to Kristiansand. DFDS traffic from Copenhagen to Oslo.

From England

DFDS operate a twice-weekly service from Newcastle to Stavanger, Haugesund and Bergen which they purchased from "Fjordline". DFDS closed the vital well used business and tourist route to Kristiansand in southern Norway from Newcastle and it is hoped a different forward thinking company will start this route again in 2008 with a modern high speed vessel. A route had been operated since the 1830's and some competition is needed!

Thompson Cruise ships operate from Harwich and visit Flam, Bergen, Molde, Hammerfest, Honningsvag, the Northcape, Tromso, Lofoten Islands, Geiranger and Alesund 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 crusie 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 Karmøy, it is easy to get both south to Stavanger and north to Bergen and the fjords from here.

From Shetland, Faeroe Islands and Iceland

Smyril Line operates a once-weekly service to Bergen.

Get around

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 whereever you want, admire the view and venture onto smaller roads.

By plane

Norway's craggy coastline makes roads and trains slow, so domestic flights are very popular and, at least by Norwegian standards, competitively priced. The largest operators are Coast Air, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Norwegian and Widerøe.

It is especially in northern Norway, where towns and cities are fewer and further between, that air travel becomes almost obligatory to get from place to place. Planes between the small airports can be 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 100 km of 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 Widerøes Explore Norway Ticket (Unlimited air travel for 14 days in summer for less than a full price return ticket.).

By train

Norges Statsbaner (NSB) connects major cities, as far north as Bodø, but there is no rail connection between the many cities on the coast (due to the hindrance by fjords). However, if you do travel by train, you'll travel through the most spectacular scenery in the world. Trains are generally well-maintained and comfortable with toilets, vending machines etc on board. You can buy a ScanRail card or a Norwegian Rail Passto travel cheap by train through Norway or Scandinavia.

Unlike much of Southern 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 have been failures. (The sleek blue and silver high speed trains still operate, just not at high speed). Therefore, a journey between the two largest cities, Bergen and Oslo, still takes as much as six and a half to seven and a half hours.

Most long distance (regional) trains leave several times a day. Don't forget you'll have to make a reservation on long distance trains (Oslo-Bergen, Oslo-Stavanger, Oslo-Kristiansand, Oslo-Trondheim, Trondheim-Bodø). This will cost you NOK 50 per person extra, if it's not already included in your ticket. As a rule of thumb, the trains cover a bit under 100 km in one hour and charge a bit over NOK 100 for the distance. Regional trains have ordinær wagons, which get you a chance to board but no more (unless you have a seat reservation, when that seat is guaranteed for you), and komfort wagons, which cost 75 kr extra but get you a guaranteed seat, coffee/tea, a newspaper (in Norwegian), a table and a power socket.

Apart from the regular day trains, the longest stretches have night trains available. These are equipped with both regular seating carriages and sleeping carriages. In a regular seating carriage, which you can book at the same price as a regular day train, you will be given a blanket and maybe some earplugs, although the seats are a bit hard and not really designed for sleeping in. Sleeping carriages are perhaps more comfortable, but they are pretty expensive (750 NOK surcharge). The cabins have two bunks in them however, so if you are travelling as a couple you can share that surcharge.

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 ordinær class seating reservations available, but it is still possible to upgrade to 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 go between Bergen and Voss, Stavanger and Egersund and around Trondheim.

Tickets can be, and should be, bought on the Internet for long-distance hauls. NSB runs a discount scheme where you pay NOK 199 or NOK 299, no matter what the distance of your travel is. However there are no stop-overs allowed, except for changing trains. When ordering your tickets, check if there's an option called "minipris" under "Ticket group". Then press the "Calculate price"-button, and you're probably in for a pleasant surprise. Another nice option is that when you pay the ticket, you can choose the option "henting i tog" under the "Ticket receivement" menu. This means that you just write down your carriage and seat number, and go on the train with some kind of ID. The ticket will be handed to you by the train steward. No queuing! There isn't first class on trains any more, but you can buy a "Komfort" ticket, then you get a little extra space, and (Norwegian) papers and coffee is included. If you get a sleeper-cabin and want to eat breakfast, you must order it ahead of departure.

Generally, the trains are most crowded at the beginning and end of the weekend, and that means Friday and Sunday evening. 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.

By ferry

Car ferries are an intregral part of the road network in coastal regions. Prices and time vary with the length of the crossing and amount of traffic, but expect 150 kr and 30 min as a standard fjord crossing with two adults in a normal car. Nearby camping sites and the ferries themself will often have timetables for other ferries in the region. Stretches with lots of ferries are desierable when bicycling, as the ferries are cheap for bicyclists and offer an often well-deserved break with a great view.

In regions with lots of fjords and islands, that is along all the coast from Stavanger to Tromsø, an extensive network of catamaran expressboats 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 the Hurtigruten ferry that hops along the coastline from Bergen all the way to Kirkenes, taking about a week for the whole journey. Cabins are expensive, but deck fares are more reasonable and there's even a 50% off discount with Inter Rail.

By bus

An extensive range of express buses connect cities all over Norway. Nor-way Bussekspress] and Timekspressen are the biggest operators, the latter even run the Oslo-Drammen-Kongsberg-Notodden service every hour, round the clock, every day. The bus even departs at midnight on New Year's eve...

However, buses are not that frequent elsewhere. Outside the major bus lines, most towns are reachable by local bus. Access by bus also includes most national parks, although buses often leave just once a day, or possibly even more infrequently. Plan ahead, all schedules are to be found various places on the Internet.

All major cities have some sort of city bus system, mostly quite good, but not always. Oslo also has local trains, metro and trams, Trondheim has local trains and one tram line, while Bergen has a trolley bus line and a funicular railway, as well as local trains. Stavanger/sandnes also has a local train system.

By car

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 and required by law. DO NOT try to drive without, even if you don't expect snow or ice. Some other points to heed:

  • The Give Way rule is universal in Norway.(On small roads without the "Yellow Diamond" sign, all traffic has the "Right of Way" on to the road so BE AWARE!
  • Some mountain roads are not wide enough for two cars to meet. Look for signs with a large M which indicates a passing point. Traffic going down hill has to give way to traffic going up hill even if that means reversing.
  • Headlights are mandatory even during daylight. A country ID sticker on the back of the vehicle and an EN standard hazard waistcoat is required in the vehicle, reachable from the drivers seat. Spare bulbs are a good idea.
  • Pedestrians expect you to stop for them at marked crossings and you may be fined if you don't.
  • Speeding is taken very seriously and even 6kmh over the limit can result in a large "on the spot" fine. There are also many unmarked grey speed camera boxes on all roads that face the traffic. Normal road speed is 80kmh/50mph.
  • Moose (Elg) can run onto the highway at dusk and dawn so take extra care if driving at those times.
  • Gas is very expensive, starting at US$6.66/gallon

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Norway is best on the the routes from Oslo-Trondheim (E6), Oslo-Kristiansand (E18) and Kristiansand-Stavanger (E39). Hitchhiking is not that common in Norway and not recommended and you need to understand that you are taking a small but potentially serious risk. Travel with someone and let a contact know where you are going to. 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.

Talk

Norwegian is the official language of Norway. The language is very close and mutually intelligible with the two other Scandinavian languages, Danish and Swedish. Sami is a minority language which has official status in some Northern regions.

Most Norwegians at age 60 and downwards speak English well. For the last 2-3 decades a lot of Norwegians have had at least a few years of either German or French at school, however this is nowhere near the high number of people who speak English. Spanish and Italian is also being learned more and more, but still almost only at larger schools in the largest cities.

In addition, a wide range of minorities live in Norway, both native and more modern immigrant groups. Several languages are spoken by cultural groups without having status as official languages, like Romani, Finnish, Kvensk and Urdu.

The capital, Oslo, is quite a melting pot. It is a multi-cultural city with many different ethnic groups, mostly because of immigration. Stavanger also have a lot of "western immigration" because of the NATO HQ and the oilindustry.

See

Do

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 huts 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.

  • Go on top of the nearest top/mountain. Just for the walk. And for the view.
  • Try the fine beer (pilsner) from the oldest brewery in Norway, Aass Bryggeri (pronounced: åås).
  • Try the "Julebrus" (Christmas pop). It comes in red or brown variants, and is only sold during Christmas time. Each local brewery has it own type of local favorite. But avoid the variant from Coca-Cola and other cheap variants, they taste like lipstick.


Hiking

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.

Skiing

Both cross country and alpine skiing are popular sports in the winter, and the largest areas, Trysil 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)

Buy

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 December 2007, there is about 8 NOK to one euro. Check live market exchange rates at xe.

Coins come in 50 øre, 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner.

Coins 
Official coins
Bills 
Official bank notes

ATMs in Norway are called Minibank. There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At the Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, british pounds, swedish, danish and norwegian kroner. With a Bank Axept debit card, you can also withdraw money from most shops and gas stations. Nearly all stores 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).

Costs

Norway is an expensive country. While it is possible to travel in Norway with a limited expense account, some care must be taken to do so. Because labour is costly here, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Transport 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 good 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 upwards of 50 kr whilst a 500 ml can of 4.7% beer in a supermarket costs about 20 kr. Cigarettes cost about 70 kr for a pack of 20 (all 2007 prices). On the positive side: Norway has a high quality of tap water. Buying bottled drinking water is usually unnecessary and this will save your budget.

Shopping

Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, but many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (1 PM or 3 PM is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. 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 major exception is convenience stores, notably the big chains Narvesen and Mix (all over the country), Deli de Luca (Oslo and Bergen only) and 7-Eleven (bigger cities only), which 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. Every gas-station will 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.

Eat

Fit for a Viking: fiskeboller (fish balls) in cream sauce with potatoes, grated carrots and a smattering of bacon

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. 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. The National dish is fårikål. Fårikål is lamb's meat and cabbage cooked for several hours in a casserole. However, the 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.

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.

Norwegians are also known for eating a lot of frozen pizza. Try the national frozen pizza "Grandiosa" or "Graendis"

Places to eat

Eating out is expensive, with fast food starting from 50 kr and sit-down meals in a decent restaurant nearly always topping 100 kr or more for a main course. One way to cut costs is self-catering, as youth hostels and guesthouses often have kitchens for their guests. Breakfast is often hearty and buffet-style, so pigging out at breakfast and skipping lunch is also an option. Buy/bring a lunchbox before attending breakfast, as most of the bigger hotels will allow you to fill it up for free from the breakfast buffet for eating later in the day.

For a cheap quick snack Norwegian-style, look no further than the nearest grill or convenience store, which will dish up a pølse sausage or kjempegrill hot dog in either a hot dog bun (brød) or wrapped in a flat potato bread (lompe) for around 20-30 kr. In addition to ketchup and mustard, optional toppings include pickled cucumber.

Whale anyone?

Yes, Norwegians eat whale. However, it's very seldom found in most ordinary restaurants, and chances are it might be overly expensive. Young Norwegians did not grow up with eating whale because of the moratium in the 1980's. Although whaling started up again in the early 1990's, whale is no longer a staple food as it once was in the coastal areas.

Vegetarians

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 Dolly Dimple's, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).

Food safety

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.

Drink

Norway is often described as a "dry" country, because alcohol is highly priced and glass of wine/beer in a restaurant is in the range of 60 kr (£6/$9/€9). When in cities/towns with many students (Oslo/Bergen/Trondheim in particular), you can very often find prices to be lower. Ask at your place of accomnodation or young people in the streets for hints and tips of where to go. Beer can be bought at the supermarkets, however wine and stronger alcoholic beverages have to be purchased in state owned liquor stores (Vinmonopolet). The price of alcohol, however does not stop the locals from having a good time. They are often found drinking and carrying on in local street parties and on their porches.

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. 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, you're not allowed to drink in public. 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 in 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.

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 8 pm (20.00) every weekday, and at 6 pm (18.00) every day before holidays (incl sundays). 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 5 pm (17.00) Mon-Wed, 6 pm (18.00) Thu-Fri, and 3 pm (15.00) on Sat.

Sleep

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.

Work

Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union, plus Iceland and Lichtenstein 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). 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, 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.

Stay safe

Norway has a low crime rate. Crime is mostly limited to theft and vandalism. Single women should have no problems, although ordinary street sense is advised after dark, especially in Oslo. There are some areas that you should stay away from in Oslo even in day time: the pedestrians stroll along the Akerselva river and the area around the street Skippergata.

Norwegians tend not to put up warning signs if there is no real reason; you will find few "watch your step" signs. Where there are warnings, pay attention. 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 or a big waterfall unless you know what you're doing.

When hiking, ALWAYS make sure to bring a map and a compass, and make sure someone knows where you're going, and when you get back. While a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit may offer some help and convenience, do not rely on it exclusively. While a map is failsafe, a GPS is not. Make sure you bring some food and plenty of warm clothing. Always be prepared for a sudden shift in the weather, as these can happen very quickly in Norway. Even though the sun is shining when you sit out you can have a medium sized blizzard on your hands (no joke!) an hour or two later.

Stay healthy

  • The water quality in Norway is very high and tap water is always drinkable.
  • The hygiene in public kitchens is very good, and food poisoning rarely happens to tourists.
  • Norway could get relatively warm in the summer, but be prepared to bring warm clothes, as they might come in handy. It's hard to predict the weather, and in the summer time, you may experience severe weather changes during your stay.
  • Norway has a high density of pharmacies. Nose sprays and aspirin can also be purchased in grocery stores and gas stations.

Smoking

Smoking is strictly forbidden in restaurants, bars or other public places indoors, and violations might force the establishment to deny you service, or else they'll risk large fines by the county or the police.

Respect

Norwegians are generally sincere and polite, though small talk often doesn't come easy – it's usually up to you to break the ice (sometimes literally). They can be very direct and rarely say please, which can come across as rude, but it's due to the fact that the Norwegian language rarely use the word. They also tend to address people by their first name even in many formal occasions. There is no polite form of talking to members of different "hierarchical" social structures, and even if there are some definite differences in the Norwegian society this is not expressed directly through linguistic intentionality.

Here are some general tips worth remembering as a tourist in Norway, but keep in mind that most Norwegians are very tolerant towards foreigners whose traditions differ from the Norwegian. As a Western tourist in Norway, you shouldn't have too many difficulties, since Norway is quite a cosmopolitan and international country, with a "European way of thinking."

  • Norwegians are often very patriotic, and will often ask your opinion of Norway. It's probably best to be positive, many would be offended if they thought you didn't like their country.
  • Norway is one of the few countries with an active whaling industry, and it may be best to avoid asserting your views on the subject, which may lead to confrontation.
  • If invited into a home, be sure to remove your shoes and hat in the hallway before entering the living area as not doing so is considered very disrespectful, and frequently ruins the floors. Be sure to have socks on hand if it's cold outside. If you're being served food do not start eating until the host has "opened" the meal (saying "vær så god!" [pronounced "ver so goo"]). Coffee is the national drink of choice, expect it black, very strong and drunk by the bucketful.
  • Norwegians are very proud of being "the best winter sport nation in the world", and consider cross-country skiing and biathlon as being equally important to football. Telemark was the birth place of cross country ski.
  • You might find Norway to be expensive, but remember that the average income in Norway is very high, compared to many other countries, thus the high prices. This is because Norway has a universal social health system paid for by very high taxes (42% on up).
  • Talking loudly is generally considered rude. You will notice how most Norwegians tend to keep their voices down in public places.
  • 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.

Contact

Cellphone coverage is universal in urban areas and generally also good in rural Norway, though in occations 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 malls, hotels etc), be prepared to pay for it though.

This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!