All Things Norway Series

All Things Norway Series

Norway – a land of dreams

 

After an epic seven weeks in Norway and a total of five months in Scandinavia during the summer of 2019, we have gathered a whole heap of information and experience. Whilst by no means a ‘completed journey’ as Norway is huge, for sure our massive journey has given us an incredible perspective of this country. From Tromso in the north, through the Lofoten Isles and across 8 of the 18 Most Scenic Routes in Norway like the Trollstigen and Geiranger Passes you will have your senses exercised with a daily workout.

And if Norway is on your Bucket List, then there is some planning to do beforehand. We are not great planners these days. We love to just wing it a lot of the time, although Norway is one country we needed to do a lot of thinking about, preparation and planning. And because of this we felt drawn to write a series of comprehensive blogs that detail our experiences. So many people are worried about the cost, the mileage and what they can do in the short time available. Well we have addressed all of these issues and pulled together the facts, the all-important websites you need and free to download Shopping Lists that will help you stock up on the right items before you come.

So look no further; All you need to get your Norway trip kick started is here. Check out these 3 Comprehensive Guides for:

  • Travel routes to Norway
  • Information on how to make the ferries cheaper
  • Toll Road essentials
  • How to camp when you get there
  • The essentials for driving around Norway
  • How to shop savvy for food, diesel and alcohol
  • A fully interactive map of our route, overnight stop co-ordinates
  • A list of our Wow moments and Trip Highlights

 

With these Guides, you will be informed, prepared and mindful – each with a host of practical tips and direct links to websites for further information relative to your trip parameters. Now your Norway Road Trip can go from dream to reality. Click on the three images below to get access to each of these comprehensive guides. For any more information, do drop us an email by clicking here

 

All Things Travel focuses on everything you need to do BEFORE you leave home. Preparation is the Mother of Skill as they say, and this is so true for a trip to Norway. From planning your route, buying food essentials and Ferry and Toll planning, this blog has essential information for both getting there and getting around with ease on your tyres and on your pocket. 

 

All Things Shopping helps to manage your budget whilst travelling in Norway. For sure it lives up to its reputation on expensive, just read about our ‘beer purchase experience’. Although there are ways to manage on a budget. We have included a FREE to download Pre-departure Shopping List so you load up with only the right essentials and share our Shopping Savvy tips once you are there.   

 

All Things Wow shares our Top 10 sights included in our 2019 tour of Norway. It really does seem crazy to think that there are only 10, although seriously, every day there is a wow to be had, so these our our MEGA wow’s that need to be built into your itinerary if you can.  We have our fully interactive route map included in this blog, which gives you every twist and turn in our route as well as the co-ordinates for our ‘homes’ along the way. 

 

Pin it for later….

Norway – All Things Wow

Norway – All Things Wow

Simon Cowell may well have the X Factor nailed, although Norway seriously wins the Wow Factor. As the sixth largest country in Europe (although technically not in the EU) and the second longest coastline in the world, opportunity for wowing is pretty hot. In this third of our All Things Norway series, we focus our energy on sharing some of the wows we experienced on our seven week tour in 2019.  Come with us as we take you on a sensory journey that will have you reaching for the road-map.

 

Our Interactive Route Map

As we launch into what might be an overwhelming onslaught of oohs and ahhs, we thought we would initiate this blog with our Interactive Route Map. A massive map that shows every little nook and cranny we drove on, the off-the-beaten track routes we followed to avoid the masses and every single wild spot and campsite we stayed on during our seven weeks. Click below for a comprehensive and intimate peak into of every inch of our tour. 

 

I know it seems a bit crazy that in an art gallery as incredible as Norway that we only have 10 Wows. Although when, around every bend, you will have a sharp intake of breath and perhaps even have a leaky eye moment or two, then narrowing it down to 10 feels somehow appropriate. So here they are our best bits:

 

1. Abisko entry to Norway

After nearly five weeks in the sumptuous Sweden, climbing right up through its central spine, we entered into Norway from the Abisko National Park. After Sweden’s forested kingdom, Abisko gave us a gentle introduction to what we were about to experience. Imagine it being like the warm-up routine for a Michael Jackson concert. It’s a tough gig although someone has to do it right? 

After the plentiful border crossings we have navigated since we left England in March 2016, this is by far the most dramatic and stunning drive EVER. With glacial blue waters of the Torneträsk Lake to the magnificent mountains that interlace the valley like a group of giants lining up for a caber tossing competition. If you have the chance to enter Norway at this northern point, we highly  recommend it. 

By taking this route, you also get to experience Narvik’s World War 2 memorials. Just over the border crossing is one of Narvik’s 6 remembrance sites which, if you value enhancing your World War knowledge are worth visiting.  

Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

2. Northern territory – Tromsø

Whilst we decided against going to Norway’s most northerly point at Nordkapp, a personal situation back in England graced us with the opportunity to explore the area around Tromsø. Troms is an area of mountain beauty and coastal brilliance as fjords weave their way up to Norway’s northern most city. This region is fabulous to explore both during the summer and winter. Summer with its Midnight Sun and the winter with its Northern Lights. Mountains still sprinkled with snow as the everlasting days slowly melts the white crystals. Fjords full of dolphins elegantly gliding in its waters and an outdoor playground that gives you a chance to hike, paraglide and cycle to your heart’s content. 

Tromsø is a wonderful city – and despite being compact and bijou, it’s perfect for learning about the world of Artic exploration over the centuries. 

Taking the back roads rather than the arterial E6, you wind your way around endless peninsula that hug the sides of mountains like a limpet. Places to wild camp, with Norway’s Freedom to Roam policy are  limitless, as you see quiet pull-ins for a peaceful night’s sleep. Views to take your breath away and miles of scenery that leaves you speechless. 

​Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

3. Senja – Norway’s second largest island

Now this might sound like a secondary position although when you realise that Norway has 50,000 islands, being the second largest is not to be sneezed at. We knew nothing about Senja and had done absolutely no research. So our virginal eyes just drank in the rugged beauty that this jewel in Norway’s crown had to offer. 

Known as Norway in Miniature, Senja is a complete delight that will have you running out of adjectives. With one of Norway’s 18 Most Scenic Routes  threading itself on the western fringes of the island, this alone is good reason to visit. The Route 87 is a stunning way to take in the joys of Senja as you snake around its pathway, taking in Troll museums, staggeringly beautiful views and Viewing Platforms that leave you standing in awe. Our visit coincided with orchid season; I have never seen so many pink, purple and white blossoms lining the roads like daisies. They grow with the freedom gifted to them by this alpine-like air. Authentic fishing villages survive thanks to their community spirit as they cling to the summer’s abundance before the winter’s harsh conditions arrive. And the Ånderdalen National Park offers trekking in abundance as pathways over the mountain give you mountain goat status. Tramping through the snow-covered glaciers, you can loose yourself in an area that is as close to heaven as it is to the sea and you share it with no-one.

If you asked us to choose between the iconic Lofoten Islands and Senja, we would choose the latter with ease. Senja has all the beauty without the crowds and commerciality. Just natural beauty tucked away in a corner of Norway that is unexposed to tourists. And let’s hope it stays that way. For Senja inspirations just check out this gallery. If you’re not wow’d, then I have failed as a photographer. Check out the gallery below and let me know what you think. 

 

4. Andøya and Puffin Island

As we finally headed our way south, we decided to follow another one of Norway’s Most Scenic routes. Andøya is an odd island compared to it siblings. It has a ridge of mountains and then a plateau of flat land that, in comparison could almost be described, dare I say it as boring! Not a word you might expect to use in the same sentence as Norway, although there we go, I said it! Catching the ferry from Grylleford on Senja, we arrived at this slightly desolate island with doubts. The fishing industry at Andenes has an almost imperial feel to it with its factories waiting to welcome you. Stilted Fishermans’ huts define the town that is like the outback. I expected to see tumbleweed blowing down the deserted yet characterful colonial buildings. The Artic Terns, who have made this rich haven their home, nest in the waste ground opposite and you walk by at your peril. At least wear a hat  if you want to photograph these high pitched screechers. 

Although you come to Andøya for two reasons. One is to travel the 30 mile (51km) Scenic Route that takes you from the barren land of the north, around the mountains to the cloudberry landscape of the south. Passing by the Space Centre from where 1,2000 rockets have been launched for scientific purposes, your interested will be piqued to explore this northern facility that has been involved with NASA missions. 

The second reason is for a 158m tall island called Bleiksøya. This conical shaped isle has surfaced the water’s ceiling from deep beneath the sea on the edge of a sea abyss. This deep trench of water, so close to the land, gives rich pickings for fisherman, nature lovers and wildlife. Each working together to protect this region of abundance. As a result Andøya is THE place to come for Safari’s to get up close and personal to 80,000 puffins, sea eagles and a plethora of whales. For a mere 450NOK you can take a rib out with Sea Safari Andenes and get so close to these amazing birds and watch as the eagles swoop for their next meal. It is one of the most memorable moments of our Norway tour. 

Check out our Safari video footage.

 

5. Lofoten Isles

If researching this iconic destination doesn’t have you reaching for your route planning app, then nothing will. The marketing behind Norway’s quintessential archipelago is pitch perfect. Classic photos and dreamy descriptions will without doubt stir the excitement deep in your belly. And although I am pleased we explored the islands, our seven days was, generally speaking, an underwhelming experience. It is beautiful, with its traditional fishermens’ robus, islands connected by architecturally beautiful bridges that defy gravity and an inspiring palate of fjord colours. Although for us, with its relentless crowds (in July – what were we thinking,) and the commercial hue, coloured our experience. Too many people meant no parking for the iconic walks. Too many vehicles made narrow roads busy and difficult to navigate and an infrastructure, that for campers is solely lacking. We absolutely recommend visiting, although time it carefully to optimise your experience. For your FREE copy of our Lofoten Ebook, just click the image below.  

 

6. Engabreen Glacier – west coast

​We tend not to do too much planning when we go to a place as this just feeds our – or should I say my insatiable greed for experiencing every pin I have saved. So it wasn’t until the last moment  that we decided to take a fellow traveller’s recommendation and drive the Scenic Route Fv17 from Bodø south. Hugging the coast this road is beyond beautiful and armed with your Autopass Ferry Discount card taking the ferries that link the fingers of this rugged fjord designed coastline is an adventure all by itself. In fact so beautiful was it, that we had to turn off the road as we felt emotionally drained by the almost incessant beauty. I know, it’s a pretty good problem to have right? Although we were a bit wowed out at this point. Not before though we had visited Norway’s second largest glacier.  Did you know that Norway has around 1,600 glaciers? So second place, like Senja isn’t a bad position to hold. 

The Engabreen, an arm of Svartisen Glacier is pretty spectacular. In part because it is one of the most easily accessible glaciers in Norway and can be seen from the road. And because it is the lowest lying glacier on the European continent with its close proximity to sea-level. Parking up at the Holand Tourist Information office, a short cycle down hill brings you to a ferry that takes you across the Holandfjord to the low lying shores in front of Engabreen. A walk or cycle then gives you the option of looking lovingly at this frozen beauty from a distance, or parking up your bikes and hiking through the boulder debris. This puts you almost in spitting distance of the icy fingers that are ever inching towards to the sea. This is an incredible experience and highly recommended activity. The ferry is just 200NOK per person (£18 return) and an additional 80NOK (£8) for bicycles. 

Check out our gallery below

 

7. Atlantic Ocean Highway and Bud

I mentioned this route more out of necessity than for desire. We have always been great believers in presenting our travels as they are and not sugar coating our experiences. That does no-one any good. 

So here’s the thing! Myles had wanted to visit the Atlantic Ocean Highway since we decided to hit the road in 2016. So anticipation and expectations were high. Although we are sad to report that like a Tour de France cycle race it was over in a flash. Yet again, we found Norway’s marketing to have excelled itself and we were left seriously wanting. 

After paying the only Toll Booth fee in Norway just outside Kristiansund, we followed the Highway signs  like excited children. And we were soon there. The architectural brilliance of the bridge that writhes like a snake was there. Arching in all its magnificence. We stopped off at a couple of viewing points which allowed us to see the Highway from the northern side although it was not  the drive we anticipated. Just one bridge makes up this experience and we felt sorely let down by the 3 mile iconic drive. No thrill, no awestruck state that we were promised 

So our deflated souls floated further south into the nurturing arms of the gorgeous coastal fishing village of Bud. Now this was a wow. 20 minutes drive away we sought solace from this wonderful place that gave us authentic Norwegian life, WW2 memorials and an archipelago vibe. No disappointment here and without doubt the best bit of this underwhelming scenic highway ‘hot spot.’ Well done Bud, you get our vote. Perversely we are incredibly thankful to the Atlantic Highway, as had we not set our course for this point, we would have missed BUD.  

Check out our gallery below.

 

8. Trollstigen Pass and Geiranger fjord

After disappointment hung around us like a bad smell, we hoped that our sixth Scenic Highway route would restore our faith in Norwegian beauty. Surely the Trollstigen Pass would bring us back home to the thrill and love for travel that we have developed. And we are pleased to say that is it a big fat YES. We were surprisingly nervous about doing the trip – and not because of the road itself as after all we have driven Stelvio in our camper! Our nervousness was born out of our disappointment of the Lofoten Isles the Atlantic Ocean Highway. I am always reminded about the role disappointment has in our happiness and yet we had fallen foul of its destructive ways.

The Trollstigen was a joy. And not just because of its driving challenge. It is so much more than just a road – the whole Route 63 is a driving experience that stretches for 56 miles from Andalsnes to Langvatnet. The route takes you up through the Trollstigen switchbacks, across a ferry and then across to Geiranger, one of the most famous and longest fjord in Norway. The whole stretch is an incredible experience with plenty to see and do along the way.   

The Trollstigen was built in 1936 and has 11 switchbacks, carved up through a collection of mountain giants reaching heights of 1600m. With waterfalls and viewing points, this is just one part of the Trollstigen to Geiranger Scenic Route that will take you on a diverse driving experience over the course of 2 hours. Or, if like us you would prefer to savour both experiences with an overnight stay, then why not wild camp at a whole host of areas, sheltered by the shadows of the mountains.

The viewing platforms that overhang the valley are a must to breathe in the full perspective of this road as you see it snake up through the granite giants. Test your nerve as you look out with only fresh air beneath your feet. And then repeat the journey as you head towards Geiranger after the short ferry ride that transports you to part two of your road-trip.  A further 11 switchbacks that take you down to one of the most visited places in Norway – certainly by cruise liners. Your vehicle will complain – not in voice, although in smell. That tell-tale sign of overworked brakes will remind you that a steady pace and a cautious drive will reward you with the best experience. As you see the cruise ships in the harbour, you realise you have arrived at an iconic destination. Resisting a stop to admire the view is futile. Head for the Norsk Fjordsenter where you can climb down alongside the Storefossen and be enveloped in the thundering sound of the crashing waterfall as it makes its rendezvous with the fjord.  Salt meets snow-melt. A truly magnificent combination where Mother Nature’s forces collide in some gentle yet poignant battle. 

The views further up as you climb like a rollercoaster ride are just amazing. More snaking roads that constantly give you sneaky peaks over the fjord way below you. And the upside is that fewer tourists drive this section of the road, so your course is easier than the caravan of coaches on the northern side.  Your final destination will be at the junction with Route 15 at Langvatnet.  You will breathe a sigh, not out of relief that you made it; a sigh of complete satisfaction. A road that is a challenge for sure, although very, very doable. Having driven the Transfagarasan and Transalpin in Romania and Italy’s Stelvio Pass, we have to say that Norway’s Route 63 was much easier and far less challenging. So you have to put this on your Norway Road-trip list. And is definitely on our Wow List.

 

9. Gamle Strynefjellsvegen route 258 

I love looking a maps and searching out the off the beaten track routes. And after a restful night’s sleep and en route to rendezvous with friends, I navigated us on a back road that avoided the main road – as is my want. Little did I realised that this was yet another of Norway’s Most Scenic Routes – the Old Strynefjellsvegen.

Now this road comes with its own challenges as 75% is not tarmac, although we have driven worse major roads in Italy, if we’re honest. There is no driving fast on this road – not just because you can’t, more importantly because you won’t want to. For me this was THE most spectacular road we drove in Norway. It was like being in a completely different Universe. 

Trying to find the right words to describe this land is really tough. Again despite the weather, which was dull and overcast, this road was actually enhanced by the conditions. The grey mountains sombre in their majesty whilst the unbelievably ice-blue waters were set off against the shadows making this road all the more dramatic. It’s the same blue that we saw when we visited the Ice Hotel in Sweden. Almost from another world and a colour that seems almost impossible to create on an artist’s palette.

And then there was the rainbow. Oh wow this was just so magical. I was stunned into silence and that takes a lot. This road, in all its rawness and simplicity was beyond beautiful, for me. It had a ‘The world that time forgot’ feel to it and I half expected to see dinosaurs roaming the glaciers it was that primal. We saw no more than half a dozen vehicles on this road and I would definitely come back here to wild camp – as it was out of this world for sure. 

Check out our gallery below

 

10. Sognefjord Glacier – Jostedalsbreen National Park

Our final wow for this 2019 trip is the drive up to Sognefjord Glacier. The largest of all the ice maidens in Norway.

Although before we talk about that, let me tempt you with the approach road to Sognefjord, which is magnificent in itself. The 724 Route up through the Oldevatnet valley to Briksdalen, with iconic and moody mountain views will take your breath away. Although this no-through road is a little narrow, there are passing places as you navigate the plethora of coaches that bomb up and down this idyllic valley.

And as you hug the edge of the fjord, with its crystal clear waters, the sight ahead is captivating. The sharp lines of the mountain edges pierce the sky whilst it cradles the blue-white glacier which draws you towards it as if on autopilot. 

There’s both a campsite at Briksdalen and plenty of parking areas for day visitors. At 250NOK per night for a camper plus two people (which equates to around £26), you have unbridled access to this giant of all glaciers. There’s a fabulous walk for about 1.5 miles which whilst marginally uphill, can be mastered thanks to the tourist tram. If walking isn’t great for you or you have a disability, then for a mere 230NOK (£20) return or 115NOK one way (£11) the Troll’s Tram takes your weary bones closer to the glacier viewing point so that you too can enjoy its glacial glory. Otherwise the walk is a sensory delight. First up you have the Kleivafossen waterfall, which full of glacial melt thunders over the edge releasing 100 litres of water per second. Can you imagine the sound? It’s so loud you can not talk nor hear your heart beat. And whether it is a rainy day or sunny, it matters not a jot, as you will get wet as the spray from this thunderous beast unleashes its full power to the rocks below. It’s Norway’s version of Niagra Falls and you can stand right in front of it and get a free and pure shower. 

The glacier, some 10 minutes on, is not quite touchable, although certainly is spitting distance. And if you listen clearly, perhaps you can hear the sound as it creaks and groans with its miniscule movement. It’s a magnificent moment that somehow is difficult to capture in words alone and is a place that I could have stayed for hours just sat quietly in the heart of Mother Nature’s storybook and art gallery. This is most definitely a Norway WOW factor and must go on your list to visit.

 

Practical Tips for Norway Exploration

Before we leave you, I feel it is important to share our tips for making Norway a memorable experience, for all the right reasons. With its distance and expense many people are put off venturing to this northern land, although with the right strategy, it is more than doable. 

  1. As you plan for your trip, be clear what time you have available and what is achievable. If you only have a short time for your visit, then stick to the southern and central regions. The distances, both to get to and around Norway are vast and so being realistic is important.
  2. Access to Norway depends a great deal on the time you have. If you have an unlimited length of time, then accessing the northern regions is well worth the travel time, entering at Abisko. If time is limited then a ferry from Denmark makes Norway more accessible. For more information on routes to Norway check out our comprehensive All Things Travel blog here.
  3. Ferries are a major lifeline for Norway and avoiding them is futile. So you will need to consider an Autopass Ferry Discount Card. This will save you up to 50% on your ferries which is not to be sneezed at.
  4. Toll roads are everywhere and the system is quite complicated as each toll road is owned by a different company. There is only one Toll Booth, the rest are payable electronically. So you will need to register with EPC or Autopass who collect the toll fees. Registration is easy, although your notification for payment will take approximately 2 months to come through, so don’t be alarmed.
  5. Think carefully about the time of year you visit. Norway has a short summer season from June to September. Whilst it does offer you long days and the Midnight sun up above the Artic Circle, it is the major tourist season. From the beginning of July for six weeks, the local schools are on holiday so beware of the crowds at tourist hotspots.
  6. Any time from September to May the weather will be unpredictable – and we’re talking snow here. In 2019 the weather closed in early with snow in many areas mid September. So if you are travelling with your camper/RV or a car, it will need to have winter tyres, snow chains or snow socks.
  7. Norway’s summers are an interesting beast. Whilst it has been known to have heatwaves like in 2018, the weather patterns are generally not quite so hot and sunny. It can be cold, murky and inclement although if you get clear days, the scenery is absolutely magnificent. So come with the right mindset – this is not a beach-hot destination.
  8. Norway has a reputation for being expensive. Our experience was a pleasant surprise. Whilst certainly one of the most expensive countries we have been to, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. And there are ways around food expenses – check out our All things Shopping blog here where we share some tip shopping tips to keep your bills low.
  9. If travelling by camper and you want to bring some supplies with you (especially alcohol) be careful about Customs checks on the southern borders and ferry ports from Denmark. They are known to strip search incoming vans. So either ration your drinking to the EU Duty Free limits, take the Sweden route at Svinesundbrua or pay Norway’s extortionate prices. 

 

From its northern territories to the heart of the central glacier giants, Norway will tease you like a tantalising temptress and will leave you wanting more. And more we shall demand, on another spellbinding trip in the next five years. Until then, we leave you with the images and story that makes Norway such a unique European experience, filling you with an expectation of a sensory explosion should you make your way to this magnificent land.

 

Pin it for later…

 

Our two other blogs in the All Things Norway Series

Norway – All Things Shopping

Norway – All Things Shopping

Norway – It’s so expensive!

So many people tell us that they are worried about travelling to Norway because of the prices; of food, tolls, ferries, alcohol – the list goes on. And then there’s the journey to consider and the miles you need to travel to get there and getting around this vast country. In our All Things Norway blog trilogy, we hope to allay some of those fears and share how we managed to tour Norway for 7 weeks effortlessly, finding ways to manage our budget, shop savvy and not blow the bank! 

Our first in the series All Things Norway, we focused on the travel elements of getting to and moving around Norway with ease using their ferries, tolls and motorway network. In this second blog we provide you with a guide on all things shopping; offering practical advice on Stocking Up strategies, Top tips on How to shop Savvy and offer you a downloadable PDF document of all the food we bought whilst we were in Norway so you have a clear idea on our costs… and much much more. For simplicity, we have built a Table of Contents so you can skip around the blog at your leisure and all links are highlighted in red.  So let’s get into the nitty gritty. 

Currency

The first few things to say about your shopping experience in Norway is to be prepared for a cashless society.  In fact Scandinavia as a whole prefer payment by cards than cash. So we don’t recommend you bring much with you. Obviously it depends on the length of time you are here, although we had £100 worth of Norwegian Krone (NOK) and rarely had the need to dip into our stash.

The only time we required some loose change was for washing machines and a couple of Marina style Aires where you place your money in an honesty box. Otherwise we used our card everywhere, even for the smallest amount. 

We used a free to download app from xe.com to do our Norway Krone conversion, although we got used to doing the sums in our head once we had the formula. Obviously the rate may differ when you go, although we worked on the basis of moving the decimal place one point to the left and shaving a bit off.  Not very sophisticated although it gave us a good enough picture.

Shopping for Food

Of course, for most of us, thinking about this Norwegian beauty, food is high on the agenda, as reports come back about the extortionate cost of living.  And it is undoubtedly more costly, although not quite as bad as we thought. We were glad to have done some stocking up, although it wasn’t quite as necessary as we feared. Here’s our Shopping for Food experiences – with no holds barred. 

Stocking up before you arrive

Everyone does it. Everyone recommends you do it! We’ve read reports from others about how they carried huge amounts of tins and stock items to make sure they didn’t go hungry. And of course, without the benefit of hindsight  – we too did the same. 

Whilst back in UK for our MOT I felt like a woman possessed; writing lists of what to buy and what I could cook without having to go near a Norwegian supermarket. It must have looked as if I was planning an expedition to the North Pole. Every time I visited Tescos (other supermarkets are available) I would stock up on just a few more things. And if we’re honest our shopping frenzy began when we left Spain in March as we grabbed the all essential boxes of wine and bottles of Soberano. 

With a box, no wait – it was more like a crate of goodies in the garage, our cupboards bulging and the freezer rammed, and I really do mean rammed, we can honestly look back and giggle at our shopping exploits.  And perish the thought that we should touch that precious frozen treasure before we reached Norway. Bless him, Myles didn’t even have room for ice!  I even decided to master bread baking; coming prepared with yeast, bread flour and a great home-made recipe. What was I thinking! I even remember saying on the last packet of divine Cheesy Doodles from Sweden, ‘That’s it, no more snacks until we leave Norway.’  Our Norwegian philosophy was, we’ll dry out and loose weight because our eating and drinking habits would surely have to change!  

There seemed to be a never ending ‘just one last shop’ as we passed Intermarché in France, Lidl in Germany and even Rema 1000 in Kiruna, northern Sweden. I’m sure if someone was looking down us they must have thought us mad! Although in our defence – the prices man! Surely they were going to break us.

Well I am pleased to say that we neither lost weight nor dried out because it wasn’t anywhere near as costly as we thought it would be. Our End of the World stock piling was not necessary.  Norway can be mastered, enjoyed and survived without the need to buy up supermarket shelves of supplies. I say this out of experience and the examination of all the food we had left over. There’s at least five main meals I had planned for, that are, as we sit in Czechia, still lurking in my cupboards. And whilst we can use these items up another time as they’re not perishable, my Stocking Up Strategy was way off course!

So here are my Top 20 essentials to buy before you leave home either because they are hard to get or because they are expensive. Of course the caveat here is that these are food items that we used a lot in our cooking so they may not appeal to your tastes and of course it also depends how long you are visiting for. For recipes for cooking whilst on the road check out our free to download Camping Cuisine Cookbook.  Our larder items listed in here are the basis for my pre-Norway stock-piling!

 

Top 20 List of Pre-Norway Food Essentials

  1. Your favourite herbs – just because of the  translation. 
  2. Salad cream – difficult to find this.
  3. Wine, beer and Sprits.
  4. Meats if you are a meat lover – we brought lamb mince as this is notoriously hard to get throughout Europe. We also brought chicken livers for pâté and risotto, and chicken breasts as they are VERY expensive in Norway. Also we piled up on bacon and sausages.
  5. Pistachios (they’re hard to get in Norway).
  6. Honey and sugar – this they are a lot more expensive.
  7. Butter – definitely cheaper at home.
  8. Coffee and tea bags.
  9. Cartons of legumes & pulses (they are light and easy to store) and bulk out meals nicely.
  10. Tomato/Brown sauce and Mayonnaise.
  11. Dried sachets of coconut milk (easier to store)
  12. Tubes of pureed condiments such as ginger, lemongrass, chilli
  13. Tuna/pilchards/sardines – make great lunches.
  14. Emergency, long-life milk.
  15. Condiments such as Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Sweet Chilli Sauce and Hoi Sin.
  16. Tins of vegetables as emergencies because fresh veg are more expensive.
  17. Flour/Cornflour.
  18. Risotto rice/Basmati.
  19. English Mustard/Worcester sauce/Bovril/Marmite – definitely couldn’t find Bovril anywhere!
  20. Cheese. Hard cheese is particularly difficult to get, although you can buy grated packets.

 

The bottom line is though, don’t panic – you don’t need to bring as much as you think. Norway’s supermarkets are without doubt more expensive, although think Waitrose rather than Lidl prices. We were pleasantly surprised about how shopping in Norway did not break the bank and we had loads of supplies left over. So don’t weight down your van with unnecessaries. To give you more confidence, read on as I give you a summary of our shopping list sharing all the things we actually bought whilst we were there, so you can see for yourself.

Supermarkets in Norway

So after my obsessive stock piling behaviour, our first flirtation with Norway’s supermarkets was in a small village on Norway’s second largest island, Senja. We came out armed with 6 items £30 lighter, still in shock at the experience we’d just had. Blimey that was a sting in our pocket. So glad I stocked up! 

And yet, of course prices are always going to be more expensive in off-the-beaten-track places. It’s no different in UK or, come to think of it, the rest of Europe. So this was pretty much a one-off experience – thank goodness – until Myles bought beer. I’ll tell you about that cock up in a bit.  

Another Norway surprise was the range of items that you could buy from their supermarkets. Norway’s shops have an outstanding range of foods, unlike many of its European cousins. Chinese, Indian, Mexican – you name it, they had it. So this is why we recommend not bringing too much with you.  

Here’s a list of the shops we found most often and our experiences when shopping here. Bear in mind there is no Lidl or Aldi here.

Rema 1000 – is classed as a discount store, although we found it much more expensive in comparison to others. They have a Discount Scheme which you can apply for via an app. You then show a code from your phone when you shop there. The man on the kiosk did, however, scan a card for me so that the discount could apply. And after finding EuroSpar, we didn’t ever return to Rema. 

EuroSpar – Totally my favourite shop.  My favourite because it had plenty of discounts, every week and a brand called First Price – more on that in a moment. This was bar far our most cost-effective shopping experience. 

Kiwi – we had been told that this was the best and cheapest supermarket to visit, although testing the theory out, we have to say that it was no cheaper, in our opinion than Eurospar.

Joker – this is a small convenience store that you would visit if you were desperate for something and miles away from a big town. Which can often happen as you are travelling through Norway’s fjords. We didn’t go in one, so can’t comment on their prices.

BunnPris – this was a medium priced store as is Coop Prix.

 

Shopping Savvy

On a day to day basis Norway’s shops have everything you need. Whilst Norway is a Waitrose-type of shopping experience, there are deals to be had. I became really good at hunting out good prices and saving some serious pennies. These are my Top 10 Tips.

 

Top Top 10 Tips for being a Savvy Shopping

  1. EuroSpar is our top supermarket recommendation for all round value for money and super discounts. 
  1. Look out for the phrase TILBUD, which means offers. We found lots of offers on meat. So we were able to buy chicken mince and thighs for £2.99. Also vegetables were often on special deals. We bought cauliflower and broccoli for £1 during the entire length of our stay. 
  1. When you see meat discounts, bulk buy and freeze if you are able to. Although this does come with a warning. In Sweden mostly, although we also had the problem in Norway, chicken does seem to go off very quickly, even when frozen and well within date. So be mindful of this. 
  1. Always look for the FIRST PRICE brand. EuroSpar was excellent at stocking these although many of the Coop and Kiwi stores had them too.  First Price is the equivalent of Tescos Value and offer food at low prices and have loads of £1 deals. I managed to buy chocolate (which is also generally expensive) on a special deal of £1. 
  1. Fish was surprisingly good value, relatively speaking. I bought Mackerel fillets for £1 every time I shopped. I added mayonnaise or creme fraiche with horseradish for a really quick smoked mackerel pate.  Also a tub of prawns, if they are your thing, were no more expensive than the UK at £4.99, so they were a bit of a treat.
  1. Bread is expensive and white particularly difficult to buy for some reason. Although if you shop early, First Price did a whole, uncut white loaf for 80p. You then use the automated slicing machine and hey presto you have yourself some white bread. 
  1. Cornflakes are only £1 if you get the First Price brand. Milk isn’t overly expensive, so breakfasts are covered. Make sure you buy MELK – it comes in a pink carton – be careful you don’t end up with fermented yoghurt instead.  
  1. Vegetables and fruit are definitely more expensive, although when there’s a fruit or veg in season, they offer it at a special price. So I was regularly able to get a punnet of nectarines for £2.99, cauliflower and broccoli for £1. So that pleased the nutritionalist in me. Otherwise when vegetables were scarce, then I used my selection of tinned veg. Not as good of course although my philosophy is ‘Better than…’ Also after arriving in Norway, we were finally able to start eating our frozen supplies which made room to buy frozen peas. 
  1. If you, like me, need a herbal remedy or organic shop then, although not cheap, you can find Health Food Shops in the Shopping Malls in larger towns. 
  1. If you choose to shop in Rema 1000, then download their app for discounts when in store.

The Motoroamers’ Food Shopping Prices

We took the opportunity to record our shopping lists and expenses so you can see a real time summary of certain foods that we purchased during our 7 weeks and how much each item cost us. We have created this as a PDF document that you can download as your personal copy. Click the button below. 

 

 

Going Out

You can  safely assume that given the general cost of living in Norway that eating out brings the same price tag.  And it is true for us across Scandinavia as a whole, that whilst we may well have been able to shop savvy, going out for meals meant there was no avoiding the cost. And as a result we didn’t do it often. In fact during the whole four months we had four ‘out’ moments. A couple were just simple lunches, a round of beers in Tromsø and a very super Fish and Chip meal from Kristiansund for £24.

Otherwise we decided that to eat out, on what would be likely London prices, was beyond our budget. We enjoy cooking our own food, so going out didn’t really feel necessary. If you do enter into restaurants, check your prices before you go using an app like xe.com, avoid cities where prices are always inflated or simply keep it to a lunch. This way you avoid breaking the bank and getting stung with high prices. 

 

Norway’s Alcohol 

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. Norway’s booze is outrageously expensive. And whilst supermarkets will stock low percent beers – spirits and strong beers above 4.75% can only be purchased in separate Government run stores called Vinmonopolet.  You can buy these low percentage supermarket beers until 8pm on weekdays and 6pm on Saturday.

And let me tell you, we talk from experience. I made the mistake of letting Myles come in shopping with me, because he wanted some beers. To quote Julia Roberts from the film Pretty Woman “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”

Unlike me, who takes time to look at prices and buy good value, Myles was just focused on ‘I want beer!’ And he got it – for the princely sum of £60! Perhaps that doesn’t sound too bad – although when I then add that this was only for 16 cans of sub-standard strength larger, then you’ll understand my shock.  Needless to say, he never came shopping with me again! 

Alcohol is heavily taxed and is part of Norway’s attempt to curb a drinking culture and alcoholism, although according to locals, it’s not working. A contentious subject obviously. 

So if you like a drink, then you need to bring supplies with you.  Although as a word of caution, if you sail into Norway in your motorhome from Denmark, then we hear it on good authority that Customs are hot on searching.  It has been described to me as ‘strip-searching’ motorhomes, looking for excessive stores of booze that exceed the Duty Free allowance. So be warned.  

We entered in the north of the country where there were no border checks. Although I suspect with a large majority of visitors entering into Kristiansand, Bergen, Larvik and Stavanger, they concentrate their efforts here. 

Buying Diesel/LPG 

As we mentioned in the first of our All Things Norway series, there is a definite strategy when it comes to diesel buying. Interestingly we found the cost cheaper than in Sweden, which really surprised us.

Our Top Tips for Diesel buying are:

  • Shop on a Sunday when prices are much cheaper.
  • Buy when you see diesel cheap (anything below 14.00NOK), as within an hour it can rise in price.
  • Don’t be alarmed if you see a greater price on your credit card bill than your receipt. This is a holding amount taken by most stations in Scandinavia, which once the amount is no longer pending, a refund of the remaining amount is given to you. 
  • Most stations are self-service
  • LPG is not sold in garages. They are at separate units in industrial areas of large towns. Use mylpg.eu to check locations.
  • Buy LPG before you need it as although there are frequent stations, the miles to travel to them are often deceptively long. 

Entrance Frees and Attractions 

So much of what makes Norway unique is the ‘outdoors’ and is therefore free. So going into museums, unless this is, of course your thing, isn’t totally necessary to your cultural experience. I recognise that I offer this statement as non-museum fans although we have been known to nip into the odd one along the way if it is value for money. 

Although one of the great things about Norway is that most of the car parks were free. So visiting the sights, for example on the Trollstiegen Pass and Geiranger were all free. Visiting the outdoor WW2 museum at Bud on the west coast, free. Driving the 18 Scenic roads, free bar one – The Atlantic Coastal Way has a toll fee payable.  

That said there are some activities that are worthy of your pennies, depending on what you love. For me I love wildlife so I did indulge in one Sea Safari, which was a real highlight for me. Here’s a list of other things we did. 

  • Sea Safaris to see Puffins, Whales and Sea Eagles is a popular trip from many spots around the northern coast particularly. We had a Rib trip for an evening of puffin watching on the island of Andoya. It is the biggest colony of puffins in the whole of Europe and it was worth every single penny of our 495NOK per person. It was a bucket list for me so up there in terms of value. For more information, you can click here.
  • Svartisen Glacier Hikes. Along the Scenic Route Fv17 is Norway’s second largest glacier, Svartisan. An arm of this magnificent glacier is Engabreen and of Norway’s 2,500 glaciers, is one of the most accessible. It can also be seen from the road and is one of the best examples of a glacier almost reaching the sea in northern Europe.  There are a couple of hiking options all of which requires a short ferry boat across Holandsfjorden. This cost us 200NOK per person return for the 15 minute journey. You can hire bicycles for 80NOK for 3 hours or take your own on the ferry for no additional cost. You can access the glacier from end of May to end of September.  
  • Hiking Norway’s largest glacier Jostedal  – You can hike up close to the glacier directly from the campsite, which costs 250NOK per night. Alternatively you can take the tourist train up the mountain, which costs 115NOK one way and 230NOK return per adult.

So as you can see by their absence, entrance fees do not need to be a major spending concern because so much of your Norwegian experience will be enjoying the outdoors and this is totally free to man and beast.

 

Campsites and Services 

With Norway’s Freedom to Roam policy camping in the most magnificent of places is just so easy. Waking to the sound of the fjord lapping against the shore and pods of dolphins gently gliding through the water. It’s quite a magical experience. 

Although not everyone likes wild camping, as they prefer the security and facilities that campsites offer. We didn’t use many campsites in our 7 weeks, in fact just three. Partly to do washing and meet up with some friends. Although in terms of costs, we travelled in July and August and given it was high season, we spent an average of 250NOK per night excluding electricity,  which we didn’t think was too bad. Our campsite in Tromsø was 400NOK including electricity, so a bit more like the prices of other UK and  European sites at this time of year, although we stayed out of necessity rather than choice.

We didn’t find that many campsites along our journey so I think some planning and plotting might be appropriate. Especially on the Lofoten Islands we found ‘sites’ really needed to be put in inverted commas. They tended to be parcels of land that some entrepreneur had decided to open up to campervans and tents and charge 250NOK for the privilege with portaloo facilities.  If you would like more information on the Lofoten Islands for free, click here. 

 

DIY Emergencies 

Whilst we hope it doesn’t happen, life on the road can mean technical issues. So rest assured if you have the need for anything for your vehicle, then help is at hand with BILTEMA. This is a fabulous DIY shop that sells everything that you can imagine. Everything household, vehicle and bicycle – you name it, they will have it! Oh except Bicycle Rack covers. Ours is still hanging on by a thread. 

 

Total Costs 

So to be complete, it feels important to share our total spend during our 7 weeks in Norway. So combining all our expenses here are our figures, based on an exchange rate of £1 = 11.34NOK.

Spending Price in £ Comments
 Food £620 This doesn’t include items from my ‘stock piling’, purchased during regular weekly shops. Gestimate an additional £200.
Diesel £518 This is based on covering approximately 3,000 miles from our entry at Abisko to our exit at Seläter.
LPG  £82  
Ferries £409 Based on 8 ferries taken, 6 of which were discounted by 50% with our Autopass Discount Card.
Tolls £88 We have yet to receive any bills from EPC, so this is based on my own notes
Campsites and laundry £140 5 nights at £26
Activities/Entertainment £94.00 Puffin Safari, car parks and entrance fees
Eating Out/Beers £35.00 Fish and Chips and Beers in Tromso

Total Spend      £1,984

 

Conclusions 

So ladies and gents – there we have it. All things Shopping. We hope that this transparent review of the money we spent and, more importantly, how we managed to shop savvy will help you manage your trip to Norway

We were pleasantly surprised by Norway’s cost of living and whilst it was definitely one of the more expensive countries we’ve visited, in retrospect I think France, Switzerland and Italy are nipping at Norway’s heels. We wouldn’t hesitate returning knowing how manageable spending can be.

If this blog raises any unanswered questions on the spending front, then do get in touch. For example all things ferries, tolls and routes are presented in our All things Travel blog, which you can read here.  Our next blog in the series is focused on our highlights, our route map and things to see whilst travelling this extraordinary country.

 

Pin it to save for later

Other posts from the All Things Norway series

Norway – All things Travel

Norway – All things Travel

Norway – the geological genius that mesmerises

you around every corner

I can imagine that Norway has always been on your list and stories of the awe-inspiring scenery has you reaching for your map. And then the enormity of this Nordic northern land hits you firmly between the eyes, as you see its scope on the atlas in front of you.  Now questions tumble through your mind about the journey to reach this iconic destination and how to get around this land of deep fjords and 3D mountains. Uncertainty and doubt may cloud your enthusiasm as the shadow of fear creeps across your excitement. What if there was a place where you could get all the knowledge you needed to feel informed and confident about your adventures north?

Look no further – this series of blogs aims to demystify the plethora of information ‘out there’ in Google-land about getting to and moving around Norway. So sit back and feel the relaxation wash over you as you find your confidence for your impending trip. Our passion is helping you make that Norway trip a reality.

In this blog, we focus on All things Travel.  We start with all the things you need to do before you leave home. Then factoring in things to do en route to Norway. And finally how to enjoy navigating around Norway using its ferry system, the road network, tunnels and tolls and overnight parking. For ease of planning, we have included relevant and helpful links in the text, which are highlighted in red and underlined. If you click on these, they will take you straight to that link in a new page where you can save it as part of your research. 

As this is such a mega blog with a stack of information, we have popped a Table of Contents below so you can jump around the post with ease. We hope this might help you navigate through the information.  So if you’re ready – here we go.

 

Part 1 – Before leaving home! Your checklist

  • Assess the time you have available for your trip
  • Plan your entry into Norway accordingly 
  • Register for your Autopass Ferry Discount Card
  • Sort out your EPC registration – Euro Parking Collection
  • Think about your Currency and Prepaid Cash Cards
  • What to do if your vehicle is over 3.5T

 

Assess the time you have available for your trip 

We support the notion that you must, ‘Travel when you can, as far as you can and for as long as you can’. Not everyone has the luxury, as we do of being full-time – we acknowledge that. Although having had 7 weeks touring Norway, we have come to respect its vastness. Whilst it may seem like a great idea to pop to Norway for a couple of weeks, if you are coming from the UK, then it is worth just doing a reality check.

You need to allow between four-five days to get to Norway, with your starting point at Calais; and that’s driving at least four hours per day, without any sightseeing. 

Norway is long and thin. Whilst there is the E6, which is the main arterial route that goes from Trelleborg in the south of Sweden all the way to Kirkenes on the Russian border in the north, it’s a whopping 1,950 miles (3,140km). And it takes 40-50 hours to drive. That will give you a sense of Norway’s enormity. And when you deviate off piste to where, let’s face it all the best scenery hides, then you need to build in fjords, mountain passes, windy roads and ferries. There is no going anywhere fast in Norway because why do Norway fast when there is so much beauty to breath in? 

We do implore you to be wise with your time and plan realistically for your trip. Take into account travel time to and from Norway. And then look sensibly and what you can achieve with the remaining time you have. Don’t overstretch yourselves and, if necessary stay south. Travelling is tiring and say that from experience. Whilst four hours on the road may sound achievable, when translated into travelling in Norway, you can expect 4 hours to be more like 6. Add the concentration factor required for mountain driving and it makes for a completely different travel strategy. 

We say this, not out of any sense of fear. We just want to help you plan realistically so that you get the best out of your Scandinavian experience.

 

 

Plan your entry into Norway accordingly 

We will, for the purposes of this blog, assume that you are travelling to Norway in your camper or motorhome. From this point we can now look at the main entry points into Norway. This will allow you to judge the best route given the available time.

There are four main entry points;

Via ferry from Denmark to south Norway or Sweden
– Via ferry from northern Germany to Denmark/Sweden
Via road, crossing Denmark’s Øresund Bridge into Sweden, entering Norway just north of Strömstad
– (And for completeness we need to mention the route through the north of Finland and Sweden)

 

Denmark options

1. Hirtshals is the most popular route for easy and direct access into Norway. Served by 10 daily sailings to a range of destinations that include Bergen, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Langesund & Larvik. The ferry durations range from 2.5hrs for Kristiansand to 16hrs to Bergen. Prices will obviously depend upon the season you travel and the length of your vehicle. For more information check here.

The advantage of the Hirtshals route is that it gives you direct access to southern Norway and the option of entering at one port and returning from another to give you a circular route. You also have the opportunity of seeing Denmark, which is well worth exploring, if you can build in the time. For more information on Denmark check our blog here.

2. There are other routes to Sweden you could consider, which include Frederickshavn to Gothenburg, Grenaa to Varberg or Helsingør to Helsingborg. The latter is the quickest way to cross the water, taking just 20 minutes. For information on this route check here.

 

Germany option

Again assuming we’re focusing on a UK starting point; then you could sail from Travemund to Malmö or Trelleborg in Sweden. Or from Rostock to either Trelleborg or Gedser in Denmark. The latter means you avoid one of the two Danish bridges (Storbælt). Although you will still need to cross the Øresund Bridge to get into Sweden. Rostock offers up to 18 daily sailings with durations from 1.45hrs – Gedser to 6hrs – Trelleborg.   For more information check here.

 

Øresund Bridge route

If ferries aren’t your thing and you would prefer to drive and take in the sights of Sweden’s west coast, then crossing the Øresund Bridge is your option. From mainland Denmark, you travel to Odense via Middelfart. I mention this partly because I just like saying the word, (with a childish titter) and also because it has one of Denmark’s only LPG stations. (55.492748 9.759738). It’s like gold-dust, so get some! 

Considerations when taking this route is that there are two bridges to cross. The Storebælt and the Øresund, both of which are chargeable. The Storebælt is a beautiful 11 mile (18km) structure that is payable at a Toll Booth. You can pay by cash, Euros, Krone or credit card. Prices are based on the length and height of your vehicle. Based on 2019 prices for a camper/motorhome over 6m long and max 3.5T it will cost €52; €85 if you are under 10m and over 3.5T. Make sure you take your registration paperwork in case of any dispute about charges based on your length. (Remember you must include any trailers or bicycle racks in your total length).  

 The Øresund Bridge is a magnificent piece of engineering and it was on Myles’ Wish List after seeing it from a plane many years ago. It’s a road and rail route to Sweden and is just under 10 miles (16km) long including the  tunnel. It’s quite a sight. This is another toll bridge and if you plan on returning from your Norway trip this way, then it is worth buying a Bropas. It’s an annual pass that costs around £37 to register, although it will save you 50% on each of your crossings. Given the fee to cross is €124 (summer price – out of season is slightly cheaper) then if you come back this way, the Bropas is worth having. If you are unsure about your route home, then we would recommend simply paying the one-way fee although if you do it ON-LINE at least one hour before you cross, this will save you 10%. Here’s the link. The purchase is valid for up to 30 days should your plans change. 

Once in Sweden then it is very easy to pick up the E6 from Malmö and blast up to the Norway border just north of Strömstad. This will take you a minimum of 5 hours from tip to toe. So if you can, we would highly recommend taking the scenic route and extend your stay by 2-3 days. Experiencing the beautiful west coast of Sweden is a must in our book. The Bohulsän region is incredible with archipelago stretching from Gothenburg to the Kosterhavnet National Park on the  Norwegian border. We adored our time here and the ferries are FREE. Wild camping in Sweden is so easy and although there are some restrictions in this National Park area, we found places to stop without any issues. 

 

 

Register for your Autopass Ferry Discount Card  

This is a critical action point to tick off your list before you leave home. This is a new scheme for 2019, so this is brand new information that will save you HUGE pennies on your Nordic budget. And I mean HUGE – up to 50% discount.

Norway’s lifeline is its ferries. Without them life would become very congested and difficult. So using the ferry system will  be very much part of your Norway travel strategy. So here are some important steps that we highly recommend to getting registered with your Discount Card. 

The essence of this card is that you;

  1. Log on to the Autopass website and register with your home address and vehicle licence plate. Autopass then send you a confirmation email within a couple of days giving you an IBAN and Swift number. This is for you to send a deposit amount to your account to pay for the ferries.

     

  2. Then you arrange an international transfer of 3,500NOK (£325.00) to your Autopass account. We did this through our online banking with Barclays. There will be a small cost to do this based on your bank’s International Transfer arrangement.  Within 3-4 working days you are then able to access your Autopass account and see your deposit funds. They will take 27NOK for the printing and sending of the plastic card.

     

  3. Once funds have been received they then send your card to your home address within 7-10 days. This little golden nugget then needs to be shown when you arrive at the ferry ports in Norway. The ticket man swipes your card and payment is taken like a credit card. No cash is needed. It’s as simple as that. You can check your accounts for the bills that appear within a week or so of your first ferry.

     

  4. At the end of your trip, you simply log into your account and terminate the card and all money remaining is refunded back to your nominated bank account within 30 days. This is the bit we are still waiting for.

 

It’s worth mentioning that we did come across one problem where our card wasn’t recognised and we had to pay by credit card. We advised Autopass of this and they asked for a photo of the receipt and they agreed to refund us the 50% discount we should have received. We were very impressed with this system and the savings were well worth the effort.

Sort out your EPC Toll Account – Euro Parking Collection 

Another cost to plan for, before you leave home, is Norway’s tolls. Roads, some tunnels and a few bridges have automated tolls and whilst they’re not expensive you are required to pay them as a visiting foreign vehicle.  

Every toll, bar one is operated by Vehicle License Recognition. So cameras pick up your licence and EPC, on behalf of Norway’s road system, will invoice you through information registered with the DVLA. Whilst registration with EPC isn’t obligatory, it’s worth doing so that you can access your accounts and manage the bills. You can also assign a credit card to your account so that automatic payment is taken. Otherwise invoices will be sent to either your home address or you can nominate an email address to get them sent directly to you.

A word of caution. It takes forever for the bills to come through. As I write this, we have not yet received any invoices, eight weeks after first crossing into Norway. We travelled through Norway from 1st July to 23rd August and believe our first toll was on 3rd July. So our suggestion is to write down the tolls you pass through – the costs are clearly indicated on the road signs, so that you can check the bills when they eventually come through.

You can find out more and arrange registration with EPC by clicking this link Euro Parking Collection. It’s worth doing so that your passage through Norway is automated and simple. 

The only toll that you pay at a Toll Booth is on entering the Atlantic Highway Route 64 at Kristiansund on the west coast.  

 

Think about your Currency and Pre-paid Cash Card

Norway, and in fact Denmark and Sweden all have their own currency. Whilst there are some places that accept Euros, these are generally few and far between – and only in very touristy areas. So make sure you arm yourselves with some NOK – Norwegian Krone. Whilst most of Scandinavia is a cash-less society, there are times when having a bit of cash is appropriate. For example some Marina Aires have an honesty-box payment system where you pop your money into an envelope and some campsite washing machines require coin operation. Everything else is card!

The amount of cash you take really depends on your length of stay and what your preferred style of overnight stops is. If you prefer wild camping then you’ll need no more than an equivalent of £20 of Krone per month, that will give you around 220NOK (@8/2019).

If you would rather stay on Marina Aires then you may need significantly more. The few Aires we stayed on were between 150-200NOK per night so that will give you a feel for what you might need to take with you.  For all other payments we used our pre-paid cash card from Caxton – others are of course available. 

A point to make with regards to paying for Diesel at Petrol Stations with your pre-paid cash card.  For every fill up we had a deposit amount taken from our account and your statement will show up as PENDING.  This is a security deposit and is returned to your account as soon as payment has been received by the supplier.  So don’t be anxious if you see a larger amount appearing on your statement than your receipt shows. It will be refunded within 5 working days, often it is a lot quicker than this.

What to do if your vehicle is over 3.5T

Norway’s Roads and Ferries are all about length. Charges are made based on length categories. So generally speaking  you would see <6m, 6.1-7.00m, 7.01-8.00m, 8.01-9m and >10m.  So given the size of your vehicle you may need to think about an electronic TAG device.

Given our vehicle is 3.5T we have no direct experience to share with you. Other than talking to friends who have just travelled to Norway with their 9m truck plus motorbike trailer. So at the very least we wanted to pass on this information to you. We hope it helps. 

Norway’s motorway sensors for the tolls system are all about the size of your vehicle.  This means that you need some form of electronic device if you are over 3.5T to ensure that you receive the M1 category for motorhomes which are being used for leisure vehicles and not business

A Tag system is the best option and there are a number of companies who supply this physical device. Our friends chose EasyGo+ Brobizz  as it can be used in both Scandinavia and Austria. You make your application online from their website, sending them a copy of your V5 and your emissions category, if this is not listed on your V5. They then set up a contract for you and a Tag device is sent to you within 10 days of your application. The beauty of this system is that you can use this device for your tolls (for which you also get a discount), ferries and across the bridges in Denmark. So it does have some advantages and of course is a necessity if your vehicle is over 3.5T. Our friends said it was very efficient, with bills coming through within 48hrs of their crossing through a toll. 

 

 

Part 2 – We’re on the Road to Norway

Make it about the journey

The best bit about travelling is that it is as much about the journey as the destination. It might sound a bit of a cliché, although it’s so true. We all fall foul of the, ‘get there quick and then we can rest’ approach. Although as we have already said, travelling through Norway’s vastness is tiring. So en route why not check out Bruges or Ghent in Belgium. Or perhaps Zeeland or Giethoorn in The Netherlands appeals as you break up your journey.

Either way, as Norway beckons, you have to navigate the river Elbe in northern Germany. One option is to go around Hamburg’s autobahns. This is our idea of hell. So after a bit of research I found an alternative route across the river at Wischhafen. There are 3 Aires not more than 5 minutes from the ferry and with regular sailing times, getting on quickly is never a problem. The journey takes 30 minutes and costs in the region of £20 (based on 7.5m plus two adults.) It puts you in at Glückstadt, which is just 2.5hrs to the Danish border. There’s also a Lidl nearby for stocking up on supplies and plenty of cheap Petrol Stations and LPG filling opportunities. It’s worth filling up with both before you cross into Scandinavia. Check out our Wischhafen Ferry video here. It was a great find.

 

Stocking up – a word of caution

Norway is notorious for its high cost of living especially the alcohol. So advice is to always fill up before you cross the border. Although a word of caution. Depending upon where you cross into Norway, there are credible reports from both locals and travellers that Customs Officers are a bit frisky with searching vans for excess supplies. Especially, we hear, off the Hirtshals’ ferries. So be mindful of this.

One  report was that the vans were being strip-searched at their arrival in Norway. The country is not part of the EU, so they have Duty Free limits. So this might influence your route into Norway based on your love for booze.  We crossed in the north of the country where there were no Customs checks so had no issues. Also as we crossed back from Norway into Sweden south of Oslo on the E6, we didn’t see any hard-border checks there either. So it does appear only to be off the Denmark ferry routes. 

 

 

Part 3 – Travelling around Norway

Velkommen til Norge

So after all those months of  planning, you have finally arrived at your dream destination.  Norway yeah! Here are a few essentials about getting around Norway safely.

  • The road system, tunnels and bridges
  • Filling up with Diesel and LPG
  • The ferries
  • Camping overnight
  • Travelling with dogs

 

The Road System, Tunnels and Bridges

Norway’s roads are pretty good and I say this having driven through Bulgaria, UK and Italy. Whilst they are not the standard of southern Sweden or Spain, they are of a reasonable quality. The key thing to remember about Norway’s roads is that there is always some sort of repairs happening. Given that the conditions are so bad from November to March, they  use the summer months to repair and strengthen their roads. So be prepared for long stretches of road-works and delays. We got caught up on a road where they were shoring up the side of a mountain and they required 2 hour periods to do their work. So watch your SatNav and the road signs. We also experienced 40 miles of intermittent road resurfacing on the arterial E6, which made it a horrible journey south and we had to pay for the privilege of it too. 

Otherwise the main roads we found decent enough. If, like us you enjoy getting off the beaten track then the road quality does become markedly differently and they tend to be more narrow. Passable, although narrow. So driving with caution and slowly are the name of the game. This is why you don’t get anywhere quickly in Norway.  

One thing we came to value perversely, on all roads in Scandinavia, are the rumble strips you get on the white lines in the middle and at the right-hand edge. We all have momentary lapses in concentration and a slight wander left or right  happens to us all, let’s face it. Especially with all these magnificent views. Although you are soon corrected and accidents by wandering vehicles are prevented by these rumble strips. A sensory warning to adjust your road position! They send vibrations right up your bottom!

A word on Norway’s motorways! They’re not really motorways as we know them. The main E roads, such as E6 are just single lane roads for much of the time. There are occasions when they are two or three lanes, especially around cities, although never for long.  

There are oodles of tunnels and bridges linking this geological masterpiece together. Tunnel lengths vary from just a few metres to our longest one, which was 8 miles! Friends travelled through the Gudvanden tunnel on the E16, in west Norway (60.888023 6.863913) and in August 2019 reported that the road surface was broken up for about 2.5 miles in the middle of the 7 mile length. So this might be one to check out prior to travelling.

In the north we found the tunnels were less… what shall we say… refined as their southern comrades. The walls were not coated and smooth, they were quite literally a hole through the mountain sides. So a little courage and a bit of praying that nothing was coming the other way, was needed at times. Certainly the longer tunnels in the south were of a much better quality we found, with good lighting and plenty of information about your position in the tunnel. If you are in the north around Tromso, enjoy the delights of having a roundabout in a tunnel. Yes you heard right – a roundabout. What a bizarre experience that was.   

The bridges in Norway are a piece of art in themselves. With arches, curves and suspensions you will ‘wow’ just over the bridges. They are an experience and always a positive one, in our opinion. The only issue I can think of is the weather conditions. If there is a nifty wind then you may need to proceed with caution although generally you are informed of the windspeed if there is an issue on a particular bridge.  

The speed limits in Norway are clearly marked although as a rule, in built up areas it is 30mph (50km) and on the main roads between 40-50mph (70-80km). Some sections of the E6 you could do 55mph (90km) although not very often. There are cameras so do keep to the speeds. 

In terms of the season you visit, just be mindful of the risk of snow. Whilst from May to September there is low to no risk, the further north you go the more unpredictable the weather. So if you intend to come early spring or in autumn, as a precaution pack snow-tyres or at the very least snow-socks. They could be vital in getting you out of a freaky weather system.

For all up to date information on driving in Norway, check out this website. 

 

Filling up with Petrol and LPG

Norway has plenty of Petrol Stations even throughout the fjords. Although our advice is always fill up when you can so that if suddenly resources become scarce you don’t have a problem. Interestingly LPG stations are less frequent although sufficient we found, for our needs. Travelling to Norway in the summer means generally no heating will be required so our two 11kg tanks lasted us 4-5 weeks, roughly. If you come during the autumn then you may need to be more mindful of where your LPG stations are, given that the weather is more unpredictable and snow can come early to this Nordic northland. We use the App LPG.eu and Maps.me to check where the nearest stations are. 

LPG stations are not housed within Petrol Stations. They are separate entities, usually found in Industrial zones on the outskirts of towns. 

We were interested to watch the prices of diesel over our 7 weeks. The first observation was that the price of diesel is actually cheaper in Norway than Sweden. We averaged between 13.39 and 16.05NOK (£1.22 –  £1.46). All stations were self-service and a majority of them payable at the pump rather than in a kiosk. 

One thing to remind you about is that in Denmark, Norway and Sweden a deposit is taken from your card of roughly 800 Krone, irrespective of what you spend. This is then refunded to your card within 2-5 working days. So don’t be shocked at the amounts on your statement. We suggest keeping hold of your receipts until the held amount is refunded in case of dispute. Although we always had ours refunded. 

The second observation is that the price can change within an hour – so if you see it cheap buy it – even if you don’t have an empty tank. And that change could be up to 1NOK so it makes a difference to your pocket. 

And finally, Sunday was always a cheap petrol day – we’re not sure if this was just coincidence although we often saw prices change come Monday morning. So worth watching out for. There doesn’t seem to be any one petrol station cheaper than another, so just go for the cheap prices when you see them, is our advice. 

 

Navigating the Ferries

As we have already discussed, the ferries in Norway are a necessary part of their lifestyle and very much part of their culture.  Hopefully by now you will have been persuaded to get a Ferry Discount Card. This section is more about the practicalities of ferry travel once you are here. There are a few pointers we have to ease your journey.

 

  • The 8 ferries we experienced on the west coast, mid-coast and the Troms region in the north were very efficient, and frequent. You never seem to be waiting long, especially once you are south of Bodø where their schedules are incredibly regular. I guess because the ferries are shipping cargo lorries as well as leisure vehicles, you can see why their frequency is important.

     

  • For 5 out of our 8 ferries, we were able to use our Discount Card. Our last ferry, for some reason wouldn’t accept our card, so we have informed Autopass of this malfunction and they will be issuing us with a refund.

     

  • There is a lane queuing system for each ferry and depending upon your position in the queue you will either get on the current ferry or automatically be first on the next scheduled sailing.

     

  • In terms of payment, generally a ticket collector would come to you whilst you are waiting in the queue and take your card. On the odd occasion you would pay the ticket collector on board the ferry.

     

  • Embarkation and disembarkation were swift, painless and given most ferry’s capacity was about 50 vehicles you  could generally assess whether you would make it on. There are toilets and some refreshment facilities depending on the length of the journey and you are allowed to get out of your vehicle, including your pets.

     

  • You are required to turn off your gas for each journey.

     

  • For the Troms ferries in the north, they have their own system and the Ferry Discount Card does not apply. We suggest that you download the Troms Mobillett App which entitles you to a 25% saving on all ferries in the region. It is also a facility you can use for taking the bus whilst visiting Tromsø. So it is a good resource to have.  One HUGE tip though. DO NOT buy your ticket through the app UNTIL you know you are on board. There is a time limit to your ticket purchase and it is important to only press the BUY button once you are securely parked on the boat. Otherwise your payment will run out before the ferry arrives.  For the Troms’ ferries you need to present your ticket onboard at the ticket desk inside the boat. You simply show your confirmation from the app and that’s it!

  • And last and by no means least, the ferry to Senja from Brensholmen is the smallest ferry we travelled on with only room for 21 vehicles. So we strongly recommend that you check the schedule. This was our first ferry and we were lucky that we happened to be vehicle 11. We had no idea how large the ferry capacity was and there were only a couple of ferries a day. So you could end up waiting a long time if you get your timing wrong.

     

 

Overnight Stops

With all this travelling, you will want somewhere to rest your heads.  And one thing that Norway does incredibly well is wild camping. We had some amazing spots alongside fjords with dolphins. It’s what wild camping dreams are made of.

Although if you prefer campsites then there are enough of those to go around too, although you may need to plot your journey a little more carefully on a day to day basis. I say this only because they are not on every street corner and so you may find yourself driving a long way to get to a site that is either booked or a longer journey than you had intended. Although in the three campsites that we stayed at during our 7 weeks in Norway, they were not fully booked, which did  surprise me. They were busy although not a Spain-type of busy. That said, I would still do a bit more planning if campsites are your preference so you can judge your driving time right. For campsites, check out Search for Sites or Park 4 Night

For wild camping lovers, we used Park4Night much of the time and we also found our own spots along the way too. Honestly finding places to park up is not difficult. You can often be guided by the trail of other motorhomes. You find yourself commenting ‘Oh well done, nice spot’. Or if you are tired and grumpy, ‘Oh damn that would have been perfect!’ Either way a place to call home is never a hardship in Norway. With their Allemannsretten – Every man’s right to roamyou can pretty much park overnight anywhere. As long as it is 150m away from any house and not on private land. You are generally allowed to stay for one night, although there are some mountain places where you can certainly stay longer.

The obvious next question is what about services? Well there are plenty of options we found. Some garages have free services, there are regular places in towns that offer facilities too and of course there are campsite options if you wanted. The only place we really struggled was on the Lofoten Islands. Otherwise even on Senja in the north, getting your van serviced was a complete breeze. We never worried about getting water or emptying our black waste.  We do have the luxury of two cassettes, which does make a difference, although still we didn’t find any issues. Norway (and Sweden) seriously know how to cater for the motorhome community.  In fact as you drive around the country, you will see how many houses have a motorhome in their driveways. They are into motorhoming in a big way and with winters as harsh as theirs, you can understand why.

Check out our gallery below sharing just some of our wild camping spots and campsites.

Travelling with dogs

Even though we don’t have a dog, I think it’s important to mention the regulations that you will need to consider for Norway. The following official website from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority gives you all the information you need to make sure your pooch (and cats or ferrets) can travel with you. In essence their checklist states four obligatory requirements. For more information if this is relevant for you, click the above link. 

 

  1. The animal must be ID-marked

  2. The animal must have a valid anti-rabies vaccination

  3. The animal must have received an anti-echinococcus treatment (dogs only)

  4. The animal must have a pet passport

Conclusion

So Norway – a dream destination for nature lovers, motorhome travellers, hikers and photographers. It has so much to offer and is well worth the planning, preparation and journey to get there. We are pleased with the research we did, plans we put  in place and the whole experience of Norway. So much so, that it contributes to Scandinavia being a serious highlight of our nomadic journey since March 2016. Whilst it took us a while to get here, it has really been worth the wait.

We hope that with these links, guidelines and pointers that you too will put Norway – and indeed the whole of Scandinavia on your list. This is just one in a series of blogs and free resources that we will be sharing with you to inspire you to travel to Norway and make your journey easy, cost effective and memorable.

We invite you to come back here for updates and visit our FB page for more information. There will be a free eBook coming soon and if you sign up to our monthly newsletter you will be sure not to miss a thing.

 

If you liked it, please Pin it! 

 

Check out our All Things Norway Series

Tromso – Norway’s most northern city

Tromso – Norway’s most northern city

Tromsø was never an intended destination on our 2019 Summer in Scandinavia road-trip, although when circumstances  took an unexpected change, we seized the chance to visit. We do believe that every event has its purpose, however difficult they may be. After all life is never as beautifully laid out as in our visions. I guess the trick is to make sure that you see the positivity in all things and remain flexible.

So when a family bereavement back in UK reshaped our plans, we looked upon it as an opportunity. It was a chance to explore a region that was not on our agenda whilst waiting for a flight back to England. That’s what I love about travel; when you go with the flow, things unfold as they are designed to.

And so Senja, Norway’s second largest island and Tromsø, Norway’s most northern city suddenly made an appearance on the Motoroamers’ road-trip. Come with us as we embark on a mini City-tour Guide.

 

The Gateway to the Arctic

Tromsø is a vibrant city 210 miles north of the Arctic Circle and over 1100 miles north of Norway’s capital, Oslo.  And whilst it may rarely appear on people’s travel itineraries, it surely has something unique to offer. For curious travellers seeking new experiences and cultures, Tromsø has to be on the list for exciting vacation opportunities, throughout the whole year.  Keep reading to find out why!

Tromsø, nestled between mountains that, for most of the year support a covering of snow, has more of a town-like feel than a city. This fact alone is enough to have us recommending this northern destination.  With its island location, it welcomes you across its arching bridge with a charisma and intimacy that instantly feels safe and warm. This was so unexpected. Cities so often smother me with their enormity and consume my tiny presence in its giant maze of buildings. Yet Tromsø is very different to the archetypal cityscape we are used to.

Tromsø has hit the global stage a number of times in its history. First was for its Arctic position which lent itself to explorers using the city as their main hub before embarking on their often fatal expeditions. Then the fire of 1969 which all but destroyed the whole city. And with their stalwart Nordic spirit, the city resurged against its adversity in 1972, when they built the most northern University – putting Tromsø firmly on Scandinavia’s map.

Thanks to its University, this unassuming city has a youthful feel, which gives it an energy that subtly bounces off the old town’s wharf. And yet in contrast, the Arctic history, stakes its claim in making Tromsø a fascinating place to visit. With its compact and bijou feel, it will delight you with its wintery tales of Arctic explorers and the characterful wooden buildings in the old wharf surely must hold many seafaring secrets.

 

A Compact and Bijou City Visit

Unlike many more Southern European cities, after a couple of hours, you will have got the measure of Tromsø. Even the cruise ships only dock for a short while. Although there are plenty of highlights to enjoy during this time, so don’t underestimate it appeal. 

 

1. Tromsø’s Bridges  – Major City Landmark

Tromsø, built on the eastern edge of the island of Tromsøya, survives thanks to its bridges and tunnels. Now these bridges are not your typical structures – nothing straight and boring here! Oh no, the city of Tromsø has a duo of arching structures that seem to glide high above the fjord as if in some grand gesture to the Sea Gods. Driving these 2km (1.2 mile) bridges is, on its own, an experience as you feel yourself drawn into the city centre with an entrance fit for a king on his chariot. 

The Tromsø Bridge (Tromsøbrua in Norwegian) to the east is 3,399ft cantilever construction that back in 1960 when it was opened, was the first of its kind in Norway. It was also regarded as the longest bridge in Northern Europe at the time. 

If you park in Tromsdalen to the east, walking across the bridge is a great experience, as you get a real sense of city’s perspective and its fjord position. Although be warned, read the signs carefully – as the north side of the bridge is for cyclists and the south for pedestrians. Mix them up at your peril and be prepared for a Norwegian onslaught of exasperation from the passing two-wheelers.

Click the image below for our Gallery

 

2. Tromsø’s Special Roundabouts

Am I mad? Roundabouts, surely these are nothing worthy for your visit! Well when you experience these roundabouts deep beneath the surface of the earth, in tunnels, then you might choose to reconsider. It’s the most bizarre thing to experience and is definitely worth checking out if you can. Check out our short video below.

 

 

3. Tromso’s Arctic Cathedral – Ishavskatedralen

Cathedrals are often a tourist magnet in any city because of their grandeur and history. Tromsø may, once again surprise you. Whilst there is the official Cathedral in the old town square, which was rebuilt after the fire of 1969, it is the magnificent structure across the water that draws your eye. The iconic Tromsdalen church, known lovingly as the Arctic Cathedral is a pinnacle of engineering mastery. This triangular construction is something to behold and interestingly, despite its nickname, is not officially a cathedral. Built in 1965, the Arctic Cathedral is seen as the Sydney Opera House of Norway, such is the magnificence of its design.  

 

4. Tromso’s Old Harbour Wharf

Tromsø superficially, looks a bit commercial with its ports, ships and fish factories. Yet once you enter the sentrum, you immediately get a feel for its historical dominance of 19th century Arctic explorations. A memorial to Roald Amundsen, the man most famous for beating Scott to the North Pole, signals the gateway to understanding Tromsø’s Polar significance.

The Polar Museum explains how its northerly position became so central to expeditions heading north to conquer the icy kingdom of the Pole. And how the sea played, and still does even today, a vital role in their survival in this extreme part of the world.

And then you turn the corner to the inner harbour. Along the wharf, you find an array of seafaring vessels standing on parade, gleaming in the mid-summer sun. And it begins to dawn on you what life must be like in the grip of winter’s hold. Whilst a visit in June/July proffers 24hours of daylight, winter brings a different personality. -4° and darkness for most of the day. Knee deep snow and perhaps just a faint blue hew as the sun’s rays barely reach the horizon. And in a blink of an eye, a community’s lifestyle shifts from flourishing to survival amidst the extreme conditions.

The wooden harbour buildings still stand firm with more than a few tales of sailors’ woes hidden inside their walls. Now bars and restaurants, throbbing with cruise-liner visitors, sell a range of food, some of which is way beyond our western palette tolerances.

Click the image below for our Gallery

 

5. Tromso’s Cable Car – Fjellheisen

Although we didn’t take the Cable Car on this visit, it is said to be one of the best ways to view the city, especially during either the Northern Light display or the Midnight Sun. What a spectacle either of these would be from such a lofty position. Built in 1961, the two cable cars, named Polar Bear and Seal will lift you 421m into the sky to give you an exhilarating view.

You can find it by walking over the eastern bridge towards the Arctic Cathedral. The ride is just 4 minutes, is open from 1000 to 2300 (and until 0100 during the Midnight sun period) and runs every 30 minutes. It costs 250Nok per person or if you feel energetic, walk down and only pay 150Nok. Find out more details and schedules by clicking here.

 

6. Tromsø’s Old Town

Tromsø is so much more than a winter retreat. Albeit the winter activities give this Arctic destination supremacy, there’s something about Tromsø’s charm that needs to be appreciated by daylight.

The old town took its early steps back in 1800s and was seriously influenced by its rich sea merchants who graced the town with their wealth. With bountiful pockets, Tromsø’s style took an international twist, modelled on the Empire architectural design of their Southern European cousins in Greece and Italy. Grand columns and doorway designs have a definite Romanesque flavour to them.

Alongside this, there’s an eclectic mix of colonial-style buildings that give Tromsø such a lovely atmosphere, where you half expect elegant couples dressed in their finery to promenade along the dockside. And yet paradoxically these charming wooden buildings have had to yield to the modern constructions that shadow their beauty. Yet somehow this city of contrasts works. That blend of commerciality and old era heritage living side by side, making their collective identity fuse seamlessly.

The high street, if that’s what you call it, softly travels through the old town with classy boutiques and shops selling reindeer hide and winter attire. There’s no high end marketing taking centre stage in this city, unlike its Lofoten cousin not too many miles away. Just a timeless trundle into the present day.

In the main square you will see the world’s smallest bar and a statue to honour the old Norwegian King. It is here that the old Town Hall stands in the shadow of its contemporary replacement, the wood clearly giving way to the more robust fortified glass that reflects a whole new lifeblood for this throbbing northern community. 

Click the image below for our Gallery

 

What to do around Tromsø

Tromsø is most certainly a winter hub, more at home with huskies and the Northern Lights. Although don’t let a summer visit pass you by. These addition activities will turn your visit into a real adventure;

  • Just 15 minutes drive away you have the mountains of Skrolkets with great hiking. Keep your eyes open for moose and eagles.
  • Take a Rib on a Sea Safari see the whales and puffins.
  • For an extended tour, you are not far from the beauty of Senja and its Norway in Miniature status. With WW2 museums, trolls and one of Norway’s 18 most scenic routes, you could easily while away three or four days.
  • The world’s most northerly Botanical Gardens, just south of Tromsø.
  • Watch the Midnight Sun from mid-May to mid-July.
  • And why not consider an extended trip to the Lofoten Islands? With its easy access by road within a 6 hour journey, or a short flight from Tromsø domestic airport, seeing these iconic islands is a doable option. For more information on visiting the Lofotens, click here.
  • Why not take a City Walking Tour that will give you an intimate insight to an intimate city? For 3 hours be taken on a journey through the historical pathways of Tromsø and feel the spirit of the city. 

 

Practicalities for visiting Tromsø

With its northerly location, you could be forgiven for ignoring the draw of this Nordic beauty. Although with an airport, excellent cruising options and solid road infrastructure, Tromsø is a very real destination these days.  Here are some options for getting to, staying in and getting around Tromsø and its neighbourhood.

 

Getting there….

With the main arterial E6 route that connects the northerly and southerly points in Norway, visiting the upper reaches of Norway is so much easier. Granted it will take you a while and the road is not a motorway as we know them in UK/EU although it is doable – if you have the time. Equally if you have made the epic journey to Nordkapp and Alta, then the E6 south will bring you to Tromsø in 6 hours. All too often we hear of people by-passing Tromsø for the lure of the Lofotens, so we would really encourage you staying around this beautiful Troms region for a while before heading south.

We arrived in Norway from Sweden via the E10 at Abisko, so getting to Tromsø was actually quite an easy drive, albeit we took the scenic route through the fjords. 

Alternatively you could take one of over 100 direct flights a week from Norway’s Oslo, Gardermoen Airport to Tromsø. I can certainly vouch for this flight. I took an SAS flight and arrived in Oslo in less than 2 hours.

The Hurtigruten Cruise is arguably the most scenic route to take, although you need to have time on your side. This historical cargo vessel that would steam along the Norwegian coastline is, these days more of a travel experience than a cargo route. From Bergen to Kirkenes, the Hurtigruten Cruise is not the cheapest way to visit Tromsø, although will certainly give your Norwegian bucket list a great big fat tick! 

 

Once there, getting around

The beauty of Tromsø’s compact nature is that you can walk around it easily. It is only if you want to explore further afield that you need to consider another mode of transport.

We found driving to and through Tromsø in our 7.5m van caused no issues at all. We found free parking on Tromsdalen, across the Tromsø Bridge which was perfectly fine for visiting the city. (69.650268 18.993843). We didn’t stay overnight although we suspect it wouldn’t be a problem. 

If you are reliant on your feet for transport, then download the Troms Mobillett App, which gives you access and discounts to the buses and ferries in the area. 

 

Staying there

We stayed at two locations with our van. The first was an amazing wild spot up in the mountains to the north west of the city. With fabulous hiking, great views and generally peace and quiet, it was nice not to be too close to the city. (69.759121 18.855957). The second spot, I readiness for my flight back to UK was at the Tromsø Lodge Campsite (69.648636 19.016156). This is a great site close to the Cable Car and cycling distance to the city, although not cheap at 400NOK per night in July. It is an ACSI site, out of season. They had one the best showers we’ve experienced in Scandinavia and great washing machine facilities. 

For other accommodation, you have so many options from Hotels, Guest Houses, Cabins and AirB&B. Check out the official Tromsø Visitors website here.

 

Closing Thoughts

Tromsø, with its mountains, Midnight Sun, Northern Lights, Winter Expeditions and general all-year round appeal, makes a visit to this northern Nordic city worthy of your time. Without the crowds of other southern European destinations, Tromsø gives you a uniquely comfortable and adventurous experience. As a centrepiece to so much more exploration in the Troms region, we highly recommend this jewel in Norway’s northern crown. Come and experience the vibe for yourself and see what you think! 

__________________________________________

 

If you liked it, why not pin it!

 

Other posts you might enjoy!