Essential Travel Tips to Plan a Vacation to Norway

A vacation to Norway can be extremely fulfilling if you know certain things about the country, and plan well ahead. Here are a few tips to plan your Norwegian vacation.
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Travel tip to plan a vacation to Norway
Polar Bear Alert
Polar bears do roam freely on the roads in Svalbard, and pose an extreme threat for the unprepared. So, while you are there, ensure that you adhere to all the safety regulations, and avoid traveling without a weapon.
Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is Europe's second least-populated country and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This Scandinavian gem is known for its amazing, albeit unbelievable, natural landscapes which have, sort of, imparted a very unique personality to the country. It boasts for numerous appealing natural attractions―steep fjords, mighty glaciers, rocky coastal islands, fascinating wildlife, and of course, the enchanting phenomena of the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights.

What is even more appealing is the country's energetic cultural life that can be best experienced in the cosmopolitan and lively Norwegian cities. Norway not only intrigues, but also inspires its visitors, which is why, despite being one of the most expensive countries in the world, it keeps attracting more and more tourists, year after year.

Planning a Norwegian Vacation

A vacation to Norway can be really expensive, which is why, it is extremely essential to careful plan for the same. Buzzle brings you some essential travel tips to plan the vacation of your lifetime.

When to Visit

Norway has four main seasons viz., winter (December - February), spring (March - May), summer (June -August), and autumn (September - November).

Hardcore hikers should note that most of Norway's hiking routes are closed till about late June or early July. It is important to consider this factor while planning your trip.
While you plan your Norwegian holiday, your main consideration should be the country's climate. It should be noted that Norway has a hugely variable climate, and that the weather can change all of a sudden.

Nevertheless, the peak tourist season in Norway falls between mid-June to mid-August (summer months). It is needless to say that Norway is most crowded at this time of the year, owing to which, airfares and accommodation prices are at their peak.

Norway's peak season also happens to coincide with the school holidays in Norway and in the other countries of Europe, which further adds to the difficulty of finding desired accommodation and cheaper deals.

If you wish to travel during the peak season, make sure that you book well in advance, and ensure that you have booked after proper price comparisons. You surely do not want to end up paying more for less.

If you wish to visit during the off-season, make sure that you are well-equipped against the Norwegian winter, and reconfirm all details regarding your accommodation and transport. It is better to be sure, rather than getting stranded in an unknown, isolated location for hours, and that too in winter!
The period between early May to mid-June and between mid-August to late September comprises the shoulder season to travel to Norway.

The climate in late May is pleasant, and one can enjoy the country's picturesque landscape against the soothing backdrop of blooming flowers and blossoming fruit trees. Moreover, the days are also longer, and most tourist sites are not crowded.

As you travel further North of the Arctic Circle in the peak season, the Midnight Sun can be seen at least one day in a year. So, if you are lucky enough to be in the right place on the right day, you will be simply awed by the sight.

Winter in the country is not particularly pleasant with temperatures below freezing and really long nights (only four to five hours of daylight). Owing to this, it forms the off-season to visit Norway.

Most tourist sites and offices are either completely closed or open only for a short while during winter, and public transport becomes highly unreliable. Moreover, most accommodation facilities such as hostels, guest houses, and B&Bs also tend to shut down during this season.

Unless you are a skiing enthusiast and/or a curious mind, wanting to catch a quick glimpse of the Northern Lights, visiting the country in winter is not recommended, owing to the temporary closure of tourist infrastructure (at most places), and hostile weather.

Visa Requirements

If you are a national of Iceland, Finland, Denmark, or Sweden, you will be granted free entry into Norway to stay for an unlimited duration, even without a valid passport. All you will need to produce is a valid identity card issued by your home country.

Information on visa requirements for Norway can be acquired from the official website of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.
Moreover, Norway is one of the Schengen countries and so, nationals of all the other member states of the Schengen Convention are granted entry without a visa for a total stay of up to three months. However, they do need a valid passport to enter Norway, and may have to face limited border controls at Norwegian frontiers.

Although Norway geographically lies in Europe, it is not a member of the European Union. So, citizens of those EU countries which are not party to the Schengen Convention, need to have a valid passport (not a visa), and are subject to customs control at the port of entry.

Apart from these, the citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand can enter Norway on a valid passport. South Africans need a Schengen visa to enter Norway.

Most other nationals need a valid visa to enter Norway, which can be obtained from the Norwegian consulate in their home country.

Accommodation and Food

As far as saving money on accommodation and food is concerned, one of the best ways to do so is to book a package deal that covers for both. While these might not be "cheap", you will surely save on restaurant expenses.
It goes without saying that Norway is an expensive country, and you will indeed have to travel smart in order to save money while you are there.

Most of your expenses will be incurred on accommodation. If you are on a budget, opt to stay in a shared room in a hostel, rather than an individual one in a hotel or a B&B. You may be able to save some money by doing so.

Food is also on the expensive side in Norway, but there are ways to save on that as well. Stay in a hostel that offers free breakfast, book an accommodation where you have access to a kitchenette so as to cook your own food, or opt for a hotel that offers a free buffet breakfast.

Because the lunches tend to be cheaper than dinners in Norway, having an elaborate lunch at an inexpensive restaurant, and picking up stuff from the supermarket eateries for dinner is a good option.

Getting Around

Norway boasts of an extensive and extremely efficient network of public transport. What is even better is the fact that its buses, ferries, and trains are timed in such a way that the people do not have to wait for long to get their connecting mode of transport.

Irrespective of whether you are traveling by air, train, or bus, always watch out of the minipris tickets. These have to be booked in advance over the Internet, and are one of the best ways to save money on public transport.
Owing to the country's craggy coastline, traveling by train or bus often becomes difficult and so, domestic flights have become a popular mode of transport within the country.

Domestic flights are pricier in the northern parts of the country, as it has less number of towns and cities that lie pretty far apart. So, air transport tends to be the fastest and the most convenient mode in the north.

Though domestic flights are cheaper in southern Norway, it needs to be noted that there is no designated air routes between Oslo and cities that lie within its 200 km radius. So, for commuting between such spots, one has to rely only on trains and buses.

The train network in Norway is operated by the Norwegian State Railways (NSB), and basically connects the Norwegian capital to the country's major cities. Train travel in Norway often tends to be expensive; however, if you aim to travel extensively by train, you can opt for the Eurail Norway Pass or the InterRail One Country Pass to save money.

Trains do not run in the extreme north of the country, beyond Bodø, and hence, there is often no other choice apart from buses and ferries, both of which tend to operate on a seasonal basis in this region.

Those wanting to explore the country at their own discretion have an option of car rentals. Cars can be booked online, and it is the best way to get around the country, especially in regions where public transport is less frequent and/or unreliable.

Other Essential Tips

All international visitors to Norway need to be up-to-date on a certain set of vaccines, apart from the routine ones recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). For information on the vaccines to take before entering Norway, visit CDC's official website.

It is also equally important to purchase an appropriate travel insurance that would cover for all kinds of contingencies. It is also vital that you carry documented proof of your vaccinations as well as the insurance papers, which you may have to produce, just in case.

Because Norway's weather is highly unpredictable, it is vital to carry adequate and appropriate clothing and gear. Carry enough warm clothes, rainy gear, sunglasses, sunscreen, good walking shoes, and so on. Getting them within the country may not only be expensive, but also difficult (in isolated locations, and in the off-season).

Also, make sure that you carry an enough stock of all your basic (and special) medicines, along with your doctor's prescription, stating the medicines' generic names. These will be particularly helpful in case you need to buy them while traveling.

As far as safety is concerned, Norway is low on crime rate; however, petty crimes such as pickpocketing, car break-ins, and bicycle thefts have been on a rise of late, especially in the urban areas. Be careful about your belongings, and refrain from leaving them unattended in public places.

If you are a woman traveling alone, it is vital that you consider some basic safety measures. Do not stroll/travel alone at night, do not wear expensive jewelry while you are alone. While the instance of violent crimes against women in Norway are few, it is always better to be cautious at all times.

If you are unsure about the sudden weather shifts, which may take place while skiing or hiking, it is best to take a trained guide along or consult the locals. Unless you are completely sure about what you are doing, stay within the marked boundaries while hiking and skiing.

If you intend to drive across the mountains, ensure that you are well-equipped for the journey. Conditions can be harsh, and roads can be abruptly closed midway, so see to it that you are stocked up on food, and your fuel tank is full.

Norway boasts of a great water quality, and tap water is always drinkable and free. Do not purchase bottled water if you have access to tap water, as bottled water is not only difficult to find, but is also expensive.

If you are in southern Norway during summer, ticks are a serious threat. Flått, as they are called locally, can transmit Lyme's disease or tick-borne encephalitis through a single bite. Wear long trousers, avoid walking though areas having tall grass, and buy tick tweezers to remove them safely, in case you get bitten. But most importantly, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Things to See/Do

Norway, with its extremely varied landscape, offers numerous different things for people to see and do, apart from the renowned clichés.

Geirangerfjord

Visit the famous Geirangerfjord in Norway's Sunnmøre region. Designated on UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005, this steep fjord is surrounded by the most difficult mountains along the whole of the Norwegian west coast, and features some of the most picturesque waterfalls in the region.

Akershus Fortress

Oslo is home to the magnificent Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle, constructed to protect the city. In the later years, it was also used as a prison. Take a guided tour to this castle, and learn about its startling history.

Briksdalsbreen

The municipality of Stryn in Sogn og Fjordane county of Norway boasts of being home to the Briksdalsbreen (Briksdal glacier), which is the most easily accessible arm of the Jostedalsbreen (Jostedal glacier), the largest glacier in continental Europe. Take one of the guided tours and/or indulge in a glacial hiking adventure here.

Bryggen

Yet another World Heritage Site in Norway, Bryggen is a German quarter in the city of Bergen. The German wharf, as it is known, is famous for its numerous Hanseatic buildings, many of which now house souvenir shops, pubs, restaurants, and museums.

Flam train

Norway's Flåm Railway is one of the steepest railway lines in the world. Embark on this incredible journey and savor in some of Norway's most spectacular natural views.

Gaustatoppen

Hike the mighty Gaustatoppen, the highest mountain in Norway's Telemark county, and get grand views of the surrounding areas from its summit. About one-sixth of Norway can seen from the mountain's peak.

Kjeragbolten

If you are in for a real spine-chilling adventure, climb the precarious Kjeragbolten, a huge boulder wedged in the Kjerag mountain's crevasse in Rogaland, Norway. It is a popular site for BASE jumping; however, be extremely sure about what you are doing.

Preikestolen

Hike the Preikestolen, known to the world as the Pulpit Rock. It is a steep cliff in Forsand and is located at the height of about 604 m above sea level.

Lofoten

How can one visit Norway and not go to Lofoten, the spectacular archipelago located in the county of Nordland. It is known for its excellent fishing scene, and numerous awe-inspiring natural attractions.

Oslo Opera House

While in Oslo, make it a point to visit the Oslo Opera House, that has been built in the shape of a flat iceberg. A great example of Contemporary architecture, and offers several guided tours in both, English and Norwegian languages for the visitors.

Vigeland Park

Also, do not miss the famous Vigeland Park, one of the most popular attractions in Oslo and in the whole of Norway. It features the world's largest sculpture park, where the sculptures have been made by a single artist.

Midnight sun and northern lights

Finally, amongst all of Norway's natural wonders are those of the Midnight Sun (top) and the Northern Lights (bottom). Visit in summer to witness the former, and in winter to see the latter.

So, pack up and get going to Norway. However, remember to respect the local customs and etiquette, and this will surely be the trip of your lifetime.
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Published: February 24, 2014
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