How to Visit Norway – Guide by a Former Expat

Click here for “Hiking (Preikestolen) in Norway; Tips and Tricks

 

Norway. The country of fjords, the aurora and imagination…

…because if you let your fantasy go wild, you might start to understand the old Norse mythology and how those people came up with it.

Back to reality.

Norway is getting more and more popular among tourists. For a good reason! Norge is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful countries and that’s definitely not a lie.

When we Google “Norway”, we see pictures of amazing landscapes that almost look unreal but many of the tourists who travel to Norway don’t get to see those landscapes or maybe only 1…

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On top of a mountain on one of the many islands in the Ryfylke fjord.

 

Why?

Because if you really want to go to Norway for the nature, you cannot do it very spontaneously. It’s a trip you have to plan before you get there.

Nowadays I read posts of people who planned a trip to Norway for one or two weeks and ask what they should visit. Most of the times in… Oslo.

*sigh*; that’s the reaction of Norwegians and people who know the country.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the capital but let’s say that it doesn’t represent Norway that much.

Back when I lived in Stavanger, a city in the south west of the country, I remember visiting Oslo for the first time and to me, it really didn’t feel like Norway. Many people I knew there agreed with me and I even knew several Norwegians who had never been there simply because they weren’t interested as they thought it would be boring.

This is not the right mindset either but you get what I mean.

Also… asking what you should visit in a country like Norway almost sounds offending to me ahah. Norway is extremely beautiful, if you’re planning to go there but you have no idea what the country has to offer, then you better stay home.

I will add a couple of pictures to show you the difference between the capital and the other Norwegian cities.

  1. the seaside
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Oslo

versus:

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Stavanger
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Trondheim
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Small village at Sotra (island)

2. The town

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Oslo
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The opera in Oslo (good architecture though)

versus: 

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Stavanger
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Fargegaten i Stavanger
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Gamle Stavanger

See what I mean? Oslo is one of a kind (in Norway!) and Stavanger is similar to most of the other Norwegian cities. I can compare it to Belgium; people come to Belgium to see Bruges, Ghent, Brussels,… and some beautiful cities in the French part, Wallonie. But nobody comes just to see the modern part of Liège (Liège is awesome but it’s just not the main tourist destination in Belgium).

“So, how can I get to see the country in a proper way instead of seeing a city that doesn’t represent the country that much?”, I hear you asking.

Before I’ll give you my answer, I just want to make clear that it won’t be cheap (Norway is expensiiiive!). I’m sorry to the budget travellers (like me) out there but this trip won’t be so budget, sadly.

Unless, of course, you’ve got loads of time and are prepared to hitchhike and camp and make your own food on a little gas stove  – which is an amazing way of seeing the country though but Norway is quite big so you won’t be able to do this if you’ve only got 2 weeks. You’ll need at least a month, even to just see a part of the country. If you’re okay with this, keep in mind that you won’t be able to go to restaurants, drink alcohol and sleep ho(s)tels as those things are damn expensive.

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Anyway, back to the most probable situation; you’ve saved up some money and feel ready to give it a go.

The most important thing you’ll need is a car. Public transport in Norway is very expensive and you won’t be able to reach many of the beautiful spots – and even if it is possible, it can get very complicated.

If you have a car, you’re safe, you’ll be able to have a great trip.

Before you hit the road, find out which places you want to visit because once there, it can get a little overwhelming.

Every season in Norway is different and in some parts of the country (like where I lived, in Stavanger) you might experience the four seasons in just one week! So take the seasons into account.

Maybe you want to go there to see snow, don’t go during summer then, but do keep in mind that you’re not allowed to do certain hikes during winter, late autumn and early spring (not that you’d want to do that though).

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Domkirken, Stavanger

What is the reason you want to visit Norway?

Hiking? Go between mid May and mid September. I’ve written a guide about hiking in Norway. You can read it here.

Visiting the cities? Pretty much all year round but keep in mind that cities in the west (like Bergen and Stavanger) are very very rainy, even more so in the autumn and winter. Which makes it more ideal to visit cities in summer and spring.

Road tripping (being in your car most of the time)? All year round but be careful in winter because Norway can suffer very bad storms, floods and sometimes the roads might close because of the frost. Then again, seeing Norway in winter is highly special.

Seeing the aurora borealis or simply the northern lighs? That’s a trickier one. First of all; it’s not sure that you will see them. You can go during the perfect time, on the perfect spot, stay there for a week and not see them. Anyway, you’ve made up your mind and you wanna give it a try. Just go to the very north of the country during autumn or winter.

Now you pretty much know what you need to know in order to visit this country properly. Enjoy your trip!

Just the heads up; I wasn’t an expat, I was an AFS student (back when I was 17-18), which means that I lived for 1 year with a Norwegian family who were so kind to treat me as family – which we now are – I went to a Norwegian school where I was the only exchange student, had to learn the language all by myself, took part in typical Norwegian activities and got fully immersed in the culture.

Prekestolen_11 - kopie
Teenage me at the top of Preikestolen
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24 comments

  1. I love Norway – my husband was in Laerdal for 12 weeks a few years ago and loved it. I have never been to Oslo – we love Laerdal and Flam and Gudvangen and of course the fjords! And Bergen!! It is just so expensive- I flew over with a suitcase full of food for my husband! He lost some weight!! But had the time of his life! I definitely want to see more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those places look amazing!! Haven’t been there myself but I Googled and wow…
      You’ve seen those places, Oslo will disappoint you I guess haha. Just keep going to those wonderful places! Bergen is amazing too! But sadly it rains A LOT there.
      It’s way too expensive… Wow, crazy he lost some weigt! Doesn’t surprise me though, if I would live there by myself I’d probably lose some weight too haha. I was lucky to be an exchange student and live with a Norwegian family so I didn’t have to pay for accomodation and food.
      The south is very nice, the east too and the north of course. Lofoten for example. Haven’t been there either (too expensive…) but I know people who’ve been there and they all say it’s a magical place.

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  2. Great guide! Norway is definitely somewhere you need to plan in advance because it’s so huge and with so much to see. I just returned from a trip to the Lofoten Islands, we planned most of the trip however the days during our stay we had to keep relatively open because the weather changed so much it altered any plans we had 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Oh, I think I saw your photography post on Lofoten! Your pictures were truly amazing!
      Yeah, the weather can make it very hard to plan. Norway is not the easiest destination to travel to haha.

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    • It should definitely not stop you from spending time there! It’s expensive but it’s so worth it. If you plan it well and save up enough, everything should be fine. 🙂
      Thank you!

      Like

  3. Norway is one of my biggest travel dreams! I also want to travel around it and even go to the Lofoten islands and Svalbard. I hope it’s possible to do it somehow on a budget as well. Can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wanna go to Lofoten and Svalbard too!!! Haven’t been able to do it yet because of the money (of course…).
      My boyfriend and I are planning on taking a flight some day to the very north and hitchhike and camp all the way to the south. It won’t be for soon but I think this is the cheapest it can get; hitchhiking, sleeping in tents and cooking by yourself because those 3 are really expensive if you don’t do it by yourself.

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  4. I’m passionate about the great outdoors so Norway is one of the top items on my bucket list… Thanks for the recommendations! Will go hiking between mid May and mid September then 🙂 can’t wait!

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    • Norway has the best outdoor life you can imagine. Everyone is respectfull towards nature and respect the other hikers. It’s really a hikers paradise!
      Hiking in mid September is my favorite moment because it’s not that cold yet by then but the autumn has already begun which means that you get to see the most beautiful autumn-colors everywhere you go. 🙂

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    • Thank you!!
      That’s very nice to hear! If you decide to go to Stavanger, you can drop me a message and I can give you some more information. Rogaland (the county of which Stavanger is the capital) is very beautiful. There’s this fjord full of little islands, you can go there by a ferry that leaves from Stavanger every hour. Island hopping is so nice there and in the full year that I lived there, I haven’t come across any tourist. It’s very calm so it would be a great thing to do when you’re in the area. 🙂
      The area of Bergen is very beautiful too. Also plenty of islands there. You really don’t need to go far to see amazing landscapes.

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  5. Norway and Iceland are the two Scandinavian countries I haven’t visited yet. I am a bit intimidated by the cost of Norway (though having lived in New York, Singapore, and Switzerland… my track record for what I deem affordable is questionable) as everyone complains about the cost. I love Stockholm and didn’t find it too exorbitant except the taxis. Your pictures look stunning! I hope some day soon, I’ll manage to go to Norway. I don’t drive because my drivers’ license expired and I can’t renew it because I no longer live in the US. So places where driving is needed is out of the question unless there is a tour I can join or convince someone with a valid license to come along and drive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Prices in Norway are comparable to Switzeland (I’ve never been to NY and Singapore so I cannot tell). Stockholm is a lot cheaper than Norway. Norway is very rich as they have oil. Sweden doesn’t. Norway is one of the richest countries in Europe, that’s why it’s so expensive there. However there’s a crisis going on there now. Oil prices are dropping and many many people have lost their job…I have friends there who have a Phd and even lost their job… The Norwegian Kroner dropped and made it a lot more affortable for travelers. Last time I visited (1,5 years ago) it was only a little more expensive than Belgium (my homecountry).

      Thank you! I’m glad you like my pictures!

      Ahh, the driver license problem. I don’t drive either so I also depend on other people to drive me around. It would be great if you could go with a friend who is allowed to drive.
      If not, you could indeed take a tour or take a cruise that follows the whole coastline all the way up til the north. I have never done a cruise myself but I’ve heard that this one is really impressive. The boat is always close to the mainland so you can see it at all times and they stop many times in beautiful cities like Stavanger, Bergen, Ålesund (very very beautiful!) and more.

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  6. Hi,
    I agree Oslo is different. I have been to Oslo, Bergen ,Voss, Gudvangen, Flam ….. We spent just half a day in Oslo. I loved seeing The Nobel Peace center, museum there. But I certainly agree that Norway is a true delight for nature lovers. These three words come to my mind whenever I think of Norway -Calm, quiet and Peaceful 🙂

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    • Hi there, Oslo is nice to stroll around for a day or 2 but it is, indeed, different. That’s a nice builing, I like the opera too! It’s so cool that you can walk on the roof of the building.
      You visited some nice places there! What was your favorite?
      Those 3 words definitely describe Norway – both the country itself and its people. 🙂

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  7. Stavanger looks insanely charming!! I’d love to go. I think I’ll have to wait until I’m a bit more established sadly. I’ve always dreamed out exploring Northern Europe (especially Norway) but I gotta save that money! You’re definitely giving me something to work towards 🙂

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    • It really is! And it’s very cute too. 🙂 I know it’s hard but like you said, you should really wait a bit. Save up enough money and you’ll be able to have the trip of your life! There’s absolutely no point in going there for a quick citytrip. To me it sounds like a waste of money. Better to keep this money, save up some more, and have a REAL trip in the country. I’m glad to hear that! Good luck saving up and I’m sure you’ll love it there! 🙂

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  8. I keep hearing amazing things about Norway! I really hope to get there soon; there’s so much to explore there! I’d love to go for the hiking!

    Like

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