First Timer’s guide to Norway

Winter is coming and northern light season has started. A perfect time to visit Norway, one of the Nordic countries. Here’s some tips if you are planning to go for holiday in this region.

Like other Nordic countries, Norway winter last longer than the other European countries. January and February is the coldest month with heavy snow and March is still winter.

In winter don’t forget to layer and make sure your clothes make you warm and dry.

When you go to Norway in winter you’ll see that everyone dress up like a mountain climber with sturdy boots. Bring insulated jacket which can stand below zero Celcius and pack warm layers. Forget cottons and go for wool.

There is polar night and midnight sun

Polar night happen between December and January. This is the period where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for more than 24 hours. This is a phenomenon you find within the Polar Circle during the winter months. How long it lasts depends on how close to the North Pole you are. On the opposite you will get to experience midnight sun between May and June where the sun almost never sets. Most people are aware that you can’t see the Northern Lights in the summer, as the sun never sets up north, but sometimes people forget that the opposite applies to the winter – the sun will never rise. It won’t be pitch black all day. It kind of looks like just after sunset for most of the day – but you will have limited hours of light in the north in the winter, which you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your activities.

December may not be the right time if you want to watch Northern Light

Aurora season starts at the end of August and finishes by mid-April. Also don’t expect to see Auroras All the Time. This just won’t happen, unless you are very lucky. You’ve got to plan a trip to the north (the arctic circle) in the wintertime to see the Northern Lights, and even then, the elusive aurora borealis may not make an appearance. Tromsø is a known hotspot for Northern Lights spotting in Norway. You can also see them in Lofoten but the chances is not as high as in Tromso because Lofoten tends to have more clouds in their sky. Beware that bad weather and low geomagnetic activity can reduce your chances even if you’re in the right place at the right time of year. Tips for chasing northern light here.

Norway is a cashless society

You can get by with your debit and credit card without having to withdraw any cash. Your debit/credit card has to come with chip and a pin number.

Budget for Food and Gas

Nordic countries are an expensive place to visit, and there’s no sugarcoating it. Chances are, it’s going to cost you much more to eat or fill up your car than it would at home. You can reduce the overall cost by booking a rental with a kitchen and hitting up supermarkets for meals. Steer clear of overpriced convenience store inside Gas Station and head for a real supermarket.

There is no cheap Asian or junk food restaurant

It is better to go for proper restaurant to have lunch and cook yourself for dinner or buy simple food from the supermarket if you are staying in Hotel’s room instead of a place with kitchen.

Norway is big and from north to south, the country’s landscapes change drastically

Many travelers assume that Norway’s wilds are a quick drive or bus ride away from Oslo, when in reality, it’s a significant journey. Bergen is the spot you’ll want to visit if you’re looking for fjords, and it’s a seven-hour drive from Oslo, while Tromsø is the place to watch aurora borealis. Tromsø, which is above the Arctic Circle is a two-hour flight from Oslo.

Accommodations can get quickly booked up

Don’t wait too long to reserve accommodation during the northern light season and the peak summer season from mid-June to mid-August especially in Tromsø and Lofoten where accommodation is not abundant.

Norway has a good public transport in big cities but for small cities renting a car is the best especially in winter

Lofoten island is an example where it is best to rent a car to explore the island. However do not rent a car in winter if you are not comfortable with driving in winter conditions especially in the month of Jan and Feb. Always pay attention to weather warnings, and check the areas where you will be traveling for road closure. Winter is especially hard and unpredictable. Take a look at the weather patterns from the year prior for a good idea of what to expect. If self driving is on your agenda, build in a few days of wiggle room in case any major roads close and be flexible with your itinerary.

Check-in Process in Norway domestic airlines can be very swift and efficient

As long as you do online check-in and pack your suitcases to maximum weight 23kg. Don’t waste your time queueing at the check in counter. There’s going to be a long line because labour is expensive in Norway so normally you will only see 1-2 check in desk. Instead go to the self service machine to print your boarding pass and luggage tag. Put the luggage tag in your suitcases and drop them in the self service baggage drop-in. Make sure your suitcase’s weight is 23.0 kg or less, otherwise it will get rejected by the machine.Rather than travelling with 1 large suitcase for 2 people, opt for 2 medium suitcases to avoid this problem if you know you are going to fly within Norway.

Lastly here’s My favourite apps for Norway

  • apps to book trains through Norway
  • Check out the weather in Norway with or
  • Keep an eye on your flights with SAS’s free travel app
  • NorwayLights – It’s a website with a northern lights forecast as well as an app with an overview of places known as main “northern light cities” in Norway. It has a user-friendly interface that is designed to help you decide when and where to go aurora chasing, as well as how to get there. The app provides a three-day northern lights forecast with an hourly forecast for the current day. It gives recommendations to go, try or wait for the northern lights in a specific city, based on weather forecast and solar wind activity.
  • Download RuterReise to plan a journey in seconds and buy tickets through Ruter Billett. With Ruter Billet app you can buy a bus ticket anywhere and at any time. This is the easiest way to buy a ticket without having to queue at the ticket machine which is not always available at the bus stops. We buy our bus/tram ticket in Tromso and Bergen using this apps.
  • XE – not specific to Norway but it helps me to convert NOK to my home currency
  • Google Map – Most people already have it and it is the only navigation app you need especially when you are driving
  • Splitwise – if you are travelling with friends, splitwise is a good apps to split your expenses.
  • Tripit – It organizes your travel plans no matter where you book. Simply forward your confirmation emails to and in a matter of seconds, TripIt will create a comprehensive itinerary for every trip. You can also share the itinerary with your travel partner.

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