I love places where you can easily get around using solely public transportation, but unfortunately Norway isn’t really one of those places. I mean, if you stick to the cities then public transport will be fine, but if you want to venture into the countryside? It’s hard without a car.
Public transport can also be really expensive in Norway, so if you’re traveling with other people and want to see as much of Norway as possible, you’re probably best off doing it in a car.
Plus road trips are so much fun!
I’ve put a lot of kilometers on my little red car since I bought it in February, and in the process I’ve learned a thing or two about planning a road trip in Norway. I mean, with Norway’s nonstop breathtaking nature it’s kind of impossible to have a bad road trip here, but here my best tips for making yours truly epic.
Choose your starting point wisely
Norway is enormous, and with all those mountains and fjords even what look like short distances on a map can take a really long time to cover. Luckily Norway is full of airports, many of which have international flights, so I’d highly recommend deciding what you want to see in Norway before choosing your flights. And if you can’t find a direct flight into the region you’d like to explore then check out the domestic flight options.
The main international airports in Norway are in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Tromsø, Trondheim, Ålesund, and Haugesund.
As a (very) general guide:
- If you’re interested in Norway’s cities and mountains fly into Oslo.
- If you’re interested in the fjords but still want to see a city fly into Bergen.
- If you want to do Preikestolen, Kjeragbolten, and Trolltunga – probably the three most famous hikes in Norway – fly into Stavanger. (Though if you only want to do Trolltunga then Bergen is closer.)
- If you’re interested in fjords and mountains, including Geirangerfjord, Trollstigen, and the Atlantic Road, fly into Ålesund.
- If you want to see the Northern Lights, the Arctic, and Lofoten fly into Tromsø or Bodø.
Use the National Tourist Routes as a guide
Norway has a lot of absurdly scenic roads, but it also has its fair share of boring highways. And you definitely don’t want to spend the bulk of your epic Norwegian road trip driving through tunnels, which Norway has a lot of.
An easy way to find Norway’s most scenic roads is by using the National Tourist Routes map. Just to warn you, their website is super glitchy and I still haven’t managed to get the map to load on my phone, but it’s 100% worth pulling out your laptop to check out this site, because every single road listed on it is guaranteed to be amazing.
I always check the map before setting out on a road trip and I try to take detours through as many of the tourist routes as I can. I’ve now driven 9 of the 18 routes and have never been disappointed.
Connect with people on Couchsurfing and Facebook
Of course not every scenic road in Norway has made it onto the list of National Tourist Routes, so to find more beautiful drives you’re best off asking locals! Norwegians love to gush about the beautiful nature here, and I feel like at least once a week someone is telling me about a drive that I just have to do here.
I personally love to use Couchsurfing to connect with locals from an area (even if I’m not planning to use it for accommodation) but of course you can also find people on Facebook or other social media channels.
I never would have visited Åna-Sira if a local hadn’t told me about it!
Check if the roads are open
A lot of the high mountain roads close during the winter, and it’s easy to forget that winter in Norway can mean September to June.
Schedule at least one free day to make up for bad weather
Even if you’re traveling on a tight schedule, it can still be worth leaving one day free. I’d especially recommend doing this if you’ll be visiting a particular place that you’ve always dreamed of seeing, because the weather here can be really unpredictable so you might end up needing an extra day to (hopefully!) let the skies clear.
I wish I could have stayed an extra day to see Trollstigen without the fog!
If you’re camping, bring a really warm sleeping bag and pitch away from the main road
Even in the summer the nights in the mountains get really cold, so make sure your sleeping bag can withstand freezing temperatures.
And while wild camping is totally legal here, I do try to camp out of sight of the road. Last summer there was a lot of press in Norway about European tourists loading their cars with food and camping their way through Norway, spending almost no money while here, so a lot of locals don’t look too kindly on tents.
It’s really silly, but the one time I did camp by the side of a road I was honked at all night, and when I asked other travelers about it many had experienced the same thing. Besides, it’s much nicer camping away from the noise of traffic anyway!
Shop around for the best car rental deal
The good news is, if you’re traveling with multiple people, renting a car is going to be a lot cheaper than relying on public transport in Norway. Of course the bad news is, it’s still going to be expensive.
Always, always shop around to find the best deal! Personally I use Auto Europe to compare prices (though of course now I have my own car).
And as fuel in Norway is expensive, definitely go for the smallest, most fuel efficient car you can find.
My Toyota Aygo diesel looks like a toy car, but it’s super cheap to run!
Alternate between grocery store meals and restaurants
Having the extra space of a car makes it a lot easier to buy and store food for meals, which can save a ton of money while traveling in Norway. I generally eat one restaurant meal a day on my travels and balance out the expense with cheap grocery store meals the rest of the day.
If you are traveling on a tight budget then read my post about eating on a budget in Norway.
Anyone have any tips to add? Share them in the comments!