Are you dreaming of visiting Norway one day? Perhaps you've already booked a flight and have begun planning the trip. Regardless of where you are in the process, here are 17 things you should know before visiting Norway:
1. Norway is a Scandinavian Country
We Norwegians tend to believe that Norway is the center of the earth and everyone knows who we are. The truth is that Norway isn't as large as we want to believe and everyone doesn't even know that Norway even is a country.
Norway is a Scandinavian country with approximately 5.2 million people and has numerous times been named one of the best places to live and/or visit.
(For those who don't know: Scandinavia consists of Norway, Sweden and Denmark; 3 nordic countries located in Europe)
2. Polar Bears do not Walk in the Streets
A common misconception is that Polar Bears walk the streets in Norway. This is, fortunately, not the case. In fact, there are no wild Polar Bears on mainland Norway.
Norway is actually a really civilized country and you would be surprised to see how modern it is. We even have cars driving in the streets...!
Svalbard, however, is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole where there are more Polar Bears than people. Still, it's rare that there are any incidents between the inhabitants and Polar Bears.
3. The Norwegian currency is NOK (Norwegian Krone)
The currency we use in Norway is the Norwegian Krone. So, if you're traveling with only Euro you won't come far. The Norwegian Krone was recently weakened which means that if you're traveling to Norway in the near future it will be cheaper than what it was only one year ago.
It should be mentioned that Norway is using less and less cash. You can mostly anything with a credit card, even taxis and hot dogs! That means that it's not a crisis if you forgot to bring cash.
4. Most Norwegians Speak English
Don't know Norwegian? No problem! The majority of Norwegians speaks English. Even though some are a bit shy to have a full conversation, they are able to understand most and to help you with any questions you might have.
So, don't be afraid of saying hi to a stranger!
5. Norway is a Safe Country to Visit
Norway is known to be one of the safest countries in the world. Crime rates are extremely low even in major cities such as Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger.
As with any other urban areas, you should take certain precautions but there's not much to be afraid of. Even walking alone during the night is relatively safe and the chances are small that you'll become the victim of a crime.
Most crimes in Norway are related to home and office burglaries. There are some groups of pickpocketers traveling around the most touristic areas during summer so keep an extra eye on your wallet when you're in a crowd (still, the possibilities of anything happening is low).
6. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
There are 4 seasons in Norway: winter, spring, summer and fall. Be sure to take this into consideration when you're planning to visit Norway. Some attractions are only open during a specific season and certain hikes are unreachable during winter. If your main purpose is to visit one specific location figure out what season is optimal for that.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the weather changes a lot between seasons. Make sure that you always bring enough clothes when traveling to Norway as it does get cold! Keeping an eye on the weather forecast is always a good idea.
7. Always Bring an Extra Layer of Clothes
The weather, as mentioned above, changes a lot between seasons in Norway so you always want to bring enough clothes. Most importantly, if you're planning to go on some hikes during your visit, you need to bring an extra layer of clothes. Even during summer, it's wise to bring a rain jacket and a fleece in your backpack in case the weather changes or the temperatures drop when you reach a higher altitude.
8. Wild camping is Allowed in Mostly all of Norway
Due to "Allemannsretten" (every man or woman's right of public access), you can pitch a tent wherever you want in Norway (unless anything else is stated at a specific area). The outdoors is very important for us Norwegians and we do our best to maintain the right of using the outdoors freely. So, make sure that you leave no traces behind and don't do any damage to nature.
There are also several campsites all over Norway that are cheap to stay at. At these sites, you often have the possibility to take a warm shower, clean your clothes and charge any batteries.
9. National Parks and Most Outdoor Locations are Free to Use
Also, due to "Allemannsretten", all public lands are free to access. This means that you don't have to pay an entrance fee for a national park and you're free to go mostly wherever you want. All we ask is that you treat nature with respect and do your best not to leave any traces behind.
10. Norway has the Best Salmon
It's true, Norway has the best salmon. In fact, it was Norwegians who introduced the Japanese to Salmon Sushi in the 1980's. That's how good our salmon is.
While salmon isn't cheap, make sure that you have at least one proper salmon meal in Norway even if you're traveling on a budget.
11. Traveling in Norway can be expensive if you only eat out
It's no secret that Norway is an expensive country to visit. Even though it's less expensive now that the Norwegian Krone is weak, it's not cheap. One way to avoid spending too much money during your travels in Norway is to eat less at restaurants. Purchasing your own food at a supermarket is much cheaper than going out every day. Unlike many other countries, Norway doesn't have a culture of going out to eat.
If you are traveling on a budget make sure that you read through our Norway on a Budget guide.
12. Northern lights aren't visible everywhere
Are you dreaming of seeing the northern lights? Well, Norway is the right place to do it!
There's something magical about watching the sky turn into a green and purple formation dancing all over. I still remember the first time I saw it for myself, it was a moment that changed my life...
Many tourists come to Norway with the intent to see the northern lights. However, the northern lights (or Aurora Borealis) isn't visible all over Norway.
Since Norway is a long country you're normally only able to see the lady in green in the northern parts of Norway. The further south you go, the fewer lights you will see. Places such as Lofoten, Bodø and Tromsø are popular areas to watch the northern lights.
You should also remember that the northern lights won't be visible during the summer as it is too bright during that season. Typically, you've got the best chance of seeing some activity between October and April.
13. Norway is a Long Country
Another large misconception about Norway is that it's a small country which is easy to travel around. This isn't the case. Even though only 5 million people live here, it’s a large country by area (148 718 square miles) that stretches from 57° to 81° North. This means that you're not able to spend a couple of days in Norway and see both the west coast, capital and northern parts. In fact, driving from Kristiansand in southern Norway to Nordkapp in Northern Norway takes about 38 hours non-stop.
Therefore, you should plan your trip carefully and look at the distances between the places you want to go. If you want to see places in all regions I strongly suggest you spend some days extra or plan more than one trip.
14. There aren't Many Dangers in the Wild
Besides the Polar Bears on Svalbard, there are no dangerous animals waiting to attack you in the Norwegian wild. Either you're in the woods, on a mountain or on a glacier, you have nothing to fear.
There are animals that you want to avoid but they will typically run away before you even see them.
15. Norwegians eat a lot of Taco
If you visit a Norwegian family on a Friday evening the possibility is high that they are having Tacos for dinner. As a joke, it's said that Tex-Mex is Norway's national food. Yes, it really is that popular - even my grandma makes Tacos on Fridays!
(Ok, you might not have needed to know this but it's a fun fact that might work as an awkward icebreaker!)
16. The Difference Between Southern Norway and Northern Norway is Huge
Since Norway is such a long country it goes without saying that the differences are quite significant. In the southern Norway, you have beautiful coasts and warm (not tropical!) weather, the east has large areas of woods and the capital, the west has the fjords and mountains while the north has the arctic landscapes.
You might also notice that the dialects spoken throughout Norway are quite different and if you're just learning to speak some Norwegian it might be a bit confusing.
17. The Midnight Sun Isn't a Different Sun
During winter, northern Norway has polar nights; a period where the sun never rises above the horizon and you have 24 hours of dark. During summer, however, it's the exact opposite; the sun never sets.
You might have heard of the Midnight Sun before. Unlike what a few tend to believe, the midnight sun is actually not a different sun (...) it's just the same sun as during the rest of the year but it doesn't go down; meaning 24 hours of daylight.