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Europe’s northernmost country, the Kingdom of Norway is famed for its mountains and spectacular fjord coastline, as well as its history as a seafaring power.
It also enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living, in large part due to the discovery in the late 1960s of offshore oil and gas.
It is a major oil exporter and has resisted the temptation to splurge its windfall, choosing instead to deposit the surplus wealth into its oil fund – now the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.
What to do with the money is a hot political issue: whether to use more of it to improve infrastructure or keep it for a rainy day and future generations.
Norway plays an active international role. It has mediated between Israel and the Palestinians as well as in the Sri Lankan conflict and has participated in military action in Afghanistan and Libya. Ex-premier Jens Stoltenberg is Nato’s secretary general.
It defies a global ban on commercial whaling, along with Japan and Iceland.
- Capital: Oslo
- Area: 385,207 sq km
- Population: 5.4 million
- Languages: Norwegian, Sami plus Kven, Romani, Scandoromani
Some key dates in Norway’s history:
Circa 800-1050 – Viking Age, in which Scandinavians go on plundering expeditions abroad. Some Norwegians settle at their destinations, including Scotland and Greenland.
1030 – Christianity adopted.
1536 – Norway becomes a dependency of Denmark.
1814-1905 – Union with Sweden.
1905 – Norwegian parliament, the Storting, proclaims independence from Sweden. Prince Carl of Denmark becomes King.
1913 – Universal suffrage for women introduced.
1940 – German forces invade Norway in April, attacking important ports. fighting lasts for two months.
The Royal Family and the government flee to Britain in June. A government-in-exile is set up in London. Vidkun Quisling proclaims himself head of government in Norway.
1941 – Quisling introduces martial law due to widespread resistance and acts of sabotage by the Norwegian people.
1945 – German forces in Norway surrender in May. The King returns to Norway in June. Quisling is tried and executed for treason. Norway becomes a charter member of the United Nations.
1949 – Norway joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).
1959 – Norway becomes founder member of the European Free Trade Association (Efta).
Late 1960s – Oil and gas deposits discovered in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. By the early 1980s they constitute nearly one-third of Norway’s annual export earnings.
1970s – Exploitation of oil and gas deposits begins. By the early 1980s they constitute nearly one-third of Norway’s annual export earnings.
1972 – Norwegian voters reject the Labour government’s recommendation on EEC membership.
1973 – Norway signs a free trade agreement with the EEC.
1994 – Norwegians for the second time reject membership of the European Union in a referendum, by a margin of about 5%.
2011 – Extreme right-winger Anders Behring Breivik carries out a bomb attack and mass shooting, killing more than 70 people in the worst massacre in Norway’s modern history.
2016 – The Lutheran Church – to which three-quarters of Norwegians belong – adopts a new liturgy allowing gay couples to marry in church weddings.
Currency & banking
Current exchange rate: $1USD = 10.78 Norwegian Kroner
The Norwegian currency is called kroner (currency code NOK) which is sometimes mistranslated into “crowns” in English. But whatever we call our money, cash is no longer king in Norway, and almost all establishments now accept electronic payment by card or phone.
Debit and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, and many places also accept payment by phone, like Google Pay and Apple Pay. But it is still a good idea to have a bit of cash on you for small purchases. Foreign currency is rarely accepted, so you need Norwegian currency to get by.
You will find cash machines in towns and cities, and in most rural areas there will be at least one place where you can withdraw money, such as at a kiosk, grocery shop, or petrol station.
Just be wary of the charges you might incur for using your credit card overseas. These can include:
- International transaction fees
- High exchange rate margins
- ATM fees
- Potential ‘cash advance fees if you use an ATM
For the most part tipping is not common in Norway, with the exception of bars and restaurants where the locals tip when they are happy with the service or food.
There is no fixed rule of thumb for how much to tip, but tips tend to stay within 5-15% of the total amount of the bill. But remember that tipping is entirely up to you – there will be no hard feelings in any case.
Driving in Norway
The road system in Norway is incredible and most of the roads are in excellent condition. Luckily, the Norwegians are not too crazy when it comes to driving! We travelled for two weeks around the country in a rental car with no issues whatsoever.
The highways are the quickest way to get around. They have some sections that are dual carriage way, but mostly they are single carriage way with some sections for overtaking. Speeds vary and there are speed cameras in places, but you get plenty of warning.
Some of the highways have tolls. There are no toll booths along the way and everything is done by automatic license plate recognition. You will get charged back through your rental car company or you can register with Epass24 and get invoiced directly for road tolls in Norway and Sweden.
The weather can impact the roads, especially in the winter, which may mean some roads will be closed, especially in the mountainous areas. This can be due to snow or potentially rock fall dangers when it rains hard.
If you are driving in the west of the country around the fjords beware that you will have to cross plenty of bridges and pass through tunnels. These tunnels can be very long – up to many kilometres. The world’s longest road tunnel, Lærdalstunnelen, at 24;5km is found here. There are others nearly as long!
There are two main bus operators in Singapore: SBS Transit Ltd and SMRT Buses Ltd. There are thousands of buses on this island to help get you from Point A to Point B. The services run through the day and both operators have special Night buses. Find out about fares and timetables on the official websites:
SBS Transit Buses
Getting around in the cities
We visited three of Norway’s largest cities; Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. In each the public transport was excellent, we mostly took buses and walked everywhere. In Oslo, there is a metro system, which is clean and efficient. As well as buying individual tickets all the cities have transport cards available as apps for Apple and Android mobile phones. We used the Oslo Pass when staying there which gave us free use of the transport system and free entry to many of the city’s attractions. Similar cards are available in Trondheim and Bergen, but we didn’t use those as they didn’t fit our plans.
Food, Drink & Cuisine Advice
Food hygiene is generally good, particularly now that most individual street stalls have been closed down in favour of hawker centres. As always it’s safer to avoid raw vegetables, shellfish and reheated foods, and to wash fruit that has not been peeled. The tap water is safe to drink. Hepatitis A infection is not unknown, although rare, and vaccination may be considered.
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Norway
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
The healthcare system in Norway is of very high quality, generally regarded as one of the best in the world; life expectancy is high and infant mortality is low.
Costs of medical care for those who are not local or from an EU country, such as tourists, can be very high. It is therefore important to take out appropriate travel insurance, which should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency.
As always when you travel you should take out the necessary travel insurance coverage. We always use World Nomads but there are plenty of other insurance companies that offer travel insurance
Singapore is generally a safe country to visit. There’s a small risk of petty theft, particularly at airports and railway stations in and around Oslo.
Useful emergency numbers
- 110 – Fire department
- 112 – Police
- 113 – Ambulance
The best time to visit Norway in the northern region is in the fall, which brings thinner crowds, cooler weather between 5°C to 10°C, and glorious foliage.
The best time to visit Norway in the southern region is between May and August, when the days are long, the landscapes are green, and the weather is warm, between 16°C and 22°C. This is a popular time to explore the region, so expect to see a few more visitors around. In northern Norway, you can hike under the midnight sun at this time of year.
The two regions have very different climates, so when you visit Norway will likely depend both on what you want to do when you’re there and where you want to go.
Starting in late November and running until February or March, the whole country turns into a wintry playground, especially the northern region. If you’re comfortable with frigid temperatures, this is an excellent time to visit the Arctic Circle, where you can watch the northern lights and enjoy the deep snow that blankets the landscape.
The best time to visit the fjords is in April, May or June, which are perhaps the most photogenic months, when the fruit orchards on the shoreline explode into pastel bloom. However, this area of the country offers a milder climate which makes it an excellent destination year-round.
What is Schengen?
Schengen refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries. It’s the largest free travel area in the world.
What is a Schengen Visa
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area, per stays up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.
The Schengen visa is the most common visa for Europe. It enables its holder to enter, freely travel within, and leave the Schengen zone from any of the Schengen member countries. There are no border controls within the Schengen Zone.
However, if you are planning to study, work, or live in one of the Schengen countries for more than 90 days, then you must apply for a national visa of that European country and not a Schengen Visa.
The 26 Schengen countries are:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
From 2024 visitors to a Schengen country that currently does not require a visa to enter will be required to obtain an ETIAS. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is a completely electronic system that allows and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. It is similar to the US ESTA programme. The ETIAS will cost only €7 for each application and will last for 3 years.
Citizens of Which Countries Need a Schengen Visa to go to Europe?
The countries whose citizens are required to obtain a Schengen visa in order to enter any member country of the Schengen Area are:
|Angola||Ghana||Papua New Guinea|
|Belize||Indonesia||Sao Tome And Principe|
|Burkina Faso||Kazakhstan||South Africa|
|Central African Republic||Lebanon||Syria|
|Dem. Rep. Of Congo||Mali||Tunisia|
Which power plugs and sockets in Europe?
In Europe, the power plugs and sockets are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Check out the following pictures.
Type F: also known as “Schuko”. This socket also works with plug C and plug E.
|Type F: This socket also works with plug C and E|