The most surprising travels I’ve had was a sudden out of nowhere trip to Norway. I’ve had an EU Visa opened since my trip to Italy and decided to get out of my system, somewhere I wouldn’t normally go but still close and cheap. The flight and stay were rather money savvy, so it worked out well for me. But here are some tips that I wish I knew before I go, or just something that surprised me (most of the times pleasantly).
1. The Norwegian language is unpronounceable. I try to learn basic words to say “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Where is the museum of arts?” usually, but this time I’ve quit after listening to “hyggelig å møte deg” (deg sounds like die). It’s “Nice to meet you”. I’ve managed to learn only “takke” — thank you.
2. Turns out there’s no need to know Norwegian to go to Norway. Everyone can speak the perfect English, keep up a conversation and give you directions. There was only one lady in a Thai food cafeteria who I couldn’t explain what I want to. All food names with pictures were written in Norwegian and I was just going down the list trying to pronounce ANYTHING in English or the way it was meant to be in Norwegian. I’m very bad at reading Norwegian, so I end up with an omelet of some sort.
3. There are tourist centers in Oslo and other popular cities. If you got lost or don’t know what to do — just head up there and get directions, recommendations or just recharge your phone. It’s free of charge as I know. Do that right away as you come to a city to plan your trip.
4. Returning back to the food topic: I was glad I got a pack of nuts and energy bars with me. Usually, I don’t even touch them but there were times I was starving in Oslo and there were no cheap food options on my way. By “cheap” I mean relatively cheaper than everything else. McDonald’s here is three times more expensive than anywhere else I’ve been. In other words, take snacks with you.
5. When I arrived in Oslo, there was a week-long music festival with a bunch of cafeterias at the lowest prices. I believe it was the best luck for me to find it, but Oslo looks like a busy place so there might be always something fun (free) going on with great Chinese food.
6. Restrooms or toilets whatever you call them, they are PAID. I keep getting those paid bathrooms flashbacks. I know, there are pros to make bathrooms commercial, although I ended up spending a lot of money to go to public bathrooms because I was outside all day long every day. And the price is not symbolic, like a change, 5 NOK, oh hell no, it was around 20 NOK. It’s 2-3 dollars or around 150 roubles. Look for free bathrooms in a shopping mall (not guaranteed), restaurants and at home. Go out with an empty bladder.
7. And that’s the main reason you need some actual physical money, not just your credit card. It’s also very handy to pay for your street food, but I’m pretty sure even local flea markets have credit card readers.
8. I know that Norway is a cold and brutal Scandinavian country and you have to be prepared to all kinds of nasty weather like rains or snow. Although I was there in August, I was suggested to bring some warm clothes just in case. It was actually chill and I’ve onioned myself up with a sweater, light jacket, and a hoodie while going on a train from Bergen back to Oslo. Most of the time my clothes were irrelevant. The weather was ridiculously good with sunshine and a little breeze for a week straight. Everyone in Norway I talked to was surprised by my “weather luck”. I’ve also brought an umbrella with me, never used it on that trip.
9. In the end of August in Norway, there is actual snow. It’s not snowing high up in mountains (Oslo – Bergen railroad), it’s just there.
10. Oslo – Bergen railroad is amazing! It’s just the best I’ve seen so far: the cheapest sitting coach sits have one table for four seats for day-time travel, very spacious. There is a place to charge phones, a little bar coach to grab a cup of coffee and snacks, bathrooms are free. For evening and night trains you’ll be offered a different coach with seats you could almost lie down, and a bag with a little blanket, pillow, eye mask, and earplugs.
11. If you decide to go with trains — good for you! But purchase all tickets well before the travel date, BUY THEM ONLINE AND WELL BEFORE. I’ve got mine a month in advance, it was a pretty good deal.
12. Choose the night coach: it’s empty and quiet, usually filled up with students who look for each other. I was sharing mine with a bunch of girls students coming from a hiking trip (how cool is that?). Also, it will save you hotel money.
13. Talk to people, Norwegians are so very friendly. I feel like Norwegian friendliness is almost like in the US, where you can have small talks with anyone and fulfil the social needs. But maybe it’s just a smaller community thing. There are 5 million people living in Norway, comparing to just Moscow with 15 million people! I’ve learned about it from locals by the way 🙂
So here we go, a little list of things to research before you go to Norway. My personal dream now is to live a couple months near some fjord, chill, hike and talk to locals all day. Awesome plan.