Road trip Norway’s scenic routes
Plan your ultimate Norwegian travel experience around Norway’s best drives
Many of Norway’s most famous attractions can only be accessed by road. While expensive, renting a car can still be a great value way to see the very best of Norwegian nature. In my travel column this month, I’m sharing some guidance for those of you considering a road trip through Norway.
Driving in Norway
In general, driving in Norway is an easy, enjoyable experience. Roads are smaller than you might be used to, but this makes little difference when there are relatively few cars on the road. The exception to this is the Norwegian holiday month of July, when roads in places like Lofoten and Geiranger can be clogged, and parking can be hard to come by.
Driving also means you can take advantage of cheaper accommodation options including well-equipped self-catering cabins or campsites. Why pay NOK 2,000 for a hotel room when you can pay less than half that for a comfortable cabin with kitchenette that sleeps four?
National Scenic Routes
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) has for several years now been developing the well-known tourist routes program, also referred to as the Norwegian Scenic Routes. These 18 stretches of road have received significant investment with the aim of increasing tourism.
This isn’t just about the road surface and parking spots, though. Norwegian designers young and old have created art and architecture along the routes to enhance the experience of nature. At Eggum on Lofoten, acclaimed architects Snøhetta built a service building from driftwood to help protect the vulnerable landscape while keeping it open for visitors.
These 18 roads will provide you with more than enough inspiration to plan a great road trip. Many of them are in the fjord region, including two within very easy reach of an Oslo to Bergen drive: Hardanger and Hardangervidda. The former takes you past colorful orchards and small waterside villages as it skirts two fjords, while the latter soars over the highest mountain plateau in northern Europe.
At 269 miles, the Helgeland coastal route is the longest of the 18, yet also one of the least frequented by international visitors. Six ferry trips break up the journey, on which you’ll see fjords, mountains, and islands galore. It also takes you close to the Vega archipelago, one of Norway’s lesser-visited UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Renting a car
Like most things in Norway, renting a car is not cheap. Expect to pay around $50 a day or $250 for a week, depending on the model and how far in advance you book. Most of the big global names in rental cars–Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt–have a presence at Norwegian airports and city centers. Rates are almost always lower from the airports. It’s possible to book pickup and drop off at different locations to facilitate a one-way road trip, but you’ll have to pay considerably more for this.
As regular readers of The Norwegian American will know, Norway is a world leader in electric cars, with the majority of new car sales now being either hybrid or fully electric. Many rental agencies offer such hybrid vehicles, and it’s worth requesting one of these when booking as the fuel economy is significantly better.
You may use your valid driving license from the United States or Canada for up to three months in Norway, whether you are just visiting or are planning to stay longer. Licenses issued in EU/EEA countries are fully valid in Norway.
Make sure there’s room in your budget beyond the rental fee. Depending on where you drive, you can expect to pay for ferries, road tolls, and parking. Credit cards are accepted on all ferries, although you may need cash to buy a coffee or a lefse from the kiosk!
Driving into cities is especially expensive, with road tolls for entering every major city and significant parking charges—if you can even find somewhere to park. If it fits your itinerary, hire a car just for your road trip rather than for your entire stay.
Many of Norway’s roads are interrupted by fjords. While bridges and tunnels do exist with more being constructed right now all over the country, many fjords are still only passable by ferry. These are simple drive-on/drive-off affairs, but you may have to wait for a departure for up to an hour or more outside peak times.
If you’re not used to driving in the winter, stick to a summer visit. Snow and high winds can close even the biggest roads at a moment’s notice, while some roads (including some of the aforementioned tourist routes) are closed for six months or more. Check the list of winter road closures at www.vegvesen.no when planning a winter trip.
With some advance planning, driving in Norway is a memorable experience. Just remember to slow down and allow plenty of time to enjoy the journey!
David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.
This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.