Norway Travel Tips & Packing Ideas

Post by blogger | June 8, 2015      
May 2014 diesel at about $7 a gallon USD.

May 2014 diesel at about $7 a gallon USD. Click to enlarge.

From what I saw, Norway is most certainly an exceptional place for ski touring, especially that of the springtime variety. Just like the Alps, lodge and hut options abound — but unlike the Alps you’ll experience a peaceful less frantic culture (at least unless a Michael Jackson video is on the screen). Problem is, peace comes at a price.

(Disclaimer: Much of Lisa’s and my Norway ski touring trip was sponsored by Norwegian Tourism boards as well as by Marker-Volkl, so I’m not claiming any expertise on dirtbagging the Norge. Perhaps next spring? But here is a little something about Skiing on a budget in Norway, from a couple of guys who are experts in the field.)

For visitors from nearly any other country, Norway is expensive. After observing how things work, it appears that the best way to go on a budget would be to tent camp, while avoiding restaurants by shopping grocery stores and cooking your own food. Regarding beer, it’s amazingly pricey. A Norwegian brew can cost about $10 USD if you’re in a restaurant, and don’t even think about buying something imported! Good time to cut back on your alcohol consumption (and also a good time to thank Stian for the Aass I quaffed at Spiterstulen.)

You've heard of the 'Big Mac Index' for comparing prices in different countries? How about the Sushi Index?

You’ve heard of the ‘Big Mac Index’ for comparing prices in different countries? How about the Sushi Index? ‘Deluxe Assorted Sushi’ shown on this street menu is 229 Norwegian Krone, or $28.75 USD at today’s Google calculated exchange rate.

Transportation is the budget challenge. If you plan on moving around much and reaching trailheads you’ll probably need a car — a rental can cost upwards of $200/day! Adding to the problem, fuel prices could put the clamp on using a rental: during our trip even the slightly cheaper diesel was going for about $7.00 USD a gallon! You could still swing that if you didn’t do too much long distance driving and shared cost among a group, but yikes.

Using public transportation and could work if you don’t have complex goals. Yet bear in mind that costs of train and bus travel could ratchet up as well, and bus travel can be frustratingly inefficient if you’re trying to time things for morning starts.

Several individuals have told me that if you’re less inclined to adventure travel and more into having things laid out, a package trip from a guide (including van transportation) could be the best way to go. You’ll know the price up-front, and you may spend less money than you would think due to economies of scale.

Beyond all the above, I’d say it’s likely that anyone who immerses in the Norway ski touring culture will make friends with locals who might help out in various ways, if nothing more than a free shower at their home.


Norway GPS

Norwegian GPS smartphone app is clean and robust for backcoutnry. For road nav we found Google Maps worked fine (provided we could get a data connection). A stand-alone automobile GPS would have saved us money in data charges.

Snow Conditions
Swings in temperature combined with lengthy spring days can result in icy snow you could take a nasty fall on. If you’re comfortable skiing with self arrest ski pole grips (e.g., Whippet), I’d recommend using them for all but the most mellow touring. That said, I’d bring two pairs of poles in case I’m doing tours where Whippets would be ridiculous overkill. As in the Alps, you see very few people with self arrest grips.

I was told that temperatures can be as cold as the high Alps in March, but can also be quite warm. Bring layering systems that allow you to work comfortably in a wide range of temperatures. The weather can be moist and rainy; be sure you have a shell that’ll keep you dry in a downpour and perhaps bring a travel umbrella in case you get shut down by weather and spend time hiking or doing city streets.

I was surprised at how much English is spoken in Norway. Nonetheless you’ll encounter folks who don’t speak your tongue. As with any international travel it’s a good idea to have some sort of phrase book on your smartphone, so you can bring up text and show it to someone (or play audio) as pronouncing Norwegian correctly is near impossible for a non-speaker. Does such an app exist for Norwegian? Anyone got the info, let us know through the comments on this post. I just used Google Translate and it was all I seemed to need, though required a data connection.

Norwegian SIM data prices.

Norwegian SIM data prices? Looks like about $8.50 USD for a gig.

I have no idea what’s best for a functional traveler’s handy in Norway (comments appreciated). My phone on expensive Verizon international plan did do texts but did not work for voice calls in Norway or the EU. I found myself doing most communication using email and wifi hotspots. If you need a voice capable phone I’d recommend either using one you own that you’re sure will work with a Norwegian purchased sim card, or buy a burner in Norway. Myself, if we return and do much self guided travel, I’ll put more effort into getting something voice capable so it’ll work for emergency commo.

Overall Culture
Polite and friendly about sums it up. I didn’t catch one “dum Amerikaner” comment, though I deserved plenty.

Nothing too strange, you could even stay gluten free if you worked at it. Going vegetarian would be ridiculous unless absolutely necessary. For me, when doing this kind of travel I forego almost all dietary restrictions, as the stress (and potentially impolite niggling) of worrying about food is way worse than an occasionally uncomfortable stomach.

Dress Code
Jeans and plaids in the city, the usual lack of bright colors. Dresses or pants, seemed like female clothing ran the gamut. At the huts and lodges you might want something other than your baselayers for casual wear. In the hills I noticed a wide variety of colors, everything from bright red to earth tones. Essentially, the clothing you’re comfortable using for travel in Europe is what you’ll want for Norway.

Thanks to Erlend Sande and his father we borrowed a car and did a few days of driving on our own. Casual, but the roads are narrow so you do need to be attentive. Speeding laws are uber strict; watch the signs and drive at the speed limit. Driver’s licences are reciprocal but insurance is always the question when borrowing cars from friends in foreign lands.


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14 Responses to “Norway Travel Tips & Packing Ideas”

  1. etto June 8th, 2015 3:39 pm

    You can get reasoanbly good GPS (Garmin) maps for free from both for driving and for backcountry travel.

    If you go to less fancy lodges strolling around in your base layer is just fine 🙂
    (The lodges Lou and crew visited are on the more expensive end of the scale, while still being lodges)

    If you can make do with a small rental you can get away with 150USD/weekend, for 200USD/day you can get something really fancy (don’t even think about anything US sized, won’t fit on the road 😉

    If you just need voice/text, get a burner. 200NOK for the cheapest phones, then get a prepaid SIM.

    And regarding packing, it is very often windy, and the weather changes fast. The forecast is not particularly reliable. is you friend (weather forecast, available in English, also as an app)
    as is (trip info, also as an app, but in Norwegian only I think)

  2. Lou Dawson 2 June 8th, 2015 3:45 pm

    Thanks Etto!

  3. Andreas June 9th, 2015 12:44 am

    Regarding road tripping, camping and budget travel. Most camping facilities offer heated cozy little huts (usually room for 4) equipped with a small kitchen for about 350-400 kr per hut per night. These are a super option when camping becomes a drag. ie. the weather comes in and gear must be dried. Often, but not always, included in the price is access to wifi and, if you’re lucky, tokens for hot showers. Otherwise you can pitch a tent for about 100kr a night and have access to the wifi and a kitchen.

    Most camping facilities are “low elevation” and are just below snowline in springtime. This means evenings near the fjord where milder weather prevails and access to the goods with short drives up to 300-400m if you’re lucky enough to have a car.

    Regarding expensive alchohol: get the maximum allowance at the tax free duty free shop when your plane lands. There is a significant difference in price from those at the grocery store.

  4. Mikael June 9th, 2015 12:56 am

    DNT unmanaged mountain huts are also quite affordable, most of them are very strategically located. Bring your own beer and food.

    Space is what IMO defines best what ski touring is about in norway. High season in norway, basically around easter, is essentially crowd free if you stay out of any ski resorts. Difference is huge compared to what you encounter in the alps.

    Regarding equipment: very few of the ski ascents require crampons, ice axes or ropes. This also account for the peaks around Hurrungane. In northern norway the valleys are very wide and long, so going light is the key to success.

    Btw, the touring areas in northern norway are all much further north than Denali in Alaska for example. So already in mid/end of April the daylight time is very long.

  5. Hanshanshans June 9th, 2015 6:00 am

    Sorry, but I always get a bit angry when I see the “how expensive it is” in Norway articles. Being a Norwegian who has lived most winter in Alaska and BC, I don`t see the big differences in prices. Sure, I`m a true “bum”, and I guess I have some tricks up my sleeve, but the difference is not nearly as bad as depicted. Doing a quick look at I find a stationwagon(a big car for Norway), going for less than 75bucks a day. They have diesel engines usually, and get 50mpg or better. I`ve spent the last 9 weeks roadtripping in Norway, and never filled diesel more expensive then 14nok/liter. So, checking the cheapest gas in for example Salt Lake(not an expensive mountain town as I should check, but an actually city) right now is 2.84, dollars a gallon, 2,84 split 3,78 to make it into liters is: 0,75 dollars per liter, US price per liter 5,89NOK. My rental cars in the US over the last years have all used around 25mpg or poorer(including my 2002 Subaru Outback which was the best mileage ski car I could find), which gives a double usage of the Norwegian alternative. So if your trully unlucky, and get the worst fuel price in Norway, gasprice/”how far you get” is going to be about a whopping 20% more expensive from US to Norway(Canadians will have a cheaper time driving in Norway). Even our 9 seater vw transporter rented 2 years ago fillled with 6people and luggage got 45+mpg. As everywhere there are money traps, and if your not a bit careful, you do get burned sometimes on 10usd hot dogs at gas stations etc, but that`s going to be your own fault. In Norway different from for example BC, prices are always displayed easily, included all taxes etc.As far as planes, buses and trains. We have the worlds cheapest plane tickets, and bus and train fare is about the same or cheaper than North America. But a hell of a lot more comfortable and reliable. I could do these comparisons on food and most other things as well. I think the main difference is that you don`t meet many skibums in Norway, and therefor don`t get many good advices.

    Besides that rant, I gotta say, you trully have a lot more of Norway to see. Even I had problems covering the 15+ mountain ranges that make up Norwegian ski touring terrain over the last 9 weeks. Separating Lyngen, Romsdalen, Lofoten, Jotunheimen etc is one thing for any visitor, but understanding that there is about 4 times that of good mountain ranges to skitour in can get a bit overwhelming.

  6. Jefferson June 9th, 2015 11:21 am

    Hi Lou,

    Glad you enjoyed Norway, my wife speaks Norwegian and we visit several times a year for her work and to see family.

    Ideas for those who want to follow your tracks:

    1) Norway is an expensive country, yes, but please don’t go on about it in public. You will get no pity from the locals. As has been suggested, go in a gang to enjoy economies of scale. If all you’re interested in is the ‘wild snow,’ fly into Bergen or Trondheim, not Oslo. As Andreas said, max out your duty free on alcohol: spirits first, then American wine (makes a great gift), then beer. Bring U.S. energy bars for snacks as ours are less expensive and of greater variety. Also BYO remedies for ache and pains as pharmaceuticals tightly regulated in Norway. Over the counter meds here might be prescription only there. For example, on my last trip my usual over the counter mixture to fight a cold added up to over $100.- in NOK instead of the usual $30 here.

    2) Weather & gear: Norwegians say “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” and they mean it. Again, you will get no pity so don’t complain. Instead, cope: thanks to the Gulf Stream western Norway is both warmer than usual and wet. Bring technical fabrics for skiing and avoid cotton apré-ski except for base layers. The same Gulf Stream that yields snow and mild winters also can kick up the føn (its synonym in Danish means ‘blowdryer’) making umbrellas useless except to mark you as an utlander. Norwegian wool makes a great outer layer for skiing, especially in designs where traditional fabrics are mixed with a windstopper layer. Pricey at retail in the USA, deep discounts can be found in closeout stores online and in Norway.

    3) Communications: bring a cell with a GSM slot and get a prepaid SIM. As with Colorado, coverage is good in valleys but not so in the mountains. If you’re mostly out in the snow, get a Telenor SIM. Your contemporary USA GSM cell will work on data but not necessarily at the same speed because the LTE frequencies in Norway are different. As T-Mobile users we’ve found we don’t need a local SIM as our coverage and international rates – including unlimited texts and data – are reasonable. 3G is so strong we’ve never felt the need to buy a high speed data bundle.

    4) Driving: Cameras are everywhere, even in the countryside. Moving violation fees are levied based upon a percentage of your personal income, up to 10%, which you will need to verify with the court before the fine is considered paid. Excessive or reckless? 18 days in jail, non-negotiable. Norwegians are not kidding: you need to slow your @#! down.

    5) Food: The Norwegian diet is heavy on fish, dairy, mutton/pork/reindeer and (inevitably) boiled vegetables. Omega-3 rich cod and salmon three times a day will make even dreary days tolerable but outside major cities finding accommodations for particular diets will be challenging.

    It was vicariously fun to read your posts, Lou. Thanks for sharing. Heads up: we’re in Crystal mid- to late July, come on by. We’re easy to find, it’s the cabin with the vimpel flying.

  7. Jefferson June 9th, 2015 11:34 am

    Hei Hanshanshans, hvordan har du det?

    Thanks for the reality check and the suggestions, sorry you beat me to it. Why not go on with other comparisons?

    Now is a good a moment as any to remind folks about culture: “polite and friendly,” as Lou says, yes, but with the caveat that in Norway equality, honesty and transparency are givens, not pleasant surprises. Americans who come entitled and grousing will only be tolerated but humility and curiosity – you do actually want to know about the PEOPLE who invented skiing, right? – will be easily reciprocated.

    So look your host in the eye; wait until the hostess puts her glass down after you toast; and eat the brown cheese. You’ll be glad you did.

  8. Mikael June 9th, 2015 1:48 pm

    I would not over-emphasize “the cultural shock” btw; yes norwegians have their own weird habits and their own (nordic) language which might sound strange, but so do the austrians, swiss, germans NOT to mention the mediterraneans or north-americans. 🙂

    After all, most people you meet in the mountains, have travelled pretty much and are used to outdoor minded people, people who not necessarily speak the same language as themselves, so just being polite and honest, simply be yourself, will be more than enough.

  9. Christian June 9th, 2015 2:27 pm

    For budget travelling wild camping can’t be beat, but “camping huts” is the way to go if more comfort is required. We just spent 900 NOK for 3 days for 7 people – a 4 room fully equiped hut in the Romsdalen area. We made our own food. Lots of areas are accessible by bus…but I prefer my car so that I can follow my own schedule.
    For alcohol, moonshine and high quality wine is where you’ll get good value for money. A good french wine can be cheaper in Norway than in France (alcohol taxes are fixed per bottle ).
    As a student I used to buy seafood dirt cheap directly from the boats.
    Avoid all mid-range items and food, as these are just slightly less expensive than top end. Greens should be bought in “immigrant stores” (Turkish or asian).

  10. Wookie June 10th, 2015 4:12 pm

    Most everything has already been mentioned here – so I won’t repeat it….for a rental, I’ve always used rent-a-wreck, which has an awful name but offers serviceable cars five or more years old. I’ve never had a problem and we were able to get two big station wagons for about 600 Euros for the week (in total).
    Shopping at the grocery store is key to saving, but ask around, because they are not all equal in price. A package shop is not that bad – especially if you stick to staples and avoid luxury items.

  11. Andreas June 11th, 2015 7:59 am

    Experts on dirtbaging Norway (3 months, Skäggbussen = Beardbus)

  12. Daniel June 11th, 2015 2:24 pm

    Ski touring in Norway is not particularly expensive when compared to say a ski resort holiday in the alps. We ski toured in Lyngen/Trom 2012, 2013, 2015 and in Voss 2015. Stayed 16, 10, 14, 10 days. Cost per day including flights from an to germany, rental car, fuel, self catered food and accomodation (various types ranging from simple camping huts to nice appartments) was always pretty much 100 Euros, sometimes less. Travel party was 3-5 each time. Ski touring in Norway, particularly the north, is the best thing since metal edges, honestly!

  13. john June 18th, 2015 5:27 am

    It’s not that expensive if you know how to travel! for the phone i ended up getting a Norge # sim card. If you are going there to buy gear skis, climbing equipment you will pay double the amount you pay in the states. Beer go to the market pick up a six pack of mack. Food if you are near fishing docks (which you should be because how else do you want ski? summit to sea) pick up a whole cod from a fisherman for about $10 usd. Gas rental car, i found normal for europe prices. Also search for places to stay, fishing huts are cozy and not that expensive. I found Iceland to be far more expensive.

  14. Janice Mccarthy September 10th, 2015 7:56 am

    Thank you for great article. I am going to Norway next weekend. I am so glad that I have found your article on time. I am little disturbed by not working phones. I am planning to take one there. Best regards!

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