The express ferry is a daily passenger-only service between mainland Norway and the Lofoten islands. Here's everything you need to know.
Getting around northern Norway without a car or flying is always a challenge, but it can be done. There are many local ferries to shuttle people between islands and express boats to travel longer distances.
One of the most convenient options for travellers is the express ferry between Bodø and Svolvær. Also known as the ‘speedboat’, it’s a popular way to travel between mainland Norway and the Lofoten islands.
I recently took the speedboat for the first time and it was very similar to the Trondheim to Kristiansund express boat, both in terms of style and price.
The trip is on the pricey side, but it’s much cheaper than flying and/or taking a car on the car ferry alternatives, although that's not always the case if your car is full of passengers.
There is typically just one of the express services each day. On weekdays, the boat leaves Svolvær at 6am, arriving in Bodø at around 9.15am. On weekends, the boat leaves Svolvær at 7.55am on Saturday and 12.45pm on Sunday.
That might not seem especially fast, but the service calls at several stops along the way. Travel across the water between the stops is therefore pretty speedy. From Svolvær, the ferry takes just 10 minutes to reach the delightful island of Skrova.
From there, it crosses the water towards the mainland and then makes a series of stops at ports on islands and remote mainland ports along the coastline before reaching Bodø: Skutvik, Bogøy, Nordskot and Helnessund. Some departures also call at Brennsund.
From Bodø, the express boat leaves at 6pm on weekdays and Saturdays, arriving in Svolvær at 9.25pm. On Sunday, the departure is at 7pm.
Boarding the express ferry
In Svolvær, the ferry leaves from the Hurtigbåtkai, which is just next to the Hurtigruten port in the centre of town.
Somewhat confusingly, this is in a different part of town from Svolvær ferjekai, from where car ferries depart.
In Bodø, the ferry departs from Sentrumsterminalen next to the Scandic Haven. This is downtown and more convenient for most travellers than the Hurtigruten and cruise port farther out.
The onboard experience
There is a small rooftop deck at the back of the ferry, but most of the accommodation is underneath is one long room. As you'll see, there is aircraft-style seating, although with more space and wider aisles.
There is also some seating with tables. The seats are comfortable and the windows large, an important element on such a scenic route.
We were given advice to sit on the left side and that advice proved worthwhile! While the scenery was great throughout the trip, the view from the left hand side was truly spectacular at times.
When we boarded at Svolvær the ferry was relatively empty, so it was easy to get a window seat. By the time we reached Bodø the ferry was about two-thirds full.
Three and a quarter hours just flew by with so much coastal scenery to see. I made several short trips up to the top deck to get a better look when we were approaching some of the ports.
Aside from the bathrooms and substantial luggage racks, the only other facility of note was the small cafe at the centre of the ferry.
The usual range of sandwiches, salads, pølser, hot and cold drinks, and sweet and salty snacks were on sale. This will be familiar to anyone who has travelled by ferry in Norway before.
I ordered a chorizo panini which was better than expected and a black coffee, a must-have on any Norwegian ferry of course. My parents had a shrimp salad, pølse and cappuccinos and everything was a “good enough” option for lunch on the move.
Alternatives to the Bodø-Svolvær express boat
The timing of the crossing isn't always ideal, especially the 6am departure from Svolvær on weekdays. So, if this service isn’t for you, there are a few other options.
The quickest is to fly. Widerøe operates daily departures between the two airports and it takes less than 30 minutes. However, prices are rarely cheap, especially at the last minute.
There is also the Hurtigruten. Some tourists who know about the coastal voyage don't realise you can take Hurtigruten as a local ferry service. The cost of the crossing from Bodø to Svolvær is comparable with the speedboat, but it takes 6 hours.
However, those 6 hours are spent crossing the sea towards Stamsund, allowing you to watch the mountains of Lofoten gradually loom larger. From Stamsund to Svolvær, the cruise along the Lofoten mountains is a wonderful sight.
You can also of course drive. Options include the ‘long way around' via Narvik on the E6, taking the car ferry from Svolvær to Skutvik (summer only) or the car ferry from Moskenes to Bodø.
Frequently asked questions about the express boat
To sum up, the express ferry is a great option for travellers without a car. I know there will be many questions, so I'll try to answer some of the most obvious here.
Is this a sightseeing cruise? No, this is not a tourist ferry. It is part of the regional public transport network. That being said, the scenery along much of the route is fantastic.
Do I need to buy tickets in advance? No. But it’s easy to book in advance via the Reis Nordland website. Alternatively you can pay with a credit card upon boarding.
What if I’m late and/or miss the boat? This is public transport so it runs to a schedule. If you miss the boat, you must wait until the next departure (typically the following day) or seek alternate transport.
How much does the ferry cost? At the time of writing, an adult ticket between Bodø and Svolvær costs NOK 745. Children under 16, full-time students under 30, and seniors over 67 are entitled to a discounted fare of NOK 373. Photo ID will likely be asked for to prove eligibility.