The long-distance Oslo to Stavanger train journey takes a lot longer than a flight. But for tourists or those not in a rush, it's a great option. Here's our guide to one of Norway's under-appreciated railway routes.
The Oslo to Bergen railway is the most frequently mentioned Norwegian train journeys in travel books, websites and travel blogs. Another scenic route, the Flåm railway from Myrdal to Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord, often ranks second.
But there’s another railway journey in Norway that perhaps doesn’t get the appreciation it should. The Oslo to Stavanger line offers a different kind of scenery on its slow meander through southern Norway.
How long does it take?
Completing the full Oslo to Stavanger route can take anything from 7.5 to 9 hours, depending on the train. Usually, the night train has the longest duration.
Because of the length of the trip, you’ll want stock up on sandwiches, drinks and snacks before boarding. At least, that's what I do! There is also a small cafeteria onboard and from my experience it's a pretty good service but the menu is on the expensive side.
While it is a pleasant trip, I’ve done this route five times in the last 12 months and I can you tell you that each time it seems to get longer and longer. But for tourists or first-time travellers on the line, it's likely more enjoyable.
The route: Oslo to Stavanger via Kristiansand
The company Go Ahead took over the route in 2019 following a reorganisation of Norway's railway system. However, tickets can still be booked via Vy, which is the new name for NSB, a name that will be more familiar to people who've previously travelled on the Norwegian railways.
The service is a direct one but does call at up to 30 stations along the way. Depending on the time you travel, there may be fewer stops. During the summer, work is often undertaken on the line meaning there may be a bus replacement for some of the route. This is especially true for the stretch into Oslo.
Like much of Norway’s railway network, the route is dictated by the rugged landscape. In the direction towards Stavanger, once the train has passed through Telemark, it snakes its way down and keeps fairly close to the coast.
The scenic views
It stops at many picturesque stations, towns and villages before traveling through Norway’s southernmost county, Agder. The green and mountainous scenery before Kristiansand is my favourite part of the journey.
From Kristiansand, the train continues westward, through the cosy, colourful coastal town of Egersund. Then it turns northward through Rogaland’s farming flatlands and the final stretch towards Stavanger.
Each side of the carriage has its advantages view wise, assuming you book a window seat! The train runs through deep forests, mountains, lakes and of course the occasional tunnel.
A brief resting point on this route can be had when the train stops at Kristiansand, which happens in both directions. The stop lasts for about 10 minutes, which provides travellers with the chance to briefly stretch their legs.
In Kristiansand, depending on what type of train you’re on, the conductor can sometimes switch the direction of the seats. This is because Kristiansand is on a spur line, and so the train reverses direction when it leaves the town. So if you've booked a forward-facing seat for the journey, without the flip of the seats, you might suddenly find yourself going backwards! I mention this because I dislike the latter very much.
Ticket types and fares
The price of an adult ticket varies, depending on several factors. If you buy your ticket in the days leading up to your journey, you can expect to pay significantly more for it. Advance tickets can be had for less than 500 kroner, but on the day you'll be paying closer to 1,400kr.
The two ticket options are low cost and flex. They apply to both classes of travel, standard and ‘comfort'. I always book the ‘lavpris’ (low cost) because you still get a nice big window for the views and a comfortable seat with plenty of leg room. This is important to me as I'm so tall! ‘Comfort' is not a first class experience, but it does come with a more comfortable seat and complimentary hot drinks.
Discounts are available for those under 18 and aged 67 or older. Also, the disabled, blind and their accompanying passengers are also entitled to discounts.
Night service and sleeper compartments
There is also a sleeper service on this route. For this route the train leaves Oslo Central at 22:25. From Stavanger, it leaves at 22:17.
The sleeper carriages contain two beds, but purchase can only be made for the whole compartment (not individual beds) regardless of whether you're traveling alone or as pair. The compartments are really small but cosy and offer everything you'd need from a sleeper cabin on a train.
Passengers with cabins need to check in a short time before they board. This is usually at least 25 minutes, but it's advisable to check the Go-Ahead website for more information.
Regular tickets are also available on the night train, where you’ll be able to enjoy the same seating as offered on day services. The night time café is also there to supply you with snacks and drinks throughout the night (I can recommend the waffles with melted brown cheese).
At the time of writing, the night service is suspended for health reasons. It is planned to resume in August.
Top tips for the Oslo to Stavanger train
Book as early as possible in order to get a cheaper ticket. While this may sound straightforward, it really can make a substantial different to the price you pay.
The cheapest tickets are for the early morning trains. That's because there is lower demand for the services than leave Oslo at 04:19 and Stavanger at 04:30.
Finally, there is free WiFi available onboard and this can certainly help pass the time, although streaming TV shows and movies isn't really possible on the standard connection. However, upgrades to the WiFi connection are available at a cost.
Have you taken the Oslo to Stavanger railway? Do you prefer it to flying? Let me know in the comments below.