Norway offers fantastic opportunities for scenic road trips, but driving in a foreign country can make some people nervous. Here's how to plan a memorable Norwegian road trip.
A road trip in Norway is a travel bucket list item for many people. Whether you want to see the fjords from a different perspective or soar across a mountain plateau, there are many wonderful driving opportunities.
While many of Norway's highlights can be seen from a train window or by bus, renting a car opens up so many more options for your itinerary. Quiet fishing villages and remote hiking trails suddenly become possible.
While it can be expensive to rent a car, having your own transport means you can easily access cheaper accommodation. Outside the towns and cities, Norway is a nation of campsites!
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Staying on these – whether in a tent or in a cabin – means you can stock up on cheaper food from supermarkets, and not be beholden to public transport timetables when it's time to move on.
Norway's national scenic routes
Eighteen roads have been designated National Scenic Routes, which are the most beautiful drives that Norway has to offer.
Significant investment has been made to improve facilities along these roads, so you can expect clean public restrooms and thoughtfully designed lookout points at the very least.
That said, some of the roads are still not the best quality and many are quite narrow, so care should be taken if you are not used to driving on such roads. Many are also closed for the winter.
Half of the routes are located in the fjord region, making a road trip here an even more attractive proposition. Not sure where to start? Try some of my personal favourites, the serpentine mountain pass Trollstigen or the mountain plateau Hardangervidda.
Suggested road trip itineraries
As good as the National scenic routes are, they are spread all across the country, which isn't so helpful when planning a trip. Coming soon, I'll share some of the most popular itineraries to help you plan your own driving experience in Norway.
Some of the best ways to plan a road trip is to look for potential scenic detours. For example, when driving between Oslo and Trondheim you can take the E6 highway all the way, or detour through Rondane.
Driving from Trondheim to Bodø? The fantastic Helgeland coastal route is far more interesting than the E6.
Driving in Norway
If you are planning to visit one of the major cities (Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen or Trondheim), chances are you won't need a car. Public transport systems are generally run to a high-standard and although not cheap, they certainly work out cheaper than renting a car and paying for parking.
All countries in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) have a ‘mutual recognition’ agreement for driving licences. This means if you are in possession of a valid driving license from an EU/EEA nation, you are legally able to drive in Norway.
For citizens of all other countries, a foreign-issued driving license is valid for up to 3 months, as long as the license remains valid in the issuing country.
If you intend to drive in Norway it is your responsibility to understand the rules of the road. In particular, note that speed limits are probably lower than you are used to.
You should also be prepared for the high number of road tolls, especially in and around all the major cities. If you're renting a car, the tolls are usually included in the rental. Ask if they will be added separately.
Using car ferries in Norway
If you're spending any time driving in the fjord or coastal regions of Norway, you'll almost certainly need to use a car ferry. Although many tunnels and bridges have been built in recent decades, ferries are still a necessity of travel by road.
Some routes such as the E39 use large car ferries that run continuously throughout the day. On other more minor routes, there may only be a handful of departures a day.
Ferry crossings range from short 5-10 minutes hops through to 40 minute journeys. Once again, this means that planning your routes in advance is a good idea.
Personally, I love using Norway's car ferries. While they do add time and cost to a journey, they also provide a natural break and a chance to use a restroom! On longer ferry crossings, it's a chance to relax with a cup of coffee.
If you're visiting Norway, then arranging good value car rental in advance is a must. Thanks to the internet, that's much easier than it used to be.
Major international chains with a presence in Norway include Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar and Sixt. Even the smallest airports should have at least a couple of these firms presence.
Rent-a-Wreck has a good presence across the country and offer maintained used cars at a lower price. However, their locations are often inconvenient for international visitors.
Renting in advance is essential during the summer season, especially in the fjord areas or the north of the country. Compare car rental rates with this handy search and booking tool–in English.
Planning a winter road trip
I get a lot of emails from people wondering if it's possible to plan a winter road trip. It absolutely is, and Norway at this time of year can be truly stunning. However, it takes some additional planning.
If you're not used to driving in the winter, consider carefully whether you want to do so in Norway. With difficult road conditions and uncertain weather, it's not for everyone.
Roads can be treacherous and weather conditions can change at short notice. This often causes roads–even main highways such as the Oslo to Trondheim E6–to be closed for periods of time.
However, don't get the wrong idea. Norwegians are used to driving with ice and snow on the roads and during heavy snowfalls. Traffic generally runs as normal during snowfall, albeit at a slower speed. Trucks and tractors are employed to keep the main roads in and around the cities open.
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Some of Norway's most famous national scenic routes are closed for months at a time during the winter. The specific dates for closures vary each year based on weather and snow conditions.
It's vital to check in advance if you are planning a trip on a tight schedule. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration maintains this list of winter closures.