Winter Driving in Norway

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A winter road trip in Norway is a tempting prospect due to the breathtaking scenery on offer. But care needs to be taken if you're not used to the conditions. Here's what you need to know about winter driving in Norway.

Norwegian cities, fjords and mountains covered in snow with the northern lights dancing overhead. It's a prospect that draws many people to Norway in the winter, despite the cold temperatures and short days.

Winter driving in Norway

However, seeing the best of the country in the winter requires a rental car. Driving in Norway in winter conditions is a challenge and therefore is not recommended for the inexperienced driver.

Handling a vehicle in such weather–especially on mountain roads in the darkness–requires careful attention and at least some experience.

Note that although the season for snowfall runs December – April in most cities, snow can settle on the ground for almost every month of the year at higher altitudes, and not just in the high north.

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Snow in June is a common sight on the road to Dalsnibba, above the popular tourist resort of Geiranger. You'll also probably find at least patches of snow in places like Hardangervidda and Aurlandsfjellet.

Winter tyres

One of the most important driving rules in Norway is regarding the use of the correct tyres.

Summer tyres should not be used in winter conditions. The tyres you use must secure sufficient road grip. During the winter (the exact times are defined by the weather each year), the tread depth on car tyres must be a minimum of 3 mm.

Car driving on winter road.
Driving in the winter.

Studs may be used only on winter tyres (except for motorcycles) but if a car is fitted with studded tyres, you must have studded tyres on all wheels. Different rules apply for vehicles in excess of 3,500kg.

How to drive in snow

If you're planning a road trip in Norway during the winter, bear in mind that 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.

An impressive range of trucks and tractors are employed to keep the main roads – especially around cities – open, but some roads at high altitudes can be closed temporarily.

Some mountain passes are always closed during the winter. Keep reading for more details. Visitors to Norway in winter must be prepared to drive on pure ice and fresh snow.

Driving sensibly during these times is essential so stay calm, don't rush, leave plenty of distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you, brake gently, and slow down well in advance of junctions and bends.

Dalsnibba mountain road near Geiranger
Dalsnibba mountain road near Geiranger.

Stop regularly to clear snow from your headlights and number plates. This is especially important if you're driving in the darkness.

It's a good idea to allow extra time if planning a lengthy journey in the winter, and to keep a flask of hot drink, bottled water, snacks and warm blankets in the car, just in case.

Winter road closures

Some of the higher mountain passes are closed for the winter as it is simply too difficult to keep them clear of snow. This includes many of the well-known national scenic routes.

Exact dates very each year based on the weather, so check with Statens Vegvesen close to the time for the most up-to-date information.

Roads that are closed during the winter include the Trollstigen mountain pass (part of Fv63 from Åndalsnes to Geiranger), route Fv257 (Gamle Strynefjellsvegen) from Grotli to Videsæter, Fv55 over Sognefjellet, and part of Fv243 from Lærdal towards Aurland.

Tips for safer winter driving

For those of you contemplating a winter drive in Norway, here are some driving tips.

Valdresflye at more than 1,300 metres above sea level (Photo: Jarle Wæhler / Statens vegvesen)

Most of these are common sense, but some you may not have thought about.

  • Allow significantly more time to complete your journey
  • Make sure your car is fitted with winter tyres (a legal requirement)
  • Stop regularly to clear snow from your headlights and number plates
  • Check the weather forecast but don’t rely on it – conditions can and will change rapidly

When contacting a car rental company, be sure to ask about winter driving conditions and equipment. This includes winter tyres and what emergency equipment is included with the rental.

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Here are some more tips, including some things to take with you in the car.

  • Take a flask of hot drink and some water
  • Take warm clothes and blankets
  • Take an ice scraper, brush, and old rags/cloths
  • Take two orange warning triangles in case of difficulties/breakdown
  • Make sure your mobile phones are fully charged before starting your journey

Have you successfully done a winter road trip in Norway? What advice would you give other drivers? Let us know in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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49 thoughts on “Winter Driving in Norway”

  1. Hi David: my daughter and I are planning to travel to Vardo this coming January to visit the Sami memorial. We are going to fly oslo and then on to Kirkenes, pick up a car and then drive to Vardo. we would drive back to Kirkenes and then are free for a few days before we fly back to Oslo. i live in NYC and am comfortable driving in snow. what do you think about this plan? Any suggestions of other places to visit in that area? Thanks for your time. Philip Karasyk

    • Hi! Sounds good. It will be very dark at that time of year, so bear that in mind with plans. There isn’t a huge amount of tourist activities in that area and especially not in January. You could see the king crab safaris are running from Kirkenes, they are supposed to be good. Or if you fancy a drive, Karasjok is where the Sami parliament is based and is one of the “centres” of Sami culture in Norway – but again, there may be few attractions open in January. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Hi, I live in southern US where there is not much snow. We are thinking of going to Lofoten islands in March (5th), renting a car in Leknes to move around, and then drive to Senja for a couple of days, and then to Tromso to drop off the car at the airport and catch a flight back to Oslo to come back to US.
    Are the roads navigable on these routes at that time of the year? Are the roads winding and are there possible road closures in the event of a snowfall?
    Thanks for your help.

  3. good morning ..

    my family and myself are planning to visit norway in end of march, beginning of april..

    should be staying a couple of days in Otta (since I have some friends over there) and some more days in Andalsness..

    Was considering driving from Oslo .. what do you recommend..?
    and any particular activities that you may recommend please..

    Would it be possible to go for a short dog sledging experience with my 5 year-old.. and maybe for a short snow-mobile drive for my 40 year-old self! !

    thanks in advance..


    • Hi, snowmobiles and dog sledding are common in northern Norway but I’ve never heard of them being offered this far south. The best thing to do is check with the local tourist office. Have fun!

  4. Hi 🙂 thank you for the amazing information.
    Our family is planning to go see the Northern Lights this month.
    Where would you recommend is the best place to go see it with just a drive? My mom can’t walk large distances so we need to drive there? What other winter activities are popular for this time of year?
    Thank you 🙂

  5. Hi David,

    Tusen takk for such a useful resource! I’m currently in the process of moving to Norway so I expect that I will be returning to your pages many times over the following months! 😉

    For now, could you please advise me on the following: how would it be in late Feb / early March to drive from Copenhagen to Surnadal in More og Romsdal (not too far from you in Trondheim), via Oslo? Will I need winter tires still at this time? If so: roughly when would winter tires no longer be necessary in this part of the country? I have almost no experience at all at driving in snow, but I can take all the time necessary. I would also stick to the main roads whenever and wherever possible…

    Thanks again!

    Brendan. 😀

  6. An additional advice:
    Make frequent break-tests on the road to get an idea how slippery the surface is. On modern cars the ABS system will engage at once if slippery, on older cars wheels will block instantly if slippery. An alternative is to pull over, step out and feel the surface with shoes or fingers.

  7. Hi David, my wife and I are booked to do a one day dog sledding trip at the end of March ’18 in about 2 weeks. We arrive at Trondheim airport at 8am where we plan on picking up a hire car and the dog sledding is scheduled to start at 10am on the same day in Koppera.
    We are from Australia where we have no real experience of longer distance travel in ice and snow which I fully expect will be the case at the time of our trip.
    Are you able to tell us whether this is sufficient time to make this trip as Google advises that it is about a 90min trip however I am not sure of the road conditions? Is there a need to request the car hire group to provide a car with any specific requirements ( I expect studded tires but only have minor experience with driving with chains on tyres)? Do hire car groups limit the use of cars in the sort of conditions that we will encounter on this route? Given this route, is it reasonable to think that we could drive this – we are confident drivers but acknowledge our snow and ice experience is minimal.
    Thanks for any advice you are able to provide

    • The rental company will always give you a car that meets with the regulations, but you can always ask them if you’re unsure. The road you’ll be travelling on will be cleared so there shouldn’t be any issues unless it’s actually snowing. The only real issue is the time you’ve allowed yourself to collect bags and the hire car along with getting there is very tight. Have a good trip!

  8. Hi,
    Very useful info.
    I’ll be driving from the Netherlands to Norway at the end of May.
    In the first week in June I’ll be driving from Oslo to Bergen via Gol and the 50 and then back from Bergen via Geilo and the 7. Both those routes take you quite high up into the mountains and it seems like this is right at the time of year when it’s difficult to be vertain how cold or warm it will be (I know the 243 only opened on 1st June last year), so I was wondering if it would be a good idea to leave my winter tyres on my car just in case I encounter snow or sleet when driving over the top, or if the highway teams are so good at keeping the roads clear that summer tyres will be okay?

    Any tips would be helpful
    Alfred Morris

  9. Hi David.
    My wife and I ´ll go to Tromso in the third week of October.
    We´ll rent a car at the airport and then drive to Kilpisjarvi in Finland.
    Do you know this road from Tromso to Kilpisjarvi?
    What´s the probability for snowfall runs in this period?
    I have no experience to driving with snow on the roads.
    Thank you.

    • That depends entirely on the weather, which we have no way of knowing how it will be 🙂 But Oslo to Tromsø is an incredibly long drive, and you’ll be driving through Sweden for the vast majority of the 1,750km. Because of that, it’s best to seek advice from someone in Sweden.

  10. hi, we intend to drive from Copenhagen to near Bodo in december. We want to make one stop near Trondheim. We prefer to make the trip through Norway as we already made the trip through Sweeden :).
    However, is it a big difference between the two trips? Because I noticed that you said in the last response that if going from Oslo to Tromso, the people will drive mostly in Sweeden.
    As I noticed, we will drive on the main road of Norway from south to north (E6)… Usually this road is cleaned of snow?

    Thank you!

  11. Hi i am planning a ski trip to Trysil in Feb next year and wondered if the drive from Oslo airport is a difficult one. It doesn’t appear that far but not being used to driving on snow and ice (I am from the UK) I wondered if i should ensure i have chains or studded tyres etc.


    • This is normally not a difficult drive, it should take you less than 2:30. Snow chains would not be required (and you would need to know how to put them on if you had them anyway). I would have no qualms about making that drive in my own very standard car with my non-studded winter tires. The rental car company will provide a car with winter tires, but most likely not studded unless you have arranged this with them beforehand.

      Note that you will drive on a toll road if you choose the most direct route (you should). All toll plazas are automated non-stop (there are no actual booths, just cameras and antennas). Your rental car company will normally charge you later.

      You can find updated traffic information here (including a route planner with toll amounts), but unfortunately only in Norwegian: http://www.vegvesen.no/trafikk/

      All in all, I would not worry too much about making this trip. The main rule when driving in winter conditions is to look and think ahead. Break early and smoothly, avoid getting in a situation where you have to break or swerve suddenly, slow down before turns before you enter the turn (breaking for turns should be done before you start turning), and don’t let the local drivers stress you. Although road conditions can change suddenly, they will most probably be quite good. Enjoy!

  12. HI I am doing a trip from Copenhangen – Oslo(1 night) – Bergen(1 night) – Molde (1 night) – then is Are Sweden for 3 nights- Sandviken -Stockhom – back to Copenhagen. On google maps this trips takes arund 6-8 hours between each stop. Is that correct during winter??. I know I will be chasing day light but wanted to know your thoughts.

  13. Driving on snow and ice is no game ! Especially if going up and down hills etc winter tyres, studs, chains etc are only aids and guarantee nothing, 4 wheel drive helps big time,, but if you have no experience best to stay indoors as this type of driving is very dangerous and should only be done as a last resort.

  14. Hello David

    Thank you so much for all this advice. I am from the alpine region of Switzerland and love driving in ice and snow. However my cars don’t have 4 wheel drive. I drove mountain roads with these cars where my friends with 4wd could not drive to the top. Last year I drove to North Cape in September. I now want to go there (by myself (31y.o. female)) in January. Do you think it will be possible without 4wd? I have a good set of winter tires and snow chains if needed. The last 13km will be in a convoy behind a snow plow as I’ve read so I’m not worried about that part. If I’m in need of roadside assistance (I have insurance for this for all of Europe) can I be sure that someone will eventually help me or are not all areas covered by roadside assistance companies?

    Thank you & have a nice day, Andrea

  15. Hi, We are planning for a road trip to Norway driving rental car from Oslo to Bodo during Christmas week. Do you have any suggestions on how long it takes to drive from Oslo – Trondheim – Bodo. Planning to take a break in Trondheim not sure about the roads though! Any suggestions please

    • Hi laksh, did you complete your trip? I am planning to visit Norway in February month. Please share your experience and give us some tips

  16. Hi

    I am planning to drive from Tromsø to Lyngen North along th E8/Fv91/E6. Can you tell me what this drive would be like in February please?

    • The roads you mention is cleared of snow, and are main roads so usually gets cleared pretty fast when there is snowfall. However there is no salt used on the roads up here, so there will be a layer of snow and ice on the road. Your car will have winter tires so this will not be a problem but it’s good to take it slow and break slowly. Also the roads you mention have some areas which are exposed for avalanches, and animals like elk and roe deer in the road. Specially during nightfall/dusk. But you should have no problem doing this trip. If an Avalanche goes the road will close till it is cleared. It’s normally happening more in March and April though. If you are not used to snow and ice, take it slow pay attention and keep a good distance to the car in front of you. If you get stressed by a lot of cars behind you just find a place to stop and let them pass. I do this myself a lot, as I don’t like getting stressed and pressured to drive faster than I think is safe. 😊 There is a lot of places to take a quick stop. There is a lot of trucks on this route, and not all of them have appropriate winter tires so I usually let them pass.

  17. Hi David,

    Can I ask you some advice please? We will be driving from Ireland to Nordkapp in March 19′. I’ll be driving in a 4X4 van with All Terrain tyres. I have tried everywhere to find out if I would be better off with Nordic winter tyres or studded tyres. Is there anywhere (website, forum etc) that could advise?

    • Hi, I haven’t driven in the north at that time of year so I really can’t advise. You can try the Norwegian Public Roads Administration at vegvesen.no – their website has a full English translation. Have a great trip!

    • Brian
      How did you find the trip
      I hope to drive to Tromso from Manchester along west coast of Norway in November and return via Sweeden. Any tips would be welcome

  18. Hi
    I’ll be driving from Tromsø to the Polar Park in early March. I’ll be renting a car for the trip. Do you suggest a 4×4 / suv type or would a standard car be ok?

    Would you recommend that trip for a non-local driver?

    Thank you

  19. Hello, my husband and I are planning a road trip in October. We want to drive Oslo to Bergen then Stavengar back to Oslo. I was wondering do we need snow chains for the drive to Bergen. The hire car company are unclear in the answers we have received, just saying it will be cold. I thought perhaps we should plan the route when we get there depending on the weather and avoid the mountain road if necessary. Although that will make it more difficult for accomodation as we plan on stopping along the way.
    Is it common to have snow in early October and are we likely to need chains? If so we need to make a special request from the hire company as they don’t normally stock them.
    I know the weather is changeable but was hoping to find out what is normal for this time of year.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

  20. Hello David.

    I’m planning on driving to Trømso next January. Maybe Lofoten aswell.
    I drive from Belgium with a VW Transporter 4motion. I have some experience driving a semi-truck in the snow. And wintersports in Austria every year a few times.
    I want to go to Stockholm first and drive direction Trømso later. Would sleep in the car/camper along the way, and book hotels in Stockholm and Trømso.

    Some people think it’s to dangerous. But i think i’m gonna be fine 😀 What do you think ?

    Interesting article. Thanks already 🙂

  21. Hi David, I am planning road trip in February. We are starting from Trondheim then karvag- molde – Bergen and trip ends in Oslo. It will be a great if you could tell us driving is the best option or should we take public transport? My main agenda to visit Scandinavian countries is to watch northern lights, which I will able to see Kiruna or abisko. But I want to cover Norway country as I have always dreamt about visiting Norway before 30. Please tell me if it’s good idea to visit Norway in February

  22. Hi,

    Thank you for your informed article.

    I do road trips – I love them. I have travelled all over the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland over the years, but always in the summer months, and usually in sports cars.

    This year I have decided I need a different challenge – I am driving to the Arctic Circle visitor centre in Saltfjellveien via the Channel Tunnel, Copenhagen (specifically – the Oresund bridge), and the Atlantic Ocean Road. It may seem a long way to go to experience these items of road infrastructure, but they look absolutely amazing in pictures – comparable with the Millau bridge in France.

    I have a very competent 4×4 with brand new winter tyres but my experience of driving in snow is limited to the odd occasions it falls in the UK, which is why I have chosen the beginning of February 2020 for my trip, so as to guarantee the maximum snow. I appreciate Norwegian roads are ploughed regularly but I will be carrying a few “just in case” items like a snow shovel and a recovery rope. I also have two spare wheels/tyres and recovery insurance. Are there any other items you think I ought to consider taking with me?

    Kind regards,

  23. Hi

    I’m looking to visit family in Alta next winter. I was hoping to drive in our camper with my children from the UK and have allowed 1month to do so. I’ve little experience driving on snow, however. Would you suggest leaving the camper in south/ central Norway and then changing to train?

    Thanks Meg

    • Hi Meg,
      There are no trains north of Narvik, so you won’t be able to reach Alta by train.
      If you decide to drive to Alta, you will need (studded) winter tyres.
      All the best,

  24. Hi there. I will be doing a road trip and thinking of doing the Atlantic road from Alesund to Kristiansund sometime at the 3rd week of March. Is it safe? Will we be able to see the beauty of this road?

  25. Hello David. We are two retired couples wanting to plan a trip to Norway for 6 weeks in our own motorhomes from mid September to the end of October this year. I note that snow tyres are compulsory on Norwegian roads from October.
    Is it possible to hire snow tyres on a short term basis or are we likely to encounter too many difficulties with snow and ice to make it worthwhile coming at that time and should consider coming a little earlier?

  26. Hi David,

    We are planning to fly to Tromso mid-February of 2021 and rent a car there. Then we’d like to see Senja and Vesteralen (and of course Northern Lights). We have winter experience in driving in Polish mountains and my husband will do some special training for slippery roads.
    Do you think it will be enough?
    And second question – is Vesteralen-Tromso route doable in one day in February? Or better to divide it?

  27. I’m a British guy who lived in the far north of Norway for 5 years but has now relocated back to the UK.
    It was quite normal to be driving on snow and ice for 7 months of the year (bare tarmac was a rare luxury).
    It is worth mentioning the convoy (kolonne) driving along snowy roads in poor winter weather.
    As an alternative to closing the road in bad winter weather, the authorities will stop traffic at a point and assemble a convoy, with snowplough at the front, all the cars then follow in its immediate path and a police car at the rear. Everyone drives together, there’s no over-taking and no stopping unless forced to. The convoys leave a prescribed times typically at 2hr intervals, so you need to time your journey accordingly.

  28. Hello,
    I am preparing a road trip from France to the Northern cape in November 2021 (next year).
    I would like to rent studded snow tires on my arrival in Sweden or Norway.
    My Google search was unsuccessful to find rental companies in these two countries.
    Do you have an idea?
    Best regards

  29. If i was to drive to say England for Christmas from Norway, whats the best way to deal with changing tyres. Can I drive with my studded winter tyres in Europe or do I need to change to my summer tyres?

  30. Hi David
    We are planning an “adventure trip” – that’s how I see it, but for you it might be an everyday trip. We want to rent a 4×4 car with studded tyres in Tromso and drive via the E8 to Enontekiä, the 92 to Karajok, further via Lakselv to the North Cape. On the way back, we might return to Tromso via Hammerfest to Alta. We plan about 10 days for this tour. I am used to driving on ice and packed snow in Switzerland (2 years ago in winter on the Lofoten Islands). What do you think I need to bear in mind? Thank you very much for your answer.
    Rodolphe (without red nose 😉 )

  31. We are planning to drive from Hemsedal to Olso at 6 AM in the morning on March 10th, 2024. Will the reads be cleared so early in the morning.

  32. Hi,
    We’re planning to spend a couple of nights in Tromso at the very beginning of November this year, and then drive down to Senja for another couple of nights, in the hopes of seeing the Northern Lights!
    Do you have any advice about driving conditions at this time? We’re pretty good drivers, but I’m nervous that it’ll be very difficult and I really don’t relish getting stuck 🙂
    Thanks for any information you can offer.


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