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Winter Driving in Norway

Winter driving in Norway

A winter road trip is a tempting prospect, but care needs to be taken.

Driving in Norway in the winter and 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 – requires careful attention.

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.

Dalsnibba mountain road near Geiranger

Snow in June is a common sight on the road to Dalsnibba, above the popular tourist resort of Geiranger.

Winter tyres

Summer tyres should not be used in winter conditions. The tyres 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.

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

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 army 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.

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

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.

Stop regularly to clear snow from your headlights and number plates.

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. Note that this includes some well-known National Tourist 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 tips. Most 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
  • 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
  • Pull over regularly for short breaks
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About the Author: 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 freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

31 Comments

  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

    1. 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.
    Su

  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..

    duncan

    1. 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
    Grant

    1. 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
    Regards
    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.
    Leandro.

    1. 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.

    Thanks

    1. 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

  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?
    Thanks
    Rachel

    1. 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?

    1. 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!

  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

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