Norway Tourist Information and Tips
The Norwegian currency is the Norwegian crown , abbreviated kr . A 1/100th krone is called ore . When you need to disambiguate the Norwegian krone from e.g. the Swedish or Danish krone , use the official three-letter abbreviation NOK. As of May 2010, there is about 8 NOK to one euro.
Coins come in 50 ore, 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner.
ATMs in Norway are called Minibank . There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At main airports and Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, british pounds, swedish, danish and norwegian kroner. Nearly all stores, with the notable exception of grocery stores, accept major credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa (bring your passport/driver's license, as you are required to identify yourself when using a credit card).
Norway is an expensive country. While it is possible to travel in Norway on a limited budget, some care must be taken. Because labour is costly, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Travel costs can also be a killer, because the country is large and distances long, so a rail or air pass can save you a lot of money.
As rules of thumb, subsisting on under 500 kr/day will be difficult even if you stay in hostels and self-cater, with 1000 kr/day allowing a more comfortable mid-range lifestyle and over 2000 kr/day needed for good hotels and good restaurants.
It is possible to exchange money in banks in the tourist information office, in the post-office or withdraw the money in local currency from the ATM.
It turned out that the best rate you get when you withdraw the money from the ATM or simply pay with a credit card. For example (August 2009) the exchange rate in the bank was 8,75 NOK for ˆ1 (taking into consideration that it is not possible to exchange an amount for more than 5000 NOK per one transaction and there is a comission of 100 NOK for each transaction); in the tourist information office the rate exchange was 7,28 (no comissions), by withdrawal from ATM the rate was 7,74 (taking into consideration all the bank comissions).
Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (1 PM or 3 PM is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 10 or 11 PM on weekdays. You'll often see opening hours written as "9-21 (9-18)" on doors, meaning 9 AM to 9 PM weekdays, 9 AM to 6 PM Saturday. "McDonalds" and "Burger King" are also options. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Coop, Ica and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Meny, Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.
Traditional Norwegian "farm" food is made by whatever can grow in the northern climate, be stored for a year until new crops come out, and contain enough energy for you to do hard work. Regional variances in traditional food are huge and hence, and what is thought to be "typical traditional" for one Norwegian might be totally unknown to another. Typical examples are variations of yeasted and unyeasted bread and other forms of bakery, porridges, soups, inventive uses of potato, salted and smoked meat, and fresh, salted or smoked fish. Dried cod ( torrfisk ) and salted cod ( klippfisk ) are staples of coastal communities in the north and can be seen drying on outside racks in spring and summer. The national dish of Norway is farikal , a stewed casserole of lamb's meat and cabbage.
Finer traditional food is usually based on hunted animals or fresh fish. Steak, medallions and meat balls from game, deer, reindeer and elk are highly appreciated foods with international reputation, so are fresh, smoked and fermented salmon varieties as well as a host of other fish products. Traditional pastries like lukket valnott (marzipan-covered whipped cream cake) are other original contributions to international cuisine. Cheese of various types is common, but one particularly Norwegian favorite is geitost (goat-cheese), a mild smoked cheese which bears a remarkable similarity to smooth peanut butter in color, texture and taste.
Places to eat
Eating out is expensive , with fast food starting from 50 kr and sit-down meals in a decent restaurant nearly always topping 200 kr or more for a main course. One way to cut costs is self-catering , as youth hostels and guesthouses often have kitchens for their guests. Breakfast is often hearty and buffet-style, so pigging out at breakfast and skipping lunch is also an option. Buy/bring a lunchbox before attending breakfast, as most of the bigger hotels will allow you to fill it up for free from the breakfast buffet for eating later in the day.
For a cheap quick snack Norwegian-style, look no further than the nearest grill or convenience store, which will dish up a sausage ( polse ) or hot dog ( kjempegrill ) in either a hot dog bun ( brod ) or wrapped in a flat potato bread ( lompe ) for around 20-30 kr. However prices can soar as high as 50kr if you buy at the right (read wrong) places. In addition to ketchup and mustard, optional toppings include pickled cucumber ( sylteagurk ), fried onien bits ( stekt lok ) and shrimp salad ( rekesalat ). To get the most for your money, order a ( kebab i pita ) which is lamb meat roasted on a spit then fried when you order, served together with vegetables in a pita bread. This tastes great, is extremely filling and can be found for as little as 25-40 kr.
Very few Norwegian cuisine restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu, but will make something if asked, with varying success. Some of the few chains of stores/restaurants where you will always have a vegetarian option is Peppes Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).
Allergies and diets
If you have allergies like lactose intolerance and gluten allergy, going to Peppe's Pizza, Dolly Dimple's, Subway and Burger King are good suggestions. But if you want to eat somewhere a little fancier, asking the maitre d' at the restaurant is always good practice. In some cases, if it is not on the menu, they might be able to accommodate you anyway.
As the regulations for food is extremely strict in Norway, the ingredients for anything you buy is always printed on the packages, and if you ask, you will always be told what is contained in the food you order.
Food safety is very good in Norway. Salmonella is very rare compared to other countries, and health officials inspect restaurants at a regular basis. Also tap-water is usually very nice; Voss water from Vatnestrom in Aust-Agder is actually exported abroad, including USA.
Norway is often described as a "dry" country, because alcohol is highly priced and glass of wine/beer in a restaurant is in the range of 60 NOK. When in cities/towns with many students (Oslo/Bergen/Trondheim/Tromso in particular), you can very often find prices to be lower. Ask at your place of accommodation or young people in the streets for hints and tips of where to go. Beer can be bought at the supermarkets, however wine and stronger alcoholic beverages have to be purchased in state owned liquor stores. The price of alcohol, however does not stop the locals from having a good time. They are often found drinking and carrying on in local street parties and on their porches.
For strong beer, wine and hard alcohol, you will have to find a Vinmonopolet branch. The state shop have a marvellous choice of drinks, but at mostly sky-high prices. The general rule is that table wines are more expensive than in nearly any other country. Expect NOK 80-90 for a decent, "cheap" wine. However, as the taxation is based on the volume of alcohol per bottle rather than the initial cost, you can often find more exclusive wines at comparably lower prices than in private establishments in other countries. Vinmonpolet is open until 5PM (17.00) Mon-Wed, 6PM (18.00) Thu-Fri, and 3PM (15.00) on Sat.
Beers Norwegian beer isn't the best in the world, but it's certainly worth trying. The brands you are most likely to see in pubs are Ringnes, Hansa and Frydenlund (accompanied by a vast array of imported drinks). Local brewer Aas (Drammen) tend to produce beers a notch above the rest, but there are also craft brew available from Nogne O and Haandbryggeriet, some of which are of very high quality. Other varieties are available at places such as Mikrobryggeriet (Bogstadveien), Lorry's (Parkveien) or Beer Palace (Aker Brygge) all in Oslo.
A single hotel room (always book ahead for weekdays) should cost you from around 800 kr and up (special offers are common and cheaper), but you can find reasonable cheap lodgings in camping huts (300-600 kr, space for entire family), mountain cabins (150-300 kr per person), youth hostels (150-250 kr per person), etc. Most of these will require you to make your own food, bring your own bedsheets, and wash before leaving.
For longer stays (one week or more) consider renting an apartment, a house or a high quality cabin. Several agencies offer reservations on houses or cabins owned by farmers or other locals. This type of accommodation is frequently more interesting than a standard hotel.
Norway has a low crime rate. Police do not routinely carry guns. They do have guns though. Crime is mostly limited to theft and vandalism. Single women should have no problems, although ordinary street sense is advised after dark, especially in Oslo. With a higher crime rate than the rest of the country, there are some areas in Oslo that you should avoid after dark. Even in day time, certain areas should be avoided: the pedestrian stroll along the Akerselva river and the area around the street Skippergata .
Phone numbers: Fire Department (brann) 110 For major accidents and drowning accidents, you may also call the police.
Police (politi) 112 May also be contacted for major car accidents involving injuries or death, or resulting in traffic jams. Car accidents not involving injuries, deaths or resulting in traffic jams, need not be reported to the police's emergency line, 112, but to the general police phone number: 02800
Ambulance and medical emergency 113 For inquiries about toxins (from mushrooms, plants, medicine or other chemicals) call the national Toxin Information Office at 22 59 13 00
- The water quality in Norway is mostly adequate and tap water is always drinkable (except on boats, trains etc).
- The hygiene in public kitchens is very good, and food poisoning rarely happens to tourists.
- Norway can get relatively warm in the summer, but be prepared to bring warm clothes (sweater, windbreaking/waterproof jacket), as they might come in handy. It's hard to predict the weather, and in the summer time, you may experience severe weather changes during your stay.
- Tourists hiking in the high mountains (above the forest) should bring sports wear for temperatures down to freezing (zero degree C).
- Norway has a high density of pharmacies. Nose sprays and standard pain killers (paracetamol, aspirin) can also be purchased in grocery stores and gas stations.
Norwegians are generally sincere and polite, though small talk often doesn't come easy – it's usually up to you to break the ice (sometimes literally). They can be very direct and rarely say please, which can come across as rude, but it's due to the fact that the Norwegian language rarely uses the word. On the other hand, they say "Thank you" for most everything. They also tend to address people by their first name even in many formal occasions.
There is no polite form of talking to members of different "hierarchical" social structures, and even if there are some definite differences in the Norwegian society this is not expressed directly through linguistic intentionality. Politeness and respect in Norway is more a matter of behavior, than a matter of phrases (linguistic codes). Not talking loudly and keeping calm are key virtues in Norway, silence and limited body language should not be confused with grumpiness. Norwegians are generally very informal and most bars and restaurants do not have any dress code. Some bars and nightclubs will however not accept guests in jogging shoes or blue jeans. During the warmest summer days even in the centre of Oslo lots of young people will hang around with as little clothes as possible (in order to cool down or to enjoy the sun).