This is probably the topic that lands in my inbox the most; readers and travellers wondering how they can plan a trip to Norway (or more specifically; how to get started with planning a trip to Norway). I know it can be overwhelming, especially as Norway is not only a big country (size-wise), but also because there are just so many incredible places to see. So, I thought it was time I take some of my email replies and turn them into a blog post so that you can have the best time planning your Norway trip (and make sure that the planning process goes smoothly).
There are a few things you need to think about when planning your trip to Norway, and I have tried to cover them all below. Naturally, you might have an idea already of what you want to do, and what you want to get out of your Norway trip, which is great! However, I have found that some travellers decide to visit Norway without being completely sure of where they want to go, or how long they want to spend there. Regardless of which of these two schools you fall into, I hope this post on how to plan a trip to Norway is helpful! Consider it your very own Norway trip planner (except you still have to do the actual planning yourself).
If your Norway trip is bound for Flåm, Aurland and the fjord area where I grew up, please check out the complete travel guide I wrote for the area here!
Plan a trip to Norway: A Step-by-Step Guide
As mentioned, Norway is a big country with lots of exciting things to see. From the fjords to the northern lights, there is something unique around every corner. Which is probably why it can be so overwhelming to start planning and preparing for your Norway trip. Therefore, I have created this step-by-step guide to planning a trip to Norway, and all you have to do is follow it! Hopefully, at the end of this post you’ll have an idea of what your Norway trip will be like (or at least how you hope it will look).
Bonus tip: Bookmark this post for later if you are visiting Norway at a later time, and you’re not quite ready to go through all the steps. It is packed with helpful links to help you plan your trip to Norway, and I recommend you check them all out!
8 Steps to Planning a Trip to Norway
Without further ado, here are the 8 steps I share with anyone asking me questions on Norway trip planning!
#1 Do some research
This one may seem a little unnecessary to mention, but you’d be surprised to learn how many people visit Norway without having any prior knowledge of the country (other than the fact that it’s beautiful). So, in order to not ask one of these stupid questions that tourists in Norway have actually asked, make sure you do some research in the early stages of your trip planning process. It doesn’t have to take much, just read a travel guide to Norway, such as my ultimate Norway travel guide.
Once you have some background knowledge of Norway (as in, you should at least know what a fjord is), you are ready for the next step.
#2 Where do you want to go?
For many, I believe this is the hardest part of planning a trip to Norway. Figuring out where to go and where to spend your time during your Norway trip can be challenging, mainly because there are so many amazing places to see (and usually not enough time). But, I have a trick up my sleeve to narrow it down for you.
Start by writing out a list of all the places in Norway you could consider visiting. There are so many great ones, and I recommend reading this post on the best places in Norway before you get started. All places on that list has been recommended by travellers who have been there, so it’s a great place to start.
Then, look at your list and try separating the places/items you have written down into categories, to determine which are absolute bucket list places for you (for example, the Nærøyfjord and the Geirangerfjord), and which you would like to see, but can live without (for example, pulpit rock or Stavanger).
This should make it a little easier to move forward to the next step in this guide of how to plan a trip to Norway.
Side note: you should also think about whether you want to have a base on your Norway trip, or if you want to keep moving. For example, if Bergen is on your list, do you want to stay there for most of the trip and make day trips out of the city to see everything, or are you fine with only spending 1 or 2 nights in each place?
#3 Figure out the time of year for your Norway trip
Another difficult one. A lot of people are unsure of when to visit Norway, and I completely understand. As with most destinations, you have to take into account the typical weather of each season, and of course the temperature. But, when you are planning a trip to Norway you also have to think about the hours of daylight (in the summer you can have up to 24, and in the winter there are hardly any), and the chances of seeing the Northern lights where you are travelling to. This can be an overwhelming part of the Norway trip planning process, and I have tried my best to break it down here:
- Summer: the most popular time to visit Norway. More crowds, but also extended opening hours in most tourist areas. All tours are running in the high season, and you have lots of daylight. The weather is at its most comfortable.
- Autumn: my favourite time of year. In September, the warmth of summer still lingers, and you still have a decent amount of daylight. In October and November, the autumn weather starts kicking in, and there are more winds and rain than usual. But, the colours are absolutely breathtaking. Here’s a guide I have written to visiting Norway in Autumn.
- Winter: an awesome time to visit Norway, but perhaps not for your first trip (unless the northern lights are #1 on your list). It gets quite cold, and with few hours of daylight, but if you head up North, chances of seeing the Auroras are high. Here’s a guide to visiting the fjords in the winter, and a packing list for Norway in winter (oh, and a guide to the best time to see the Northern lights in Norway).
- Spring: like autumn, spring is a season that can vary a lot. March is practically still winter in a lot of places, whilst May can be warm and crisp, almost like summer. It is a great time to visit, as the days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and there still aren’t as many crowds as in the summer. May has officially become part of the high season, and you’ll find that most tours and activities are running.
I hope this helped you decide what time of year to visit! It is tricky, but as a general rule, I recommend visiting in the late summer or early autumn for your first trip to Norway. Naturally, I recommend you come back in the late winter/early spring to experience the northern lights!
#4 Decide on your length of stay
I know, I know. Ideally, your Norway trip would last forever, right? Sadly, most of us have jobs to get back to and vacation days to consider, so hopefully, you’ll already know how long your trip will be. But, you may have been considering Norway in addition to somewhere else on this trip, or you may have not been quite sure of how long to take off for the trip.
It’s time to look back on the list of places you want to go in order to determine this. Also, pull out a map of Norway to get an idea of how far away everything is from each other. If Oslo is the only place on your list, you’ll be fine with a 3-4 day trip. However, if you have several destinations in mind, I recommend a week. Note that travelling between Oslo and the western fjords (and Bergen) can take a day, and it is not possible to travel back and forth in less than 2.
I would say that the perfect length for a Norway trip is 7-10 days. Of course, if you have less, you just have to be a little crafty, and understand that you may have to cut some things from your list.
Side note: if you are short on time (with less than a week in Norway), consider one of my Norway itineraries. I have created them all as a way to help you get the most of your Norway trip, and made them available for as little as $2.99! Browse them all here!
#5 Mode of transportation
Now that you have landed the length of your trip and (hopefully) where you want to go, it’s time to decide on your mode of transportation during your time in Norway. The first thing to consider is whether you should (or want to) rent a car.
Look at your destinations, and again, look at the map. Are these places far away from each other? Does it seem like they can be easily reached by public transport? If the answer to the first question is yes, and the second answer is no, you should consider renting a car for your trip.
Starting in Oslo? Here’s how to get from Oslo to Flåm (transportation guide).
Naturally, renting a car gives you a lot of freedom, and makes it easier to go where you want whenever you want. However, I also understand that not everyone enjoys driving in foreign countries, and driving in Norway (especially in the winter or around the fjord area) can be challenging. So I do not recommend driving yourself unless you are very confident about driving abroad.
This leaves public transportation, and I am happy to say that it is more than possible to get most places in Norway using trains and buses (and even planes if you want to see both the north and the south of the country on your trip). Naturally, if you are travelling by public transport, you need to calculate for a little extra time on your Norway trip. This is simply because not all the schedules correspond perfectly, and even though it is possible to travel almost everywhere using bus and train, it’s not as efficient as driving on your own.
The main companies for trains and bus transportation in Norway are:
- Vy (trains and some buses)
- Nor-way (buses)
- Skyss (public transportation in Bergen)
- Ruter (public transportation in Oslo)
#6 Book your hotel(s)
Are you ready for the fun parts? It’s time for the booking stages in this guide to how to plan a trip to Norway! This is always an exciting part of the planning process, and I love browsing amazing hotels, finding deals and seeing where I’ll be staying on my trip.
I do recommend you book your hotel early, as many hotels can get fully booked in the high season; especially in the more rural fjord areas. In the cities, such as Oslo or Bergen, they don’t get fully booked, but they can get really expensive. So book your hotels as early as you can.
Find hotels and hotel deals in Norway here:
#7 Book your tickets (transport, tours, etc)
As with hotels in Norway, tours sell out quickly, and it is easy to miss out if you dawdle with booking. I always recommend booking as early as you can, and as soon as you know what you want to do. So, get to booking your train and bus tickets, as well as your tours and activities.
As a golden rule, and a top tip from yours truly: Vy publishes their train schedules and tickets 90 days in advance, and if you book soon after this, you may be lucky enough to score your train tickets at what they call “Minipris” (mini price). These are cheaper tickets that can’t be refunded and can help you save a lot of $$$, as train travel in Norway is quite expensive.
As soon as you have your transportation sorted, it’s time to start booking your tours! Personally, I love using GetYourGuide for this, as they have lots of fun tours available for Norway (and a handy app that keeps all your tickets in a safe place).
Here are some of my favourite tours in Bergen, and below are a few selected ones I recommend around Norway!
#8 Get packing!
Now that you have made it to the last item on the list, you should have an idea of how to plan a trip to Norway! The only thing left to do now is to get packing! Here are a couple of my packing guides for Norway, and I’ll be adding more to the list as I write them (so, as mentioned), do bookmark this post!
How to plan a trip to Norway: final advice
There you have my step-by-step guide to planning a trip to Norway, and hopefully, it was what you needed to get your Norway trip going! If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below so I can answer them for everyone to see (chances are, someone else has the same one). I hope you have realised that the trip planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but that in order to plan a trip to Norway you may have to make a few tough choices (mainly, eliminating some destinations you might have wanted to see).
Here are a few more helpful resources for anyone planning a trip to Norway anytime soon:
- The Ultimate Norway travel guide
- eBook: Travel Guide to Flåm, Aurland and the Aurlandsfjord area (by yours truly!)
- Easy-to-follow Norway Itineraries for the perfect trip to Norway (both self-drive and with public transportation)
- 7 Places to stop on a road trip in Norway
- The best places to see in Norway
- Lonely Planet’s Norway guide
- Shortcut to Norwegian: a quick language guide