Approximately 8 hours after I signed the separation papers from my employer, I was on the plane to Amsterdam. It was a hectic day, paperwork was only completed at around 5pm. A very good friend was visiting that day, and dinner was scheduled for 7pm. In between, I had to get some additional paperwork done for transfer of pension, insurance and tax, and a quick drinks with the ex-colleagues. The rush. The adrenaline. I was excited. The alcohol from drinks and dinner did help.
I planned for Norway for weeks. It was quite stressful. I have limited time there, 40 days to be exact. Given about 9,000km driving distances I have to cover, planning is critical. A miss here and there could have significant domino effect, which could lead to either missing flight home (for a bro’s wedding), or overstretching myself driving beyond reasonable distance/duration which is dangerous. This was further complicated by the fact that there’s so much to see and do in Norway, so decisions have to be made on what to do and what to skip. Long story short, I settled on a counterclockwise itinerary, starting from Amsterdam all the way to Alta in northeastern Norway with stops in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and made my way back through the western coast of Norway, finishing up with a ferry from Gothenburg to Kiel (Germany) before driving back to Amsterdam.
A short video around Norway.
CASH – I survived an entire month in Norway without physical cash. Everything can be settled with credit card, almost everywhere. And because only Finland uses Euro, this comes quite handy so you don’t need to change to local currency and end up with various kroner! You can bring mininum amount of cash in Euro as contingency.
ACCOMODATION – Airbnb was my main option, most of the time because there’s no other option or it’s the cheapest option. You see, Scandinavia is expensive, so hotel is expensive. Hostel is limited. In remote area, there’s no accommodation at all. October was a slow tourist month, so I never book anything more than 2-3 days in advance. Be mindful when you travel in high season. Because there’s limited supply, it’ll run out quickly.
GETTING AROUND – Due to extended travel planned for Europe, I bought a car in Amsterdam (which explain why I have to start there). Buying a car in Europe (at least western Europe), you need residency, or have a friend who’s willing to help you with that. My research showed Belgium is the cheapest to buy a car in Western Europe. Germany also quite good. UK is cheap but the steering is on the right. Netherlands is expensive, but I got no choice. I got a diesel car, and have no difficulty at all finding them along the way. Google Maps is my main navigation, but I also got a GPS unit, with speed camera alert. There’s very limited amount of speed camera in Scandinavia, but plenty in Netherlands! There’s some automatic tolls in Norway, so you need to register the car online with EPC and pay after you pass the road (bills come about 1-2 months after for foreign car). Winter comes early in Norway, so if you’re driving in mid-to-late October, do get proper winter tyre. I didn’t get mine until Trondheim, which was a bit late but it saved the day.
INTERNET ACCESS – I used a combination of 3UK Feel at Home and Vodafone NL the whole time, both allow free roaming in most Schengen countries, including the Scandinavians. This changes quite often, but both should still be good. 3UK is the better option with 12GB over 30 days for GBP20. Stay updated by checking the information here. You can buy these from Ebay if you don’t live in the UK or Netherlands.
Check out details in my other various posts:
* Amsterdam to Alta – Why I left investment banking to travel
* Alta to Lofoten – Lofoten… Exploring the Nordland
* Aurora Borealis – Fire in the sky… The Aurora Borealis
The journey continues post Lofoten through the west coast of Norway. This is an interesting part of the country to drive, with various outer islands, numerous ferries and just breathtaking sceneries along the way.
KYSTRIKSVEIEN – the coastal route along the Nordland coastline
This coastal route is said to be one of the best scenic drive in the world. It basically follows the Fv17 road from Bodo to Steinkjer, about 650km in total. I did this in 3 days, with stops in Kilboghavn and Bronnoysund, continued to Trondheim on day 3. There’s wealth of information on the official website here.
It’s important to plan driving ahead, because of a number of ferry rides involved. Most are short, less than 30 mins ride, but there’s a couple of hour-long ferry and route like Jektvik-Kilgobhavn only runs every 90 mins or so, which is important if you want to get to your destination before dark (it’s really not fun driving in the dark in October/November in Norway).
I would say that the best part of the drive is between Bodo and Bronnoysund. It gets boring after Bronnoysund. It was really beautiful when you start driving out from Bodo. The snow-capped mountain range, the landscape, snaking road. One activity that could be interesting is to go hike to the Svartisen Glacier, which I didn’t do, or you can view the glacier from Braset Rasteplas.
TRONDHEIM – FLAM
The drive continues post Trondheim, where I finally put on winter tyre after delaying it as long as I can, and I was lucky. It started to snow really heavily, and without those winter tyres, I would without doubt got into accidents. With summer tyre, you’ll slide on the street like newbie ice skaters! First stop was Andalsnes, mainly because I really wanted to drive through the famous Trollstigen road. Unfortunately, the road was closed for the season the night I arrived at Andalsnes! I drove as far as I can hoping to see the twists and turns of the road, but no luck. Between Trondheim and Andalsnes, I drove through the famous Atlantic Ocean Road, which was a bit underwhelming, but the engineering is sure cool.
The drive into Geiranger is pretty cool, if not a little scary to do in winter. The road swings through 11 hairpin bends down from Ornesvingen (620 masl) to Geirangerfjord, and it’s scary to drive in the snow! Luckily they cleared the snow regularly, so it was fine as long as you drive slowly. You have to stop at Ornesvingen and have a great view into the mountain roads and Geiranger itself. The drive up after Geirangerfjord was also quite scary, mainly because most of the time it’s just me on the road. I remember driving along this lake for maybe about 30km, narrow road, and just me on the road. It freaked me out that I drove super slow, because if I slipped and plunged into the lake/fjord, death is certain! But the view from up there is quite nice.
A night stop in Flam was mainly for the famous Flamsbana train, which takes you on a slow train trip to Myrdal. I must admit it was not as impressive as I thought it would be. The other place to visit in Flam is the Stegastein viewpoint, which gives you aerial view of Flam and the fjord.
Another popular activity is to cruise the Naerofjord, you can buy a combination ticket for the Flamsbana train and the Naerofjord. It starts from Gudvangen (bus will take you there as part of the ticket), and then cruise back. It was cold, windy, and though the sceneries were beautiful, often times I just couldn’t be bothered to stay outside.
Nothing too spectacular on the drive from Flam to Bergen, plus it was a bit late, so not many stops along the way except for food and gas. I stayed 2 nights in Bergen, which is a pretty cool city to walk and roam around. You can also go up to the Floibanen for aerial city view, explore the waterfront area, and the pedestrian area nearby.
BERGEN-OSLO RETURN TRAIN DAY TRIP
I had this crazy idea, since I was a bit bored with walking around cities. I found out that it’s possible to do the Bergen-Oslo train and back in 24 hours. The reasons I wanted to do this was because it’s supposed to be very scenic train ride, and I love train ride. Train tickets is also very cheap if you buy early enough, I paid around NOK290 per trip, which is cheap for a 7-hour train ride. The train from Bergen departed at around 8am, which got me to Oslo by around 3pm. The return trains depart Oslo around midnight and got in Bergen around 7am. That gives me about 8 hours to roam Oslo. Oslo is not that big, I think 2 days would be enough to explore the city. It’s very interesting city, great architecture. I tried to go see an opera, but was too late to get a ticket, so plan ahead.
By now I think I would have seen most things I wanted to see, so a bit of travel fatigue kicked in. The first stop was Stavanger, where I stayed for 2 nights and played an incomplete round of golf there. It’s soo frustrating to play golf in the cold, and relatively hard surface, because the ball keep bouncing erraticly, so it was not enjoyable. Stavanger old town is pretty to explore, so spend some time here. Sceneries along the roads continues to deliver, with waterfalls like Latefossen, Langfossen, small towns like Odda (start for Trolltunga).
After Oslo, it’s really just about getting home. I stopped by Gothenburg (for the ferry to Kiel), Hamburg and finishing up with a couple of days in Amsterdam.