Welcome to the Around the World Interview series on Ordinary Traveler! Every so often we have a new guest who has either lived or spent an extended amount of time in a particular country. Each guest will give valuable insights and tips to a different destination around the world.
This week, Megan Starr shares her Norway travel tips!
Budget tips for Norway?
Given that I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world (Oslo), I think I now have a very skewed perception of the word ‘budget’. But, for travelers, I would most certainly suggest not coming to Norway to go on a drinking extravaganza, but rather to enjoy the free sights.
The best free sight?
The incredible nature of course! Hiking does not cost travelers and you will get some of the wildest and rawest views in the world. I also suggest cooking. Restaurants here can easily burn up your money and in all actuality, the food is pretty subpar. You can still enjoy the Norwegian way of life and cuisine by cooking or eating at your hostel or hotel. Just grab some fresh salmon, hard boil some eggs, and buy some bread… and you have yourself a delicious Norwegian breakfast.
Favorite place or experience in Norway?
It sounds so cliche, but driving around the fjords takes my breath away every time I do it. Nothing beats the peacefulness of the sea water while seeing the reflection of a glacier on it. Renting a car is expensive in this country, so if one is traveling here…taking the train is a totally viable and affordable option. And, it is known to be one of the most picturesque train rides in the world.
Copyright by Moyan Brenn
What is the food like in Norway?
Meh. It’s really not that good. With the exception of the seafood of course. The food is very traditional and full of potatoes and fatty meats. This is a very rich country that, in my opinion, eats like it is still poor. But it is slowly making progress. Norway has recently received a huge influx of immigration (and continues to), and proof is starting to show in its food. This is an unbelievably good thing. Friday nights are ‘taco night’ and kebab is some of the most flavorful food you can get in this country. I’m fine with that. As for me, I just carry around a bottle of hot sauce and life is good.
My favorite Norwegian foods are pinnekjøtt (lamb/sheep ribs that is usually served around Christmas), the amazingly good bread, and mackerel on the grill. Contrary to what people may tell you, this is not a country for vegetarians.
Any dos and don’ts regarding customs?
A big ‘do’ in my opinion is to learn a few Norwegian words. At least your usual manners. Every Norwegian speaks impeccable English, but they will be quite impressed if you can thank them in Norwegian (takk) or order a beer in Norwegian (kan jeg få en øl?). I had a lady once thank me for learning her language despite everyone knowing English. She said it meant a lot that an American would put the energy and effort into learning her language and adapting to her culture. I just assumed this is what one should do when moving or traveling to a new land.
Don’t be offended when no one says ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’, ‘please’, or ‘excuse me’ back to you. I took offense to this at first and after living here for over a year and a half, I have to just chalk it up to cultural differences.
Don’t complain about prices while you’re there. At least not publicly. Norwegians know their country is expensive and don’t need you whining about it and reminding them.
Favorite place to stay in Norway?
A hostel here can run a person upwards of $75/night. I strongly suggest Couchsurfing if meeting new folks is your cup of tea. But you are also able to pitch a tent or hike anywhere you’d like (as long as you don’t make your base in someone’s yard!) Pretty awesome if you ask me.
Copyright by Moyan Brenn
Must-do activities or must-see sites?
I started my time in Norway by living in Bergen. While Bergen was too small and rainy for me to live in, I highly suggest travelers to check it out. It is a stunning and charming city. And the best gateway for the beautiful Norwegian fjords. From this area, you have many opportunities to see the incredible nature that surrounds the city.
Safety tips or warnings?
Dress warm (even in summer), be in good shape if you prepare to hike, and be sure you have adequate funds for your trip. Nothing is cheap here. For the most part, traveling here is extremely safe. But beware of pickpocketers in Oslo.
Best and cheapest times to visit Norway?
There are no cheap times of course. I suggest travelers to come in the summer where the endless hours of daylight will give you a lot of time to explore the country. The weather is milder and the locals are in a much happier state of mind. The winters here are dreary, cold, and long. But the winter is the best time to see the northern lights…and ski.
Packing Tips for Norway?
This depends on where you’re traveling, but I would suggest a nice pair of hiking boots (waterproof as it is super muddy and rainy in western Norway), an umbrella or rain jacket, and max out your duty-free alcohol quota at the airport. That will be the cheapest alcohol you’ll see in the great country of Norway!