Norway travel guide
From precipitous glaciers to steep-sided gorges and crystalline fjords, Norway’s natural beauty is impossible to overstate. The unspoilt wilderness of the Arctic north is one of the few places where the sun shines at midnight during the summer and where the magnificent Northern Lights brighten the skies during the long winter nights.
Further to the south, the picturesque cities of Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen are brim-full of buildings showing off Scandinavia’s age-old flair for design in cosmopolitan surroundings. Oslo is the present-day capital and financial centre, while the country’s second city, Bergen, is a picturesque former Hanseatic trading port and gateway to Fjordland. Stavanger is the focal point of the Norwegian oil industry and former capital, Trondheim, is a long-established centre of Christian pilgrimage, and more recently, technical research.
Though the weather can be a tad grim in Bergen, the UNESCO-listed waterfront adds a flash of colour with its wooden warehouses and shimmering harbour. Oslo’s waterfront is no less beautiful and has a brand new, ice-white Opera House that could give Sydney’s version a run for its money.
Stunning though the cities are, the real wonders of Norway are to be found outdoors. In the far north, the glacier-covered sub-polar peninsular of Svalbard is one of the few areas where polar bears can be seen in the wild, while Norway’s miles of Arctic tundra double up as a destination for skiing and spotting the Northern Lights.
Elsewhere, a ferry trip along Geirangerfjord has to rank among the world’s prettiest voyages with pine-topped cliffs giving way to icy green water, regularly topped up by the waterfalls that cascade down the fissured sides of the ravine. Indeed, you’d be hard pushed to find a part of Norway’s northern fjordland that isn’t strikingly beautiful, with snow-capped peaks and looming forests almost everywhere you look.
385,155 sq km (148,709 sq miles).
5,271,958 (UN estimate 2016).
14.5 per sq km.
King Harald V since 1991.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg since 2013.
Last updated: 20 February 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Norway has extended the temporary border controls on its internal Schengen border until further notice. These border controls take place at ports with ferry traffic from Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Make sure you carry a valid passport on all these routes.
Around 581,000 British nationals visit Norway every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Norway.
Petty crime does occur but at a low level compared to other European countries.
There has been an increase in avalanche activity. Follow local advice, stay on piste and only ski in recommended areas.
To contact the Norwegian emergency services, call 110 (fire), 112 (police) or 113 (ambulance).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
You should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel. If you already have an EHIC, make sure it hasn’t expired. Some medical costs aren’t covered by the EHIC so you should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.
Safety and security
Crime levels are low, but there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports and railway stations in and around Oslo. The British Embassy is often asked to help British nationals who have had their valuables stolen just after arriving in the country. Take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards.
Assaults and muggings have been on the increase. Remain alert when walking home alone at night, and stick to main roads and well lit areas. Avoid shortcuts and quiet roads with no other pedestrians.
Visitors can drive using a valid UK or other EU/EEA driving licence. There is no need for an International Driving Permit. Make sure you have the correct vehicle insurance cover before you arrive.
In 2016 there were 135 road deaths in Norway (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
Distances are great and driving takes longer than you might think. Narrow and winding roads may be hazardous and impassable, especially in winter.
Car drivers must use winter tyres if there is snow or ice covering the roads. When winter tyres are used, they must be fitted on all wheels and must have a minimum tread depth of 3mm. You may also need to use studded tyres or snow chains for extra grip in icy conditions when permitted. You can find more information on the use of tyres and snow chains on the State Highways website.
Keep headlights on at all times. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are high. On roads which are not marked with a priority sign (a yellow diamond), drivers must give way to traffic coming from the right.
Alcohol limits for drivers are far stricter than UK levels. There are frequent roadside checks for alcohol. Penalties for driving under the influence are severe and can lead to a prison sentence.
Winter tyres are mandatory for heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes from 15 November to 31 Match, except on lift axles. These vehicles must also be equipped with tyres with a tread depth of at least 5mm and a sufficient number of snow chains. A truckers’ guide in English issued by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration can be found at Donna Diesel.
You’ll need your passport with you to enter Svalbard.
Follow the advice of the Governor of Svalbard, including on how to protect yourself from a possible polar bear attack, the risks of glaciers, avalanches and other dangers outside the main town of Longyearbyen.
Extreme weather and crises
Extreme weather, floods and landslides can occur. The Norwegian government’s website provides information and advice to the public before during and after a crisis.
Visiting in summer
Mosquitoes and midges can be a problem in forest, lake and mountainous regions. Bans on campfires are strictly enforced in many areas during the summer months. If you plan to go off the beaten track or out to sea, seek local advice about weather conditions and have suitable specialist equipment. The weather can change rapidly, producing Arctic conditions even in summer on exposed mountain tops.
Visiting in winter
The winter is long (it can last well into April) and temperatures can drop to -25°C and below. There is also a high wind chill factor, particularly in unsheltered areas and mountain ranges. Weather conditions can worsen quickly.
Bring warm clothes and practical footwear to cope with icy roads and pavements. You can buy special clamp-on grips (brodder) to give extra security in icy conditions locally. If you are taking part in skiing, hiking or other off road activities use the correct equipment. You can get advice at local information centres, which in smaller places tend to be connected with skiing equipment rental shops. You can also find safety advice for outdoor activities, including skiing, on the Visit Norway website.
Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions carefully given the danger of avalanches in some areas and in particular in times of heavy snow. Always check with the local tourist offices on current snow and weather conditions on arrival. You can get information about the risk of an avalanche by visiting the websites of the Norwegian Avalanche Warning Service or the European Avalanche Warning Service.
Read more about how to Ski Safe.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Norway. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Drugs and drink driving laws are stricter in Norway than in the UK. Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even small quantities can lead to heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
Whale meat is available in Norway but importing it into the UK/EU is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Any importation of whale meat to the UK will result in seizure of the goods, possibly a fine of up to £5,000 and a custodial sentence.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If your passport describes you as a British Citizen you won’t need a visa to enter Norway. If you have another type of British nationality, you should check the current entry requirements on the website of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and if necessary confirm with the Norwegian Embassy
For stays of longer than 3 months, contact the Norwegian Embassy for further information about entry requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
You’ll need your passport with you to enter Svalbard.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Norway.
Check with the Norwegian Embassy in London before travelling with pets.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Norway you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Norwegian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
Seek local advice if you intend to eat mussels harvested off the coast and certain types of fish from lakes and fjords.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 113 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Norway is the Kroner (NOK). Norway can be very expensive. Make sure you have access to plenty of money. Bank opening hours are shorter than in the UK - especially in summer. Credit cards are widely accepted, but are not so widely accepted as a means of payment in Norwegian supermarkets and petrol stations as they are in the UK. You may be asked to provide ID if you cannot pay by chip and PIN. You can send money electronically to Norway via Forex and Western Union.
There are limits to the amount of currency you can carry into or out of Norway. This is currently set at 25,000 Norwegian Krone (about £2,500). If you bring any more than this into the country, you must declare it to Customs on arrival. Exporting currency from Norway in excess of the set limit has to be approved in advance by Norwegian Customs and transferred through a bank. Forms for this and further information can be found at Tollvesennet. Failure to comply with these rules can lead to arrest, a substantial fine and temporary confiscation of the excess currency which may then be released only through a bank.
Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.