Roaming around the stunning Scandinavian country of Norway for five days can be great, or it can be freaking awesome. Here is my take on How to do Norway in five days (and make it freaking awesome).
Rent a Car
You should rent a car in Norway for multiple reasons. First of all its easy as heck. Renting a car in Norway is essentially no different than renting a car in America. You just do it. Second, Norwegians drive on the same side of the road as Americans (assuming you are American, like me). Easy enough. No awkward panic attacks on the highway when you realize you are drifting into the wrong lane due to muscle memory, or crossing oncoming traffic because “it feels right” when really it is so wrong and unsafe. No problem there. However, I am fairly confident that “right on red” is not an appropriate action to take in Norway.
You should rent a car in Norway because you will 100% want to, need to and will pullover very very often to take photographs, dance in the street, laugh, consider crying and just plain run around because it is so beautiful. If you were on a train or a bus that would not be an option. Trust me when I say the scenery changes every ten miles and you will not want to miss out on any photo ops. There are plenty of places to pull the car over. Also there is not very much traffic, so driving in Norway involves very little, if any, stress.
HEADS UP: Street signs are not in english. Just don’t be an idiot. If it looks like a one-way street don’t go down it. If there are sings with exclamation marks or X’s through a photo of a car, maybe don’t drive or park there, and maybe be a little extra cautious. You’re definitely not going to be able to pronounce a single road sign, so just accept that upon arrival. Signs however are pretty obvious. There are lots of roundabouts. There are signs that tell you where bathrooms, coffee shops etc are off of the “highway”.
Side note: hybrids are great on gas.
It’s Norway, it might look like mars but it’s not mars. Rent a car, I think its a good idea.
Do not rely on anything to be open on Sunday and don’t rely on coffee shops to be open, ever.
So, Sunday in most places in Europe is the most chill day of the week. And by chill, I mean if you don’t already have food with you, you probably won’t eat on Sunday because nothing is open, not even grocery stores. At least that is how it is in many little towns. The cities, such as Oslo or Bergen are a bit different, but the small towns of Laerdal, Flam or Undredal turn into ghost towns on Sundays.
Also, in October, which is definitely not a high tourist month, many of those “highway-side” cafe’s are not open. A prime example is the small town of Bjorn, where all three cafes were closed. Not only was this problematic because I have a semi unhealthy addiction to coffee but also I really needed to use the WC.
Make no plans
Like I said before, its Norway, not Mars. Yes they speak a different language and yes lots of coffee shops are not open sometimes, but for the most part you can safely get yourself through an unplanned five days in Norway by just straight winging it. There is this wonderful thing called “instant book” on Air BNB. You can book a last minute place to stay, day of (typically for not too expensive either). Or you can walk into a hostel and get the last room they have available at 7:00 PM. Or your luck might just suck and it will be 10 PM and you will still have no where to stay. In that case you just drive until 2:00 AM and plan on sleeping in the car for a couple hours before the sunrises. You might however get lucky and magically turn into a small town with an insanely beautiful fjord-side hotel, and boom book it and get the best nights sleep of your life.
You never know what kind of crazy story you could churn up during your times of unknowing. Maybe you will panic, maybe you won’t. Either way, I bet you learn something about yourself or have a neat life experience.
I dare you to go to Norway with no plans, because it will work out if you don’t stress out.
Drive through Tunnels
So the longest tunnel in the world is in Norway, and if you are feeling like you need to drive 24.5 km through an underground tunnel with neon lights, three times in less than 24 hours, well you will do that.
You may not enjoy every second of it, you may be a little claustrophobic and you may encounter completely different weather patterns on each side of the tunnel, but hey driving through a man-made tube inside of a mountain for over thirty minutes (three times) is pretty dang cool.
Norway has many many other tunnels, my personal favorite being the one that has a rainbow glowing outside of one end. You may have to remind yourself that you are not hallucinating after that one, especially when it is 1:30 in the morning.
Sleep until noon
Disclaimer: This one is optional.
While you are visiting the small city of Bergan, you may get lost looking for your car at 10:00 pm and stumble across the coolest local bar, where you will instantly become best friends with the bartender, almost get puked on by a drunk girl taking shots of jager right behind your back, then get invited to a “Naschbeil” (AKA an after party) by the same girl who will proceed to kiss your cheek with her vommit lips, you will politely deny the invite to do drugs with her and proceed to drink ginger beer at the slowly emptying bar. Your new best friend bartender will invite you to stay for a beer while he closes down the bar, and before you know it, it will be 6:02 in the morning and you are searching for your car again, while getting invited to go eat kabobs. You will eventually make it to your hostel where you will immediately pass out and you won’t wake up until the hostel host is knocking on your door at 12:30 in the afternoon because you have slept through the check out time.
And that is not the only time that you will sleep past check out.
Drink too much coffee
I think there is an unsung rule that comes along with being in Europe. It goes a little something like this: Drink too much coffee for the sole purpose of enjoying irritatingly adorable coffee shop vibes. Whether it be sipping espresso at tiny wooden tables on cobblestone side streets or wrapping your hands around a warm americano to escape the rain when you arrive to a new city or sitting on a high stool at a long wooden bar overlooking the explicit graffiti in the art district of Oslo whilst sipping black coffee and appreciating the locals laughing in the background. Whatever it is, the coffee shop vibes are real in Europe, and Norway will not let you down.
Depending on where you are, what mood you’re in, how cold you are or how much time you have, your coffee of choice will vary but your choice will always be a good one.
Over appreciate Fjords
Disclaimer: Photographs of fjords do not do them justice. Not even a little bit.
Fjords are long narrow inlets of water that are formed when glaciers move themselves through mountains. Picture giant mountains with valleys of water within them. If you were to look at a map it would look like coastal veins.
When you are in the little tourist town of Flam, you should take a boat cruise with Fjord Safari, ask for Eleanor as your tour guide and allow yourself to be mesmerized by waterfalls, small waterside villages, massive cliffs and more. You will probably even see a baby seal perching itself on a rock below a rushing waterfall.
Appreciate the Houses
Every single house in Norway is adorable. Whether it be a single red house at the entrance of a tunnel overlooking a fjord, a tiny home aside a rushing waterfall with a grass roof and horses freely wandering the yard, a small cluster of blue and brown houses tucked into a valley or four quaint houses in a row on the side of an inlet the Norwegian homes have character. Over appreicate them not only because of their appearance but you must imagine the unique story each one holds.
Talk to the Locals
This is true for anywhere you go, the locals typically know best. The biggest difference between Norwegian locals and locals in most other places, is that Norwegians might be the kindest people I have ever met. Whether you are asking for recommendations at the local fish market in Bergen or you are asking for directions, people will help you the best they can, even if they have no idea what you are talking about.
Five days in Norway may not seem like long. If I had to choose I could probably stay there for five years and never get tired of the unique homes, the country side feel, the open roads, the kind kind people, the safe cities and the foggy sunrises, but if you are like me and you only have five days, my number one piece of advice would be to carry gratitude wherever you go. Norway is nota crazy tourist destination yet, but with beauty like it has I would not be surprised if that changes. Experience its authenticity while you can.