Before doing my article about my third (and last for now) hike in Norway, I want to talk a bit about driving in this country. There are few things that you need to know if you plan on visiting the fjords by car (and that I wished I knew). This experience is only based on my road trip from Kristiansand to Trondheim (going on road 44 and then staying around the west side of Norway). We also travelled in summer, in winter, some roads are closed (like the one for the Kjerag hike). Check before leaving road conditions!
1. There are a lot of tolls in Norway. We didn’t know before leaving but tolls in Norway are automatic. You can pay them via a system called “Autopass” and only with that system. There are no cashers on the roads (except at one toll we had at the exit of the Atlantic Road). Tolls look like radars, they take a picture of your license plate if you don’t have the Autopass system. If you rented a car, I think they will explain to you what to do when you pick up the car. If you want to know more, I advise you to go on the Autopass website.
- — Before leaving, if you are planning on taking you own car to Norway, you have to subscribe online before leaving in order to register your plate and add a prepayment amount of 300NOK (around 30€).
- — Each time you will go through a toll, it will withdraw the toll fee from that amount.
- — You will get a refund of the money not used three months later or you will have to pay the missing amount.
- — There is another option if (like us) you didn’t subscribed online before leaving: tolls will automatically take a picture of your license plate. There is a european commission that makes the link between your plate and your address. You are supposed to receive a letter with the total amount to pay three months after leaving the country. ( At this day we are still waiting for the letter but I think it will arrive soon 🙁 )
- — You can find all the info on this website: Autopass.no
2. You can find free maps. If you want to have a map of every roads, hikes, lakes and stops on the way, I advise you to stop at an information center in each region of Norway. You will find there guides with road maps and activities to do. It is free. You can find many information about what to do, when to do it on this website. More over, you can “order” (for free) travel guides and receive them home before leaving (it takes a bit of time so you should make sure to order in time), check out on this page for french version. For UK version, check on this page. For all other languages, check on either french or UK page and change the country!
3. Gas is not cheaper than in France. Gas is around 1.5€/L (in August 2015). A bit expensive but not that much compared to France. You can save money on gas by taking boats!
4. Follow road 13. Road 13 is known to be the touristic road of Norway. It is a nice road that will take you to all the touristic spots you have to see. However, if I can give you one advice, don’t only follow road 13. There are some small roads you can find on the maps that are worth it too and with less people.
5. Norway is NOT flat. As you know it, Norway is composed of many fjords. Therefore, you are always going up and down by snaky mountain roads.
6. You drive along the water. When you want to explore the fjords, most of the roads are going by the water. Sometimes you will go up, but mostly you wind at the bottom of the mountains, bordered by the water on one side and mountains on the other. It is the most beautiful view (and road) ever. It is truly magical even if you don’t stop to take pictures.
7. Roads are VERY tiny. I love driving (as some of you know it — in my little white C3), and I drove quite a bit the past five years I had my car. I went to Canada and drove under the snow (and got stuck in the middle of nowhere with some friends — I’ll tell that story later), I drove for hours in Banff and Jasper, I drove in Paris everyday for four years when I lived there… Though, I am afraid of Norwegian roads. They are so small that when you are going along the fjords or even in the tunnels, there are some space every now and then so you can stop to let the people you are crossing pass. This includes small cars… and trucks.
8. Boats are NOT free. In Canada, sometimes you could take boats with your car to go from one side of Saint-Laurent’s river to the other, and those boats are free. But in Norway, you have to pay to get on the boat. Each boat is around 50 (5€) or 100 NOK (10€) depending on how many you are and the type of car. We had a car with bikes on the roof (under 3m) and we were three. We paid between 150 NOK (15€) and 200 NOK (18€) for each boat. Info about boats: Kolumbus.no
9. Taking a boat sometimes is the only viable option. If you want to save time, boats are the only option. It will save you gas too. For example, if you want to sleep at the Kjeragbolten campground in order to save time for the hike in the morning, you have only two options from Stavanger. Either take the mountain road for more than two hours and a half (you will go up and see beautiful landscapes) or take the boat from Stavanger to Lysbotn (1h40) and then take the road for about ten minutes to go to Kjerag parking. (Info about the boat: here or on the global website: here)
10. Check boat timetables. It will save you time if you know what time are the boats you want to take. Most of them comes every 20 minutes but sometimes it might be longer (and sometimes there are almost no boats because of a holiday or something). Infos: here
11. Sheep will be road mates. And they are not afraid. They eat grass while you pass by them, sometimes they cross roads too, be careful! The wholes in the road that will make your car shake are to keep sheep from leaving their ground. Wholes are separated with the width of a sheep leg so they can’t pass. They even have special bridges!
12. Tunnels will amaze you. As Norwegian roads go around mountains, you will cross many tunnels. Some of them even have roundabouts inside. One of them is also directly linked to a bridge which is itself linked to another tunnel on the other side. Sometimes, there also are some windows on the side.
13. Crossing from Denmark to Sweden by car is more expensive than we thought. We came back to France through Sweden because we left our friend at Göteborg where he lives. We decided to stop at Copenhagen on our way back. When we took the bridge, we weren’t expecting this: the fare to cross between the two countries is around 54€! Yes 54€ for a bridge. At least, it looked nice. That said, it is less expensive than the boat (We paid around 100€ for the car + 3 people)
(Picture above from here)
And last but not least:
14. You will see some of the most beautiful landscape ever. Road 44, the road from Stavanger to Lysbotn, the road 13 (or touristic road) from the Prekeistolen to the Trolltunga, the road around Loen, the Atlantic Road… You will pass by waterfalls and lakes on top of mountains… Even the views from the boats are worth it.
You have to see it to believe it.