A country as varied as Norway naturally leads to many possibilities — and plenty of questions. Though you may know enough about Oslo or Bergen, what's a vacation like in the villages? On the fjords? Up north to the Arctic Circle? Preparation is key for any vacation to go off without a hitch, so here are the basics for your first trip to Norway.

How do I get to Norway?

Norway is officially a worldwide destination, and as such you'll find international flights to and from Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Tromsø, Trondheim, Ålesund, Haugesund, and Sandefjord. It's incredibly easy to get to Norway from Europe and the UK, and you'll find plenty of direct connections from Oslo to major cities in the US like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The main airline that serves Norway and the rest of Scandinavia is SAS. If you're looking for a discount carrier, check out Norwegian Airlines; however, know that they charge extra for checked baggage, food during your flight, and other amenities. Major European and American carriers (Lufthansa, United, Delta, etc.) are options, too.

How do I get around Norway?

Norway is nothing if not striking — but its topography can make travel time-consuming and lengthy. Let kimkim's local experts know your interests and preferences, and they'll set you up with the best way to get around. But to get started now, here's what you should keep in mind:

By Car

While Norway's roads are generally quite good, they can be deceiving. Driving mere miles through the mountains and over the fjords can take far longer than expected, and the ferry always runs on its own schedule, not yours. Beyond that, many roads are — at one point or another — one lane, shared in both directions. As you wind and snake through the scenery (and you will most certainly be winding and snaking), drive slowly and carefully, and when oncoming traffic approaches, utilize the turnouts. 

When it comes to budgeting, be sure to factor in the cost of tolls and ferries. The car rental company will be able to set you up for any automatic tolls; you'll be expected to pay for any ferry crossings (generally speaking, 50-250NOK). Both cash and credit are accepted, and the ferry staff will make this process easy to follow.

If you're traveling in winter, be prepared for rapidly changing conditions. And, of course, where you are in Norway will greatly determine your needs. Road tripping is one of the most gratifying ways to explore this country, whether you're hopping through cities, the fjords, or cruising into the snowy Arctic Circle — just go in with adequate preparation, and you'll be fine.

Hint: Keep in mind that guided trips are also an option. This might just be the best of both worlds — the accessibility of having a car and the ability to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

By Boat

If you're looking to travel directly on the water, look to Hurtigruten, a coastal steamer. The company's been operating since the 1800s, and it's become the traditional way of traveling through Norway's western waters.

All trips begin in Bergen and terminate at Kirkenes on the Russian border, but you can get on and off at any two ports of your choosing, like Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands, Tromsø, or Ålesund. Each port of call sees one Hurtigruten ship per day, and there are comfortable cabins for overnight stays, should your trip require it (Bergen to Kirkenes is 12 days).

And while this is similar to a cruise in certain ways, it's also very different. The ships are smaller and less commercial (they also operate ferries and cargo ships), and instead of casinos and amphitheatres, picture talks on Norwegian history and open-air decks with nothing to distract you but the view. In summer, the views are particularly incredible, when the route goes through some of the most beautiful fjords in Norway, like the Geirangerfjord.

Express boats and ferries are also an option. From Bergen (a particularly well-connected city), you can get around the entire fjord region, including to the Sognefjord — Norway’s longest — or up north to the less touristy Fjordkysten region. And, of course, you can visit other Scandinavian destinations, like Copenhagen, via ferry or express boat as well.

By Plane

If you're pressed for time, flying might just be the way to go. There are international airports (as discussed above) throughout the country, and smaller airports dot the entire map — you won't be on your own here. SAS and Norwegian operate on a constant basis throughout the larger cities; to reach more remote places, check out the regional carrier Wideroe. If you're looking to go the Lofoten Islands, for example, this will likely be your best bet.

By Train

If you land in Oslo, the train can be a great, relaxing way to take in Norway's scenery - there's a reason you can watch the train ride from Bergen to Oslo on Netflix. If you're planning a trip to the cities, this could be the way to go — trains connect Oslo to Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim, just to name a few.

The trains are modern and comfortable, but keep in mind that they don't exactly go quickly: Oslo to Bergen is 6.5 hours (it's roughly the same duration if you were to drive), and Oslo to Trondheim is 7 hours. To put this in perspective, Bodø to Trondheim is a 10-hour train ride, and a one-hour flight. (For the record, trains don't go north of Bodø.) However, if slow is your style, this is a good option.

How large is Norway?

One word: Very. The country is technically a bit smaller than California, but its coast is twice as long — about 2,700 km, or 1,700 miles (that's Seattle to San Diego). If you include the fjords in that number, its coast is over 25,000 km, or 16,000 miles, longer than the entire coastline of the United States. If islands are also included, we're talking nearly 60,000 km, or over 37,000 miles of water. So, yes, Norway is quite large - but keep in mind its population is only about five million people.

I’ve heard Norway is expensive. Is that true?

While any country is what you make of it, yes, Norway is a wealthy country, and this tends to mean high-quality experiences, top-notch services throughout, and generally high prices. If you're looking for the lap of luxury, you'll find it. But if you're looking to travel on a shoestring, budgeting is possible, too.

For a basic hotel in the winter months, you'll likely be able to find something under $100 USD a night. For anything higher-end and during the summer months, your expenses are likely going to be considerably greater.

Food costs vary, and local food tends to be more expensive — pizza, for example, will be cheaper than Norwegian cuisine. At a no-frills restaurant, you can expect to spend $15-30 USD per person, while sitting down to a nice restaurant will likely cost $30-50 USD for the entree alone. Drinks, appetizers, and dessert usually run $10-20 USD each, with alcohol being notoriously expensive.

As for activities, the more mainstream and touristy they are, the more money you're likely to spend — however, this is pretty standard anywhere you go and shouldn't deter you from visiting.

Do I need a visa for Norway?

Probably not. Though Norway isn't a part of the EU, if you live in an EU country, the United States, Canada, or Australia, you don't need a visa to visit Norway. You can travel in the country for up to 90 days with just a passport from any of these countries.

How many days should I spend in Norway?

That entirely depends on your budget, preferences, and schedule. If you want to spend a long weekend in Oslo and Bergen, that's doable in a few days. If you want to road trip the length of the country, you'll need a few weeks. If you're traveling by train or ship, that's another thing to keep in mind. Start with your budget and what you want to see, check out kimkim's resources, and go from there.

I don’t speak Norwegian. Can I travel independently?

Definitely. Almost all Norwegians are fluent in English, and even if they're reserved and quiet, don't take that as a reproach — that's just the Norwegian way. They're likely used to English speakers and will be happy to accommodate.

What currency is used?

The krone, or NOK. The exchange rate, as of late 2017, hovers around 8 NOK to 1 USD. 

How widely accepted are credit cards?

Almost all establishments, big or small, accept major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard. The one hiccup Americans may run into is at the pump: since most US cards require a signature, you'll have to pay inside.

Do people tip in Norway?

The short answer is yes, for good service at restaurants (usually 10-15%). If you're paying with a card, the machine will prompt you to enter what amount you want to pay, and this should include the tip. Elsewhere, tipping is less common.

Is Norway a safe place to travel?

Definitely. Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. That being said, unfortunate events happen everywhere. It's good travel advice to keep your personal items close to you wherever you go, and be wary of pickpockets in crowded, touristy areas and big cities.

When is the best time of year to visit Norway?

It really depends on your preferences. Summer has the best weather and the most sunlight, but it's the high season for tourists, crowds, and prices. Winter, while it can be harsh in areas, has its own kind of beauty (especially considering the lack of crowds spoiling the view), and if you're a snow-lover, this could be the way to go. Check out our guide for more details to consider, but know that Norway any time of year is worth your time.

How should I pack?

That's greatly determined by when and where you're going. While Bergen and Oslo are kept surprisingly moderate even in the winter months (thanks to the Gulf Stream), going up north to the Arctic Circle is obviously a different story. The more inland you go, the less moderate it will likely be.

But there is one rule: the weather is highly changeable. Wet weather is common - Bergen is considered the "Seattle" of Norway - and higher elevations in summer can still easily experience snow. The saying "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” exists in Norway for a reason. Check with one of our specialists if you've got questions about gear or conditions. 

How much daylight will there be?

You guessed it: the answer varies dramatically depending on when and where you're traveling.

In the south, including Bergen and Oslo, you'll get about six hours of sun (9:00 am to 3:00 pm) in December, the month with the least daylight. In June, that number skyrockets to 19 hours of daylight. Even down south, some twilight lingers through the night in summer, a dark-blue version of the Midnight Sun.

The further north you go, the more dramatic daylight gets. Cities like Tromsø and Alta see absolutely no sunlight between late November and mid-January (you'll likely get a few hours of twilight, the sun hanging cheekily just below the horizon), and late May to late July are the exact opposite: 24 hours of daylight. And, yes, that means midnight golfing, kayaking, hiking, the works. 

In the spring and fall, there's less variance, and days and nights are pretty even from north to south.

What is the food like?

The most important thing to know when it comes to pleasing your tastebuds is that Norway has some of the best seafood in the world. It relied heavily on a fishing economy for centuries: cod, halibut, and salmon are staples, and up north, king crab is both a specialty and a delicacy.

At traditional Norwegian restaurants, you'll also find meat and potato-based dishes. Brown cheese, or brunost, is an iconic example of simple Norwegian fare, as are Norwegian waffles and open-faced sandwiches. 

That being said, the country's culinary scene is incredibly modern and diverse as well. Especially in major cities, you'll find any and every cuisine you could be craving. However, "New Nordic" cuisine is climbing the ranks of foodie lists, and it places a serious emphasis on organic, local dishes. If you're on the search for authenticity, include getting a taste of it on your Norway bucket-list (consider a farm stay for full immersion).