385,155 sq km (148,709 sq miles).
5.2 million (2015).
13.4 per sq km.
Head of state:
King Harald V since 1991.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Erna Solberg since 2013.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.
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.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
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.
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 2013 there were 190 road deaths in Norway (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 3.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2013.
Distances are great and driving takes longer than you think. Narrow and winding roads may be hazardous and impassable, especially in winter. Winter tyres are mandatory from around 1 November to 15 April (exact dates vary from year to year).
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.
See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides to driving in Norway.
All vehicles with a maximum allowable total weight of over 3,500kg must be equipped with snow chains. A truckers’ guide in English issued by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration can be found at Donna Diesel.
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.