A peaceful moment in Norway

Planning a trip to see the Northern Lights and Polar Nights in Norway!

I just spent two weeks on a honeymoon in Norway and what a splendid holiday! There is just so much to see. I am also convinced that Norway warrants a return in the summer. The landscape changes so dramatically that it is almost like visiting another country.
Norway during the winter is mostly shades of black, white and grey. It may sound depressing, but it is not. For the most part, it felt like a leaf out of a fairy tale. Everything felt enchanted. It was one hell of an experience.

 

If you are one of those people who are scared of subzero temperatures, do not be. I know how much I stressed about it, but in the end, it was just fine. As long as you are well prepared, you will not even shiver.

Flight: The flight to Oslo from Mumbai is long and there is no direct. We took the Jet Airways flight through Amsterdam. Jet Airways has a code share flight with KLM. This ensured we did not need to redo our luggage check-in at Amsterdam. The flights were on time and it was a pleasant experience. The total travel time to Oslo including the layover is about 15 hours.

Visa: Apply for your visas to the Norwegian embassy more than a month in advance. The Norwegian embassy takes more time to issue visas than any other Schengen country I know. Thankfully, we applied two months in advance. They took well over a month to return our passports. VFS Global runs the Norwegian visa process. Do not spend your money on a travel
agent.
Follow the steps online at https://www.vfsglobal.com/Norway/India/

Brochures: visitnorway.com is the official tourism website for Norway. If you write to them, they will be kind enough to post the official brochure along with a map.

When to go: To see the northern lights, go during the months of October through to March.

Outside our Gamme Cabin, Snowhotel Kirkenes

Currency: The local currency is NOK, Norwegian Kroner. Norway is an expensive country. Most Europeans themselves consider Norway very expensive. A regular meal for two with one beer each can cost you INR 6,000 (USD 95). A hot dog and coffee can cost INR 2,500 (USD 40). Do the math.

Clothes: Travelling to Norway in the winter can mean carrying lots of luggage and you need to have the right kind of clothing to ensure you can really enjoy yourself. Carry the items listed below to ensure you have all you need to enjoy the cold weather. Remember, no one jacket, or pair of gloves or sweater will keep out the cold. You need to add layers depending on the weather.

  1. Heat reflecting thermals from Columbia
  2. Regular thermals (which you will find at Marks and Spencer or any other good brand)
  3. Woolen socks, 2 pairs, thin ones and the really fat ones
  4. Snow boots. If you do not get your size do not fret. Just get out in Oslo and get them.
    Always buy a size larger than your actual fit. The air inside ensures your feet do not get
    numb from the cold.
  5. Gloves, two pairs, the thin ones and the fat ones. You will need to wear both. The thin
    ones can be used to do everyday things; you will not be able to use the fat ones for that.
    Just having fat gloves is not an option. If you take your hand out to adjust the camera lens
    for more than 10 seconds, your fingers will feel numb.
  6. Regular clothes. This is important because when you are indoors, it will be heated. You will
    sweat your ass off if you cannot get rid of the top layers.
  7. A fleece jacket. These look terrible, but they are incredibly warm. One is enough for most
    places.
  8. Fleece pants. These really keep the cold and wind out.
  9. A down feather jacket with a hood. This is your outermost layer. Get a good one.
  10. A beanie. One that covers your ears.
  11. A good scarf or neck warmer in wool or silk to put around your neck. You must keep your
    neck and ears warm.

Ensure that all your outermost layers will protect you both from wind and from rain.

3 to 10 are all available at AVI Industries in Matunga, Mumbai at very reasonable prices. Look
it up on google.

Do not worry about clothing for adventure activities. Your guide will provide you the relevant
stuff.

Most airports run a shuttle service to “Sentrum”, the
center of every city. This is where a majority of the hotels are located. This is also, where most
tourist attractions are located. It therefore reduces travel stress of having to figure out how to
get around and lugging around your luggage.

Sparkling night at the Lofoten Islands, Svolvaer

Other items to carry:

  1. A heavy-duty moisturizer. You will need to keep your skin hydrated. Apply every morning before you head out.
  2. A portable weighing scale. It is a tiny thing and if you are taking domestic flights, it is good to have.
  3. Spikes for your shoes. Roads in Norway can get icy. You are better of plugging on the spikes on your shoes before heading out. You risk slipping on the ice if you don’t.
  4. Portable battery pack. The low temperatures will drain your battery fast. It is good to have this around to ensure you do not get lost.
  5. A hip flask. I always filled this up with Aquavit, their local drink, and carried it around. Too cold? Have a couple of swigs; you will be smiling and warm.
  6. Lip balm. Enough said.
  7. Small headlamp. You are going to be out in the dark a lot. The small headlamp can be used to dig through things in your bag, or even to adjust your camera lens. This is also available at AVI Industries.
  8. The sun that reflects off the snow can be harsh.
  9. A medium size back pack. To carry your camera, your lens, your tripod, water, alcohol whatever.

Getting Around: I come from a tropical country and have never driven on snow. I therefore chose to fly around in Norway instead of driving around. If you’re comfortable driving on snow, the roads are excellent.

If you are flying around, the air connectivity is great. If you are going in the summer, check if wideroe has a summer pass on. The summer ticket allows you to undertake air travel at will across their network. This is a great bargain.

The airlines to check for fight options are SAS, Norwegian and Wideroe. Be careful of the baggage weight, especially the check in baggage. They enforce it strictly.

Within cities, stay away from taxis. They are frighteningly expensive. Use public transport. In Bergen and Oslo, buy the Bergen and Oslo passes. These allow travel across all transport options and discount entries to several places that are sure to be on your list. Unfortunately, the public transport options do not appear on google maps in most cities in Norway. You will have to download the app for the relevant bus/ train network in the relevant city to get your timetables and the option to buy tickets. You could also just do it the old-fashioned way. Ask!

If you are flying around, the air connectivity is great. If you are going in the summer, check if wideroe has a summer pass on. The summer ticket allows you to undertake air travel at will across their network. This is a great bargain.

Cruises in Norway: Hurtigruten in Norway is known for its cruises. You can take one of their 12 day cruises to cover all of Norway should you wish. They will stop at major locations along the way to allow people time to explore. They also have guided excursions at an additional cost. This was not appealing to me though, since I wanted more time in each location. However, many people do take this approach to discovering Norway. I decided to take one segment of my trip on the Hurtigruten, just to get a flavor.

Watching the sunset at the pier in Bodo

Winter train travel: Winter long distance train rides in Norway are fun. As long as they are in the daytime. If you are taking one of the scenic train rides, please ensure this is during the daytime. If it is not, plan a stay over at the last stop before sun down. After that, it is a complete drag to travel in total darkness. The sun sets in Norway during the winter at about 3 PM in most places.

Where to stay: Unless you are driving around, I would recommend you stick to hotels in Norway. Airbnb is fine if you have a car. Ensure you have parking at your BnB. Parking is expensive like pretty much everything in Norway.

Hotels are recommended for two reasons. Most airports run a shuttle service to “Sentrum”, the center of every city. This is where a majority of the hotels are located. This is also, where most tourist attractions are located. It therefore reduces travel stress of having to figure out how to get around and lugging around your luggage. Scandic, Thon, Comfort Hotels, Clarion, Radisson, are all hotel chains that you will find in
Sentrum.

Where to see the northern lights: The best places to spot them are in Tromso, Kirkenes, Senja, Alta, Bodo and the Lofoten Islands. Plan to stay in one destination for 2 to 3 nights to ensure you catch them. You will need to get away from the city. The further you go into the wilderness, the better your chances. Norway lights is a good app to download on your phone to see predictions about the northern
lights. Make sure to download it!

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