Tips for Visitors to Norway

I’ve had several people come and visit Norway, and for those whom I wasn’t able to see, I came up with a general list of tips for visitors. Enjoy and go visit!

  1. Norway is expensive, so come in with that expectation. Don’t come in thinking that this will be a cheap holiday; HOWEVER, now is a great time to come since the dollar is strong.
  2. Norwegians generally speak superb English so I wouldn’t worry about language barriers.
  3. We use the Norwegian kroner. Yes, there are three types of kroner in Scandinavia (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian). No, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia (they use the Euro).
  4. In the event that you don’t want to carry cash, never fear. Cards are accepted almost universally.
  5. Keep in mind what time of year you’re visiting Norway. In the summer you’ll experience very long days, while in winter your daylight will be minimal. If you’re visiting in winter you’re also going to want to invest in some sort of crampon type things for your shoes. I know a lot of people liked using Yaktrax.
  6. If you plan on drinking, buy all of your alcohol at duty free since booze is expensive (think $12 for a beer at a bar). If you’re flying in from abroad you’ll notice that:
    1. You will have to pass through duty free anyway in order to leave the airport.
    2. All of the Norwegians are also going there to stock up on booze.
  7. It’s pretty easy to get a SIM card if you want data. Go to a Netcom store (they are everywhere) and ask for a 14 day SIM card/starter pack. It’ll cost you 99 NOK (12.27 USD). More info here at this old blog post.
  8. It’s actually really easy to get around Norway. 
    • The train system can be found at nsb.no/en. Tickets are usually very affordable if booked in advance, the trains are clean, relatively new, AND they have wifi. 
    • For flights you qualify for youth tickets if you are under 26.
      1. Finding the youth tickets on SAS is a bit of a hassle, but it can be done and tickets apply for both domestic and international flights. 
      2. Norwegian Air also has youth prices, but only for flights within Norway (code UNDER26). They also have the newest planes and wifi on all of them. I love them. 
    • If you’re coming at the right time of year you can also snag some great ferry trips on the Hurtigruten ferry (combination of a postal ferry and cruise ship). 

Berlin Wrap Up

As always, here are my tips for Berlin:

  1. Berlin is a very large city so things can be quite far apart. That being said, I would still recommend walking around. There is a lot of really wonderful street art, and it’s a beautiful city in the sunshine.
  2. As in all of Germany, Google Maps is a godsend and works perfectly with the public transportation system.
  3. Buy and validate a transportation card. Berlin is the only city where I’ve had my ticket checked multiple times. The fine for riding without a pass is €40. You validate your pass on the platform in a red box.
  4. Invest in a Museum Pass. For €12 you get 3 day access to all of Berlin’s main museums.
  5. I bought a Berlin Pass (combination of a transportation card + discount card) and found that I was consistently getting better discounts with my student ID. I would say that you’re probably better off buying a transportation card and a Museum Pass (instead of a Berlin Pass) if you’re a student.
  6. Buying a SIM card is easy and affordable. I went to a Saturn Electronics store with my ID and was able to purchase a SIM with 250 MB of data for €5.
  7. If you’re going in winter you’d probably do well to pack an umbrella.
  8. Don’t jaywalk. It’s highly frowned upon in Germany and I’ve even been told that if you jaywalk next to a family it’s not uncommon to be yelled at for setting a bad example. Apparently there are even pedestrian signs that read “Think of the children.”
  9. For me the permanent must sees were: the Neues Museum (even if it’s just to see the building itself), Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten (see the nearby Holocaust Memorial and the memorials to the murdered Gypsies and homosexuals),  Reichstag dome (you can book a more extensive tour online provided you book in advance, but you can also get tickets at the Reichstag. If you decide to buy at the Reichstag I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid a line), Pergamon Museum, Piano Salon Christophori, East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie (mostly because it’s just one of those things that you have to do), Topography of TerrorSchloss Charlottenburg (more for the grounds than for the palace itself), and Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears)
  10. The temporary must sees were: Mario Testino exhibit at the Gemäldegalerie
  11. Places to eat: Balli Döner for döner and Monsieur Vuong for Vietnamese food (there was always a wait when I went)
  12. Keep in mind that Berlin is basically two cities in one, so there is plenty to do. Even though I was in the city for about a week I still didn’t see everything that I wanted to.

Cell Phone Plans

A few weeks ago one of the lovely Roving Scholars contacted me to ask if I knew much about phone plans and pay-as-you-go systems in Norway. I thought that the information I emailed out might be helpful for anyone else who might be moving to Norway or even just coming for a short stay.

I am currently using a pay-as-you-go system with Netcom. Alix can attest that I have historically complained about Netcom’s customer service, but I like to think that four months into my time here Netcom and I have worked out all of the kinks in our love-hate relationship. Hopefully. 

Here’s what I would recommend (and I like to think that if you follow these steps that you will avoid all of the problems that I had with Netcom):

  1. Find your local Netcom store and buy a starter pack. 
  2. The starter pack includes a SIM with 14 days worth of calls, texts, and 250 MB of data. From what I can deduce off of the Netcom website you’ll pay 99 NOK for this.
  3. Because you’ll probably want to contact people for more than 14 days, you can buy one of these month long services:
    1. 1 GB with calls and texts for 199 NOK
    2. 3 GB with calls and texts for 299 NOK
    3. 6 GB with calls and texts for 399 NOK
  4. When you decide what sort of monthly pay-as-you-go plan you want you can either buy this service at the store (which comes with a physical card) or buy it online. 

If you buy a card at the store make sure they explain how to use the card. You have to dial a particular number and then type in another number that is listed on the card. Being handed a card and having none of this explained to me at the store started my initial saga with Netcom–make sure they explain which numbers to dial since the voice recording you will hear on the phone will be in Norwegian. I honestly found it to be a bit of a hassle to go to the store every month, so now I just top off my plan online. To do this is pretty simple. You just go to www.netcom.no/smartrefill. Then you:

  1. Input your phone number (kontantkortnummer)
  2. Select the plan you want
  3. Fill out your credit card info and you’re good to go

One benefit of paying for things online is that they will let you pay for up to 6 months of phone usage at a time.

There are a few other things you should know about Netcom:

  1. If you get a weird text in Norwegian including the refill link it’s probably Netcom telling you to top off your balance. 
  2. Only top up your phone once you have completed the 14 days or month long service plan that you have paid for.
  3. For reasons totally incomprehensible to me, the minutes that you buy with a month long plan are valid only for Norwegian cell phones. This means that you have to be a bit wary when calling a business. For example, a call to my bank goes through without a problem, but when I tried to call the Norwegian Health System I ended up using Google Voice for the call since my cell phone didn’t have enough credit.
  4. Unlike other telephone providers, you do not need a personal number (Norwegian version of a social security number) to open an account with Netcom.

The only other phone company that I’ve encountered in Trondheim is Telenor. I initially stopped by one of their offices in Trondheim and they told me that things would be cheaper if I worked with Netcom. From what I’ve heard, working with Telenor costs closer to 500 NOK a month and they won’t let you purchase a plan until you can provide them with your Norwegian personal number.

I hope that helps! Now go forth and call, text, and data use to your heart’s content.