Norway

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Introduction to Norway

Norway is a ruggedly beautiful country of mountains, fjords and glaciers. The 'Land of the Midnight Sun' has delightfully long summer days, pleasantly low-key cities, unspoiled fishing villages and rich historic sites that include Viking ships and medieval stave churches.

Norway prizes its stunning natural wonders and retains a robust frontier character unusual in Europe. It's not all frozen tundra, either. The temperate south includes rolling farmlands, enchanted forests and sunny beaches as well as the dramatic Western Fjords.

North of the Arctic Circle, the population thins, the horizons grow wider and the temperature dips. Here the terrain ranges from soaring coastal peaks to vast boreal forests and barren treeless peninsulas. Adventurous travellers can journey even further north to the Svalbard archipelago, where seals, walruses and polar bears sun themselves on ice floes.

Full country name: Kingdom of Norway

Area: 324,220 sq km

Population: 4.54 million

Capital City: Oslo (pop 508,730)

People: 97% Nordic, Alpine & Baltic, with a Sami minority

Language: Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Northern Sami

Religion: Christian (86.3% Evangelical Lutheran)

Government: constitutional monarchy

Head of State: King Harald V

Head of Government: Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik

GDP: US$149.1 billion

GDP per capita: US$33,000

Annual Growth: 3.5%

Inflation: 3.1%

Major Industries: Oil, natural gas, computers, high technology, fishing, fish farming, forestry, shipping, shipbuilding, paper production

Major Trading Partners: EU (esp. UK, Germany & Sweden)

Member of EU: No

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Scandinavian citizens can enter Norway freely without a passport. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand do not require visas for stays of less than three months. The same is true for EU and EAA countries, most of Latin America and most Commonwealth countries.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 47

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

The country's biggest holiday is Constitution Day (17 May), when many Norwegians take to the streets attired in traditional folk costumes. Another popular holiday is Midsummer's Eve (usually held on 23 June), which is celebrated with bonfires on the beach. The Sami people (Lapps) also hold colourful celebrations at Easter in Karasjok and Kautokeino. Festivities include reindeer races, joik (traditional chanting) and concerts.

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Best time to Visit

Norway is at its best and brightest from May to September. Late spring is a particularly pleasant time - fruit trees are in bloom, daylight hours are long, the weather is mild and most hostels and sights are open but uncrowded. Summers are marked by the phenomena of the midnight sun, especially north of the Artic Circle. At Nordkapp, in the far north, the sun stays out from 13 May to 29 July, but nowhere in the country - even the far south, experiences true darkness between late May and late July.

Unless you're heavily into winter skiing or searching for the Aurora Borealis of the polar nights, Norway's cold, dark winters are not the prime time to visit.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Norwegian Krone

Meals

Budget: Nkr30-80

Mid-range: Nkr80-200

High: Nkr200-300

Deluxe: Nkr300+

Lodging

Budget: Nkr50-300

Mid-range: Nkr300-650

High: Nkr650-1000

Deluxe: Nkr1000+

Norway can be very expensive, but if you tighten your belt there are ways to take out some of the sting. If you use only camping grounds and prepare your own meals you might squeak by for US$21 a day. If you stay at hostels, breakfast at a bakery, lunch at an inexpensive restaurant and shop at a grocery store for dinner, you should be able to get by for US$34 a day. If you stay at 'cheap' hotels that include a buffet breakfast, have one meal at a moderately priced restaurant and snack for the other meal, expect to spend US$56 a day. This is still pretty bare-bones - entertainment, alcohol and transport costs are all extra.

Post offices and banks exchange major foreign currencies and accept all travellers' cheques. Some banks charge a fee per cheque so you'll save money bringing travellers' cheques in higher denominations. ATMs are widespread and all major credit cards are widely accepted.

Service charges and tips are included in restaurant bills and taxi fares and no additional gratuity is expected, but there's no problem if you wish to reward exceptional service with a top. There are no set rules to abide by, but most customers leave small change at bars and 5-10% at restaurants. Wait staff are often paid derisory wages on the assumption that tips will boost their salaries, so think twice about leaving a bare table at meal's end. Taxi drivers also expect a small tip. Bargaining for services or goods is not a usual practice.

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Attractions

Oslo

Norway's capital and largest city creeps up on you and makes you very glad you came. Possessed of a staid reputation and by no measure Scandinavia's most beautiful city, low-key Oslo nonetheless has lots to see and do - it just doesn't make such a big fuss about it.

Unlike most European cities, Oslo isn't full of architectural wonders, but some districts, such as Frogner, offer elegant examples of historical architecture. The city is also replete with notable museums and monuments, as well as plenty of green spaces.

Central Norway

The central part of Norway takes in the country's highest mountains, largest glacier and most spectacular fjords. Unsurprisingly, this region is the top destination for almost all travellers to the country. The historic city of Bergen is the main jumping-off point for the western fjords.

From here you can visit Sognefjord, Norway's longest (200km) and deepest (1300m) fjord; the scenic Hardangerfjord; the massive Jostedalsbreen glacier; spectacular waterfalls at Geirangerfjord; and Trollveggen, a jagged and often cloud-shrouded summit near Åndalsnes that is considered the ultimate challenge among Norwegian mountain climbers.

In addition, there are resorts, excellent national parks, and road trips through some of Norway's most breathtaking scenery. Don't miss the 470km (291mi) train journey on the Oslo-Bergen railway: this scenic trip is Norway's finest, and passes through mountain ranges and the windswept Hardanger plateau.

Risør

This cluster of historic white houses built around a small fishing harbour is one of Norway's most picturesque villages. It's popular with artists and tourists, and is a summer hangout for Norway's yachties. Visits to nearby islands can be made by inexpensive water taxis. One such island is Stangholmen, which has an old lighthouse with a restaurant and bar. Risør is on the curving southern coast, south of Oslo.

Tromsø

The 'Gateway to the Arctic' is a stark contrast to the sober communities dotting the northern coast of Norway. It's a spirited town with street music, cultural happenings, more pubs per capita than any other place in the country and many 'northenmost' claims. Snow-capped mountains provide the scenic backdrop, the town has a swag of period buildings and the Tromsø Museum is a good place to learn about Lapp culture. There's also fine skiing here in winter.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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