Postcards from Alta: Driving in Norway

Driving in Norway isn’t the most challenging thing you will ever do (unless you live a VERY sheltered life). The drivers here are competent, and the roads are in good condition. Even up here in the north, the roads are kept clear and open except in the middle of the worst weather.

Driving in Alta NorwayThe rules for driving in Norway are very clear and consistent. The very practical Norwegians have unsurprisingly created a very functional system here. You won’t often hear phrases like, “Well, these lines in the road mean you should stop, but nobody follows that rule.”

You will probably find a lot of common ground between Norwegian and your own country’s traffic laws. Speed limits are clearly posted and lanes are normally clearly marked. Default rules cover things like speed and passing for those times when signs aren’t present.

And fortunately, the cars drive on the right instead of the left. No offense intended, England, Japan, Australia and the other few left-side countries, but we need to talk.

If you are planning to drive in Norway, there are a few surprises you might not be ready for. There are the usual differences in road signs and speeds, of course. At some point, though, you will realize that there are almost no stop signs anywhere. How do they know which car should stop, and when? Winter also brings its share of challenges that deserve attention.

My wife is Norwegian – an excellent cultural resource! – and she was happy to evaluate my driving when we moved here. She was pretty clear during my first few years in Norway that driving with an untrained American was frankly terrifying.  

In this installment of the “Postcards from Alta” series, I cover a few things you might find different from the driving system back home. Most Norwegian drivers can handle odd behavior from others on the road, but you will cause fewer problems on the road with a little extra preparation. This video was also a good excuse for me to use my expert diagram-making skills (this may not be entirely accurate).

Enjoy!  And send me feedback at jon@northadventure.no if there are topics you would like him to cover in a future video.

Postcards from Alta: Let’s Take the Bus

Traveling through Scandinavia by bus is possible, and it is especially popular in the summer. Many people travel by tour coach, of course, but they have their own driver and a fixed route to follow. It is no trouble at all to get to your destination when somebody else is doing the planning and driving!

A fair number of people arrive here in Alta with plans to use public buses to hop from place to place throughout the region and that, actually, is a perfectly reasonable idea. With a little advance preparation, these kinds of holidays can turn out to be a lot of fun.Bus in arctic Norway

Here in Finnmark county, the bus service is divided into three basic categories: local, special and overland routes. Local buses run at regular intervals along routes in the larger towns, where a “larger” town means “at least several hundred residents”.

Special routes include school buses and other similar services. They follow a regular, local schedule, but they just run now and then and generally not every day.

Overland buses serve the longer-distance trips from city to city. Because of the distances, they do not normally run very frequently.

All of these buses follow their published schedules barring unusually bad weather or a local problem. Route information and timetables are on the web, and the online planner makes it easy to check for service both now and in the future. 

HOWEVER… if you think that the buses here run like a big city down south then this video is for you! You simply won’t find coaches driving back and forth to and from all corners of the map every 10-15 minutes.

“Postcards from Alta” is a brand new video series that Jon is building. It covers a range of topics, from daily arctic life to tourism and travel up here at the top of the world. In this episode, “Let’s Take the Bus”, you will learn more about the transportation network here, and what to expect. It’s not a detailed guide – it’s just a postcard! Get in touch with us if you have questions that are not answered here!  (You can reach Jon directly if you like at jon@northadventure.no)