Riding trains is a great way to see Norway. It’s a very narrow country, but quite long. I decided to train for two weeks to see the lay of the land. I was more interested in seeing Norway as a whole, rather than exploring towns in great detail. I can always go back!
Mountain passes. Crystal clear rivers. Tundra fields. Pine forests. Lakes. Quaint towns. You’ll see it all on the train.
Trains are an amazing way to travel. This was my first time training, and I’ll always remember the great time I had! Norway trains are super comfortable, clean, quiet and fast. Frankly, I think they put our Amtrak system to shame…IMO. The trains actually lean into the turns, allowing them to move faster and avoid slowing down.
ARRIVING AT GARDERMOEN AIRPORT IN OSLO.
Start your train experience at the airport. I arrived in Oslo at Gardermoen airport and took the train into the downtown Oslo train station–it takes about 20 minutes. I purchased the ticket at a kiosk. We passed farms, homes and businesses–I was impressed with the ride!
The trains are very well run in Norway. I experienced very few delays or late trains. Stations are kept clean and safe.
Given Norway’s proximity to Sweden and Finland, you also have easy access by train to these countries as well, with some limitations. You can even train into Russia and visit St. Petersburg.
I’d not recommend riding more than 8 hours a day. The trains stop along almost every town en route. When I left Bodo, I arrived in Trondheim after about 8 hours, and then caught a sleeper car into Oslo. If you ride in a seat for 17 hours, you’re going to be toast upon arrival. I rode nonstop from Stavanger to Bergen–17 hours later I was…toast. It’s funny how travel teaches you lessons.
STAVANGER–EASILY ACCESSIBLE BY TRAIN FROM OSLO, AND STAVANGER IS YOUR JUMP-OFF FOR HIKING “PULPIT ROCK”
I stayed in a hospital room in Stavanger. It’s actually a hostel, but was once a room where hospital patients stayed. Cool.
Pulpit Rock. I wanted to climb it, but couldn’t as the rock was wet and slippery. It was raining, and the summit was socked in. Not safe. Stavanger is a great hop off point to climb Pulpit. While in Stavanger, consider a fjord cruise. I did one–they are spectacular! That cruise will be detailed in another article.
HOW TO GET YOUR CHEAPO TRAIN TICKETS
Log onto the Norwegian train site at NSB.NO. You can display the site in English–just click on the word “MENY” that you see in the upper right corner of the website. You are looking for “MINIPRIS” tickets, or those tickets that are dirt cheap.
The Norwegian government dumps a bunch in their system every now and then–you have to scoff them up when you see them–they don’t last. I used the NSB.NO site and purchased my tickets. If the site gives you trouble, just call them. They have folks who speak English! I called them to test their system–I got an English-speaking lady on the phone, so no worries there!
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE TICKETS
You can’t get off in a small town, wander around and re-board later–you have to stay on the train until your destination.
If you buy the MINIPRIS they are not refundable, so make sure you’re going to go. If you can’t, send them to me, and I’ll go for you! Some of the towns the trains stop at are irresistible for exploration, but I couldn’t get off the train.
GET YOUR TRAIN TICKETS BEFORE YOU GO
That’s the secret. Simple. You might not have the time, but if you have a month or two before your trip starts, you might get lucky. If you wait until you are in country, you’ll be out of luck for the MINIPRIS.
MY TRAIN ITINERARY
Oslo to Stavanger–Stavanger to Bergen–KLM airlines to Bodo–Bodo to Trondheim–Trondheim to Oslo (sleeper car or “SOVE” service). I also took a couple of side trips from Oslo to Lillehammer. Lillehammer has a great museum–the Olympic Ski Museum–go see it! Lillehammer is a quiet town on the hills hugging Norway’s largest lake, Lake Mjosa.
Is there express service between cities? No, with some exceptions. You’ll stop in quite a few towns along the way depending upon where you board and what your ultimate destination is.
Do the trains have bathrooms? Yes. They are clean too.
Are there sleeper cars available? Yes, on selected routes. Check the NSB site. Sleeper service is called “SOVE.” Use this service of trips over 7 hours, when available, or you’ll be toast upon arrival. For example, I used the SOVE service from Trondheim to Oslo, about a 7 hour run, after catching the train in Trondheim about midnight.
Yes, the train stations have bathrooms–but you’ll have to pay. Lillehammer was the only station I found that had free bathrooms.