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Flam-Bergen Express Boat


I'm really really confused and close to get mad.
I have planned a trip to Norway in July. After a long reserch, I decided to Oslo -Flam train , Flam-Balestrand Express boat,
and stay in Balestrand; next day to Bergen with Express boat again. I made all the hotel bookings.

But, after I read some comments saying "it's nearly impossible to sea fjord views by express boat ", I'm confused and begin to consider stay in Flam instead of Balestrand and do Naeroyfjord tour.

On the other hand, there are lots of people WHO says Flam is too crowded and impossible to sea view because of cruise ships, not a real town but a transportatiton hub.

Is it a bad idea travel Balestrand by Express boat?
Should I stay in Flam?
Sognefjord with express boat or Naeroyfjord by tourist boat?

Please, please help...

Posted by
13 posts

We took the express boat from Flam to Balestrand last year and saw plenty of fjord views by standing on the upper deck on the back of the boat, it was a bit cold and rainy, but we still saw some beautiful scenery. You essentially travel through the Sognefjord from Flam to Balestrand on the express boat. There's less open air standing room on the express boats, but that was not a problem, as most people elected to stay warm inside.

The one caveat is that you will miss the Naeroyfjord, which I thought was more dramatic and (as the name suggests) narrow.

If you have time, here's the itinerary we took last August:

  • Day 1: Travel from Oslo to Flam via train/Flamsbana, express boat to Balestrand
  • Day 2: Rented a car from Balholm Car Rental and drove through the area including the Aurlandsfjellet ("Snow Road")
  • Day 3: Express boat back to Flam, cruise through Naeroyfjord, bus to Voss, train to Bergen

It was a little bit of backtracking, but allowed us to really soak in the fjords from many different perspectives.

If you only have two days to get to Bergen, I think you're fine with your current itinerary. You will see plenty of gorgeous scenery on the way from Flam to Balestrand, and staying in Balestrand will be much more fun/scenic than Flam. Flam feels more like a transportation/tourist hub on one end of the fjord, whereas Balestrand is more scenicly located and peaceful. It's a gorgeous town, and is a nice relaxing place to unwind after a long day of trains and boat rides. It really helped us stop and fully take in the fjord scenery in a way we couldn't on the train/boats (which were still amazing though). I don't think you'd get that same experience staying in Flam.

On a sidenote: my favorite part of the trip was the train from Oslo to Myrdal. Make sure you sit on the left side

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for quick and detailed answer Rusty.

I have planned my journey three months ago depending on a blog post. I chose Sognefjord express boat and Balestrand. Unfortunately I already did hotel and train bookings for Oslo and Bergen which can't be cancelled. Only hotel booking I can make a change is one in Balestrand. So I have to choose
Naeroyfjord or Sognefjord; Flam or Balestrand.

I read some posts on Tripadvisor saying "It's impossible to see the fjord because of speed and spraying water on the express boat" I have begin to think about staying in Flam and do Naeroyfjord tour.

I wish I could do both Naeroyfjord or Sognefjord. But it's impossible because of my hotel bookings.

You say it's possible to stay outside at Balestrand-Bergen expres boat. This is a bit relieving for me.

But I still couldn't decide.
Thanks again.

Posted by
1635 posts

Last May I did the exact itinerary you are doing (except I stayed two nights in Balestrand).

I loved it. I spent pretty much the entire journey up on deck and took a zillion photos because it was all so stunning. It was beautiful weather, and I tried standing at the front of the boat to see the upcoming scenery, but it's too windy to stay there too long. But I sat in the back of the upper deck and the view from there was just gorgeous.

It's true, doing this you will miss traveling through the Naeroyfjord, and I know many people say that is the most beautiful, but I didn't suffer at all for lack of beautiful scenery, and neither will you.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
13 posts

If you are really set on seeing both Balestrand and the Naeroyfjord, it is definitely doable in just two days. It would get you into Bergen late in the evening (about 9:00 PM), but it would allow you to really maximize your fjord visit and alleviate your fears of missing out on either Balestrand or a true fjord experience. This may be your best option to get the best of both worlds.

Here's an itinerary that you could follow. This is exactly the itinerary we used last summer (minus the extra day in Balestrand in the middle), so I can answer any specific questions you have.

Day 1

  • Trains/boats from Oslo to Flam to Balestrand (will likely arrive around 16:55 in the evening)

Day 2
(I'm pulling these times from our itinerary last year, so you will want to reconfirm, but I imagine the same general schedule should still hold true).

  • 11:50: Depart Balestrand on Express Boat back to Flam
  • 13:25: Arrive Flam
  • 14:00: Depart Flam on boat for Naeroyfjord/Gudvangen
  • 15:30: Arrive Gudvangen, where there will be buses waiting to take you to Voss pretty much immediately
  • 15:40: Depart Gudvangen on bus
  • 16:55: Arrive at Voss train station
  • 19:41: Depart on train from Voss to Bergen
  • 21:08: Arrive in Bergen

Day 2 requires a little bit of backtracking, and will be a somewhat long day, but you can relax on the Express Boat back to Flam since you've already seen that route, and it allows you to see the Naeroyfjord without sacrificing Balestrand.

While this gets you into Bergen fairly late, I really don't think you'll need to be up real early the next day to see everything in Bergen. We liked the city, but felt like we had seen everything we wanted to by mid-afternoon of our day there. However, it allowed us to unwind and relax after a long travel day through the fjords the day before.

Posted by
279 posts

A few years ago I did it the other way. Bergen to Balestrand, Balestrand to Flam. Balestrand is a great place to spend the night. No problem seeing the scenery from the boat.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for replies Rusty, Lane and Michealtipton.

It's releaving to hear nice things about Flam -Bergen express boat journey.

Rusty, I'm considering abut the program you adviced. Only thing I concerned about this plan is Bergen part.
If I follow your plan, I will be at Bergen around 21:00 and stay in Bergen that night. Next day, I booked Bergen-Oslo train at 16:00. I'm not sure if it's enough for Bergen.
But it would be great if I could see both Sognefjord and Naeroyfjord and Balestrand.

I have one more question. Is it possible to choose seat for express boat?

Posted by
279 posts

When I did it, it was first come, first serve. But a lot of seats. It was probably less of an issue for my wife and I as we boarded at the beginning in Bergen.

Posted by
13 posts

The express boat seating was first-come/first-serve, but we were able to find seats near a window on the lower deck when we boarded in Balestrand to head back to Flam. We also lined up fairly early at the dock in Balestrand (I think maybe 30 minutes prior to departure), which is an option if you're really concerned about getting a seat. You may have trouble getting a seat near a window or sitting all together if you're in a big group, but I don't think you'll be in danger of not getting a seat at all on the journey from Balestrand to Flam.

The boat was a much more crowded coming from Flam to Balestrand, but we were still able to find a couple of seats, although we quickly gave them up to stand out on the deck and admire the scenery.