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NiN; Book Through Tour Co. or Travel Agent or On Ones On and Stopover Suggestion

My wife and I want to do all or most of the NiN trip from Oslo to Bergen in July 2019 with a two day overnight stay probably in off-route Balestrand, though we are open to other suggestions. My first question is how difficult is it to book this by oneself without using a package (Fjord Tours) or a travel agent? In his book on Scandinavia RS says this is the easiest way (given that there are as many as five different legs to the trip, he adds) to do it BUT he also says it is cheaper if one does books itself and one can get senior discounts. Does anyone have any idea how much one saves if one does book the NiN oneself and how daunting a task this is?

Relatedly, if we were to go to Balestrand and then take the ferry direct to Bergen, how much in terms of quantity and quality would we be missing by not rejoining the NiN route? Finally, we would appreciate recommendations for a tour company package or a travel agent, especially in Sacramento or the SF Bay Area, who has booked this many times and who is efficient and whose charges are reasonable.

Posted by
11266 posts

It's not that it's "hard" to book on your own; it's just a lot of steps. If you're doing it all in one day, you don't have wiggle room (you're taking the connections that connect at the right times to get you there in one day). So, for that situation, it's easiest to book it as a package.

But, when you're breaking it up, you have decisions to make, as you have more flexibility about what you are taking and when (as in your question about the direct ferry). In that case, you can simply figure out which segments you're taking, and then book them separately. Furthermore, only some segments need advance booking. In particular, any segments that coincide with the all-in-one-day itinerary will need to be booked. For instance, for the train from Oslo to Myrdal (at least when I did it, 15 years ago), there was one very early train that worked for doing it as a day trip, round trip back to Oslo, and a somewhat later one that worked for doing it as a one day trip from Olso to Bergen (the one I took). Those two trains book up early. If you're taking that train at any other time, you won't have nearly as much difficulty getting a reservation.

As for prices, you should be able to check each segment online. Again, in this age of the internet, it's not "daunting"; just more work than having an agency book a package for you. If you've ever booked a flight or train online, this is no different. And again, only some of the segments need to be booked in advance (Rick's book will have all the details).

Posted by
87 posts

I did this route last summer with my family, and after investigating booking it on my own, I decided that the ease of booking with Fjord Tours was well worth the very small saving of booking it on my own, which IIRC was only about $50 and looked to be a hassle. And definitely book it ahead of time, as Norway and the NiN is very popular these days. We stayed in Balestrand for 3 nights and absolutely loved that town. The location is beautiful, and there are interesting tour activities available in town - - we took the RIB boat tour of the fjord which was fun and exciting; it's also possible to book bus tours up into the mountains. There is great hiking up the mountain behind the town, and a small swimming beach in town, and nice little groceries, restaurants, etc. Also check out the cider-house!

As for what you'd miss by not rejoining the NiN route from Balestrand, well, you do miss the Naeroyfjord. A couple of years ago I took the RS Scandinavia tour which includes that Naeroyfjord. The Naeroyfjord is spectacular, BUT, the connections from Naeroyfjord to Bergen struck me as being easy to mess up if traveling on one's own (rather than with RS), so last summer when doing it on my own I chose to take the easier option of going direct from Balestrand to Bergen. And I think that was a reasonable trade-off, to have a slightly less spectacular route, but with less chance of missing a connection. Also, the boat direct to Bergen terminates at the harbor right in the center of Bergen which is very convenient, rather than taking the standard NiN route which terminates at the Bergen train station. Either way, I'm sure you will have a lovely trip.

Posted by
1832 posts

We spent 10 nights in Norway this past July and we used Brekke Travel in Grand Forks, North Dakota (where my DH is from). They can put it all together for you! Take the train from Oslo to Voss. Then you will board the bus with incredible views to Gundvegen. Take the ferry through the Naeroyfjord to Flam. Overnight in Flam for 2 nights.
I did a trip report on this forum, but I would suggest Flam over Balestrand and I highly recommend the fjord safari with hike to goat cheese farm ( if you like hiking with incredible views) and if you stay 2 nights in Flam you can also take the Flamsbana train to Myrdal and the bike (all downhill) back to Flam. Amazing!

Posted by
1474 posts

It is comparing apples and apple juice imo. What RS and people often underestimate what happens if something goes wrong, e.g. due to technical problems or weather conditions. If you book all by yourself you have to care for, may be in foreign language, currency and unknown legal framework. If you have a provider which makes a dollar on that you have someone to take care of your issue.

The ferry from Balestrand to Bergen takes a while through nice but not vey scenic landscape - compared to the places you have seen before.

Two alternatives to Balestrand. Around Sognefjord you will find some places to stay, e.g.
- Aurlandsvangen (close to Flam) with option to amazing Stegastein outlook.
- Kaupanger with nice stave church can be an option as well, easy to achieve by ferry from Gudvangen.

From Balestrand you can also take ferry to Vangsnes. From there a bus (970) drives back to Voss via a very scenic fjell of road 13.

Finally I am wondering that people who share travel experiences which are only 5 months ago do not remember the name of places like Gudvangen.