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Norway in a Nutshell vs. Alternatives?

My new wife and I are planning a European honeymoon, and one of the highlights will be our visit to Norway. We are currently planning to travel to Oslo from Stockholm on or around July 4. I'm expecting we'll spend a day and a half in Oslo before departing for the fjord lands en route to Bergen. We fly out of Bergen the evening of July 10 to London and eventually home.

We are active, love the outdoors and would really like to enjoy Norway's natural beauty between Oslo and Bergen. We'd definitely enjoy getting out for some scenic hikes and possibly kayaking in the fjords, without the crowds if possible.

So far my research has suggested that the most popular option is the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour via Flam. While this itinerary looks great, it sounds very touristy, even crowded, which is a major turn off. I've read that one option is to break up the typical one day trip with an overnight in Flam or Myrdal, with biking, hiking or kayak excursions during the layover. I've read that if you layover, you might even avoid the Nutshell crowds by requesting departures at off peak times. Is this accurate?

Another idea I have is to rent a car in Oslo and drive up to Jotunheimen National Park. I've read the hiking up there is excellent, but the photos don't appear as stunning as the fjords in the Nutshell itinerary. Hertz quotes $250 USD for 4 days from Oslo to Bergen, which sounds reasonable.

A third option would be to take the one day Nutshell tour with all the tourist crowds to Bergen, and then with our remaining 2-3 days take day trips from Bergen to fjords or hikes in the area.

What would you recommend for the best overall experience?

If we took the driving option, are there are tolls and how much they might add to the cost of the trip? I've heard there are tolls but have no idea how frequent they are or how much they generally cost. We'd be looking at longer drive times that could add up, but the freedom of the road without the crowds might be nice.

Also, are there day trips from Bergen that compare favorably with the stunning scenery in the fjords of the Nutshell tour?

Thanks in advance for any guidance and insights anyone is able to share!

Posted by
544 posts

There are some tolls around the cities. Driving into Oslo is 32nok/$4. There are also tolls on some of the small gravel dirt roads and many places charge for parking. Diesel is about $7/gallon, so that adds to the cost as well. It's also a good idea to read up on traffic cameras and section control speed cameras. I didn't know what the flashing green light meant.

I am not a fan of driving in western Norway because they have a lot of single-track highways still. It's not fun to drive on unfamiliar narrow roads that have no shoulder or center line.

Hertz takes a large deposit when you rent to cover tolls and possibly a speeding ticket or damages.

Posted by
16807 posts

When I visited the Sognefjord "Nutshell" area, I did drive. That allows you the scenery, independence, and option to sleep in a less visited home base, but with the trade-off of possible backtracking.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Laura - What do you mean by possible backtracking?

We went ahead and booked a rental car for our four days between Oslo and Bergen, but haven't decided where to go yet. The cost of a rental car for 4 days was less than a one day NIN tour! Of course we will need to pay for gas and tolls, but the freedom alone is worth it to us.

I'm now wondering if we should trade the NIN route at our own pace by car, or travel further afield for spectacular scenery and hikes that are less crowded. Any thoughts?

Posted by
6 posts

Just curious if your rental car price in included a drop-off fee if you are dropping the car off in Bergen after starting in Oslo. We want to rent a car as well, but found the price to be much higher. I priced an automatic; it was more than standard, but not too much more.

From my research the scenery on the nutshell tour is what you want to see. I am piecing together my own version of NIN at "off times" from the website tour so I am hoping it won't be quite as "crowded" but it is a popular destination for a reason.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Doglover,

Yes the cost did include a one way drop off fee. However, I shopped around (Kayak, Hotwire, Costco, etc.) and the best rate I could find for a four day car rental (Oslo to Bergen, automatic) was just less than the one day cost for my wife and I (two tickets) on the N-I-N trip. We could have saved a little more by going with a manual drive and airport pickup / dropoffs, but it is worth the convenience (and cost) to pick up and drop the car in each city center. Also, I've heard the roads can be lots of winding steep driving, and so I prefer an automatic for those.

Through my research I discovered that you can save money on the N-I-N tour by booking yourself vs. the tour AND if you refer to the tour page, you can avoid booking the same trains as the tour, and thus avoiding most of the tourist hordes. I found these two blogs on self booking to be quite helpful.

http://justwanderlustblog.com/2013/06/considering-norway-in-a-nutshell-read-this-first/
https://travelmore.co/blogs/travel-blog/35303745-diy-norway-in-a-nutshell-tour-book-it-yourself-save

Right now we do plan to roughly follow the N-I-N locations, but with a car we have the freedom to stop along the way for hikes, viewpoints, and activities. Looking forward to it!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for your reply, sublimisdeus. I'm working on our car rental right now. We want automatic for five days. Which site did you use to get the rate you got? We have a quote in the upper $400s for five days. I believe this includes required insurance by Hertz as well as taxes. I wonder if renting from the city rather than the airport is cheaper. Are you just taking a bus or train to the rental place? Do you mind sharing your pickup/dropoff locations from within the cities?

I'm doing a family roots and sightseeing trip with my dad. We are getting the car so we can drive to some specific places and try to find some old family towns and homes, etc. After we get to Bergen we will do our own version of NIN hoping to avoid the crowds of the regular times.

One thing I'd like to do is hike Pulpit Rock in Stavanger. Have you heard of it? You may not want to drive that far out of your way, but it looks pretty cool from what I've read. It is quite a bit southwest of Bergen but not undoable if you had a day and wanted to venture south a bit more.

I'll start looking at those websites for car comparison's, but if you can give me any more specifics to try to get that rate I'd be grateful.

Posted by
1359 posts

I just got back from Norway, where I did the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour (a variant of Norway in a Nutshell), including two nights in Balestrand.

There are a lot of ways you can go from Oslo to Bergen that are less touristy than NiN. I took the train from Oslo to Myrdal, and I didn't find that part of the trip touristy at all. It's a very scenic train ride; the train was not crowded at all (though in July it may be).

The Flam Railway (from Myrdal to Flam) is very scenic but also was very crowded and very touristy. But it's just an hour.

Flam itself was mobbed with tourists. It's in a beautiful setting, and there are hikes you can take to get away from the crowds in town. But I would not want to stay there.

The express boat I took goes all the way to Bergen, but I got off in Balestrand. Only a handful of people disembarked there. I rented a car the next day and drove a route suggested by the car rental agency and also by the owner of the Balestrand Hotell, where I stayed. It was the highlight of my trip. The rental was expensive (about $175 for the day, including GPS that I didn't need and CDW). If you're interested, I can give you information about it. I drove around for a full day and saw the most amazing scenery and didn't encounter a single tourist all day. The next morning I continued on the express boat to Bergen.

You're not going to avoid tourists if you go to any of the places on the major tourist routes, but there are lots of ways to get off those routes, and the one I did was great.

Posted by
12 posts

Doglover - I found that renting and returning to the airports is cheaper, but when you factor in the added travel time to the airport (30 mins from Oslo city center) plus the added cost ($30 for my wife and I to reach the airport by train), it is a lot less hassle to rent in the city. The key to the best rates are the discount codes, so try any discounts you may qualify for or look online for codes. We used AWD code "H749900" for Avis. We booked with Avis and both pickup and dropoff locations are less than a 10 minute walk from out city center hotels. The locations are:

BERGEN DOWNTOWN - BG5 | Nygaardsgaten 43 | NA Bergen, 5008 , Norway
CITY CENTRE - OSI | Munkedamsveien 27 | NA Oslo, 0250 , Norway

Check out these links for some great inspiration and information on driving tours:

http://www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/en
https://www.fjordtours.com/journeys-in-norway/
https://www.visitnorway.com/plan-your-trip/getting-around/by-car/

Posted by
243 posts

I just saw this post and you may have your itinerary set. You can take the train from Oslo to Voss and pick up a car there. You can then drive to Udreall (sorry about the spelling) or Aurland to stAy for three days or so. You can then drive to trailheads for hiking. The hiking to or from Myrdal to Flam is great. The hiking near Aurland is better, single track and steep.
You can take a fjord cruise from Flam on any of your days. Send a private message if you need more info.