I am planning on traveling with my husband on a Norway (single country pass) in April. We would like to take the train from Oslo to Bergen with a possible stop along the way. I see that train reservations are recommended but not required. I was thinking about reserving round trip seat reservations from Oslo to Bergen. I worry though that if we do decide to get off the train and spend a night in a city along the train route (maybe in Geilo) we might lose our reservation for the return trip (Bergen back to Oslo). Can reservations be changed if needed? Are reservations really necessary in April? Do the trains fill up quickly during this time (since it is still technically off-season) ?
Reservations are required on the Olso-Bergen train and you can make them at the station in Oslo a day or two beforehand. April is not a busy time of year in Norway, so you shouldn't have any problem. If you buy a reservation from Oslo to Bergen and get off along the way, you would lose the rest of your reservation onward to Bergen. if you plan on doing this, you should reserve it in two pieces - for example, Oslo-Geilo, then a separate reservation from Geilo to Bergen the next day. The Bergen-Oslo return reservation won't be affected as it's a separate reservation. It's not possible go from Olso to Bergen and back to Oslo on the same day (unless you take an overnight train back).
Unless there's a particular reason you want to stop in Geilo, I recommend taking the official Norway-in-a-Nutshell trip from Oslo to Bergen through the Sognefjord, which is beautiful. Rick took this trip last year and wrote about it on his blog here: http://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/norway-in-a-nutshell-fun-on-a-fjord/
If you want to stop along the way, I recommend considering staying the night in the fjord, in a town such as Flam or Aurland. You would reserve the Oslo-Myrdal train one day, then the Voss-Bergen leg the following day (if spending the night in the fjord). I'd spend a night or two in Bergen, then return to Oslo either on the direct day train, overnight train or flight.
Thank you for your reply Rich! So reservations are required? Is this a new regulation? This is what the Rick Steve's website shows:
"Reservations are recommended when traveling on Norwegian trains between Oslo and Bergen, Myrdal, or Voss as this is part the scenic Norway in a Nutshell route."
I'm pretty sure I will reserve seats just to ensure a spot on the train, but if a train is full are people still allowed to stand on board if they don't have a seat? I'm a little nervous, because I read that only a few allotted seats are given to pass riders. I only will have 6 days to spend traveling, so I want to be sure I am able to get to where I'd like to go.
If you reserve ahead of time tickets from Oslo to Bergen are significantly cheaper. If you are using an American credit card you need to call to do the booking. We booked the "deluxe" (can't remember what they were actually called) seats and thought that the price was a bargain compared to purchasing them just beforehand. I was glad we did because the train was quite full and people were a little more packed together in the cheaper cars.
The villages in the higher elevations along the way are very small but are nice to stay in. There will be lots of closed up summer cottages but if you like to hike you can provided you have the correct gear. Geilo is quite small and I would be a bit nervous about just getting off the train on a whim and expecting there to be a place to stay.
There is conflicting information regarding reservations on the Oslo-Bergen train. The initial page on our website regarding reservations for the Norway railpass states that reservations are required on the Oslo-Bergen route, but the page where you buy the pass from Rail Europe says they are recommended but not mandatory. I just spoke with a representative of the Norwegian railways by phone to find out for sure, and she told me that reservations are mandatory on this route. Even if they were not required, as stated by Rail Europe, it's a popular route and I would reserve them. It's not a problem to do this a day or two ahead at the station in Oslo.
We returned from Oslo last night. We booked our train trip to Bergen a few months ago. If you are able to choose a day and watch the NSB website carefully, they release some tickets labeled "minipris". We were able to secure our seats at a bargain price. However, if you are not a totally budget minded traveller, other train cars may be more comfortable, our car was pretty full. Because of time restraints, we went to Bergen, stayed for a few hours and took the night train back to Oslo. The people in Bergen were phenomenally friendly including a museum employee who apologized for the museum being closed, but gave us a ride to the bus station in his personal car. The train ride is quite an experience, with some of the most beautiful landscape you will ever see. However you manage your trip, you will not be disappointed!!
Like Jody says, you should look at minipris tickets before you buy a train pass for Norway. Also flying in Norway is very convenient and cheap. Few crowds and fantastic buses and trains connecting airports.
I would do the nutshell trip to Bergen and fly back to Oslo.