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Driving in Norway – what are the rules?

A country that’s naturally beautiful, Norway is blessed with stunning coastal roads, mountain passes and fjords. And the Norwegians are happy to display it in all its glory, when you’re ready to explore by road. Here’s what to check, for you and your car, before you drive there.

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Who hasn’t heard of the Norwegian fjords? These beautiful narrow bodies of water that stretch for miles inland are a wonder to see if you’re on a cruise ship. But don’t think that’s the only way to enjoy the natural wonders. You can view them by car too.

Common in chilly countries such as Alaska, Greenland and Canada, they are also abundant in one European country in particular – Norway. But it’s not just the fjords that are on offer if you’re planning a road trip in this Scandinavian country. There are lots of other wonderful sights to see, history to learn about and architecture to admire.

And you won’t be short of road to drive on either: Norway is the longest country in Europe and organising a trip by road will take planning, if only to understand the distances you might be travelling. Drive from the north of the country to the south and it could take you 30 hours.

You’ll be on great roads though. With Atlantic coastal routes, mountainous regions and hundreds of glaciers, there’s lots to see and experience. Norwegian motorways are generally in good condition and are not too busy, despite connecting Norway’s cities to one another and offering passage outside of the country and into other states.

Away from the main road, you’ll find hundreds of beautiful local roads to choose from, picturesque in their settings, winding and demanding in places but blessed with fantastic views, interesting towns and villages and good amenities – Norway is home to some of the best public lavatories in the world!

As well as the tourist business that Norway is proud of, the country’s main cities such as capital Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen, are home to industries including oil, petrol, shipping, farming, fishing and fish products.

With a rich history going back to the Viking era and beyond there’s lots of interesting architecture to be found, especially in the smaller towns. The bigger cities feature modern architecture and bright evening skylines.

If you are considering this Scandinavian country for a vacation this year, it’s certainly a good choice for road trips. But you’ll need some careful organisation before going there. Flying in and hiring a vehicle is easy, with all the main rental companies and others, available with a wide variety of vehicles.

Driving in Norway is a completely different experience from doing so in the UK – starting with the fact that Norwegians drive on a different side of the road from us.

It’s much more than that and planning a driving holiday or using a car on business while in the country, requires careful planning and a good understanding of what you can and can’t do behind the wheel there.

So it’s well worth spending some time planning your trip to ensure you have everything in place for your northern European excursion. In the summer it can be warm and fine, but winters can be harsh, and this will make driving by road more hazardous.

Here The Car Expert looks at the most important elements to consider when planning to drive in Norway, and we’ve included a handy checklist. As each journey is unique, always check that you have everything covered for your particular visit.

Basic rules

You must be 18 years or over to drive in Norway and you should hold a full UK driving licence. Just the licence card will do, as the paper counterpart is no longer a requirement.

If you are using your own car, you’ll need to prove that you have insurance cover so take your certificate with you (but you don’t need a European ‘green card’) and you must carry with you documents that show the identity of the car, such as a V5C ‘logbook’.

The vehicle’s ‘home country’ must be shown on it. Most people today have the ‘UK’ letters and the Union Flag incorporated into their vehicle’s number plates but if you don’t have this on your own car, you must affix a ‘UK’ sticker to its rear. The ‘GB’ badge is no longer allowed, even within European ‘golden stars’ and the same goes for country badges such as the English, Scottish or Welsh flags.

If you are hiring a vehicle, always carry the hire company’s paperwork with you to prove you are allowed to drive the car. You must have had a full driving licence for at least one year to hire a vehicle. Whether you are renting or using your own vehicle, always carry your personal ID or passport with you.

Drink drive rules

We don’t recommend any drinking of alcohol if you are going to drive but it’s worth knowing the limits. The drink drive limit is 0.2 g/l (also shown as 0.2 milligrams or 0.02%).

The authorities take a hard line on drink driving – Norway was the first country to impose penalties for ‘impaired driving’ back in 1936. Police officers can demand a random breath test at any time, without reason, and there are severe penalties – fines and possible prison – if you are shown to be over the limit. For comparison, the limit is 0.8 g/l (0.8 milligrams, 0.08%) in England and Wales.

Speed limits

Speed limits are shown in kilometres (km/h) rather than miles (mph). In some built-up and suburban areas, the limit can be a plodding 30km/h (18mph) although many towns prefer a 50km/h (31mph) limit. On main A-roads, it’s 80km/h (50mph) but this can vary so keep an eye on roadside signage. Motorways have a blanket 110km/h (68mph) top speed.

If you have a caravan or trailer the speed limit is 80km/h everywhere. If the trailer does not have brakes, the limit drops to 60km/h.

Norway increased its speeding fines last year. They are high and get steadily worse as your speed over the limit increases. Fines can be issued on the spot.

Go just 5km/h (3mph) over the limit in a 60km/h (35mph) zone and you could be fined 1100 Norwegian Krone (NOK) (£80). For going 20km/h over in a built-up zone, fines start at 7800 NOK (£580). And if you’re stopped going more than 25km/h over the speed limit on a 70km/h road or above, it’s 9100 NOK (£680). There are many other variations of speed versus fine.

There are speed cameras and mobile ‘speed-trap’ cars on roads throughout Norway. You are not allowed any kind of police camera detection equipment in your car. Likewise, if your satnav unit shows where speed cameras are sited, you must de-activate this function as it’s illegal. Don’t use a mobile phone while driving either, unless it’s completely hands-free.

What to carry in the car

While motoring through Norway, ensure you have a warning triangle in the car and a reflective jacket for if you have to get out of the car by the roadside. Make sure your lights don’t dazzle oncoming drivers – you must have beam deflectors fitted (or the ability to manually adjust your lights). You must switch dipped lights on all the time, whatever the weather conditions.

Although not a requirement, it’s also recommended that you have a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, tow rope, spare bulbs and jump leads. Specialist suppliers, such as motoring organisations, sell ‘European driving kits’ for around £25, which contain everything you are likely to need for a holiday road trip, and it’s well worth considering these.

Studded tyres are permitted in most Norwegian towns and cities over the winter months although some charge a fee for driving in their centres with these tyres fitted. Cars that weigh more than 3.5 tonnes must carry snow chains with them and use them if ice or snow is expected.

Seatbelts

Seatbelt rules are the same as in the UK: if your car has them, they must be worn. Children under 36kg in weight or 135cm in height must use an appropriate car seat. If the seat is rear-facing and on the front passenger seat, you should switch the airbag off. Children between 135 and 150cm tall may use a normal seat belt and booster cushion.

Driving

Keep to the right-hand lane as much as possible but if you are overtaking do so on the left. Priority is usually given to vehicles approaching you from the right but look for road signs which might indicate something different. Don’t use your horn unless necessary, for example to avoid an accident happening.

Traffic signals are red, amber and green and follow a similar pattern to the UK. There is no right turn allowed on red as in some European countries, even if the road is clear of other vehicles. In some cities you might see two red lights. These were originally installed as ‘back-up’ if one light failed but were deemed successful in terms of visibility and stayed in operation.

If you are towing a trailer or caravan, ensure that your car and the rig don’t exceed 18.75 metres in length and 2.55 metres in width. There is no height limit but beware of low bridges! Make sure you can see clearly behind you with the use of two wide rear-view mirrors.

Road signs

Road signs are usually triangular with a red outline for those giving advice or warning, and blue circles where something is mandatory. They use pictures and therefore rarely need words, although ‘Stop’ is written in English. Most directional signs are yellow and written in Norwegian with distances in kilometres.

Fuel availability

Petrol and diesel are widely available throughout the country. However, Norway is investing massively in the electric revolution and already has more than 17,000 charging stations and 3,500 rapid chargers available across the country. Hotels are increasingly offering EV charging for free. LPG is also quite widely available.

Norway’s motorways have good service areas with fuel, shops and cafes available.  They almost all have automatic, card-operated pumps which take internationally recognised credit cards. If you are heading into remote mountainous areas, stations can become less frequent so make sure you have filled up with fuel before you leave.

Toll roads

There are toll roads in Norway on some motorways, bridges and tunnels. You will also have to pay to drive in main cities. Most toll stations work automatically.

Parking

Parking bays are clearly marked, as are ‘No Parking’ zones. Much of the parking is controlled by meters, but there are also long and short-term parking garages (P-hus) to leave your car for a fee. There are steep fines for illegal parking and while wheel clamps are not used by the police, your car can be towed away. There will be a fine to pay for a vehicle’s release plus costs for the towing.

Park with the car looking towards the direction of travel. Do not park anywhere that the police might consider dangerous – that’s five metres from an intersection, level crossing or pedestrian crossing, or 20 metres from a bus or tram stop.

Don’t park on bicycle lanes or pedestrian paths. Indeed, the whole Norwegian culture on the road is to put pedestrians and cyclists first. Pavement users will expect you to stop for them at a crossing while cyclists will often ignore road signs and ride ‘their own way’ so give them plenty of room.

Emergency number

In Norway as with most of Europe, you can dial 112 and make contact with emergency services such as fire, ambulance or police, 24 hours a day. Operators will speak English, French and other European languages.

Checklist

Must haves:

  • Driving licence
  • Vehicle insurance
  • MOT certificate (if relevant)
  • V5C or vehicle ID
  • Passport
  • UK sticker or number plate markings
  • Warning triangle
  • Hi-viz jacket
  • Headlamp beam deflectors
  • Studded tyres (some months)
  • Snow chains (some months)

Options:

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare bulb kit
  • Screen wash
  • Bottled water
  • Map or satnav
  • Phone power bank
  • Torch
  • Fuel can

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.