Norway In A Nutshell - All Your Tickets Together
Many independent travellers to Norway follow a tried and tested route between Oslo and Bergen (or vice versa) taking in Aurlandsfjord, the UNESCO listed Nærøyfjord and Flåm en route.
This trip involves catching three trains, a boat and a bus together with accommodation, should you wish to spend a night in Flåm en route.
In theory, and indeed in practice, you can organise all these elements by yourself. My initial intent was to do exactly this and all was fine until I tried to tie down a bus from Gudvangen (where the fjord trip from Flåm I wanted to take finished) to Voss from which I would continue on to Bergen by train. Given that I was going to be on a very tight schedule I wanted to pre-book all elements of this trip so in the end I decided to look at an option from FjordTours called 'Norway in a Nutshell'.
Given the popularity of the route outlined above FjordTours has built a popular ‘tour’ around it (with various options and add-ons possible) - i.e. Norway in a Nutshell. The company also offers various other tours around Norway.
You will note that I have put the word 'tour' in inverted commas. This is deliberate as the ‘tour’ we chose is not your normal guided tour. The ‘tour’ comprised FjordTours booking all the transport components of the trip and handing me a combined ticket at Oslo Central Station, a couple of days prior to my setting off. The ‘tour’ is completely unguided and having picked up he tickets we were on your own – independent travellers though, given my experiences in making the booking, I am confident that should we have encountered a serious problem, not of our own making, FjordTours would have assisted had we contacted them. The all important bus (and everything else) was thus booked.
In terms of cost, you do pay a premium for this service and if you were to add it up the cost was a couple of hundred Krones above the full cost of the individual components. This was actually quite reasonable (and suits last minute bookers) though I could have got a Minipris (discount ticket) on the Oslo - Myrdal train which would have saved an additional NOK500 or so. You cannot pick and choose sectors you buy as part of the package – and specifically you cannot start or finish a tour in Myrdal. This is, of course, where FjordTours makes its money – fair enough.
So the big question is was it worth it or should I have persisted and organised everything myself?
With hindsight I made the right choice for a number of reasons:
1. There was major overbooking on the fjord cruises on the afternoon we were travelling and no way would we have been able to buy a ticket on the day
2. Getting a public bus in Gudvangen would have been a nightmare, especially as we were carrying luggage, given the number of people there trying to get out. As it was, Norway in a Nutshell had ensured numerous additional buses were operating such that everyone with a ticket was guaranteed a seat at the time booked to Voss
3. Everything was organised in advance so I did not have to spend precious time chasing tickets and wondering if connections would be met and was thus able to concentrate on sightseeing
4. Preference seemed to be given to Norway in a Nutshell ticketholders over other independent travellers though that was debatable when trying to get on the correct cruise boat in Flåm.
The one thing that I didn’t book via FjordTours was accommodation in Flåm. It’s accommodation options were all expensive and the reasonably priced Flåm Camping and Youth Hostel, which I wanted, was not offered. I booked this via booking.com.
As I didn’t want to book accommodation as part of my tour and I wanted to vary the cruise time offered from Flåm I contacted the company by email. The person I dealt with was fantastic and extremely efficient in assisting me with the variations I wanted. While I had to put through a booking on the website which needed amendment I was not charged a cent until FjordTours were satisfied that I had what I wanted. At this point the booking was finalised.
All in all, highly recommended.
The pictures attached to the review (apart from the first one which is of the entrance to Nærøyfjord0 are of the various forms of transport booked as part of our Norway in a Nutshell tour.
So now tickets in hand, let's catch the train from Oslo to Mydral
Up the fjord
Once in Flam it becomes quickly apparent (if not realised in advance) that the only option is to go forward. The ferry transports you all the way to Gudvangen - a hole even smaller than Flam as if to match the narrower “Naeroyfjord”. Along the way it stops in Aurland which sounds like the regional capital and indeed it has more open space, more houses and more of a view of the fjord. Ideally, sunny weather should reveal the beauty of the fjord to its full glory plus it would underline the contrast between the “winter” on the top of the mountain and the “summer” at sea level. In this northern and mountainous country though even in summer cloudless skies must be rarity. Nevertheless, the mood is more mysterious and inductive to troll thinking thus making the visitor understand the Norwegian view of life and its cultural manifestations better. Alongside the business of taking pictures one can add the unusual activity of counting the falls on both sides of the fjord. The number must be astounding. Only in one picture frame you can stuff six of them. The only problem along the way is what exactly the definition of a waterfall constitutes because most of them actually look more akin to raging torrents.
- Adventure Travel
FLAM RAILWAY [Flamsbana] to MYRDAL
If you have decided to do the Flam Railway trip on your own, and you have arrived by Cruise ship, then make your first stop the Railway Station.
We went there first, and already there was a queue of people. There is a noticeboard, which is easy to see, which has the time the Flam Train leaves and returns during the day. When that particular Train is full, it will be shown as full.
So, choose your time so when you reach the booking counter you will be organized.
This is for time-tables....
We took a 1pm train ride, leaving in sunshine, but as we went further up the mountain, the weather changed, eventually to rain. Perhaps it may be better to take an earlier Train, it would have been better for us on that particular day. We asked others who did this, and they had fine weather everywhere!
ONE-WAY TICKET TO MYRDAL...
Adults Nok 260
Children 4-15 years Nok 130
RETURN TICKET FROM FLAM
Adults Nok 360
Children 4-15 years Nok 260
Families 2 adults + 2 children Nok 900
From oslo to Flam
You can either take Norway in a nutshell or you can buy tickets and travel on your own. The train from oslo to myrdal is run by nsb, and the flambana from myrdal to flam is run by a private company. you can buy discounted tickets for oslo-myrdal if you buy ticket in advance (not sure how well in advance). They are known as minpris tickets (199NOK instead of 599NOK). The journey is very scenic (well, entire oslo-myrdal-flam-bergen journey is scenic) since it goes through the highest train station in norway.
Another way to get to Flaam is by bike. If coming from Bergen, bring your bike with you on the train and start at Myrdal or Finse. The road from Finse is sometimes covered with snow, so contact the Finse 1222. The road from Myrdal starts down some rather steep slopes. The road is not always good, especially not after heavy rain. But after the slopes the road gets better, and the final part is paved. There is very little traffic on the paved part, so it is a very nice trip. You see waterfalls, small farms, and rivers along the road with the mountains rising in the background.
One way of getting to or leaving Fla?m is by boat. There is a jet cat service all the way to Bergen. This is a rather long trip (5 hours), but you do get to see a lot of nice scenery. The journey starts in Fla?m and takes you all the way out of the Songefjorden, then between small islands until you, probably at sunset, reach Bergen. Definately worth the trip.
Boats, trains, buses or your own car?
You can get to Flam in a number of ways:
1. Trains - the Flamsbana or mountain railway has connections with both Oslo and Bergen.
Get off at Myrdal to experience that miracle of a train journey.
2. Boats - there are express boats from Bergen and cheaper ones from Gudvangen or Kaupanger. The ones from Gudvangen are passenger boats only - no cars ferried.
3. Buses - the cheapest of the means of transport but the least scenic - with many tunnels on the way.
4. Cars. Your own car gives you a maximum of freedom. You can plan your journey in a way that suits you and take as much luggage as you like. No need for unwanted stopovers and the like. But you will probably still want to take the Flam Railway and a cruise on the fjord. If you travel with your family (children), it should be your first choice.
5.You can also ask at the tourist information for organised tours. The most popular is the 'Norway in a Nutshell' tour, taking you through Norway's most spectacular scenery. Here you travel by Bergen Railway, a coach, which will also take you to Stalheimskleiv in the high season, a boat on the Naeroyfjord, the Flamsbana from Flam and, finally, a train to Oslo.
Variations on this route and stopovers are possible. You can get a ticket for the tour at the tourist information in Flam.
- Road Trip
From Oslo to Flåm
Flåm was enroute my journey from Oslo to Bergen. First, Liz and I took the train from Oslo to Myrdal, then we transfered to a little green train on the Flåmsbana railway. The little train chugged along steep hairpin turns while we oohed and aahed at the scenary. It also made one stop along the way, notably at a beautiful waterfall.
The train terminated in Flam where we put up for the night.
NOK 125 one-way, 30% if you have a Scanrail pass like me.
From Flåm to Gudvangen
Flåm is also the departure point for ferries on the Sognefjord - Norway's longest and deepest fjord. From Flåm, Liz and I took the Fylkesbaatane which has the most scenic ferry route to Gudvangen
Ferry tickets are available from the Flåm tourist office at NOK 160.
The Flåm train station is the end station on the sidetrack that goes from Myrdal. Myrdal is on the main Oslo - Bergen rail.
The Myrdal - Flåm rail is one of Europe’s most popular tours, and one of Norway’s most visited attractions.
The main highway E16 goes past, and there are boat / cruise connections out of Flåm.
- Road Trip