Flying to Tromsø
We flew to Tromsø with Scandinavian Airlines from London Heathrow, via Oslo. It was quite an early flight, although delayed a little by snow at Heathrow. As it wasn’t a budget airline we had expected to be served at least a light breakfast but once on board we discovered that only tea and coffee were complimentary and as we were hungry we had to buy some rather expensive muffins to accompany our coffee; we knew that with the delay there would be no time in Oslo to grab a bite to eat. So it proved. By the time we had collected our bags there, cleared customs, rechecked our luggage and walked to the domestic terminal gates, it was already time to board the Tromsø flight.
The scenery on the flight north was pretty in places, with of course lots of snow, and a lovely sunset – at 13.00! We arrived on time and our bags were soon with us. As this is a small airport it seemed no time before we were out in the sleety snow and ready to board the Flybussen to town. And the Flybussen is the subject of my next tip
By far the easiest way to reach the centre of Tromsø using public transport is on the Flybussen. These efficient buses go directly to town and then stop at a few useful points. The fare (January 2013) is 70 KR each way, the buses run every 20 minutes during the day and are very punctual (from our experience). The journey takes about 15 minutes to the final stop at the Rica Ishavshotel near the harbour. This was very convenient for us as it was just a few minutes’ walk from our own hotel, the Clarion Hotel Bryggen. Don’t expect to enjoy a lot of scenery on the way though, as the road cuts through the mountain in the centre of the island, which separates the airport on the west side from the town on the east, in a network of tunnels.
It’s easy to find the bus as it’s clearly signposted as soon as you exit the arrivals area, and a timetable is displayed. The bus stop is right outside so no need to carry your bags far, and you can pay the driver on boarding. It couldn’t be simpler!
If you’re looking for a budget alternative, regular buses 40 and 42 serve the airport and cost 40 KR, but the journey will probably take about twice as long and they’re not so convenient if you’re carrying large bags. We used the Flybussen both when arriving in and when leaving Tromsø and felt that it was well worth the extra cost for the convenience.
Next tip: our hotel, the Clarion Hotel Bryggen
Buses in Tromsø
Most sights in Tromsø are within an easy walk of the centre, but there are a few which are better reached by bus, such as the Arctic Cathedral (walkable, but you may prefer like us to avoid the icy winds on the bridge if visiting in winter) and the Tromsø University Museum which is in a suburb to the south of town. Our hotel gave us a free map of the town which had all the bus routes marked on it. Most of them start and finish in one of the streets near the central square and fan out from there. When we were there (January 2013) a single fare was 40 KR, which is quite a lot, but you are allowed to use the same ticket for further journeys as long as you start within two hours of the start of the first journey. When we went to the Arctic cathedral that was easy, as we only stayed a few minutes to take photos (the cathedral was just closing), but when we went to the University Museum we had to watch the time carefully as we didn’t want to pay an extra fare. Had we wanted to see everything in the museum we would have had to pay twice, but as we were leaving that afternoon and couldn’t stay a long while in any case, it seemed crazy to go over the time limit. You pay the driver on boarding and they will give change if they have it, but obviously would appreciate the correct money if you can.
The buses we used were the number 24 to the Arctic Cathedral (we could also have got 20, 26 or 28) and number 37 for the museum. The latter serves several small suburbs on a loop route and I enjoyed the ride and the opportunity to see some very attractive houses along the way –painted in a variety of different colours and each with a balcony and pretty wood trim.
Next tip: our destination on the bus, the Tromsø University Museum
After a few days in Tromsø we left on a northbound ship operated by Hurtigruten, returning a few days later to spend a couple more nights here. The Hurtigruten ships are something of an institution in Norway it seems. Established in 1893 as a fast steamer route between the towns along the western coast, it was for many years an effective and popular ferry and cargo service – which indeed it remains. Gradually it was discovered by tourists as it offered a cost-effective, reasonably fast and scenic way to travel between destinations while seeing the wonderful scenery on route – cheaper than a cruise but with many of the same benefits. In the 1990s the company started to exploit this market, introducing new and more luxurious ships that included some of the facilities that traditional cruise passengers might expect (good food in a smart restaurant, talks and entertainment (albeit low-key) and excursions when in port. At the same time the ships continue to provide a valuable ferry service for locals, linking many small towns that would be otherwise completely isolated, especially in the long Arctic winter.
We spent three nights on board, in a small inside cabin (the cheapest option, and after all, you don’t spend a lot of time there). We travelled from Tromsø to Kirkenes and back, took excursions in Honningsvåg (to the North Cape) and Kirkenes (to the Snow Hotel) and also had a chance to see a little of Hammerfest. It was a pleasant, relaxing voyage, despite rough seas one night, and we very much enjoyed the experience. Be warned though that if you do come in the winter as we did, you will see only a little of that fabulous scenery as the nights are long and the days very short and sunless, owing to the Polar Night.
You can read more about our trip aboard the MS Nordlys on my Finnmark page.
Or, as this is my final tip on Tromsø, click here to return to my intro page and leave me a comment
Tromsø Airport bus - Tromsbuss
The airport bus (route 86) to and from Tromsø Airport at Langenes on the western side of the island runs on a schedule, but may adjust schedule to fit with early and late incoming aircraft. The airport bus takes 15 minutes from the airport to the main hotels downtown.
They do charter tours also if you preorder.
Single travel NOK 45, children NOK 22.
Return ticket valid for 3 days NOK 70/35.
group ticketing for more than 8 persons: NOK 35/person.
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The Hurtigruten ferry sails along the Norway coast from Bergen to Kirkenes in the far north near the Russian border and return. There are eleven ships in service. It is used has a cruise ship by many, but it calls at many ports along the way,so it is used to get from one place to another. I joined at Bodo to get to Tromso, a journey time of 23 & half hours. The fare was 1945 Nor, just over £200 with cabin. I did not have a booking, so turned up just before sailing time at the onboard reception. It is cheaper without cabin. There are wonderful views, at one point the ferry goes through the narrow fjord just 100 m wide. When the ship calls at a port , passengers can disembark for the time and return ,using their cabin card recorded in machine. i did walkabout at Stamsund, Svolvaer and Harstad.
From Stockholm/Sweden to Tromsø by rail
Durong winter time, the views from the train and bus(es) up north will be limited due to the short days. Because of the light inside the train/bus, there is not much to see outside from afternoon onwards. If you are bound to travel by rail/land, go by train from Stockholm to Narvik and catch a bus or flight from there. The airport is at Evenes, some distance out of town. I cannot imagine there are cheap flights from Stockholm to Tromsø (certainly no direct flights), so you either have to go by rail to Oslo Gardermoen Airport from Stockholm (hop off the train at Lillestrøm near Oslo for frequent connections to the airport railwaystation). There are cheap flights OSL-TOS, check SAS, Wideroe or Norwegian airlines' web pages. You can also travel by train Stockholm-Storlien-Trondheim (get off at Værnes railway station right at the airport if the train(s) stop there, or go all the way to Trondheim for a bus transfer 45 minutes back to TRD Værnes airport. Cath your flight from there. If I had time and money I would have done this: Train Stockholm-Trondheim-Bodø, Hurtigruten coastal express liner (ship) to Tromsø. Then you see the great winter light as you travel - a real experience if you chance the weather. There is a "railway station" at Tromsø, but this is a restaurant called Jernbanestasjonen with a railway theme, probably made on basis of a pipe dream. It confuses a lot of people searching for the train to Tromsø, though - as indicated - a pipe dream!
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Hurtigruten Coastal Steamer
Northbound coastal steamers arrive daily at 2:30PM, departing for Kirkenes at 6:30PM. Southbound steamers arrive daily at 11:45PM, departing for the journey to Bergen at 1:30AM.
To get to or from Tromsø, you'll normally take a "port-to-port" trip. The website has a list of up-to-date fares and cabin options. Online booking is possible, but for those living outside Scandinavia, your best bet is to email Hurtigruten directly if you want a cabin. Book well in advance if you're traveling in June or July.
Also check the website for the latest specials. For example, in September 2006, you can take a "round trip" journey from Tromsø to Kirkenes and back for NOK 1720 per person double occupancy, including cabin and breakfast.
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There is cable car that will take you to the top of the mountain in few minutes. However, we decided to take the path to the top which took us about an hour. The ride down the mountain with the cable care is for free, and that is the ONLY free ride you will ever get in Norway ;-)
Arriving and leaving by sea!
The Hirtigruten Coastal 'steamer' which pulls into every sizable port between Bergen and Kirkenes, passing some of Scandanavia's best scenery along the way arrives, on its northbound route, at 245pm each day and departs at 630 which gives a good amount of time to see quite a bit of Tromso.
Even during my visit arriving with about 45 minutes of daylight but 4 good hours of walking i managed to see a lot: the streets and their wooden period and impressive modernist buildings around the city centre, up and over the 1km long bridge to the Arctic cathedral, back to a recommended restaurant for its recommended desserts and wine!, and a quick meal, writing and posting of the all important postcards!, and back to the boat all without quite freezing!
The southbound times allow only time for transfers of passengers and goods arriving at 1145 pm and departing at 130 am.
In Tromso, up in the Arctic Circle, in winter the sun stays below the horizon from 25 November to 16 January and in summer the 'midnight sun' stays above the horizon from 17 May to 25 July.
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Fly to Tromsø
Tromsø has one of the busiest airports above the Arctic with frequent connections to Oslo and other cities in Scandinavia, so it makes sense to fly there if you just want to visit Northern Norway or if you do not have a lot of time. Otherwise you will have to make a very long journey along the country by car, bus or even the 'Hurtigruten' (the luxury cruise liner). Well, after all, you will read often while you are in Norway that the distance from Oslo to Tromsø is about the same between Oslo and Rome.
Cruise ship harbour
The cruise ship terminal is at Breivika, quite some distance north of the city centre. Buses are provided for sightseeing and city transit. Easy taxi distance back to the ship if need be. The ships dock at an ISP secured harbour, so ensure you bring proof of passenger when you return.
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You can fly to Tromsø direct from Oslo and a few other south Norwegian airports. From Oslo it will take about 1 hr 40 minutes nonstop. The cheapest advertised flights are around NOK 500. Well worth it, and you cannot beat it by bus/rail/boat transportation. However, you will miss everything between the south and Tromsø if you fly. Get a window seat and hope for good weather. Another way of doing it is to buy a more expensive air ticket and take in the Trondheim, Bodø and Harstad regions on the way.
A bummer is that there are no early morning flights to Tromsø; the first flight at about 09:20.
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Tromso has an airport which...
Tromso has an airport which could be accessed from Oslo and the Coastal Voyage joined for the rest of its route north and back down. It is also on bus routes.
However I find it hard to believe that anything can beat the scenery on both sides from the Hurtigrute ship.
Local buse for Ice Cathedral - if open - and cable car. Otherwise walking.
If you're short on time you...
If you're short on time you must definately go by airplane, because it's a long way going up there. However, if you have some more time you must go by 'Hurtigrute', a coastal steamer along the whole west- and northcoast. An extra plus to this is that students get 50% discount on it - awesome!
Getting around can be done by bus, ferry, coastal steamer or airplane.
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