Favorite Quote

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel,
read only one page." St. Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Research for our first Norway trip - Day 1 - Netherlands to Kristiansand

I first fell in love with Norway when my husband came to Stavanger for work.  We drove up from Brunssum in the Netherlands, stayed in Stavanger for a week and then took off driving.  I LOVE to research before our trips to find the best things to do and see.  I can spend a LOT of time doing this, and then I usually share my notes with friends that want to do the same trip.  I thought I would use this blog to share that information so other people can fall in love with Norway as well.  Just remember, the prices are from 2009.  My "research" is 24 pages long, so I will do it in segments.  It will be impossible to show you all of the pictures that I had, so I will show a few and then provide you with links to our albums on Facebook.

First thing you REALLY need to do if you are going to Norway is get the Fjord Pass. 

One Fjord Pass® hotel pass is valid for all the family

  • Fjord Pass® offers substantial discounts on accommodation at 170 hotels, guest houses, cottages and apartments all over Norway.
  • You get the discount right there at place!
  • A single Fjord Pass® costs NOK 120. Valid for 2 adults and any children under the age of 15 until December 31 the year it is purchased.
  • Book your accommodation online – free of charge!
  • The Fjord Pass® rate for overnight stays at hotels includes breakfast at the participating hotels and is valid per person per night in standard double rooms.
  • The Fjord Pass® rate for overnight stays in cottages/apartments is valid for two persons. Breakfast, cleaning and bed linen are not included.
And you can buy it online at: Fjord pass.  Once you buy it online, they will email it to you and you print it out and present it at each hotel.  And it is good until 31 December so you can use it for more than one trip a calendar year.

A couple of things worth knowing: 

  •  The Norwegian currency is the Kroner (NOK)
  •  For currency exchange rates go to: Currency converter        
  • A lot of hotels do not open until 1 May – more choices if you wait until then
  •  But … the rates go UP on 1 May
·         Our two days of ferry rides (Denmark to Norway and Norway to Germany) combined came to €643 (OUCH!)

·         Website for tolls in Norway: Norwegian tolls

      Tolls in Norway:  All of the tolls in Norway now are automatic.  Here you simply pass through, with or without AutoPASS. Toll plazas are marked with this sign:

Foreign drivers can stop and pay at a nearby petrol station. Follow the sign as shown below.

If you don’t stop and pay within three working days you will receive an invoice by post – with no extra charge. I think the best thing to do though, is sign up online ahead of time to pay your tolls as you go through.  They will just deduct from your credit card when they record your license plate going through the toll.  Fast, easy and VERY convenient.  Here is a link to registering your car ahead of time:  Visitor payment for tolls.

One thing we found out while on the trip – when you pay for a toll if you go through another toll within 60 minutes you DON’T have to pay again.  They will keep track of it for you, so there is nothing you need to do.

What terms may I find useful when driving in Norway?
Unleaded gasoline - blyfri bensin             Diesel - diesel
Toll - bomstasjon toll                                     Parking - parkering
Exit – utkjorsel                                                  Entrance - innkjorsel
Detour – omkjonng                                        Hospital - sykehus
Police – politi                                                     Police station – politistasjon

Other useful phrases:
Yes - Ja                        No - Nei           Good Day  - God Dag
Good-bye - Ha Det      Thank you - Tak
You’re Welcome - Versegod

Other websites that I used:

Norwegian Tourist Board:  Visit Norway and Norway
Official Trondheim site: Trondheim   
Info on Fjords: Norway's fjords    
Bergen Guide: Bergen 
Cruise Norway: Cruise Norway
Flam:  Flam   
Oslo: Oslo    
Destination Guides: Travel Norway  
The Fjords: The Fjords  
1,000 Places to See Before You Die: My favorite book! 

Things to shop for in Norway:  The most frequent souvenir is a troll, of every shape and degree of ugliness.  Rosemaling (rose-painting) on delicately painted wooden plates and household items are also popular in different patterns particular to different areas.  Most children love dolls in the traditional bunader or national costumes which also vary tremendously from region to region.  The decorated bunader includes beautiful metal jewelry so it is no surprise that gold and silverwork is excellent in Norway.  Norway also has a lot of minerals, precious and semi-precious gemstones, often used in designs, including a beautiful slightly mottled pink stone that is a bit like the traditional Greenlandic tutapit.  Goods crafted out of pewter are good value and include small replica Viking boats and elegantly crafted bottle openers.  Locally produced hunting knives with hand-crafted wooden handles are also popular.  And of course, the Norwegian knitted jackets, sweaters and socks are famous.   

Day 1 – Saturday, April 18th

Leave home in the morning to drive to Hirtshal, Denmark to catch the Color Line ferry:  Color Line Ferry

Hirtshals - Kristiansand SuperSpeed 2

Departure: Hirtshals 18.04.2009 21:15 Arrival: Kristiansand 19.04.2009 00:30
2 Adults
2 Persons without seat reservation - 1 Car (Height up to 2.00m)
Drive time:  988 Kilometers/9 hours          No tolls

We left home at 8:25 a.m. and arrived at the ferry at 7:10 p.m.  We stopped 2 times for gas and 1 time for lunch.  It was a really easy drive but Hamburg was a nightmare.  We added almost an hour onto our drive time there.    Total drive from our house to the ferry was 999.8 km.

Once we arrived in Hirtshal it was VERY easy to find the ferry.  Just stay on the main road into town.  At one round about it will point to the right for one of the ferries (don’t remember the line), stay straight on for the Color Line Ferry or take a left to get to town.  We pulled up, they told us which line to get into (after showing them our ticket) and then we just waited.  It took about 2 minutes from arrival time until we parked in our spot in line. There is a building on the right with bathrooms (one room with about 15 stalls with men and women in the same room).  On the left (hard to see if there is a bunch of semi’s there) there is a building with a cafeteria.  They only take Danish Kroner but there is an ATM there so you can get some.  They had around 10 meals but the only one I remember is the Bacon Hamburger for 63 DKK. (~$10.92) They were all around the same price. 

They had ice cream and soda machines for 19 DKK (~$3.29).  On the 4th floor is a viewing area so you can watch the ferries come in.

Advice for the ferry:  When we got on the ferry, we went up on deck to watch the sail away.  Once we were out of the harbor we went to find a seat.  You can “reserve” a seat or not and we chose not to when we booked.  HUGE mistake.  I’m not sure if it was because of how late the ferry was (left at 9:15 p.m.) but there were SO many people (quite a few of them drunk) laying all over the floors, on the stairwells, under the stairs and they just reeked of alcohol.  We could not find a seat anywhere.  So we decided to try and book a seat.  It was 70 NOK for each seat – we paid €17.95 for the two seats.  They gave us our seat numbers and we went there but there were already people in the seat.  So we went back down to the desk and they gave us new seat numbers but again, there were already people sitting in those seats.  So we went back to the desk the third time and he gave us (for the same price) 2 seats in the business section.  For this, you needed a key card to swipe to get in.  And again, someone was sitting in our seat … but there were quite a few empty seats so we told her she could stay unless someone came wanting the seats we were in.  These seats were MUCH better than the “reserved” seats.  The lights were dimmed, the seats reclined, no kids out of control (there were kids here though).  They had a free movie playing (like on airlines, the screen was in the back of the seat in front of you) … I think it was Family Man (in English), free headsets, free internet, fresh fruit, cookies and soda/coffee/tea all for free.  The cost for the business section was 150 NOKs (~$22) per seat … and SO worth it.  There were 2 business sections with the food in a room in the middle.  The front half was quieter than the second half because there was a karaoke bar right outside the back door.  Still MUCH better than anywhere else on the ship though.

The price for the ferry will vary a LOT depending on how far in advance you book it and which day of the week you travel.  Anywhere from €19 - €250 so book early!!

Spend night at Centrum Budget Hotel in Kristiansand
Centrum Budget Hotel:  Centrum Budget Hotel 

Arrival       Departure     Adults per room     Children     Number of rooms   
4/18/2009     4/19/2009     2                   0            1                 

Selected Room            : Small room with one double bed, bunker bed and pullout Selected Rate            : Online weekend price
Daily Rates              : 4/18/2009: kr 479.00,
Total Rate               : kr 479.00
Currency                 : NOK
Tax Information          : Tax Included
Check In Time            : 16:00
Check Out Time           : 12:00
Hotel Address            : Vestre Strandgate 49
                           Kristiansand,  4610
                           +47 - 38 70 15 65
                           +47 - 38 02 48 69

We arrived in Kristiansand at 12:30 in the morning but the hotel desk did not stay open that late.  We made arrangements with them to leave the key and instructions at the Shell station (open 24h) next to the hotel.  It was very easy to get to the hotel.  You could see the Shell station as soon as you came out of the terminal area.  I went in, showed them my Passport and they gave me the key to the hotel which was right next door.  The hotel was clean, but VERY basic.  The sheets were just lying on the beds; we had to make the beds ourselves.  Shower was just a drain in the floor with the wand on the wall. (I would suggest wearing shower shoes).  They had signs saying to keep the bathroom door shut so the fire alarm would not go off from the steam.  No soap/shampoo or hair dryer.  Ron actually said the room reminded him a lot of the rooms in Afghanistan … almost seemed like a huge modular trailer with each room sectioned off.  It was VERY quiet though when we arrived, but you could hear people getting up around 6.  They also wanted you to strip your beds and place the sheets and your towels in baskets in the hallway as you left.

We filled up with gas here and it was almost 12 NOK per liter.  We actually found it quite a few places once we left Kristiansand for about 10.50 NOK per liter.  (Now in 2012 12 NOK a liter would be a BARGAIN.  It’s almost 15 NOK per liter here in Stavanger …. I would think though, whatever it is at the Shell station, it will cheaper once you get away from the ferry)

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