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Facts at a Glance
 Area: 385,155 sq km

Population: 4,513,000

Capital city: Oslo (pop 508,730)

People: 97% Nordic, Alpine & Baltic, with a Sami minority

Language: Bokmål, Nynorsk & Sami

Religion: Christian (86.3% Evangelical Lutheran)

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Prime Minister: Kjell Magne Bondevik

King: Harald V


Norway occupies the western part of the Scandinavian peninsula and shares borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia. Shaped like the rind on the bacon rasher of Scandinavia, Norway has a long coastline pierced by fjords and a mountainous interior that is blanketed by some of Europe's largest glaciers. Over 500 sq km of Norway lies north of the Arctic Circle, but the country's western coast usually remains ice free year-round thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Only 3% of Norway is arable. Some 27% remains forested, though acid rain is affecting forests thanks to pollutants pumped into the atmosphere by Russia, Germany and the UK. Fauna includes reindeer, wolves, musk oxen and lemmings. Many of Norway's 30,000 Lapps live a traditional nomadic life herding reindeer in the far north. The paucity of productive farmland has focused Norwegian attention on the sea, and commercial fishing plays an important role both in the economy and the social fabric of the nation. Norway resumed commercial whaling of minke whales in 1993 in defiance of an international whaling ban, and in early 2001 announced that it was set to lift a ban on exports of the magnificent mammal's blubber.

Norway's coastal areas have a surprisingly temperate climate thanks to the Gulf Stream, especially in the summer months. The mountainous inland regions experience more extreme ranges of temperatures, and the northern highlands suffer Arctic conditions. The country is at its best and brightest from May to September, and at its worst between November and March when average temperatures are below freezing. Midnight-sun days, when the sun never drops below the horizon, extend from 13 May to 29 July at Nordkapp in the far north, and from 28 May to 14 July in the Lofoten islands. Even southern Norway has daylight from 4 am to 11 pm in midsummer. On the other hand, the sun does not rise in the north from the end of November to the end of January, which is fine if you're angst-ridden, bed-ridden or vampiric.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$120.5 billion

GDP per head: US$30,100

Annual growth: 3.5%

Inflation: 3.1%

Major industries: Oil, natural gas, computers, high technology, fishing, fish farming, forestry, shipping, shipbuilding and paper production

Major trading partners: EU (esp. UK, Germany & Sweden)

Member of EU: no

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Scandinavian citizens can enter Norway freely without a passport. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand do not require visas for stays of less than three months. The same is true for EU and EAA countries, most of Latin America and most Commonwealth countries.

Health risks: None

Time: GMT/UTC plus 1 hour

Electricity: 220V, 50-60 Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Money & Costs
 Currency:Norwegian krone (Nkr)
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$8-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-25
  • Top-end: US$25 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$10-50
  • Mid-range: US$50-125
  • Top-end hotel: US$125 and upwards
  • Norway can be very expensive, but if you tighten your belt there are ways to take out some of the sting. If you use only camping grounds and prepare your own meals you might squeak by for US$21 a day. If you stay at hostels, breakfast at a bakery, lunch at an inexpensive restaurant and shop at a grocery store for dinner, you should be able to get by for US$34 a day. If you stay at 'cheap' hotels that include a buffet breakfast, have one meal at a moderately priced restaurant and snack for the other meal, expect to spend US$56 a day. This is still pretty bare-bones - entertainment, alcohol and transport costs are all extra.

    Post offices and banks exchange major foreign currencies and accept all travellers' cheques. Some banks charge a fee per cheque so you'll save money bringing travellers' cheques in higher denominations. ATMs are widespread and all major credit cards are widely accepted.

    Service charges and tips are included in restaurant bills and taxi fares and no additional gratuity is expected, but there's no problem if you wish to reward exceptional service with a top. There are no set rules to abide by, but most customers leave small change at bars and 5-10% at restaurants. Wait staff are often paid derisory wages on the assumption that tips will boost their salaries, so think twice about leaving a bare table at meal's end. Taxi drivers also expect a small tip. Bargaining for services or goods is not a usual practice.

    When to Go

    Norway is at its best and brightest from May to September. Late spring is a particularly pleasant time - fruit trees are in bloom, daylight hours are long, the weather is mild and most hostels and sights are open but uncrowded. Summers are marked by the phenomena of the midnight sun, especially north of the Artic Circle. At Nordkapp, in the far north, the sun stays out from 13 May to 29 July, but nowhere in the country - even the far south, experiences true darkness between late May and late July.

    Unless you're heavily into winter skiing or searching for the Aurora Borealis of the polar nights, Norway's cold, dark winters are not the prime time to visit.

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