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14 Frequently Asked Questions about Norway
1.) I’M PLANNING ON VISITING TROMSø. DO YOU HAVE SOME TIPS FOR ME?
Absolutely! I’ve written a 70-page guidebook on all you need to know about Tromsø before visiting, that you can download here.
Among others, I’m sharing a few of my favourite restaurants, hotels, sights and activities with you and also write about visiting the city on a budget.
I even share the best places to see the Northern Lights in the area!
So go ahead and get your copy now!
2.) I’M PLANNING ON MOVING TO TROMSø BUT CAN’T FIND A PLACE TO LIVE. CAN YOU HELP ME?
The market in Tromsø is tough but that doesn’t mean that you should panic! Be patient and don’t rent a place you actually hate just so you have a roof over your head. There’s always a solution and maybe you even get lucky enough to find your Scandinavian Dream Apartment.
3.) I’M PLANNING ON COMING TO TROMSø TO STUDY. CAN YOU RECOMMEND UIT? WHAT’S STUDYING IN NORWAY LIKE?
I think whether or not you’ll like UiT depends a lot on whether you come here as a degree-seeking or exchange student and of course also on the subject you take – therefore I can’t give you a general answer on this.
Studying in Norway however means that even though you don’t have to pay study fees, you need to buy lots of compendia and books each semester which cost a lot more than you might expect.
Apart from finances however, the general atmosphere at Norwegian universities is very relaxed but it is expected of you to be able to work independently. In exchange, it is common for you to have your own study desk (if you’re a degree-seeking student) and depending on your programme, you might have the chance to go on excursions without having to pay for them.
4.) How difficult is it to find a (part-time) job in Tromsø if I don't speak Norwegian?
The short answer: very! Even Norwegians struggle to find part-time jobs (or any jobs for that matter) in the city and the job situation is as tense as the housing market. There are generally not that many jobs available and it gets even harder if you don't speak Norwegian.
As a general rule of thumb, if you speak Norwegian and at least one other European language beside English, your chances of finding a job increase immensely. If you speak German, Spanish, French or Italian for example, you could work as a tourist guide during the summer or even winter months.
Note that this is seasonal work though and what you earn might not neccessarily last you the whole semester/study year.
5.) WHICH PLACE IN NORWAY WOULD YOU SUGGEST FOR A FIRST-TIMER TO THE COUNTRY?
If you want to experience Norway in a nutshell – that is: fjords, mountains, forests, beaches, the Midnight Sun or the Northern Lights – I can only recommend you to visit the Lofoten Islands.
This archipelago in Northern Norway is the most gorgeous place in Norway (actually in all of Scandinavia) in my opinion and absolutely amazing if you want to get to know the country.
6.) WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE? / HOW COLD DOES IT GET IN NORWAY?
The weather is unpredictable in Norway so you should come prepared for anything. While you can experience 20-25 degrees Celsius and sunshine in Oslo during summer, the area around Bergen and the fjords is considerably colder and very rainy.
Northern Norway in summer then again is mostly cold (around 10 degrees) and grey or rainy so this is not the best time to visit Tromsø in my opinion.
During winter, snowfall is the norm in all except the coastal areas of Southern Norway while temperatures are mostly between -5 and +5 degrees Celsius. This is also the case for Tromsø.
However if you travel to regions like Finnmark in Northern Norway or the mountains at Jotunheimen/Hardangervidda in Southern Norway, temperatures below -10 degrees are rather the norm than the exception.
Especially Kautokeino and Karasjok in the very North near the border to Finland usually have temperatures between -20 and -30 degrees and blackouts occur relatively often. Karasjok measured the coldest temperature in Norway with about -50 degrees once.
7.) WHAT DO I NEED TO PACK FOR A HOLIDAY IN NORWAY?
It’s extremely important that you pack the right clothes: wool or fleece clothing and rain gear should be in your suitcase no matter in which season you visit.
8.) WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TROMSø?
My favourite months in the Arctic are February to April. This is the time when there’s plenty of snow around but sunlight is back which gives you enough time to explore the city during the day and take pictures.
You can also still see the Northern Lights and go dog-sledding/snow-mobiling during this time.
I personally wouldn’t recommend to visit during polar night/at Christmas time as Tromsø does not get any sunlight and only 3 hours of twilight during that time of year (November-January) which makes exploring rather difficult.
However these months are the only ones when it’s possible to go whale-watching in Tromsø, so if that’s on your bucket list, definitely visit during polar night then.
Summer and autumn are the worst months weather-wise as it’s mostly grey, rainy and cold. You can be lucky of course but you never know!
9.) WHAT IS POLAR NIGHT/MIDNIGHT SUN?
Polar Night is the time between 21 November and 21 January where we don’t get any sunlight in Tromsø. But fear not, that doesn’t mean that these 8 weeks are completely dark.
During polar night, we get 3 hours of twilight each day which means that between 10am and 1pm, it’s as bright outside as on a gloomy and rainy autumn day. If the skies are clear though, you can experience pink or orange skies shortly before twilight disappears again for the day and this time is just magical.
Plus, the Northern Lights will appear in the evening so total darkness is not existent!
As for the Midnight Sun, that is the period between 21 May and 21 July where the sun doesn’t set at all. Whoever named that period Midnight Sun however seems to have forgotten about the Arctic weather. What this really means is that we have 24 hours of daylight.
Yes, if the skies are clear you can see the sun at midnight – hence the name. But don’t come here with the expectation of doing so as summer in Tromsø is mostly very grey and rainy.
10.) How can I get from Tromsø to Rovaniemi?
I dedicated an entire blog post to this topic that you can find here.
11.) HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT REALLY TO VISIT NORWAY?
I’m not going to lie – Norway is as expensive as people have told you. However there are ways to visit on a budget!
Instead of staying in a hotel, consider hostels (in Oslo anyway – Tromsø does only have 2 very small ones), Airbnb, Couchsurfing or simply camping. You can camp for free almost anywhere in the country (as long as it’s not on people’s private properties).
Instead of going by plane around Norway, which can be quite expensive as there’s only 2 major airlines (SAS and Norwegian – Widerøe is a domestic one which usually comes with plenty of stopovers and a hefty price), you could take the train or bus.
It can be cheaper and allows you to see so much more of the beautiful landscape!
And last but not least, instead of eating at an expensive restaurant, get food at “discounters” like Rema 1000 or Coop Extra (buy the store’s own brands – they’re much cheaper). Or you can just catch some fish at the nearest river or in the ocean ;)
12.) When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
Mid-September to October and February to mid-March are the best months.
During November to January, we get a lot of rain or snowfall in the Arctic and you can only see the Northern Lights if the skies are clear.
I personally find September and October to be best but that's just because it's not freezing cold at that time yet. For a detailed post on when and where to see the Northern Lights in Tromso, you can head here.
13.) WHAT CAMERA DO I NEED TO SHOOT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Any DSLR will do the job but if that’s not in your budget or you simply find it to heavy to carry around, a good compact camera with a “starry sky” (or similar) setting will take quite alright pictures too. You need to bring a tripod though!
I’ve been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ 100 for a long time, which is actually not a DSLR either but which makes nice pictures of the Northern Lights using the “Starry Sky” setting and 15 to 30 seconds of exposure.
The 24x zoom however makes it an even better camera for whale watching!
For a detailed guide on how to photograph the Northern Lights without a DSLR, head here!
14.) How much snow is there in Tromsø?
A few things you should know before I answer this question:
1. If you're planning on booking a dog-sledding trip in November or December - don't! These months are very unstable weather-wise and you might arrive to sleet or no snow at all. In 2016 we broke a 70 year old record as the first snow of the season didn't arrive until November 26th!
So to make sure that you'll really arrive to a winter wonderland, January and February are generally the best months.
2. The pavements in the city centre are heated which means that they're snow and ice free. However you should bring good winter boots and spikes anyway if you want to prevent broken bones.
3. If you'd like to know what the weather is like in Tromsø right now and whether there's snow or not, check out this webcam, the weather forecast or search for "Troms/Tromsø/Vervarslinga" on this list of snow depths in Norway.
And last but not least, if that's something you're really interested in, here's how much snow Tromsø usually gets:
The all-time record for snow depth was set on 29 April 1997, when the meteorological station on top of Tromsøya recorded 240 centimetres (94.5 in) of snow on the ground. In an average winter, Tromsø sees 160 days with at least 25 cm of snow on the ground. - Thank you, Wikipedia!