with tips for cycling & hiking
The first thing you have to be aware of is Scandinavia is not cheap and it progressively gets more expensive as you travel from Denmark through Sweden to Norway.
Diesel, however, tends to be cheaper or a very similar price. In Norway, surprise, surprise as you move away from Oslo diesel becomes more expensive and you will find that you are paying more than in the UK.
We took our tip from ‘Europe by Camper’ who recommended that you pack your motorhome with the basic foodstuffs ’ as if you were going to the moon’. This also includes wine and beer as these are prohibitively expensive in Norway.
It must be said, however, that these guys were doing a long tour of Europe, so budgeting was more critical to them.
So if you are coming from Germany, ensure you stock up before entering Denmark. The Danes on the southern border with Germany make a habit of doing their shopping in Germany.
What we were amazed at, is with a little careful reorganisation, how much we could actually pack into our van.
This was the first time that we have ever done this and the prime advantage was that we spent less time on shopping,
only needing to buy fresh produce, which has to be a plus.
We do not propose to suggest what you should take as this is very much a decision based on personal preferences.
Also the decision itself whether to shop in the UK before you leave or to leave it until when you arrive is very much a personal one.
To put a degree of perspective into matters, however, it is possible to find foodstuffs at a reasonable price; even in Norway. You can for example easily pay £3 for a loaf of bread but you can also pick up a perfectly acceptable loaf for less than a £1.
Where it gets expensive is if you want to eat out, particularly in Norway, where you could find yourself paying £20 for a club sandwich.
In Denmark and Sweden it is possible to eat out, particularly at lunch time where you can get a reasonable meal at prices similar to the UK, as long as you avoid the alcohol. Stockholm as is common with all capital cities tends to be more expensive than other cities. We cannot comment on Denmark, as the only city we tackled was Copenhagen.
Coffee in Denmark and Sweden is reasonable, often at lower prices than in the UK and there are always snack deals.
We tend to do all our meals in the motorhome as we find that this is part of the experience and even stopping for a brew, shows the versatility of a motorhome as you enjoy a coffee, often with unbelievable scenery.
Even the Swedes find Norway expensive and before you cross the border there are a number of big supermarkets catering for the trade of the Norwegians as they take advantage of lower prices in Sweden.
You will also have the opportunity to buy diesel here as well.
We actually took the ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg with DFDS seaways for two reasons, firstly to avoid the long haul
from Calais through northern Europe and secondly to fit our planned trip into a four week window, as we did not want to miss the English summer.
This is not necessarily the cheapest solution with a return trip in the region of £550 but with an overnight sailing and with a cabin (sleeping accommodation is compulsory) it was pretty painless. The ferry leaves at about 5.00pm and arrives at Esbjerg at 1.00pm the next day.
TIP interestingly it appears that you can get a better deal booking through an agency, rather than with DFDS directly, we used the Camping and Caravanning Club Carefree service.
Food is available on the ship but avoid the café as the food was terrible. A better idea may be is to call into the Morrisons’ supermarket at the port entry and buy a nice picnic.
We cannot comment on the buffet meal in the evening.
Breakfast, however, was superb and though perhaps at 115 Danish Krone £13 was not cheap, it did, however, represent excellent value as it is ‘an eat as much as you like buffet’ and the quality is first class.
Taking the ferry directly to Esbjerg does save you 650 miles driving from Calais, so on a round trip about £300 in diesel so this does make this crossing appear more attractive.
For similar reasons we took the ferry from Kristiansand Norway to Hirsthals Denmark to save the return journey through Southern Norway and Sweden.
We booked directly with Fjord Line and paid 160 euros £138, which for a 2 and a quarter hour crossing was very reasonable.
There are two sailings a day, by fast catamaran, early morning and mid-afternoon and the journey takes 2.25 hours.
TIP: Book early and be flexible. By modifying my day of departure we saved 60 euros.
Western Fjords Norway Ferries.
It is impossible to visit this part of Norway without using the ferries to cross fjords and these are the simple roll on roll off type and you use them on a turn up and go basis.
They are in fact reasonably priced up to 6m in length and then the price increases considerably. The average price we paid was in the region of £23, for a motorhome 7.3m long.
We chose to stay at recognised campsites, bearing in mind that we were on a 4 week holiday and not on a long trip or tight budget.
We chose always to take electricity because our DVD is mains and our heating also, though we do have the option of running it off diesel.
We also refuse to pay for showers so if the site charges then we will use our own. It is a real bugbear of ours that campsites charge extra for showers. It seems a strange economy as all we will do is use their electricity.
We did use Camping Cheques and the ACSI scheme on a few instances which are obviously much cheaper, but on both schemes campsites are not numerous.
Site fees vary, but as a generalisation they were more expensive for City Centre sites,where you would pay £30 plus, the exception being Copenhagen where we used Camping Cheques.
For other sites you would not expect to pay more than in the UK but with the added difference that in Sweden and Denmark you are likely to get much better facilities, particularly with regard to the kitchens, which are often fitted with microwaves, cookers and tea and coffee making facilities, with the added option of a dining area.
Kitchen at the campsite at Granna on Lake Vattern at £20.53 per night would put most UK sites in the shade.
These type of facilities were reasonably typical in Denmark & Sweden and this was a fine example.
Sweden issued its own camping card which you have to pay for at your first site, which cost £15.
Norway and Denmark just required some ID and I tended to use my International Camping Card, which I got free, because I booked my ferry with the Camping & Caravanning Club.
We did not prebook any sites. We did tend to; however, preset the Sat Nav with the campsite for the following day. There were, however, a few occasions where we arrived at a destination on spec.
It is perfectly possible to freecamp in Sweden and Norway, as long as you do not camp on private property. In Denmark it is discouraged but not impossible.
If you want advice on this refer to Europe By Camper.
These are generally in good condition, the exception being Norway, where I would guess because of adverse winter weather conditions, the roads take a bit of a beating.
This has, however, to be put into perspective as you will not find roads worse than you might experience in the UK. What we did experience is that roads had sunk on the right hand side and in places degraded so you were aware of a distinct groove. This was nothing to worry about but something just to be aware of.
Also you will in places come across roads where there are passing places, route 13 particularly from Kinsarvik, but there is little traffic and we experienced no problems.
We chose to visit in May and early June, leaving the UK on 12th May and returning on 12th June.
On our visit, roads in the Trondheim region had taken a hammering with many roads blocked or they had simply been washed away but thankfully we had not planned to go this far north.
We also planned to hit Norway by the end of May, early June on the basis that the vast majority of the snow would have disappeared, which proved to be correct and though we saw snow and the lakes were still iced over on the high passes, the roads were perfectly passable.
Also the children would still be at school so everywhere would be quiet and additionally we would have the benefits of the longer days. In reality it was still light at 11.30pm.
Low season is great for touring as you have the pick of pitches on the sites, you can turn up when you like and there is much greater flexibility when you can leave.
You should be aware that school holidays start earlier in Norway, from mid-June through to mid-August and this is unsurprisingly when everything gets busier.
Weather is by definition changeable but we were extremely lucky and in 4 weeks we only had 4 days when it rained.
We also use the Snooper Sat Nav, specifically designed for motorhomes, which to date has always kept us out of trouble.
See Snooper Sat Nav Review on this website under Product Reviews
Norway also makes extensive use of tunnels.
What we did find in May and early June was that the roads were very quiet .We would recommend the rural routes in Denmark which are light in traffic and more interesting than the motorways.
In Norway as you leave Oslo and past Gol into the Fjord area you have to be aware that roads become narrower and it takes longer to travel the distances, which you could more easily cover on the straight roads of Denmark and Sweden.
In any case once you are in Norway, it is simply not a case of getting from A to B and there are plenty of opportunities to pull over and enjoy the scenery.
HEADLAMPS- In the whole of Scandinavia you have to drive with dipped headlights all the time and it is somewhat bizarre when you get flashed for not having them on.
I cannot see the point of having them on unless conditions are murky but as in Rome.
The roads in Denmark and Sweden are generally toll free except the two large bridges which connect
1)The islands of Funen and Zealand (we paid £40, half this for a van less than 6m)
2)Denmark to Sweden (we paid £73, again half this for a van less than 6m)
Norway does use tolls and as a general rule they appear evident when you go into built up areas or it seems when they build a new motorway or tunnel.
I was a little bit nervous of how these would operate but basically they could not be simpler.
On most of them, they use the automatic number recognition system, so you simply drive through.
You will see these cameras clearly above the road.
You can preregister your credit card with them and buy a credit which then gets deducted as you use them but I cannot
see the point of this, as the alternative is to simply drive through and you will get your bill in the post, at no extra charge, at a later date.(I have been told that this can take 6 months.) A Norwegian guy I was talking to at the border thought they did not charge foreigners, I think he could be wrong.
The other toll system has Autopass but additionally a facility to pay manually, either with an automated credit card or via an operator. On these you must not use the Autopass Lane, you must pay manually.
The cutoff for higher payment on these appears to be done by weight, 3.5 tonnes, not sure whether this is, over this weight or includes this weight, we will have to wait and see.
We did not pay a fortune on tolls and the only time they really cheesed me off, and that is the polite version, was when we entered Khristiansand, to get the ferry back to Denmark. There was the automatic toll in front and a 100metres later was the turn off to the port. We should try this, a tax on leaving.
Finally do not forget to take your bikes.
These were particularly useful in Denmark and Sweden for getting to and around the cities. On every city trip, with the exception of Oslo, we used them.
Even in Norway, with more inclines they were great for exploring.
Particularly Denmark but also Sweden is incredibly bike friendly with loads of bike lanes.
There appears to be a whole different attitude to cycling here. Firstly more people do it for non-leisure reasons, you simply have to see the number of cycles stacked up outside stations or experience cycle rush hour in Stockholm to appreciate this.
Secondly there are more designated cycle lanes and in cities, these have their own traffic light system, which is generally obeyed, not like the light hopping in London.
Thirdly where cycle lanes cross minor roads the cyclist has priority, not as in the case of the UK where the cyclist has to give way.
Fourthly and more importantly there is a different attitude from motorists, they are genuinely considerate and tend to always be aware of cyclists and will give way.
This also tends to be the case with respect to pedestrians in all of the 3 countries.
It also helps, particularly in Denmark, that it is relatively flat but be warned if the wind is against you it can be hard work.
All three countries are not in the Euro and have their own currencies, all called the Crown, but not interchangeable.
For all those that have read my article on this website re currency abroad, I try to avoid taking a lot of hard currency with me and this trip was no exception.
Product Reviews: The Best Credit Cards to Use Abroad
In all countries the credit card is widely accepted and was used to pay for all site fees, bar one in Sweden which only accepted cash.
In Norway you can use a credit card anywhere; they are accepted on ferries and buses, perhaps an indicator of the higher expense of living here.
One final point on finance is that in Denmark it is common for a markup to be made on the use of credit cards, typically 3% but I have seen as high as 3.75% . Also I found few places actually warned you of the charge.
There is also no pattern on who levies these, some smaller institutions do not and some larger ones do.
In the grand scheme of things it is not going to cause you a lot of pain but it just annoys me that banks charge more. For years they whinged about the high cost of processing cheques and now these have all but disappeared and replaced by low cost electronic transactions, they still try and rip us off.
mileage given in brackets is the distance from the previous location
Harwich to Esbjerg Denmark with DFDS Seaways, Ribe,(from Esbjerg 20 miles) Trelde Naes near Fredericia in Eastern Jutland on the Vejle Fjord, (52 miles) Copenhagen.(140 miles)
Malmo,(29 miles) then taking the E22 along the southern coast of Sweden to Stockholm via Karlskrona, (127 miles) Kalmar, (55 miles) Nykoping,(195 miles) Stockholm, (63 miles)
Then taking the E04 motorway to Gothenburg via
Granna,(180 miles) on Lake Vattern, Gothenburg,(115 miles)then E06 to Fjallbacka (80 miles)
Continue on E06 to Oslo
via Frederikstad,(60 miles) Oslo,(59 miles) then E16 to Honefoss then the 7 to Gol,(118 miles)
then route 52 and E16 to Laerdal,(64 miles), then the Laerdal tunnel to Flam,(25 miles)
then E16 to Voss and route 13 and ferry Bruravik to Brimnes on to Kinsarvik, (70 miles) continue on route 13 and ferry Nesvik to Hjelmelandsvagen on toPreikestolen,(170 miles)
continue on route 13 and ferry Oanes to Lauvik , continue along 13 and then 44 to Brusand,(48 miles) route 44 and then E39 to Mandal.(100 miles)
Mandal to Kristiansand (27 miles) on E39
Ferry from Kristiansand Norway to Hirsthals Denmark with FjordLine
Skagen,(from Hirsthals 31 miles) route 55 & 11 toThisted,(109 miles) route 11 & 15 to Hvide Sande on Ringkobing Fjord (87 miles)
To Esbjerg (46 miles) route 181
Ferry from Esbjerg to Harwich