POST UPDATE Sept 9, 2017:
I originally wrote this article in May 2015 and then actually went on the DIY: Norway In A Nutshell trip in July 2015 and it was amazing.
While even the DIY tour was still “expensive”, if I had to give a Norway In A Nutshell Tour review, I would would say that it is 100% worth every penny.
I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world where you can experience such awe inspiring natural views.
As for the DIY ticketing, we had zeros issues and everything worked out perfectly without a hitch.
We picked up our tickets from the NSB train station office in Bergen the night before our trip.
As previously mentioned, the NIN tour is literally built around tourists and there were plenty of buses, train seats, and space on the boat, etc.
It is basically impossible to get “left behind”.
Some suggestions for anyone going on the tour is to bring a coat, as it does gets cold (FYI we were there in July) if you are sitting on the deck of the boat. The other tip is to bring snacks as it is a full day excursion and food on the boat and in the towns along the route were all extremely expensive.
Since we were only doing it one way from Bergen to Oslo, we had our luggage with us and it wasn't a problem. Our luggage was 40L backpacks, not rolling luggage but if you wanted to bring rolling luggage on the Norway In A Nutshell tour, you certainly can.
If you have any questions about booking your own Do It Yourself Norway In A Nutshell Tour, please feel free to ask questions below and I will do my best to answer them.
Some photos from the trip are below so you can get an understanding of how ridiculous the views are…
Selfie stick A photo posted by Parag Raja (@frequentflyeru) on
No filter needed A video posted by Parag Raja (@frequentflyeru) on
And now back to the original post on how to book your own Do It Yourself Norway In A Nutshell tour...
WHAT IS NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL?
With the US dollar being at an all time high against almost all other currencies, I thought it would be a great time to do a mini 2 week tour of Scandinavia this summer with my Cousin and visit Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia.
Since some of the most popular tourist activities in Scandinavia are to visit the amazing fjords to take in the breathtaking natural scenery, we knew we wanted to do that.
Since we are cramming quite a few cities into a 2 week trip, after doing some research using Rick Steves, we decided it was best for us to do the world famous Norway In A Nutshell Tour which basically takes you along all the fjord highlights via ferry, train, and bus.
We almost ended up booking a 1 day Norway In A Nutshell Tour until we saw the price which was a whopping $210 A PERSON!
To add insult to injury, we found out that the entire Norway In A Nutshell Tour is done using public transportation...
Thankfully after doing some research, we found out it was possible to book the EXACT SAME tour yourself using the EXACT SAME public transit so we ended up doing just that!
In the end, we saved $60 each over booking direct with Norway In A Nutshell.
If you are on a budget, I highly suggest trying to book it on your own as it isn't that difficult and you will appreciate the tour more.
Depending on which tour you book and how early in advance you book, you could potentially save even more than $60 USD.
As stated above, we are doing the 1 day Norway In A Nutshell Tour, however there are many different options so you can easily use the same resources below to book a custom 3+ day Norway In A Nutshell Tour on your own so you don't feel rushed.
For our "Do It Yourself Norway In A Nutshell Tour", we opted to fly from Copenhagen and start in Bergen and then take the 1 day tour to Oslo.
However if you are starting in Oslo, you can take the tour to Bergen and then fly out of there or you can do a return to Oslo via train.
STEP 1: FIND A NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL ITINERARY
As stated above, to the best of my understanding, all the Norway In A Nutshell Tours are done on Norwegian public transit.
What is great about the offical Norway In A Nutshell website is that they provide the exact itineraries and timetables for all of their tours!
So I suggest going onto Norway In A Nutshell's website and choosing the itinerary you would like to do and then copying it step by step.
Here is our 1 day Norway In A Nutshell itinerary which we used as an exact blueprint to book our tickets.
STEP 2: CHECK PRICES / SCHEDULEOnce you have your itinerary, there are a few sites you can use to double check the legs for your trip, however you can't actually book your tickets on most of these sites.
Leg 1: Bergen - Voss
According to our official itinerary, at 8.43am we needed to catch the Bergen - Voss train. To search for this train, we went to NSB and searched Bergen to Voss.
As you can see, you can only book regional trains via NSB so we were not able to book this local train leg on the NSB website, however we were at least able to confirm that it matched up with the Norway In A Nutshell official itinerary.
Leg 2: Voss - Gudvangen
For the second leg, we needed to take a local bus from Voss to Gudvangen so we searched for this on Skyss.
On the Skyss website, there were multiple station options, so after a little help from this TripAdvisor forum, we found that we needed to go from Voss stasjon (Voss) to Gudvangen kai (Aurland). Similar to NSB, since this was a local bus, we couldn't book it online.
Leg 3: Gudvangen - Flam
For the 3rd leg, we needed to take a ferry from Gudvangen to Flam.
Unfortunately the Fjord1 ferry website wasn't the best so I had to email the company and they directed me to VisitFlam where I was able to see all the ferry times, as well as book.
On the VisitFlam website, simply click on sightseeing at the top and you will see all the options.
We chose the Nærøyfjord regular boat service which lined up with the Norway In A Nutshell official itinerary.
Leg 4: Flam - Oslo
For the final leg from Flam to Oslo, we returned to NSB and did another search.
For this leg, the departure time from Flam was off by 2 minutes compared to the official Norway In A Nutshell itinerary but I am still fairly certain this is the correct train because it arrives into Oslo S at the same time as the official itinerary.
Also I suggest booking as far in advance as possible because NSB offers discounted Minipris tickets and these are approximately 40% off the full fare ticket. So book EARLY because these sell out quickly!
STEP 3: BOOKING
Once you have confirmed your itinerary and verified all the legs, it is time to book. Unfortunately the booking process is bit annoying because some of the websites don't process US credit cards.
For all the train legs, the NSB website and mobile app doesn't process US Visa and Mastercards so don't waste your time with either!
Once we had found the trains we wanted to book, we had to call NSB in Norway at +47 23 62 0000 to book them over the phone.
While it is really annoying having to call Norway, the operators do speak perfect English!
Once you get connected just ask if they speak English and explain you are from the US and are having trouble booking and would like to do it over the phone.
You can then feed them the trains you want to book.
You can then either pay over the phone with American Express or they can email you a Paypal link so you can pay with Visa or Mastercard (I did American Express).
Once you pay, they send you a PDF with your tickets.
As for actually calling Norway, the easiest way is to sign up for Skype and then either do pay-per-minute (2.3 cents to Norway) or do what I did which was simply sign up for a free 1 month trial of Skype worldwide unlimited, make my Norway calls, and then cancel before the month was over (just remember to cancel!).
Also if you are based in the US, the best time to call is before 11 AM Eastern time because Norway is +6 hours to Eastern time and their call center closes at 5pm Norway time (GMT +2).
Full details about the NSB call center are here.
For the bus, there isn't an option to book on Skyss and according to TripAdvisor you can simply buy the tickets onboard the bus for 100 NOK. Just make sure you have exact change!
From our experience in July, there were plenty of buses all lined up and it was not a problem getting a seat on the bus.
For the ferry, you can book it via VisitFlam. They accept any credit cards and email you a PDF of your tickets.
COSTHad we booked our tour via Norway In A Nutshell Tour's official website, it would have cost us 1,630 NOK ($213 USD) per a person! Booking it on our own cost:
- Bergen - Voss train: 194 NOK ($25 USD)
- Voss - Gudvangen bus: 100 NOK ($13 USD)
- Gudvangen to Flam ferry: 305 NOK ($40 USD)
- Flam - Myrdal - Oslo train: 569 NOK ($74 USD)
Total: 1,168 NOK ($153 USD) per a person In the end, we saved around 462 NOK ($60 USD) per a person by booking everything ourselves.
When researching schedules and pricing, the Flam - Myrdal - Oslo route was being offered at an even cheaper minipris ticket but the price doubled by the time we booked, so I imagine we could have saved even more money by booking earlier.
Also there are additional discounts for being a student (if that applies to you). Also it's important to remember that all these sites are processing the charges in NOK, so make sure you use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees or you will be charged another 3%!
Overall I am extremely happy that we ended up booking the tour ourselves instead of just booking it direct from Norway In A Nutshell.
Although it certainly took more time, I feel like I have already learned way more about the tour and the cities we will be visiting than had we booked it direct. Not to mention it is nice to have $60 USD extra in our pockets.
Once we actually take the tour in July, I will be sure to do a new post on the actual Norway In A Nutshell experience as well as any additional advice.
If you have any questions about booking or the Norway In A Nutshell tour, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer any questions.