Driving is a great way to explore Norway outside major cities. There is a limited network of motorways around Oslo (up to 110 km/h). Country roads are mostly dual-lane separated by a yellow line in the middle. General speed limit is 80 km/h (50 km/h in villages and towns) if otherwise not specified. A good rule of thumb is to calculate 1 minute for 1 kilometer on average. Do not underestimate driving times/distances.

Traffic is generally calm and light, and most drivers are disciplined and law abiding, although moderate speeding is common on highways. Inside Oslo and around traffic jams occur. Oslo has a network of trams (light rail mixed with other traffic), note that trams in general have absolute right of way - trams don't even yield to pedestrians.

Some important roads with relatively dense/heavy traffic:

  • E18 inside and close to Oslo, particularly morning/afternoon rush and weekend rush
  • Ring 3 and Ring 2 (inside Oslo) during rush hour (jams may occur)
  • E6 south of Oslo
  • E6 north of Oslo airport at Mjøsa lake direction Hamar, jams may occur
  • E16 Hønefoss-Sandvika/Oslo at weekends, jams may occur
  • E39 Bergen-Stavanger
  • E16 to Bergen at weekends (from junction with road 7)

Norwegian traffic is one of the safest in the world. Rules are strictly enforced, all kinds of aggressive driving (such as risky overtaking) is regarded as an offence, and the police does not hesitate to issue fines from 100 to 1000 euros, note in particular the following:

  •  The "give way" rule is universal, all drivers must yield to traffic from the right hand side if signs do not indicate otherwise (there is no concept of minor or major road). Note: No priority for cars leaving parking lot.
  • Headlights are mandatory, 24 hours, all year. Change light to parking mode if you stop along the road.
  • Drivers must always yield to pedestrians at zebra crossings (without traffic light). This rule is strictly enforced.
  • Overtaking is only allowed on long straightways with plenty visibility, risky overtaking will be heavily punished by the police. (advice: overtake only when absolutly necessary and perfectly safe).
  • Seatbelt is compulsory
  • Car horn is only for emergency (abuse is an offence)
  • Road signs are based on symbols/codes, minimum explanatory text (for example speed limit 80 is only shown as the number 80 in a red circle, no text like "speed limit"). Road surface marking is only a supplement to road signs.
  • Keep a minimum of 3 seconds to the car in front of you (this rule is strictly enforced), 5 seconds or more in winter.
  • Don't drink and drive, limit is 0.2 ‰ blood alcohol concentration.
  • Traffic lights are absolute. Never pass a red light even if road is clear. No right turn at red light even if no pedestrians in the street.
  • Parking on priority roads is generally forbidden if speed limit is 60 km/h or higher.

Road surface markings are generally only supplementary to information given on road signs (because surface markings are often covered by snow in winter). But some information is only given by markings on the asphalt as follows:

  • a double line means that the driver should observe the line closest to the vehicle
  • yellow lines separate opposing traffic, white lines separate same direction traffic
  • a continuous line means "no crossing"
  • a dotted line (short dots, long spaces) means crossing is legal and overtaking safe if clear
  • a dotted line (long dots, short spaces) is a warning line: cossing is legal, but visibility too restricted for safe overtaking
  • a dotted line on the shoulder means that the road is too narrow for centre line (caution when passing opposing traffic)
  • in tunnels (and difficult curves) reflective markers ("cat's eye") are often added to the painted line
  • rumble strips (to warn drivers) are used increasingly in addition to centre and shoulder lines
  • warning: there is yellow line to your right you are most likely going in the wrong lane (unless traffic is diverted)

Driving in winter conditions and on mountain roads requires special attention. Some mountain and fjord roads are not wide enough for two cars to meet. Look for signs with a large M which indicates a passing point. Traffic going down hill has to give way to traffic going up hill even if that means reversing. During winter and in winter conditions special winter tires are required. Driving in Norwegian (and Nordic) winter conditions is not for the inexperienced driver. Visitors in winter must be prepared to drive on pure ice and snow. Golden rules: be calm, don't rush, keep plenty of distance to other cars, slow down well before curves, check friction frequently.

Note also that traffic generally runs like normal even during heavy snowfall, although at slower speed. During snowfall there is an army of trucks and tractors out keeping main roads open. Only a handfull of mountain passes can be closed during strong wind. Norwegian drivers and road authorities are very experienced and prepared for winter conditions. But visitors are advised not to drive if there is heavy snow fall at rush hour as congestion is likely in and around main cities.

Some mountain passes are always closed during winter.

Also note that some of the higher mountain passes can get snow fall and frost when there are summer conditions in the lowlands,  particularly in April/early May and in late September-October. This applies to the following roads in South Norway:

  • Hardangervidda (road 7)
  • Sognefjell (road 55)
  • Valdresflya (road 51)
  • Hol-Aurland (road 50)
  • Tollstigen and Geiranger road (road 63)
  • Strynefjellet (road 15)
  • Dagali-Geilo (road 40)
  • Aurland road (county road 243 above the long tunnel). 

Ordinary diesel fuel (petrodiesel) thickens into a gel at around minus 15° Celsius causing engine failure. During winter, Norwegian petrol stations only sell special low temperature diesel with additives that keep the fuel liquid. Visitors with diesel cars should take particular care in cold conditions.

Elk/moose and red deer may suddenly jump or walk into the road in forest areas, particularly during dusk and dawn and at full moon in winter. Collison with a big elk is dangerous as they are tall and heavy, and the animal often fall through the car's front window. In the Northern regions, reindeer (often in large numbers) may wander calmly along the road. Respect warning signs. In the unlikely event that you hit (and wound) a big animal, call the police and they will send a specialist from the local wildlife commitee to end the animal's suffering.

On Norwegian roads, warning and information signs (unfortunatly) tend to stand very close to what they apply to. So for instance, there is little time to choose lane before an intersection.

There is no permafrost on mainland Norway, but deep frost during winter creates "wrinkles" and bulges (frost heaves) in the road surface in some areas. This can be a problem particularly during spring. Warning signs may indiciate "frostskade" or "telehiv" (frost heaves).

In the fjord districts, there are numerous car ferries. These ferries are an integral part of the road network, the highway essentially continues onto the ferry. Because of the calm water on most fjords, several of these ferries are simply sophisticated barges. Ferries depart from ferry slips ("fergekai") rather than from ports.These car ferries should not be confused with express passenger boats ("hurtigbåt") or ships cruising along the coast (Hurtigruten).

There are countless road tunnels in Norway, including very long tunnels and underwater tunnels, particularly in  western Norway. These are mostly two-lane undivided highways. Tunnels are generally very safe. There is no special speed limit for tunnels, but many visitors slow down excessively when entering tunnels and thus annoying other drivers.  In winter, drivers should however be careful near tunnel entrance as temperatures changes cause ice bumps.

People driving significantly below the posted maximum speed (such as campers and caravans) should be careful to let other traffic pass by as soon as more than 2 or 3 vehicles  are lining up behind you.  This is particularily important at steep ascents and when leaving car ferries, where's there usually a designated lane to let smaller cars pass those with restricted max speeds.

There are several toll roads in Norway, one usually have to pay to enter main cities like Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. Some expensive projects (notably subsea tunnels) are funded by toll. Most of the toll roads are automated so drivers will hardly notice. Visitors that rent a car should ask the rental company how they are charged. Downtown parking in the main cities can be difficult and/or relatively expensive, 3 euros/hour is common (per 2009). Illegally parked cars can be fined up to 500 NOK (60 euros per 2009). Wheel clamps are not used, but illegally cars that obstruct traffic on public streets can be towed. Cars may also be towed from private parking spaces if a clear warning is given.

Driving glossary (Norwegian-English)

høyre = right hand (side)
venstre = left hand (side)
venstre felt = left hand lane
omkjøring = diversion
istapper = ice bumps (in tunnel openings)
fartsdempere, fartshump = speed bumps
opphøyd gangfelt =raised pedestrian crossing (speed bump)
gågate = pedestrian zone
maks 2 timer = max 2 hours (parking)
elgfare = risk of elk/moose
særlig stor elgfare = extreme risk of elk/moose
anleggsarbeid = road works/construction ahead
stopp ved rød blink = stop if red light signal
stengt = closed
glatt = slippery, icy
tele = frost in ground
telehiv, teleskade = frost bulges, frost heaves, frost cracks
parkering = parking