For many cycle tourists, the ample opportunities to wild camp in beautiful surroundings are one of Norway’s biggest draws. If however, a hot shower and shelter are in need you’ll find hundreds of well-maintained campsites all over the country and many will offer simple but practical wooden cabins as an alternative to tent life. Hostels are not that common outside the cities but there are many mountain cabins with private and shared lodging – a must for anyone looking for an authentic Norwegian experience. When it comes to hotels there is a wide variety from quirky boutique and historic grand buildings, to modern budget-friendly rooms. You may be surprised to find most standard hotel prices are in line and sometimes cheaper than in other western countries. We’ll explain more below.
Few countries in the world allow such freedom to pitch your tent for free for the night even on private land. I’ve had many incredible nights sleeping by a fjord or lake listening to the therapeutic sounds of water hitting the shore as I fall asleep. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom and adventure that perhaps burns in us all. However, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Wild camping in Norway is built on trust and Norwegians from an early age are educated about the need to respect the natural environment so all can continue to enjoy this freedom they are blessed with.
If Nature calls…
Use public toilets where possible. If that’s not possible ensure you are away from trails, water sources, and camping spots. Dig a hole that limits damaging or disturbing the natural environment. Ensure you fill it in well afterward. Have a small plastic bag to put all toilet paper in and dispose of it when you pass a public bin in a local town or public road rest stop.
Swimming and bathing in Lakes
Don’t use soap or any products that will pollute the water. Even if your soap is biodegradable, it can still be harmful to the water. Chemicals in the soap can change the pH levels in the water, making it toxic or challenging for animals to thrive in the lake.
Please see the rules here: https://fishspot.no/en/fishing-rules-in-norway/
Finding a wild camping spot:
Cycle Norway will never provide locations of wild camping spots as to do so is irresponsible. Wild camping is a personal endeavor. Finding the right spot takes time and there are many areas where it will be difficult to find anything practical. I tend to use google street view and satellite images to help discover where suitable areas are located.
Ideally, you want the following:
During the day it can be warm but very cold in the evening. If you are high up above 300-400m you may experience single-digit numbers in the night even in July. Above 1000m expect it to be very cold at night.
On the other hand, in the Arctic on a clear warm day, the sun will be shining on your tent all night and turning it into an ‘oven’ by the morning. Finding shade from the morning sun can be important.
It is very common to find condensation forming on your tent from the mixture of your body heat and cold nights. Expect in many places to discover a very wet tent in the morning.
Mosquito and midges
From late June to late August there will be plenty of places where they’re present especially in forests and around lakes. We go into more detail on the FAQ page. The bottom line, bring repellent and cover your skin.
In Norway, ticks are most abundant along the coast from Oslo up to Helgelandskysten (close to Brønnøysund). Some areas have a high abundance of ticks, while other areas have none. Ticks don’t fly or jump but they crawl up grass or twigs for example and then climb on to animals or humans passing by. Keep out of areas of dense forest or high grassland. Check yourself after wild camping. A Tick removed within 24 hours will rarely pass on any disease.
Confrontation with locals.
If you are approached by a local farmer or resident regarding your wild camping spot. Be polite and try to come to an agreement. If you are asked to move on even if you think you’re not in the wrong it’s not worth causing trouble. It’s better to move on than to annoy and cause a confrontation with local people. You won’t sleep well knowing an angry farmer is next door.
Where not to wild camp:
Every year some people think it’s cool to turn up at a very popular tourist location and illegally camp there when everyone has gone home. Preikestolen and Trolltunga are two prime examples. World heritage sites such as Geiranger and Aurlandfjorden are two places you should not be seeking wild camping spots. Lofoten is also a hot potato due to the confrontations between locals and tourists. Over the last few years, many people have camped illegally in Lofoten, leaving litter and human waste behind. As a result free camping areas have been closed down and stricter rules have been put in place. Wild camping only works when a place is not overrun with tourists. On a bike, you will pass through many quiet areas. When you reach a busy area think about your impact and consider staying in a campsite.
Free and paid shelters
There are wooden shelters in many areas of rural Norway. Unfortunately, many different organizations build them, and thus getting an overview is extremely hard work. For example, you have bird watching, fishing, hiking, hunting, & tourist organizations that have all built shelters across the country. Who can use them, when, and what are the rules, are at times not straightforward. Some shelters are built for only day visits but many people will use them for overnights and how you stop or manage this is not clear.
What are the shelters like:
Some will only have three walls and no designated sleeping areas (known in Norwegian as Gapahuk). Others are old wooden cabins used back in the day for lumberjacks etc. They will have no power and just some random old furniture including a wooden bed without a mattress. Some will have a fire pit or stove and sometimes free wood may be available.
If you turn up at a shelter and people are already there it’s common to move on as the unwritten rule is first come have claim. Of course, if there’s plenty of room you are welcome to ask especially if it’s bad weather! Note, expect shelters to be busy during the hunting period of September.
Camping holidays are extremely popular in Norway and over the decades hundreds of campsites have sprung up all over the country. Finding a carfree campsite is very rare, however, usually, there will be a nice scenic area for tents which makes them an ideal option for budget-conscious cyclists.
Norway’s campsites in general are less commercial than other countries and many are independently owned and run by local farmers or people in the area. I have met many wonderful owners interested in hearing about my journey and being very personal and helpful. Once an owner invited me to his bbq and generously gave me a massive plate of cooked meats and salads!
Opening times: The big campsites open between April and October or May to September and have long reception hours. Other campsites may only start-up in June and close in late August or mid-September. Sometimes reception opening times can be very limited or just a number to phone on a door. If you turn up late and find there is no one to contact. You could put your tent up and pay in the morning. However, ensure there is space and you’re not causing any problems.
Book in advance? I would say over 90% of campsites don’t require you to book in advance if you’re turning up with a bike and tent. Of course, if you’re a big group with several tents I would inquire first.
I have turned up at a few campsites very late in the evening and the receptionist has said they are full. If you’re on your own with a small one-man tent it’s worth switching to begging mode and asking if you can squeeze your tent in and promise not to snore! It’s worked for me!
Price: A tent and bike usually cost between 150kr-250kr per person or tent per night. The most I have paid is 350kr in a very touristy area and the least was 80kr as some campsites offer discounts for cyclists!
Paying: Every campsite will take card payment and it should be a relatively easy procedure.
Showers and Toilet facilities: A lot of campsites don’t include a hot shower in the price and many receptionists might not tell you this when you check in and pay! ALWAYS ASK! Usually, there will be a coin-operated box in the shower room. The coins can be collected and paid for with your card at reception. The standard price is usually 20kr for 4-5 mins of hot water.
Bike security on campsites: I have never had any problems leaving my bike next to my tent but if you feel any concern, use a lock to secure your bike to something is recommended.
Map of campsites: There are campsites everywhere in Norway and a simple google maps search ‘campsites near me’ is my way of finding a place to stay.
You have sites such as https://www.camping.info/en/country/norway that can help but one of the best is the NorCamp app which is very handy while on the road.
You will find many campsites on our route maps with the website or contact details.
One of my favorite forms of accommodation while cycling is the legendary campsite cabin. Most campsites have basic cabins to accommodate those that aren’t in a camper van and don’t have a tent.
Most cabins are used for night layovers and thus have a high turnaround. With the exception of July, you can usually book one with 24-48 hours notice. In the fringe seasons of May & September, cabins may be available without booking.
Basic but cozy
A lot are very basic with one or two bunk beds, a table, and chairs, and if you’re lucky a stove for cooking (possible option to rent pots and pans at reception). Shared toilet facilities will be in a separate building. These types of cabins usually cost between 400-800kr per night and are perfect if you’re two or more people. Bed sheets are usually 50-100kr extra. You may be expected to clean the cabin before check out (empty bins, strip bed linen, etc).
Cabins with private toilets (2-6 people) will usually be between 800-1200kr per night.
How to book
Most of the time you will need to book directly through the campsite website. There will either be an online booking system or a simple form to fill in. It’s also worth phoning and inquiring to save time with emails. Campsite websites vary in quality and function and sometimes a phone number may be the only way to book. To find the website, use Google or the Norcamp app. For the larger campsites, you may find the cabins advertised on platforms like booking.com.
Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) is everything that is great about Norway. For 150 years the Norwegian Trekking Association as it’s known in English has been working to promote nature and to improve conditions for all who enjoy the country’s broad range of outdoor attractions. They own and operate 550 cabins across the country that anyone is welcome to use and stay at. Many are built for hiking and are only accessible on hiking paths. There are, however, many connected to gravel roads, and can be the perfect place to use as a shelter and accommodation when out cycling in remote areas of the country.
Where are these cabins located:
ut.no has a map of all cabins and their opening times.
DNT has three types of cabins
The information below is from the DNT brochure:
How do I get a key?
You must be a member to order a DNT key. For a deposit of NOK 100, members can order the key from dntbutikken.no or a DNT shop/tour information center (found in the larger cities). Full information can be found here: https://english.dnt.no/the-dnt-key/
When are the cabins open?
Most of the staffed lodges have a winter season and a summer season. You can book a bed in advance. See the opening hours by searching for the cabins at UT.no. You will also find contact and booking information here.
You don’t have to be a member to stay at a cabin and for many visiting Norway, it’s probably not worth it unless you use them several times or require a key. Yearly Membership cost 750kr and gives you a discount on all bookings, some meals, and other benefits. Read about all benefits on the signup page here.
How to book a bed?
Pay at the cabin?
At the self-service cabins, you have to fill out a payment form for your stay. Drop the form into the payment box/safe at check out. Keep part 2, this is your copy. After your stay, you will receive a link for credit card payment or an invoice if that is your choice.
Staffed cabins will have card machines.
How to use the self-service cabins?
There are many rules to follow when using a self-service cabin and you should familiarize yourself with them before arriving. Please see this page for further info: https://english.dnt.no/cabin-visit-from-a-to-z/
You should leave your bike outside the cabin and never bring it in. You will have no concerns about security but are welcome to lock it up.
There are a wide variety of hotels in Norway and some are a tourist attraction in themselves. Here you will find a good overview on the Norwegian Tourism Board website: https://www.visitnorway.com/hotels-more/hotels/exclusive-hotels/
Some of Norway’s finest and most unique hotels are part of an organization called ‘De Historiske’ and more info can be found here: https://www.dehistoriske.no/
There are four main chain hotels in Norway and you’ll find them in all the major cities and towns.
In general, a standard double room hotel (3-4 stars) will cost around 800-1600kr per night. Higher-end hotels (4-5 star) 2000-2500kr per night. Breakfast is usually included (large buffet style all-you-can-eat).
Bikes and hotel rooms.
I would stay 90% of the time you will have no problems with a bike in your room or a secure storage space. However, when booking ensure you mention you have a bike and where you’d ideally like to store it. On rare occasions, the receptionist may insist the bike stays outside. Never allow this. They either provide a secure storage room or allow it in the room. I once had a receptionist tell me on arrival my room was too small (for a bike space) and must upgrade for 500kr! I don’t tolerate unfair alterations. Stand your ground and make sure you get your way. If you can fit in the room so can your bike!
To book or not to book?
In the peak of summer, you should book accommodation in advance. If you don’t you may end up spending a disproportionate amount of time finding a place to stay.
My go-to site is booking.com as they have good refund options that may include the ability to cancel at very short notice. When cycling you are never guaranteed to reach your hotel on time and thus refund policies are important to read and know about. Furthermore, find out about check-in times. If I’m behind schedule I will sometimes contact the hotel and explain my situation. They may leave your key in a mailbox and ask you to pay in the morning. There are always solutions for a late check-in as long as you communicate with them.
Unlike some countries such as Australia and New Zealand, Norway is not big on hostels, and outside major cities, there are limited available.
Perhaps sharing a dormitory with strangers when cycling is not ideal? Where will you store your bike or hang up your smelly clothing? A lot of hostels in Norway will focus more on single and private rooms and are more like hotels than hostels.
You will find hostels mixed in with hotels on platforms like booking.com – set search requirements to budget.
Norway’s biggest hostel chain is part of Hosteling International (in Norwegian ‘Vandrerhjem’) and you can see their locations here: https://hihostels.no/hostelmap
Prices: You may find many hotels cheaper than hostels in Norway but expect the standards to be very high. Single rooms will be from 700-1200kr. Dominates from 300-500kr and in some cases more but they may include breakfast and an evening meal.
There are many other mountain cabins that are not owned by DNT that offer fantastic accommodation and location. Two of my favorites include Sognefjellet and Bygdin
You will find some advertised on popular hotel booking platforms. Others are mentioned on he Ut.no map page and our route maps.
The now famous app that allows you to rent out your house or apartment is very popular in Norway. I find in the major cities Airbnb apartments are expensive and perhaps in general hotels are cheaper. Renting just a room in an apartment is a good way to meet locals and they usually have somewhere safe to store your bike. Outside the cities, especially in non-touristy places, you can get some real bargains. I have rented whole apartments for 500-600kr and rooms in shared accommodation for 300-400kr.
The Couchsurfing of cycling. This is a nice idea and I have used it a few times but it can be both a hit or miss.
What is Warmshowers: You pay a one-time fee of 30 US dollars to get access to an online community of cyclists offering free accommodation at their homes. It could be a private room, a shared room, or just a couch. It can also be just a lawn you pitch your tent on (with access to a toilet). Every host is different and what facilities you get access to varies.
Hit or Miss? You will usually need to give the host you contact at least a few days’ notice which at times is difficult when cycling. If you contact 5 hosts you may on get 1 or 2 replies within the time frame you require. And those that do reply may not have any availability on the dates you require. It can be very time-consuming to find an available host but it can be a great way to meet people and get local knowledge.
Many Norwegian have a second home in a rural area of Norway. They only use them during certain times of the year with many months left empty. Similar to Airbnb you will find many beautiful Norwegian cabins available in beautiful areas. If you’re looking for a base to do rides from this could be a nice option. Some of the prices are really good but they get booked up very quickly.
Here are three websites to check out:
In places, like Germany and Denmark, there are websites such as Bed and Bike that promote accommodation providers who meet a certain service criteria for cyclists. Unfortunately, a similar concept has struggled in Norway and never really taken off. In general, a lot of accommodation providers will be welcoming to cyclists and may offer some extra facilities or services to help you. But don’t expect the same bike-related services as Denmark.