Monday, May 27, 2013

How To Travel In Norway On A Budget- Part 2. ~ Travel Inside The Country

Hello hello! I have been busy with travels, visitors and other lovely things lately, but now things are calming down here and I thought it's time I add some more to my HOW TO TRAVEL IN NORWAY ON A BUDGET-"series".

Today I will cover "How to travel inside the country on a budget".


Let's see. People normally fly into Oslo. From there you could either get a flight to another city or you could get on a train or a bus.

The standard prices to travel by train, plane and bus in Norway are steep, but there are ways to get a good deal and I am going to tell you how.

A train ride is something I will always prefer over a bus ride. It’s just more comfortable in so many ways. The added bonus to rail/road travel of course, is that you get to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way to your destination. The long distance trains from Oslo to Bergen, Oslo to Trondheim (via Dovre, not Østerdalen) and Trondheim to Bodø are train rides with stunning views. In fact, Lonely Planet published an article, saying the train ride from Oslo to Bergen might be Europe’s best train journeyAnd they also placed the night train in the summer, from Trondheim to Bodø as one of Europe’s 8 best night trains in another article, as the sun doesn’t set and you get to enjoy beautiful views all night long. (One recommendation is also to take the train ride of Flåmsbana Railway, more as an attraction than a means of transport, but it's really lovely.)


But in this post I mainly wanted to focus on the economic aspect, so I’ll just start with an example.
Standard ticket, Oslo – Bergen, adult, is NOK 815.00. (A little over €100) 

Now, if you book a little ahead you’ll have no problems finding the so called “minipris” of NOK 249.00  (about €30) Same train, same seat, same timetable. 

The concept of “minipris” states that you can go as far as you want for NOK 249.00. Meaning you can get a train from Kristiansand in the south to Bodø in the north (as far north as the trains go) for 249.00. 


The standard price for this train ride would be NOK 1912.00 (€240), but book it in advance and pay only NOK 249.00!

Kristiansand to Bodø is about 1500 km and would take about 24 hours. I am just trying to make a point here. Trains are expensive, but if you want to travel far, make sure you get a minipris and enjoy a really good deal. 

Another thing to keep in mind, is that a train ride can save you one night of accommodation (another thing that increases your travel spendings in Norway). Get the night train (there’s one for every long distance train line) and sleep on the train. Normally the night trains are old trains, and that’s also the ones with the most comfortable seats. You have the whole day in one city, get on the train, and arrive in another city the next morning. Perfect isn’t it?

Buy your tickets at the web of NSB (Norwegian State Railways). 


If you prefer to hop on a bus, there are a few options. Again, curvy roads, mountains… I wouldn’t prefer it, but some people do. You have Nor-WayBussexpress with standard not-so-cheap prices, but then there’s Lavprisexpressen (low price express) where you can easily find tickets for just NOK 49.00, (€6) for instance from Oslo to Stavanger. They have comfortable buses with free internet. They don’t have as many routes as Nor-Way Bussexpress, but you definitely get a better deal there. 

Now, if you prefer to travel by air, check out Norwegian.no for offers. They often have campaigns where you can get one way inland flights from NOK 149.00 + - (€18)

If you are going north, check out Widerøe’s airpass. Widerøe is an airline flying small planes all over Norway, and many in the north. In the summer, they always have this offer where you can pay a fixed amount, and then fly as much and often as you want during the time period you pay for. There are three zones, North of Norway, Mid-Norway or south. You pay either for 1 or 2 zones, or the whole country. The best value of this offer is in the northern half of Norway. There are many small airports, and large distances, so with this offer you can get to see a lot. 


When you get to your destination, you might want to rent a car, cause that really is the best way to see stuff, both in “fjord-land” and the north. Again- large distances. Having a car is sort of mandatory if you want to see the good stuff a little off the main cities (basically all the photos I use in these posts are taken from a place I got to by car). And they are not cheap. But there is an economical option here too. Rent a Wreck. It isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, it’s just more “normal” older cars, not so fancy and not so new, but perfectly OK cars at a much cheaper price. 

They don’t have offices everywhere, but if they have one where you want to go, it should be worth it to check them out. Here’s a map of their offices in Norway.

I think that should cover the "How to travel inside the country on a budget" fairly well. Please let me know if I have forgotten something, or if you have any questions or comments!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Best Of Gran Canaria As Of Late

I think it's time for another one of these posts with things that have made me smile lately
I find myself enjoying the little things more and more on this island. There is so much 
beauty everywhere if you just keep your eyes and mind open to it.
Here are some of my favourite moments as of late.

                                                                     ~~~

Visiting a banana plantation! Very exotic!


Sunsets.... I can never get enough of them. Same goes for sunrises. The most beautiful colours play out in the sky and in the water. It's been fun practicing what I learned on that super intense photo course I attended a few weeks back. I have plenty of things to practice on, living in such a beautiful place. 


The 100 years of aviation in Canary Islands was celebrated on Sunday May 12, with a several hours long air show called  "Exposición Aeronautica del centenario de la aviación en Canarias" with lots of different aircrafts at the beach of Las Canteras in Las Palmas. I am not particularly interested in airplanes, but I still always find these kinds of shows fascinating. 





Visiting a wineyard here on Gran Canaria, and learning more about the way of wine production here. I have loved every wine/cava visit I have done in Spain- in La Rioja, Catalunya (Cava, and visit to Freixenet) and Lanzarote. This was the first bodega I visited in Gran Canaria, and the surroundings were so beautiful, peaceful and all in all it was a wonderful  afternoon. I might have to make a separate post about this place!



Visiting the Dunas de Maspalomas, one of my favourite places on this island. The sand dunes are just so beautiful!


Visiting picturesque small towns here on Gran Canaria, being met with the outgoing town people that just make you feel welcome. I have heard some people from Catalunya 'complain' that people from Canary Islands talk too much, but I find the openness and humor that is often found here endearing.  


This couple that I meet every morning walking the beach. They are in their 70's if not 80's, and every morning around the same time I meet them at the beach walking, hand in hand. So sweet.


How it's completely normal to use palm tree branches to sweep the side walks! You see them everywhere. Much better than normal brooms apparently!


Playing around with new photography techniques...




It's really all about enjoying the sweet moments of life...


What has made you smile lately? 

Monday, May 13, 2013

10 Random Night Shots From Barcelona

As a continuation to the posts from previous Mondays,
I am again posting 10 random photos from my dear Barcelona.

I have so many pictures that don't have a story or words to go with them, but are still precious to me.
This time I am posting some night shots from the city. Barcelona is just as beautiful nighttime as daytime.




Barcelona is beautiful at Christmas time!

Miró art by Plaza Espanya




Just as beautiful at night, isn't it?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Traveling In Norway Will Kill Your Budget. I Want To Show You How To Save It… Part 1.


After moving abroad I have come to appreciate my home country in many ways that I just didn’t before. I had grown up in that country, with all its good bits and annoying bits, but I think it’s pretty common to simply take things in your home country for granted. You don’t know anything else. I never stopped and thought about the fact that Norway has a strong welfare system compared to many other countries, or that Norway has been voted to the world’s best country by UN a number of times. That the salary level is among the very highest in Europe neither. It just didn’t really mean anything to me. It was just how it was. I hadn’t lived in any other countries and didn’t have anything to compare with.

Then after a stay abroad when I was 20, my eyes were opened to a different way of living. I got to see so many new and different things, and I learned a lot about this other country, just as I learned a lot about myself. Fast forward some years and I moved to Spain. This time with different goals and plans, and it has been the most wonderful adventure for me on so many levels. But living away from Norway has taught me things about Norway too.

One thing that I find curious is that I keep meeting people who go all dreamy when I tell them where I am from. Here in Las Palmas, I have heard on several occasions that many people dream about going to Norway, even that it’s a typical destination people would choose for their honeymoon! If someone told me that, a few years ago, I would think they were seriously disturbed. I just couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to go there at all- let alone on their honeymoon! But it turns out Norway has quite a bit to offer the tourist.


Personally, I loved traveling to old cities abroad with a lot of history and architectural beauty, and Norway doesn’t have a lot of that. What Norway has more than anything else is Nature. Beautiful nature. Wild, raw nature. There are just about 5 million people living there and it’s a big country. Lots of space/nature in other words. In fact, if you look at the map of Europe, flip Norway upside down, North Cape (in the north of Norway) would reach Rome in Italy. Just as an illustration of how long streched the country is. I grew up with the mountains and the fjords, and I didn’t see it as anything special. But thanks to being abroad, and also seeing through the eyes of foreigners, I have opened my eyes to it.

Many people here talk to me about going to Norway. But the bottom line is always that they can’t afford it. They have heard it’s an expensive country to visit. Which is true. If you come to Norway on an average Spanish salary it would be painful. Cost of living and salaries go hand in hand in Norway, more than here in Spain. Spain is cheaper than Norway in pure price comparison, but if you compare salaries and then the prices, Spain is actually more expensive than Norway on most, or at least many things. But again- coming to Norway as a tourist can be tough on the bank account.


Once I took 3 foreigners visiting Norway to see some highlights of the Fjord-part of Norway, and once my penpal from the USA (!!!) which whom I wrote old fashioned letters with since I started learning English, and then almost daily emails for years when we finally got email addresses came to visit, and I showed her fairly big parts of the country as well. (We probably wrote together for about 10 years before meeting, but she had always had a deep curiosity for visiting Norway seeing as she was part Norwegian somewhere quite far out in her family tree!) It was through seeing the enthusiasm of other people about the beauty of Norway that I started noticing as well. 

I have been giving advice about how to save money while traveling in Norway and still be able to see good stuff to so many people individually I thought I might just write a blog post about it. Maybe someone would find it useful?

Where to go and what to see?
As I said, the country is large/long. And there are a lot of mountains. And a lot of long fjords. This means that there’s not one great highway from north to south, or east to west. Short distances can take (much) longer than expected due to narrow and curvy roads, and even ferries here and there.

And if you want to come to Norway you’ll want to see more than just Oslo, I hope (or maybe even skip Oslo and get right on to the better bits?). So first- you’d need to decide what part of Norway you want to cover. Unless you have a lot of time (and money) it’s not very realistic that you’ll cover all of it. (Again, long country!) 

So, normally the first thing to decide is north or southThe south has a lot to offer. The landscape changes a lot from east to west to south. The west coast has stunning nature, steep mountains and fjords. Two popular cities in this region would be Bergen and Stavanger. For example, it’s good to combine a day or two in Bergen with a fjord or three, and this is what many people choose to do. 

Bergen
Geiranger fjord, see my post about this fjord here
The north is something completely different, but truly beautiful. If you’re not tempted with the idea of all those fjords, but think dramatic mountains, long white sandy beaches, small fisherman’s towns, reindeer and the midnight sun in summer / or the aurora borealis in winter is tempting, then north is where you should go.

Lofoten, see my post about Lofoten Islands and the Midnight Sun here

Once that is decided you’d need to work on your itinerary. It’s best to plan a little before arriving, at least to a certain extent, if not you risk losing a lot of valuable time ending up not seeing as much as you could have. (Distances look shorter and quicker on the map than what they really are.) 

------- ------- ------- ------- ------- ------- ------- 

This post is now already so long, that I think I should stop for today. 
But I was thinking that I would continue this post post once a week, and cover subjects such as TRAVELING INSIDE THE COUNTRY, ACCOMODATION, FOOD & DRINK
and any other subject that I might think of. Always with spending as little money as possible in mind, 
while really getting to see good stuff. 
I want to show you HOW TO TRAVEL IN NORWAY ON A BUDGET!

If someone would like me to cover something in particular, let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Take On 9 Myths About Spain

There are myths about most countries, aren't there? Things that people believe to be true without even having been there to check for themselves? During all my time in Spain, I have been collecting a few myths about Spain and Spaniards and would like to share how I have experienced these.

To start with the most obvious ones...

Spaniards love bull fights. To this day- I have yet to meet a Spaniard who like this 'sport'. This is of course probably related to the fact that where I have spent the most time- in Catalunya and Gran Canaria, it is forbidden. (Or there are some disagreements whether it's forbidden or not in Canary Islands, but at least it is not performed.) In the south of Spain this is still deep in the culture, but it doesn't mean everyone loves it. There are loads and loads of Spaniards with the same opinion as 'the rest of us' who can't stand this unfair fight where the bull has no chance. 


...and...

Sangria is 'the drink'. Again, I have yet to see Spanish people ordering Sangria at a bar. The tourists yes. You see them with their sunburnt noses sipping away at their copas de sangria. Nothing wrong with that, simply it seems like it's a lot more popular for people visiting this country than for the people from here.

Although Sangria isn't very usual/typical, tapas certainly is. I will never forget the Basque version of tapas, the pintxos.
...and...

Flamenco is super popular. Hmm, not where I have been living anyway. Again, much like the bull fights, real Flamenco is mostly found in the south of Spain, in Andalucía. Most big cities will have a tablao de Flamenco or two, but mostly for tourists. I have seen a couple Flamenco shows, some authentic, some -although still somehow authentic, all for the tourist. The difference is in the passion, the atmosphere and the feeling that penetrates your skin when watching the real stuff. I contacted a Flamenco school here in Las Palmas to see if they could recommend a good place I could see/hear a Flamenco show, and they told me that unfortunately only in some tourist resorts will you find a Flamenco show here. The feel of this island is closer to South America than Spain in many ways, and I guess this is one of them. 

From a Flamenco competition in Málaga
Ok, so I got those out of the way. I couldn't really make a 'myth-list' without them now could I? Moving on...

Spaniards arrive late for appointments. Oh yes most do. It used to drive me crazy, but I have actually gotten used to that too. In Norway, arriving late is seen as rude and very annoying, as if you're not respecting the other person and stealing their time, but here it's just one of those things that is perfectly normal. And OK. And no big deal at all. In my adaptation to life in Spain I have written about this on various occasions, wondering what time I should arrive as it seemed I was the only one who ever arrived at the time we had decided, wondering if the Spanish simply have a different concept of time altogether, and I found it amusing to see a concert announced with a side note "The concert will start totally punctual".

It's always sunny and beach weather all year. This is a typical misconception from people in Norway. Up there, the winter is long and hard, and people tend to think that Spain is always warm and lovely weather wise. Actually the only place in Spain where you have nice temperatures and beach weather all year around is the Canary Islands. (Some of them, not all of them, but Gran Canaria where I live now is one.) Mainland Spain gets winters. The north has cold gray and humid, rainy winters, the interior dry and cold winters, and the Mediterranean coast milder, but still chilly weather in winter. And winter can go from +- October/November to March/April. The south has warmer winters than the north, but to think that you can hop on a plane to mainland Spain during winter to be guaranteed to find hot beach weather is just wrong. The difference is that when the sun is out it normally heats up (while in Norway in winter, it only illuminates in winter) and it can get quite nice. 


The Financial Crisis is still strong. Unfortunately this is very true. It seems like every week I hear of someone I know either lost their job, had a salary decrease (as a way of saving their job - for now), and people are struggling. It's the conversation topic in most social settings and it seems sort of hopeless.

Spaniards are lazy. The image of groups of Spaniards enjoying long lunches, trips to the beach and long siestas may give an impression that Spaniards don't really work a lot. But Spain has longer working hours than many other European countries. In many work places, they have split shifts, with a long siesta break in the middle, making the work day start at 8-9 in the morning and stop at 8-9 at night. I am very very grateful for my freelance work, where I decide my work hours!


Spain is noisy. Or rather Spaniards are noisy. Yes yes yes! Haha, I have gotten used to it and it doesn't bother me anymore, but I remember it was a little annoying at first. We Norwegians are quite quiet you see. Generally, we don't like to talk about personal problems so that other people can hear us, or talking on the phone loud and personal on public transport etc. Here it seems no pasa nada. Problem is that if you're in a bar, and people around you speak so loud that you have to speak louder for your friends to hear you, in the end everyone is speaking ridiculously loud. Where I live now, there is a restaurant just below my windows, and I can easily hear discussions about all of life's subjects from the people enjoying their meal out in the sun. (With the windows open or closed!) Another thing is that I think sound isolation is something Spain has not heard of, cause most everyone I know complain about neighbour noise. And although it's probably maybe a coincidences, wherever I have lived, there has been some construction work going on close by and it can get really noisy. So yes, there can be quite a lot of noise! 

Spain is so cheap. Not really! Some things are. But many things are not. People always think that Norway is so expensive, but if you compare the price levele here in Spain and in Norway according to average salaries, Norway is cheaper than Spain in many areas. 

Thankfully wine at awesome old bars is quite cheap!
Did I forget any obvious myths about Spain?

Monday, May 6, 2013

10 Random Shots From Barcelona

As a continuation to the post from last week
I am again posting 10 random photos from my dear Barcelona. 

I have so many pictures that don't have a story or words to go with them, but are still precious to me. 
The city is beautiful. Again, I'll let 10 pictures do the talking. 










The rooftop of Casa Milá

I miss Barcelona! I think I need to go visit soon.