Many independent travellers to Norway follow a tried and tested route between Oslo and Bergen (or vice versa) taking in Aurlandsfjord, the UNESCO listed Nærøyfjord and Flåm en route.
This trip involves catching three trains, a boat and a bus together with accommodation, should you wish to spend a night in Flåm en route.
In theory, and indeed in practice, you can organise all these elements by yourself. My initial intent was to do exactly this and all was fine until I tried to tie down a bus from Gudvangen (where the fjord trip from Flåm I wanted to take finished) to Voss from which I would continue on to Bergen by train. Given that I was going to be on a very tight schedule I wanted to pre-book all elements of this trip so in the end I decided to look at an option from FjordTours called ‘Norway in a Nutshell’.
Given the popularity of the route outlined above FjordTours has built a popular ‘tour’ around it (with various options and add-ons possible) – i.e. Norway in a Nutshell. The company also offers various other tours around Norway.
You will note that I have put the word ‘tour’ in inverted commas. This is deliberate as the ‘tour’ we chose is not your normal guided tour. The ‘tour’ comprised FjordTours booking all the transport components of the trip and handing me a combined ticket at Oslo Central Station, a couple of days prior to my setting off. The ‘tour’ is completely unguided and having picked up he tickets we were on your own – independent travellers though, given my experiences in making the booking, I am confident that should we have encountered a serious problem, not of our own making, FjordTours would have assisted had we contacted them. The all important bus (and everything else) was thus booked.
In terms of cost, you do pay a premium for this service and if you were to add it up the cost was a couple of hundred Krones above the full cost of the individual components. This was actually quite reasonable (and suits last minute bookers) though I could have got a Minipris (discount ticket) on the Oslo – Myrdal train which would have saved an additional NOK500 or so. You cannot pick and choose sectors you buy as part of the package – and specifically you cannot start or finish a tour in Myrdal. This is, of course, where FjordTours makes its money – fair enough.
So the big question is was it worth it or should I have persisted and organised everything myself?
With hindsight I made the right choice for a number of reasons:
1. There was major overbooking on the fjord cruises on the afternoon we were travelling and no way would we have been able to buy a ticket on the day
2. Getting a public bus in Gudvangen would have been a nightmare, especially as we were carrying luggage, given the number of people there trying to get out. As it was, Norway in a Nutshell had ensured numerous additional buses were operating such that everyone with a ticket was guaranteed a seat at the time booked to Voss
3. Everything was organised in advance so I did not have to spend precious time chasing tickets and wondering if connections would be met and was thus able to concentrate on sightseeing
4. Preference seemed to be given to Norway in a Nutshell ticketholders over other independent travellers though that was debatable when trying to get on the correct cruise boat in Flåm.
The one thing that I didn’t book via FjordTours was accommodation in Flåm. It’s accommodation options were all expensive and the reasonably priced Flåm Camping and Youth Hostel, which I wanted, was not offered. I booked this via booking.com.
As I didn’t want to book accommodation as part of my tour and I wanted to vary the cruise time offered from Flåm I contacted the company by email. The person I dealt with was fantastic and extremely efficient in assisting me with the variations I wanted. While I had to put through a booking on the website which needed amendment I was not charged a cent until FjordTours were satisfied that I had what I wanted. At this point the booking was finalised.
All in all, highly recommended.
The pictures attached to the review (apart from the first one which is of the entrance to Nærøyfjord) are of the various forms of transport booked as part of our Norway in a Nutshell tour.