There are lots of ferries in Norway, especially on the western part of the country. You will probably have to ride a few ferries if you travel between the major cities on the western coast in a rental car or bus, because it’s simply the quickest way to get from one side of the fjord to the other.
These ferries are a type of public transport in Norway, and are used by both tourists, truck drivers and commuters. But what can you expect from riding a public ferry in Norway, and can you leave your car during the voyage?
You are pretty much always allowed to leave your car when riding a ferry in Norway, and are in many cases required to. Most ferries have a cafeteria on the top deck, viewing points, and provide great opportunities to get good photos of the beautiful fjords and mountains. Most Norwegians spend their time in the cafeteria, eating a svele and drinking coffee.
What to do when riding a public ferry in Norway
Most travelers use the ferry ride as an opportunity to stretch their legs and get a rest from sitting in the same position. Pretty much all ferries in Norway have a viewing deck where you can stretch your legs while getting a good look at the fjord, mountains and whatever else you can see from the ferry. The weather might not always permit it, but there are also indoor areas on the ferry, as well as bathrooms.
It is also very common for ferries to have cafeterias. These range from small cafeterias that pretty much only sell soft drinks, svele and coffee, to rather big cafeterias that are almost as big as regular cafeterias on shore. You can buy things like hamburgers or other types of fast food in these bigger cafeterias, but it’s rather rare to have such a big range of items.
The svele is a classic Norwegian treat that is commonly eaten on ferries. This is a kind of thick type of sweet pancake. You can choose to top it with either smørkrem (a butter and sugar topping), or brunost (brown cheese). Either option is fine, and makes for a special, yet delicious treat. I urge you to try it if you want to have a typical Norwegian experience when riding the ferry.
Can you stay in your car during the crossing?
Whether you are allowed to stay in your car or not will depend on the ferry you are riding, and your placement on the ferry. If you are parked in the lower deck, then you will not be allowed to stay in your car due to safety reasons. However, most ferry companies allow you to stay in your car during the crossing if you are parked on the top deck (in other words, with the sky above you).
The reason is simply that it is much more dangerous to be stuck in the car on the lower deck in case of a fire or accident to the ferry.
If you have a sleeping child, a fear of being on the lower deck, or another reason why you want to stay in your car during the crossing, ask the personnel before you board the ferry. This allows them to put you in the queue for the cars that are going to be placed on the top deck. Keep in mind that you might be stuffed together with the big trucks on top, so you probably won’t get a good view from your car.
And don’t forget to use your handbrake when you park your car on the ferry!
Covid restrictions used to force people to stay in their cars during the crossing
The pandemic affected ferries just like everything else, and during 2020 and 2021 you typically had to be inside your car during the entire ferry crossing. This only allowed the ferry companies to run at half capacities (since they could not used the lower decks) or find some other solution to make it safe to ride the ferry while staying in your car.
These restrictions are long gone now, so you do not need to worry about being stuck in your car while riding the ferries any longer.