14 Surprisingly Illegal Things In Norway

Most countries have some laws and regulations that surprises tourists who come to visit that particular country, and Norway is no different. There are plenty of weird rules and laws in Norway, and we will be looking closer at some illegal things that might come as a surprise to tourists.

So, let’s take a closer look at surprisingly illegal things in Norway, and whether or not the laws are actually followed.

1) Intending to see a live polar bear in the wild

The only place in Norway with polar bears is on the island Svalbard. There’s about 3.000 polar bears on the island, but tourists who visit with the hopes of going on a polar bear safari will be disappointed. That is because it’s actually illegal to attempt to go out in nature to see a wild polar bear.

This means that you won’t find anyone who offers a polar bear safari at any place on Svalbard / Spitsbergen, and your only option of seeing one is if they randomly appear.

That said, if you really want to see one, book a coast boat trip or a snowmobile safari, and the chances of randomly seeing one with binoculars is pretty high.

Is the law really followed: Yes, as in the fact that there are no organized polar bear safaris or anything like that. But tourists who just hope to see a polar bear won’t get fined unless they disturb them (which you should not do anyway, since they will easily kill humans who get too close).

Polar bear
A polar bear. Photo published with permission.

2) Dressing up as a police officer

A police officer outfit might sound like the perfect Halloween outfit, but not in Norway. You can get up to 3 years of prison time if you dress up as a police officer, even though it’s more usual for people who break this law to get fined a few thousand NOK.

The rule is in place to prevent people from being unsure if a person is a real police or not, so police costumes that are obviously not a real police uniform will not be illegal.

And while this might sound strange to some, it’s not for Norwegians. A police uniform costume made to look as real as possible was part of the outfit for the July 22 terrorism where 77 people (mainly children) lost their lives.

Is the law really followed: Yes, this is followed very strictly. Expect to be approached by the real police very quickly if you are wearing a fake police uniform in public.

Two Norwegian police officers
Two Norwegian police officers. Photo by Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet / CC BY 2.0.

3) Selling alcohol to other people

There are very strict rules and regulations when it comes to who is actually allowed to sell alcohol in Norway, and stores need to have a permit to sell it. This permit comes with a lot of commitments such as the commitment to ID check anyone who might be younger than 25 or to also sell during certain hours of the day.

This also means that you cannot as a private person sell alcohol to anyone. You are not really allowed to even buy beer for a friend and get money for it, even if you don’t make a profit on it.

The legal age of drinking alchohol in Norway is 18 years for beer and wine, and 20 years for stronger drinks.

Is the law really followed: Yes and no. People who sell alcohol at parties will get a fine from the police if they are caught, but it’s not like anyone will care if you pick up a bottle of wine for a friend that is above the legal limit.

4) Neutering dogs

Neutering dogs without a good reason is illegal in Norway. Vets will not spray dogs unless there’s a medical reason for it, and this has to do with the animal welfare law that says that no animals should undergo the risk of surgery unless there’s a medical reason for it.

This means that you won’t simply get to neuter your dog in Norway, but overly sexual behavior, tumors in the reproductive organs and things like that are considered a reason to have them neutered.

Since regular neutering is illegal, the method of neutering them is to give them a hormone implant. This is a small chip that is put into the neck of the dog, that acts as a chemical neutering. The downside is that you need to apply this every 12 months, so it’s a bit of a hassle and an extra expense for dog owners.

Is the law really followed: Yes. Vets will not operate on your dog without a good medical reason.

Skiing with dog
Dogs are great companions for ski trips. Photo published with permission.

5) Driving a snowmobile without a special permit

Snowmobiles can only be used in a few selected areas in Norway, or if you got a permit for using it for a particular destination. People often get permits to drive a snowmobile to and from their cabin, which will allow them to ride it at this particular distance, but not anywhere else.

There are also a few public snowmobile trails in Norway where anyone can ride a snowmobile, but these are far from common, and tend to be mostly in Northern Norway.

Joyriding is also illegal, and all snowmobile driving must have a goal and a clear destination, even if you have the permit.

This is a pretty big contrast to many other countries where you can drive a snowmobile anywhere in nature!

The reason why you can’t drive your snowmobile in nature is because it can lead to negative effects for the local wildlife and environment.

Is the law really followed: Yes, you will get fined if you drive a snowmobile without a permit.

Snowmobiles. Photo published with permission.

6) Picking cloudberries in Northern-Norway

Cloudberries are one of the most sought-after berries in all of Norway, and they can sell for a huge amount of money.

The regions Troms og Finnmark and Nordland have a weird rule that overrides the freedom to roam that usually allows anyone to harvest berries as they want.

When you are in either of these two regions and want to pick cloudberries, make sure to keep an eye out for a sign that says it’s illegal to pick cloudberries. If there is a sign saying this, it is in fact illegal!

The is a sharp contrast to the rest of Norway where you can pick berries anywhere without getting the approval from anyone.

That said, there’s an exception to the rule. If you pick and eat the berries, you can do so even if there’s signs there. However, don’t bring any of the berries home with you, and you are in the clear.

Is the law really followed: The law does not often lead to fines or end up in court, but you should respect these signs.

Cloudberry. Photo published with permission.

PS. there’s also a myth about it being illegal to harvest unripe cloudberries in Norway. This is actually an old law that has been removed, so you don’t need to worry about this any longer.

7) Driving with the wrong car tires

You need to change tires two times each year when in Norway, since the snow requires a different set of tires than in the summer. A lot of people are very surprised to learn that it’s illegal to drive with the wrong tires, and people are in fact getting fined if they use winter studded tires during the summer.

You are only allowed to use studded winter tires after the first day of snowfall, and until the final day of Easter. There is an exception for Northern Norway that allows you to keep using winter tires even longer, as well as the exception if it’s still snow on the ground after this date.

After that, you will get fined for driving with studded winter tires.

Driving during winter with summer tires is not illegal by its own law in the same way as the law that regulates the studded winter tires, but it is illegal as a general law. This is because summer tires are unfit for snowy conditions, and it’s illegal to drive any car that is unfit for the driving conditions.

Expect to get a big fine if you are driving on summer tires after the first snowfall. An even worse outcome is if you crash, since most insurances won’t pay the money if you drive a car that’s unfit for the driving conditions.

Is the law really followed: Yes, and there’s somewhat frequent checks for it. Driving with studded tires during the summer will leave a special type of dust behind your car when driving, so it is actually pretty easy for the police to spot.

8) Owning a pitbull terrier

There are a total of 6 banned dog breeds in Norway, and it’s illegal to own or keep any dog of either of these breeds, or a mix that includes any of the banned breeds. The most known banned dog breed is the pitbull terrier, a breed that is seemingly very popular in many other countries.

If you try to bring a pitbull terrier to Norway, not only will you get a fine, but you will also end up having to put the dog down. The proof of burden rest on the owner, meaning that you should provide documents to prove that the dog is in fact not any of the illegal dog breeds.

Is the law really followed: Yes. There is a high chance that the police will require you to present documents to prove that it’s not a banned dog breed if there’s even a small suspicion of it. Don’t bring a pitbull terrier to Norway!

Pitbull terrier
Pitbull terrier dogs are illegal in Norway. Photo published with permission.

9) Picking certain plants and flowers

Norway has certain plants that are protected by law, and some of these have a pretty strict protection. Picking or disturbing any of these can lead to a fine or potentially jail time. Most Norwegians are unaware of these laws, so it’s not usually a big deal, and the flowers on the list are extremely rare to begin with.

There is a rumor in Norway that the liverwort (Anemone hepatica) is protected. This is a common spring flower that children often pick. Fortunately this is only a rumor, and it’s perfectly legal to pick this one.

Liverworts are not restricted. Photo by W.carter / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Is the law really followed: Kind of. You likely won’t get into trouble if you pick one by accident, but if you do it intentionally or to sell it, then you are likely to get taken to criminal court.

Cypripedium calceolus
Cypripedium calceolus is one of the plants protected by law in Norway. Photo by Ivar Leidus / CC BY-SA 3.0.

10) Shooting fireworks outside of New Year’s Eve

Fireworks are in general banned in Norway, with an exception for the rule that only applies from December 31 from 18.00 until January 1 at 03.00. This means that you have these 7 hours to fire up fireworks, and fireworks that are lit at any other time are in fact illegal.

There are also strict rules about when and where you can sell fireworks in Norway, so you will only see firework for sale between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks are not really a big problem in Norway, and most people respect these laws.

Is the law really followed: Yes, you will get a fine if you get caught.

11) Driving so that your car splashes a pedestrian

Both the spring and autumn in Norway tend to have pretty heavy rainfall, but that doesn’t always deter pedestrians from walking on the sidewalk. The problem that often comes up is that there’s a lot of water on the road, and the car splashes this when driving.

If this water splash hits a pedestrian, expect to get a fine. This is against the law that says that all drivers should be considerate towards pedestrians, and the rate of the fine is currently at 4.000 NOK!

So what to do? Just slow down when passing by pedestrians. It might not be a lot of fun, but it’s definitely not fun for someone to get their day ruined by a big splash either.

Is the law really followed: Yes, you will likely get a fine if you get reported for splashing a pedestrian.

12) Letting your dog be unleashed during the summer

Norway has a general forced leash period for dogs between April 1 and August 20, meaning that you are legally required to have your dog on a leash in this period.

The reason for this somewhat peculiar law is to protect the wildlife. Most wild animals give birth to children during the late spring, so all wildlife is extra vulnerable in this time period. Dogs have historically lead to the death of plenty of breeding birds and waterfowl, and young roe deer that often hides in the grass just next to trails.

So make sure to leash up during this forced leash period. Some municipalities have even stricter local rules, so you might even have to keep your dog leashed for longer in some parts of Norway.

Is the law really followed: Yes and no. You should follow the law, and some people will likely report you to the police if you don’t follow it. That said, it’s not often that people are fined for breaking the law.

Borzoi dog
The dogs can be off leash during winter if you have control over it. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / thenorwayguide.com.

13) Driving without headlights

You are legally required to have the headlights on when driving your car, even during the middle of the day in summer. There are no exceptions to this rule, so keep the headlights on at all times when the car in moving.

Norwegian cars even come with headlights that will automatically start when you boot up the engine, and you have to manually shut them off if you need to. This is in contrast to most other countries where the cars come with the headlights turned off until you manually turn them on.

Is the law really followed: Yes, this law is followed, and you will get a warning if you drive without it. If you’re very unlucky, you might even get a fine.

14) Mowing your lawn on a Sunday

Sunday are per definition a holiday in Norway, and you are not allowed to do any activity that makes a lot of noise. This includes things like mowing the lawn, operating big machinery or do anything else that will bother your neighbors.

You might actually get a call from the police if you are out and mowing your lawn on a Sunday in Norway. They will usually tell you to stop, but if you don’t, they might even come by and give you a fine.

So save tasks that make noise to other days of the week!

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