The general healthcare system in Norway is very good with very low fees for the end user. Even being admitted for a big surgery at a hospital is completely free in Norway, but despite this, I still recommend travel insurance to tourists who visit Norway.
So why do you need travel insurance when visiting Norway if the healthcare system is to cheap?
The reason why you still need travel insurance to visit Norway is because all medical treatment has to be paid in full for people from outside EU/EEA. This is not as expensive as it would be in the US, but the total cost can still be very high.
The right to get free or very cheap healthcare in Norway
If you live in Norway or are affiliated with Norway, you will get the right to very cheap and in many cases completely free healthcare. The same goes for those of you that are from the EU or any EEA country, or from Australia (Norway has a very good deal with the Australian government when it comes to healthcare).
For anyone in this group, you will get free use of the hospitals if you need it. A visit to the ER or a regular doctor is very cheap, and typically cost between 200 and 300 NOK ($20 – $30).
This cost is actually a small co-pay that all Norwegians have to pay for a doctors visit as well.
You need to bring your passport or European health care to the clinic to make sure that you get these low prices.
For people who are living in Norway
If you’re living in Norway, then you will most likely have the right to be treated on the same line as a Norwegian when it comes to the healthcare system.
To get the right to this healthcare system, you need to be a member of what is called the National Insurance Scheme (Folketrygden). This is a system for people who are paying taxes to Norway, ensuring them all the benefits of the Norwegian taxes as well.
You will be a member of National Insurance Scheme if you:
- Have a job in Norway.
- Have been staying (legally) in Norway for more than 12 months, or have plans of doing so.
- Are currently applying for asylum in Norway.
- Have been grated a citizenship.
In other words, if you’re living in Norway, you will be treated as other Norwegians by the healthcare system here. You are generally a member of National Insurance Scheme automatically if you fit the criteria.
Anyone has the right to get treatment in Norway
You will never be denied healthcare that is considered to be necessary in Norway, no matter if you got your travel insurance or not. So you will never be turned down by an ambulance if you need it, or anything like that.
At the same time, you cannot really demand public healthcare in Norway. It’s up to the professionals to determine if you need it or not, so non-critical healthcare such as getting help with some minor rashes might not get prioritized if you are visiting Norway.
You can still get help for minor health issues, but you need to do this by going to a doctor, not the public hospitals. And the Norwegian healthcare system allows doctors to prioritize their own patients, so it can occasionally be a bit difficult to get non-critical emergency help as a tourist.
However, critical healthcare is never denied, no matter who you are or where you are from.
How the travel insurance in Norway works
So let’s say you are from the United States, or any country in the Americas, Asia or Africa really, and need medical help in Norway when staying here on vacation.
What happens is that you will get the help you need, either from a doctor, the ER or from the hospical.
But instead of getting a co-payment to pay (or not a payment at all in some cases), you get the full bill. And just like in many other parts of the world, getting help from a team of doctors will be expensive. A regular visit to the doctor can easily cost more than 1,000 NOK ($100), while a big surgery or a several day hospital stay can cost hundreds of thousand Norwegian kroners.
If you got travel insurance, this travel insurance will in most cases cover all the medical bills, and you get the treatment for free (or a small co-payment depending on your insurance).
Most travel insurances cover both critical and non-critical medical services. But that will depend entirely on the travel insurance you have, so it’s impossible for us to give a general statement on what travel insurances do and don’t cover.
Why you might still want a travel insurance if you are from the EU or EEA
I often recommend that people from even within EU, EEA or Australia get a travel insurance as well, since this often has some benefits that you won’t get without it.
One of my major reasons to recommend travel insurance when visiting Norway is because these give you free transportation home if you get sick or injured when visiting Norway.
So while you will have access to free or cheap medical help, the Norwegian government is not going to pay for potential special equipment you need to bring with you on a flight back home, or pay for you to reschedule your flight to get home sooner or later.
A good travel insurance will also give you money if you get robbed (very unlikely in Norway though) or someone steals your stuff.
So there are many other benefits to getting a travel insurance in Norway besides just the free medical treatment. There are even Norwegians who pay for year round travel insurance to keep while traveling internally in Norway. It’s of no use when it comes to the healthcare, but it will be very useful for other situations.
Do you need to pay for rescue operations when hiking?
Hiking is extremely popular in Norway, both for Norwegians and tourists. But people need to be brought down by rescue teams or even rescue helicopters every once in a while. So, who is paying for these rescue operations?
All rescue operations are free of charge in Norway, no matter where you are from. These are funded by the Norwegian government, and are not directly tied to the healthcare system. So you don’t have to pay anything for rescue operations, even if you don’t have travel insurance.
That said, please don’t overestimate how good of a hiker you are, because it’s no fun for anyone if you need a full rescue operation to bring you down from Trolltunga or another hike in Norway. Most rescue workers are volunteers who spend their free time organizing these search and rescue operations.
And let’s just say that Trolltunga is not a random example. Trolltunga is the hike where most tourists need to be brought down by rescue teams every year. The hike is much more difficult than most tourists assume, and people who are not very fit will quickly struggle with the difficult 12 hour hike.