Money & Shopping
Norwegian currency is the Norwegian crown (norske krone) NOK, sometimes abbreviated kr or kr., but often just the amount is shown on price tickets. A 1/100th krone is called øre. Be careful when crossing borders to differentiate the Norwegian krone (NOK) from the Swedish (SEK) or Danish (DKK) krone. The exchange rate between the Scandinavian currencies is approximately 1:1. In September 2014, there were about NOK8.24 to one euro. Euros are generally not accepted in shops, except in some airports and international transport (flights, ferries).
Coins come in 1, 5, 10, and 20 kroner. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner. While price tags still include øre, for instance NOK9.99, there are no coins smaller than 1 kroner so prices are rounded.
ATMs in Norway are called Minibank. There is no problem locating an ATM machine in urban areas. At main airports and Oslo Central Station, you can withdraw euros, dollars, British pounds, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian kroner. Nearly all stores, accept major credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa (bring your passport/driving licence, as you are required to identify yourself when using a credit card).
Norway is an expensive country for visitors. While it is possible to travel in Norway on a limited budget, some care must be taken. Because labour is costly, anything that can be seen as a "service" will in general be more expensive than you expect. Travel costs can also be a killer, because the country is large and distances long, so a rail or air pass can save you a lot of money.
As rules of thumb, subsisting on under NOK500/day will be difficult even if you stay in hostels and self-cater, with NOK1000/day allowing a more comfortable mid-range lifestyle and over NOK2000/day needed for good hotels and restaurants.
Take care when buying alcohol and tobacco. It will most certainly be more expensive than you expect. A 400 or 500mL beer in a pub or restaurant will cost around NOK60 whilst a 500mL can of 4.7% beer in a supermarket costs about NOK25. Cigarettes cost about 100 kr for a pack of 20, and a bottle of 500mL Coke will usually cost NOK20 in shops. On the positive side: Norway has good quality tap water. Buying bottled drinking water is unnecessary and hugely expensive.
Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are also more expensive than in most countries due to the labour costs. A large BigMac menu will set you back around NOK90, the same goes for a Double Whopper Cheese menu. Also, keep in mind that most bakeries, fast food chains, and other types of restaurants that offer takeout, charge more if you eat it at the restaurant than if you take it with you, due to differences in the VAT rate.
If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around NOK1,500 (€190) per day is not unrealistic.
You can save some money by bringing supplies. Be aware of the strict Norwegian border regulations, which allow a maximum of 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, 1 litre of hard alcohol and 1 1/2 litre of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 3 litres of wine and 2 litres of beer OR 5 litres of beer. As a general rule, tobacco, alcohol and meat will be comparatively expensive. Vegetables, flour, baby articles, car supplies (oil, window wiper fluid and so on), and clothes will have (almost) the same price as in neighbouring countries, or even be cheaper.
Many Norwegians living near the borders with Sweden, Finland or Russia head into those countries to purchase groceries, as the costs are significantly cheaper. While the option of crossing into Russia is not available for most travellers due to Russia's onerous visa requirements, those visiting areas near the Swedish or Finnish borders should consider this option before travelling to other areas, as there are no border controls between Norway and Sweden or Finland. Except for the border areas near Oslo, Sweden and Finland are very sparsely populated near the Norwegian border. Still there are shops near the border, which wouldn't exist without Norway.
Traditionally, the tip has not been common, but is being introduced by outside influence. Tipping should be given only as a token of real appreciation for the service.
In Norway, like most of Europe, waiters are not dependent on tips from customers as they are in the US, as they are well paid. However, tipping is not unusual in mid- to high-end cafés and restaurants, but only if you feel you have been treated well. In restaurants, even though there is a service fee, rounding up is the norm, and 10% is considered generous. It is not normal to tip outside restaurants and bars, but in situations where change is common it is polite to leave the change (for example, taxis). Tipping cab drivers is usual if you travel for more than NOK200, but you will get no reaction from the driver should you choose not to tip, so this may be a new experience to American and English tourists. Tipping is never considered offensive, but not tipping is also rarely frowned upon.
It is possible to exchange money in most banks near tourist information offices, in the post-office or withdraw the money in local currency from the ATM. In some places, however, they don't handle cash in the banks so they only way to exchange money is in the post offices where the exchange fee might be up to NOK75 (€9.09, USD11.78)!
You will get the best rate when you withdraw money from the ATM or simply pay with a credit card. Note that the country is currently upgrading to a new system using computer chips embedded in the card and a pin number. Credit cards with magnetic strips are still accepted throughout the country; however, you will have to let the merchant know that the you do not have a pin code you need to sign instead. It is also important to note that sometimes a merchant system will not allow signatures, so it is a good precaution to have cash on hand to pay if needed.
For example (August 2009) the exchange rate in the bank was NOK8.75 for €1 (taking into consideration that it is not possible to exchange an amount for more than NOK5000 per one transaction and there is a commission of NOK100 for each transaction); in the tourist information office the rate exchange was NOK7.28 (no commissions), by withdrawal from ATM the rate was NOK7.74 (taking into consideration all the bank commissions).
Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (13:00 or 15:00 is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 22:00 or 23:00 on weekdays. You'll often see opening hours written as "9-21 (9-18)" on doors, meaning 9am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm Saturdays. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Coop, ICA and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Meny, Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.
Convenience stores, notably the major chains Narvesen and Mix (all over the country), Deli de Luca (Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen only) and 7-Eleven (bigger cities only), are open from early morning until late at night every day, with 24 hour service in the biggest cities. All over the country you will find gas-stations, Statoil, Shell, fresh/selected, YX (HydroTexaco) (these days turning into 7-eleven with gas) and Esso, On the Run. Virtually all gas-stations serve fast-food, especially sausages and cheese. Also hamburgers, pizza, and so on. The gas-stations have long opening periods, and the bigger stations in cities and near bigger crossroads are open 24 hours. Items sold in convenience stores and gas stations are relatively expensive.
Most big cities have over the years been almost exclusively dominated by shopping malls. Although you do have shopping streets like Karl Johans Gate in Oslo, Strandgaten in Bergen and Nordre gate/Olav Tryggvasons gate in Trondheim, you are bound to find malls around the country by Thon Gruppen and other major companies. Norway is also home to Scandinavias biggest mall - Sandvika Storsenter - located 15 minutes outside Oslo by train. In Oslo you have Byporten Shopping Senter, Oslo City and Gunerius located right next to Oslo S train station and Paléet and Arkaden Shopping in Karl Johans Gate, as well as several malls and shopping centres a bit further out.
Getting "good deals" and bargaining is frowned upon, and the service workers are generally not authorized to give you a better price - only larger items such as cars are subject to haggling. The price you see is the price you pay. If you plan on buying tax-free, a good practice is to bring with you the necessary forms. Most stores will have these forms at hand themselves but it is a good precaution. Also, if you pay with a credit card, you might have to sign the receipt which will require some form of ID, driving licence and passport are both OK. This is due to the strict nature of money transactions.