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Five things you need to know before travelling to Norway's Lofoten Islands

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Five things you need to know before travelling to Norway's Lofoten Islands
We have created a list of five helpful recommendations to consider before embarking on a trip to Lofoten. Photo by Andrew St Lawrence on Unsplash

By planning ahead, you can make sure that you'll be in a position to make the most out of your trip to one of Norway's most talked-about travel destinations – the Lofoten Islands.

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It's well known that the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway offers scenery to make your jaw drop.

But the islands also offer some amazing activities you can partake in, from visiting the Lofoten Aquarium, the Lofotr Viking Museum, and the Lofoten War Remembrance Museum to more active pursuits, such as hiking, fishing trips, sea eagle safaris, kayaking, and chasing the Northern Lights.

The Lofoten Islands have an abundance of things to see and do on any given day, provided that the weather gods are on your side.

READ MORE: The five best things to do on Norway's Lofoten Islands

To avoid being caught by surprise by, it's a good idea to read up on what you should expect once you get there – and especially about what you need to prepare before you make the trip.

We've compiled a list of five tips on what to know and do before travelling to Lofoten that is bound to make your life easier once you get there.

Rent a car in advance

Lofoten is a group of islands, so getting around then will require a car, bike, or the patience to wait for the bus. As the weather on the islands is volatile to say the least, relying on a bike can be risky.

So, what is a prospective traveller to do, you ask? Book a rental car in advance – especially if you're planning a trip during peak tourist season when the demand is high.

Trust us on this one: having a car will make moving around the islands so much easier and as there is free parking in most towns and villages, it also enhances your day-trip options. 

Several rent-a-car operators can provide you with a vehicle. Most of them have designated car pickup points (as is the case at the regional Svolvær Airport, operated by Avinor), making everything quite straightforward.

If there's no queue at the pickup point, you'll get a car with a full tank and be ready to drive off in the direction of your accommodation in a matter of minutes.

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Hamnøy

Weather can be a crucial factor in determining the quality of your stay in Lofoten. Photo by Andrew St Lawrence on Unsplash

Weather is king

Good weather is often a deciding factor between a 3/10 and a 10/10 Lofoten stay – especially if you're looking forward to outdoor activities, such as hiking and kayaking.

If you can, plan your trip during seasons when you can count on relatively stable and sunny weather.

Of course, there are no guarantees, and the weather can change rapidly, but visiting during certain months will cut the chance of leaving disappointed.

If you're a fan of outdoor activities, the summer months are your safest pick. If, on the other hand, you're looking to chase down the Aurora Borealis, your best bet is to visit from September to the end of March, when the nights are long and dark. Be warned, though, that cloudy weather can obscure the phenomenon.

Note that any sea-related activities will be greatly affected by the weather. Group tours and boat rentals will postpone or cancel trips if they think weather conditions are dangerous.

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Don't underestimate the prices

It's a well-known fact that Norway is among the most expensive countries in Europe, and the Lofoten Islands are no exception.

Organised and guided activities will often set you back a minimum of 1,000 kroner per person, and expect to pay between 600 and 1,200 kroner for a meal with drinks at most bistros and restaurants. So it's a good idea to budget for your trip before you reach the islands. This will reduce the risk of overspending and breaking the bank on unplanned activities, local delicacies, souvenirs, and alcohol.

Pssst! If you're staying at a place with a working kitchen or communal cooking space, you can cut down on food expenses by shopping at low-price grocery chains (such as Kiwi) and then preparing your own meals or sandwiches for road trips.

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Lofoten cabins

Each season offers a unique experience for travellers to the Lofoten Islands. Photo by Fabian Jung on Unsplash

Each season has its ups and downs

Visiting Lofoten is a game of seasons. If you want to land a trophy fish, you'll likely want to visit between January to April, a period called skrei season.

Skrei is a type of Atlantic cod that spawns in the waters off the coast of Norway each year, and Lofoten is known for its excellent skrei fishing.

If you visit during skrei season, you also have excellent chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

After the skrei season ends, both the fishing and the tourist industries take a break until June, when the peak season for tourism starts.

Savvy tourists who aren't fans of hiking sometimes book a stay between April and May when there are fewer tourists, prices drop a little, and the weather tends to be nice.

There are several potential downsides to booking in the April-May period, though: due to the melting ice, the avalanche risk is significant throughout the archipelago, weather can be volatile (meaning that you could miss out on sea-related activities due to storms), and the nights start to get brighter, which can affect your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. 

You can expect the biggest crowds in the summer months, as most people will bet on the weather being nice enough to support outdoor activities most of the time. This makes both accommodation and rentals pricier.

It will also have a negative effect on your overall experience in the islands, as hotspots quickly become overrun by tourists.

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Cash is not a thing

Norway is a relatively cashless society, and Lofoten also relies mainly on card and online payments.

So, make sure to bring a bank card, and don't be surprised if most stores, diners, tour operators, and guides ask for card or digital payments. Credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted at most places. Some stores also accept mobile payment options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.

In the unlikely event that you need cash, ATMs are available in most Lofoten towns. However, some may not accept foreign debit cards, so it's worth checking with your bank or credit card company before your trip to ensure your cards will work in Norway.

Bonus tip: Tipping is not expected in Norway, and service charges are usually included in the (already hefty) prices. However, as you'll often be asked to type in the total amount when paying at restaurants and bars, rounding up the bill to the nearest whole amount is quite common.

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