Upbeat travel story – by ship up Norway with the Kindness of a Stranger 12


A friend of mine was IMing me today about my pictures and I was asking about the possibility of getting some of them published somewhere in conjunction with some of my writing and she made what I thought was a telling comment — basically something along the lines of “you are too negative and positive sells.”

Good point.

And I do have a lot of positive travel stories. Perhaps I have been a bit too focused on the negative side in the past few months.

Here is a bit of background on the situation when this exchange all went down. I was in Oslo, Norway at the time. As ya’ll know by now, the only reason I was in that part of the world was to get to the northernmost city in the world. Online, and in the guidebooks I had seen, people had said that I could get a bus from Oslo to Hammerfest — a long one, to be sure, but a direct bus.

When I got to Oslo on a bus from Malmo, Sweden, I asked at the bus station about buying a ticket for the next day on that bus. Turns out that bus doesn’t exist anymore. Apparently, you can only go about half way up Norway via buses. This was a major problem. Getting this close and not making one of my (revised) travel goals was going to be really annoying.

I turned to one of the travel forums out there for advice. In this case, the Lonely Planet ThornTree forum. The first post that follows was my request for information. The rest of the give and take was between me and a Norwegian that immediately chimed in and helped me out.

By helping me out, I mean that he stepped me entirely through this process. He went over my options. I decided on the boat option. He then researched that for me (the boat’s website was in Norwegian) and got back to me on my choices. I thought I’d include the exchange on the forum, just because it was so amazing to me that this guy was replying to me within minutes of my posts – check out the time stamps on the postings!

The savior portion of this can be shown by his explanation of how to get to Hammerfest by bus: “The first onward bus will be the 1530 bus to Storslett (basically in the middle of nowhere. You’ll arrive at 2130 in the night and have to find somehow to survive until next morning (it has started snowing here today!).”

I later told him I was going to write a blog about it, and he asked to remain anonymous, so I’m not going to post the follow-up emails. Basically, after this exchange on the forums, he then helped me out at an even higher level.

He ended up calling the boat that was leaving Bodo (the town that I was taking an overnight train to that night) the next day for the trip all the way to Kirkenes, which is on the Russian border. He reserved a cabin for me on that ship and I was set to arrive with plenty of time and pay when I got there.

Then I took the first leg of the train, from Oslo to Trondheim, and noticed that I had mistakenly bought a train ticket for the wrong night. I had tickets for the next night. The conductor let me on the train to Trondheim, but the next train wouldn’t let me continue on the wrong ticket. So, I had to get a hotel for the night.

As a result, I wasn’t going to make my reservation for the boat. I emailed him and apologized for my screw-up, and he then proceeded to call the first boat and cancel me out. And, of course, then called the boat coming through the next day and booked me on that one. All this without me asking, because I was so embarrassed and annoyed that I’d screwed up the train ticket.

This all from a person that I never met. Never talked to. And likely will never meet in my life.

The road is good. And I’m the luckiest traveler in the world.

Posted
28-Sep-2009 17:30
by: michaelshodson


far north travel right now

I am in Oslo and trying to get from here to Hammerfest, then back down to Helsinki. It doesn’t appear there are any buses running from Oslo to Hammerfest this late in the year, so am taking the train to Bodo tonight. From there, I am going to try to use local buses all the way up, I hope.

My question more is the return. I have looked around and can’t see any overland (I am not flying at all) way from north Norway to Finland. I do see roads on the map. Any bus companies or such go those routes this time of year that anyone knows of?

Posted
28-Sep-2009 18:57
by: XXXXXXX

The best way of getting from Bodø to Hammerfest would be Hurtigruten, but it might be too expensive. You could try to look for bargain tickets at https://www.velgogseil.no/bestilling.aspx?arr=KKN&dep=BOO – only in Norwegian, but I’ll give you the essential translations:

Voksne=adults
Barn/Baby=children/baby

Then select travel date(s), the price includes cabin(s) and breakfast. The “Kjøretøy” section applies to vehicles, just leave it as it is if you’re not bringing a car.

This offer applies for Bodø-Kirkenes tickets only, but you can leave the ship at any time (but you can’t continue on the same ticket on the next ship).

This will cost you NOK1325, which is far less than you’d have to pay with local buses and basic accommodation along the way.

Other options are plane, check fares at http://www.wideroe.no/?language=en, tickets start at about NOK 1100 (with connection in Tromsø).

The bus trip will be quite cumbersome. If doing this, leave the train at Fauske (do not proceed to Bodø) and the 08:55 bus from there to Narvik, arriving 1330. The first onward bus will be the 1530 bus to Storslett (basically in the middle of nowhere). You’ll arrive at 2130 in the night and have to find somehow to survive until next morning (it has started snowing here today!). The next onward bus does not leave until 1925 next day, it will take you to Alta, dropping you off there at 2230. The onward travel to Hammefest will be by local boat, it does not leave until 0700 next morning. Do you really want to do this?!?

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:08
by: michaelshodson

hmmmm — you do not paint a good picture. I do really want to do this, but am a bit worried about it now. Will check the Hurigruten option. They are still sailing this late in the year? You know how frequently?

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:13
by: XXXXX

Ah, I see now youre arriving in Bodø tomorrow morning. As I told you, the bus trip will be very cumbersome. Unless you have some places along the route you wish to visit, you should forget about it – it will turn up as the most expensive option, as you’ll have to organise at least two overnight stays on the route.

If you are less than 26 years old, Widerøe has youth tickets available tomorrow for NOK 1089 from Bodø to Hammerfest. As the night train from Trondheim arrives in Bodø at 09:10 tomorrow morning, your first option is the 12:25 from Bodø to Tromsø, and from there with the 13:35 plane to Hammerfest, arriving there at 14:18. If youre 26+, prices tomorrow start at NOK 3529 – you’re essentially forced to book full fare tickets on such short notice.

There’s no bargain tickets on Hurtigruten tomorrow. A basic ticket without cabin or meals will cost you about NOK 1356, it will be much more comfortable and interesting than doing this trip by bus. And probably less expensive, too…

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:18
by: michaelshodson

you are wonderful for giving all these last minute tips. Many thanks.

I can’t take a plane — my mission is to get around the world without taking any planes — and hitting the southernmost and northermost cities — which is why I need to get to Hammerfest.

I don’t mind paying the fare for the boat, if that is the best way there. I would hate to fail now. It sounds like I need to take the boat — but I am totally unsure how to book that. Should I go to a travel agent here in Oslo today before I board the train this afternoon? Is there an easy way to do Bodo to Hammerfest online on the boat site?

THANKS

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:19
by: XXXXXX

Hurtigruten runs daily around the year. You can’t book online for tomorrow as the boat has left Bergen. You could try calling the ship directly, tomorrow’s northbound from Bodø is MS “Polarlys”, leaving at 15:00. Their phone number is +47 994 87 275. The boat arrives in Hammerfest at 06:45 on ht 1st of October.

Students get a 50% discount on Hurtigruten if you ask nicely. 🙂

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:23
by: michaelshodson

I wish I was a student 🙂 hell — I might go back to school after this trip — I will need the break . . .

OK — daily ships — that is GREAT news. You are going to laugh at me for another reason — I don’t have a cell phone — so no calling the ship. Since they are daily, I assume I can go somewhere in Bodo and buy a ticket for this part of the trip on whatever ship arrives that day.

Correct? If so, do you know where to go in Bodo.

And seriously — you are the nicest poster I have yet met on this site. SO many thanks. You are about to make it into my daily blog today — so I need the correct spelling of your name!

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:27
by: XXXXX

Then it is the onward travel from Hammerfest. I am really clueless about bus options there, you should try contacting the tourist office in Hammerfest, contact info is at http://www.hammerfest-turist.no/index.php?page_id=6068. Getting to Kirkenes should be easy (by bus or boat), from there you can take a dailiy bus to Murmansk, see http://www.pasvikturist.no/wips/1085838145/.

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:28
by: XXXXXX

Please PM [private message] me, and I’ll help you with booking a ticket on the ship. I’ll need your name, gender, year of birth and nationality. Please confirm your arrival time in Bodø (check your train booking) as well.

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:33
by: XXXXX

There’s no ticket office in Bodø – there are travel agencies, but they will probably demand a booking fee. At this time of year, you could usually just pop up on Hurtigruten and get a ticket, they are unlikely to be fully booked.

As with regards to “daily” ships – in the low season (now), there might be cancellations. So you shouldn’t rely on the daily ship arriving, check first at http://www.hurtigruten.no/Norge/praktisk/Hvilket-skip-fra-havn/ – enter harbour of departure and date to see which ships will leave for the next few days. E.g., the northbound from Bodø is cancelled on October 2nd.

Posted
28-Sep-2009 19:39
by: michaelshodson

many, many thanks. Seriously, you are a savior.


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.


12 thoughts on “Upbeat travel story – by ship up Norway with the Kindness of a Stranger

  • brian

    People surprise you. This guy went above and beyond the call of duty. Every long term traveler has at least one experience where help came the most unexpected places. Glad you've had yours.

  • brian

    People surprise you. This guy went above and beyond the call of duty. Every long term traveler has at least one experience where help came the most unexpected places. Glad you've had yours.

  • Reba

    That is a wonderful positive story! (I actually think most of yours are positive and would worry if you never posted the negative. 🙂

  • Reba

    That is a wonderful positive story! (I actually think most of yours are positive and would worry if you never posted the negative. 🙂

  • Odysseus

    I’m always impressed when someone helps me to navigate a foreign country. It reminds me that I should be extra-kind to foreigners myself when I return to the U.S. Have to pay back the good kharma. 🙂

  • Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    Great to hear this upbeat travel story about a selfless local who bends over backwards to help a foreign visitor– and doesn’t want to be mentioned at all in your blog. That’s amazing! I had a similar experience in Laos, where woman swooped in to rescue us in two different cities. This is a reminder that I should be more helpful to visitors to NYC 🙂

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