Driving in Lofoten: 10 Things Tourists Do Wrong | Guide to Lofoten

Driving in Lofoten

10 Things Tourists Do Wrong
(And How to Avoid Being "That" Tourist)

Driving in Lofoten can be a memorable adventure. However, it’s no secret that some tourists tend to make hilarious blunders behind the wheel. To ensure you don’t become the star of a local comedy show, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things tourists often do wrong while driving in our beautiful Lofoten Islands. 

So, buckle up and get ready for some laughter and valuable insights!

WHY DO WE WRITE AN ARTICLE ABOUT DRIVING IN LOFOTEN?

Hi guys, Radka and Ivar here! 

For those who do not know us, we are the faces behind the Guide to Lofoten page. Having moved to Lofoten three summers ago, we find ourselves in a unique position. 

While the born and raised locals often perceive us as tourists, the visitors see us as locals. This prompted us to dedicate our webpage to fostering understanding and harmony between these two groups.

As we are now entering the busiest summer season, the picturesque roads of Lofoten get filled with campervans and rental cars, often driven by drivers with limited experience behind the wheel. This leads to a mix of comical and dangerous traffic situations. 

While tourists come here to admire the breathtaking landscapes, the locals traverse these roads daily for work or errands. It becomes frustrating to be stuck behind a camper leisurely driving at 30 km/h, captivated by the scenery, or worse, halting abruptly in the middle of the road for a photo opportunity. 

In light of this, we have decided to write an article outlining the most common driving and parking mistakes made by tourists in the Lofoten Islands. 

Our aim is to cultivate a more relaxed and enjoyable summer for everyone—be it tourists, locals, drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians—who shares the enchanting roads of Lofoten.

Are you planning to explore the Lofoten Islands by a car?

#1 Embracing the Narrow Roads like a Contortionist

Ah, the narrow roads of Lofoten! They wind and twist like a contortionist performing at a circus. But beware, dear tourists, for these roads demand caution. Avoid hugging the center line like it’s your long-lost lover.

Give way to oncoming traffic and maintain a safe distance from the treacherous edges. Remember, a relaxed grip on the steering wheel is preferable to white-knuckle panic!

Driving in Lofoten: Around Reine and the villages in Reinefjorden the road is often too narrow for two cars to pass each other. The bridges have only one lane and there are traffic lights.
Villages in Reinefjorden
The narrow roads in Lofoten in the town of Henningsvaer
Henningsvær

#2 Parking at the Passing Places

Imagine cruising along the breathtaking Lofoten roads, only to encounter a tourist parked at a passing place, obliviously snapping pictures of the stunning surroundings. Please, dear traveler, do not be that person! 

A passing place is a gap on the side of the road big enough for a car to pull into to let another car pass, not a designated parking spot. 

Keep them clear for other vehicles and use proper parking areas instead. You don’t want to be known as the “Instagram influencer” causing traffic chaos, do you?

The parking at the passing places issue is most pressing on the Fredvang bridges that have only one line
The parking at the passing places issue is most pressing on the Fredvang bridges that have only one line. So what you see on the left lower corner of the picture is a passing place. Those places are marked with a blue sign with a white letter M.

#3 Mid-Road Photo Ops​

We understand the desire to capture every picturesque moment in Lofoten, but stopping dead in the middle of the road for a photo? That’s a big no-no! It’s essential to find safe and designated pull-off areas or scenic viewpoints to satisfy your photography cravings. 

Trust us, the locals will appreciate your consideration, and you won’t end up as the star of their dashcam compilation videos.

When driving in Lofoten do not just stop in the middle of the road to take a picture.
Yes, you will get the best view of this majestic mountain on the way to Nusfjord from the middle of the road. That does not mean though, that you should stop out of a blue. Pull over, check the traffic and then get your dream picture.

Are you looking for activities in Lofoten, Tromsø, Oslo or Alta?

#4 Slow as snail or fast as lightning

Some tourists crawl along the roads at a snail’s pace, taking in every pixel of the scenery, while others zoom past like they’re chasing the last Moskenes-Bodø ferry. 

 

Find your middle ground, dear visitor. Embrace a steady pace that allows you to appreciate the majestic landscapes while respecting the traffic flow. 

 

Remember, it’s not a race to the finish line—it’s about the journey itself.

one of the mistakes people do when driving in Lofoten is being too slow and not letting other cars pass.
In case that you do not know, we actually live in our camper van, so we know that sometimes (especially up the hill) your heavy camper simply can not go any faster. That´s ok. But when there is a line of cars forming behing you, pull over and let them pass.

#5 Tunnel Trepidation

Lofoten boasts its fair share of tunnels, and some tourists approach them like they’re entering the lair of a fire-breathing dragon. Fear not, brave traveler! Tunnels in the Lofoten Islands are mostly well-lit, excellently maintained, and safe to navigate. 

Embrace your inner tunnel conqueror, switch on your headlights, and enjoy the cool, mysterious ambiance. Just don’t forget to breathe while you pass through!

You will drive through quite a few tunnels while road tripping in Lofoten. But do not worry, they are well lit and there is enough space inside to pass other cars.
You will drive through quite a few tunnels while road tripping in Lofoten. But do not worry, they are well lit and there is enough space inside to pass other cars.

#6 Blind Overtaking Madness

Picture this: You’re driving behind a slow-moving camper van, and impatience gets the best of you. Suddenly, a gap appears, and you decide to overtake without a clear line of sight. Congratulations, dear driver, you’ve just become a character in a Norwegian traffic fable!

Exercise patience and only overtake when it’s safe and legal. Your fellow drivers will thank you, and you’ll avoid awkward conversations with local law enforcement.

While driving in Lofoten behind a slow car, do not overtake it unless it is safe
The locals are more culpable for this particular behavior compared to the tourists, but it arises directly from some tourists driving too slowly. So, dear locals, this one is for you: Try to exercise patience!

Are you at the planning stage of your trip to the Lofoten Islands?

#7 The Nighttime Parking Predicament:

Now, dear tourists, let’s address a pressing matter: parking overnight at places where camping is a big no-no. 

In Norway, the freedom to camp or park overnight is indeed allowed, but only if you abide by the rules. One important rule is to ensure you are at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. 

So, while taking advantage of that cozy private parking spot may be tempting, remember that locals treasure their private spaces and aren’t too thrilled with unexpected camping neighbours.

Respect the boundaries, avoid awkward encounters, and seek proper camping areas or designated overnight parking spots

Your peaceful sleep and good relations with the locals will thank you!

The fact that a camping spot is marked on an app like Park4night does not mean that it is legal to park there overnight. Have a look at the camping map from the Lofoten Friluftsrådet.
The fact that a camping spot is marked on an app like Park4night does not mean that it is legal to park there overnight. Have a look at the camping map from the Lofoten Friluftsrådet.

#8 Free Parking at the Trailheads

Ah, the allure of popular hiking trails in Norway! They beckon adventurers from far and wide, promising majestic vistas and unforgettable experiences. 

 

But, dear travelers, let’s have a reality check. Spending hours driving in circles, desperately searching for that elusive free parking spot at the trailhead, is like chasing the end of the rainbow.

 

Trust us; it’s a time-consuming quest that often leads to frustration. Instead, embrace a novel concept: budget for parking fees!

 

Yes, it’s true. Setting aside a small amount for parking can save precious time and energy, ensuring a smooth start to your hiking escapades. Plus, think of it as contributing to the local economy.

Illegal parking at the popular hikes trailheads in the Lofoten Islands. This one is from Kvalvika Beach.
This is not an uncommon sight during the summer in Lofoten. Remember that this is illegal parking and the fact that there are many more cars doing the same does not justify it. This picture is taken close to the Kvalvika Beach trailhead in Flakstad. The Flakstad municipality has now employed a parking guard so you are risking a 900NOK fine. Picture by Knut Ivar Johansen.

#9 Beware of the Parking Guards

Parking guards are diligent souls that have been newly employed to enforce parking regulations in Lofoten and keep order on the roadsides. 

So, dear tourists, follow the signs, respect the parking restrictions, and save yourself the hassle of explaining to friends and family why that shiny souvenir from Norway turned out to be an unwelcome parking fine. 

Let’s face it, spending your hard-earned money on a mouthwatering plate of Norwegian delicacies sounds way more appealing than funding the local parking authority, doesn’t it?

#10 Neglecting the Norwegian Wave

Last but not least, embrace the art of the Norwegian wave—a friendly gesture exchanged between drivers to express gratitude. 

Whether someone lets you merge into traffic or gives way on a narrow road, extend a hand or a simple nod of appreciation. 

It’s a small act of kindness that builds positive connections and ensures a pleasant driving experience.

Are you planning to sleep in Lofoten in your car or a tent?

What dangerous/funny situations did you encounter while driving in Lofoten/Norway? Or do you have any questions whatsover about driving in Lofoten/Norway? Let us know in the comments!

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Ivar & Radka

Ivar & Radka

Hi! We are Ivar & Radka, an international couple who runs the Guide to Lofoten. We met in Trondheim and lived together in western Norway, Narvik and Tromsø. At the moment we call western Lofoten our home. We hope our page will make it easier for you to explore the beautiful places that made us chose Norway for our home.

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5 Responses

  1. Hi, thanks for the great article about driving in Lofoten. We hope to visit next spring for ski touring. I just have one question – do you need to have VIPPS to pay for the trailhead car parking? I have found elsewhere in Norway that VIPPS is sometimes the only way to pay in the car parks, which meant that we foreigners couldn’t park without risking a fine. I hope in Lofoten we can pay more easily for the car parks.

  2. I would add a further recommendation to your list : DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT
    Last night 30/09/2023 we drove the Moskenes-Svolær road having caught the car ferry from Bødø arriving after dark. It was raining. This was a planning mistake, we had no choice but to proceed or sleep in the small car.
    The roads : absent or faint line marking ( both centre line and road edge), absent guard rail reflectors, absent slow corner warning, absent marked pull over lanes
    The drivers : aggressive use of full beam driving lights, close following, dangerous overtaking, excessive speeding
    I am not a slow driver but do not exceed the speed limits by more than 5km/hr . This is too slow for the drivers of Lofoten, I readily pull over to let faster drivers go but this is very difficult to do when these areas are not marked.
    There were times when with oncoming traffic , with bright lights ,I could not judge my position on the road and had to cut my speed to well below the limit. I understand how frustrating this would be to drivers following who do know the road.
    My background is 50 years of rural driving in Australia and New Zealand.

  3. Liked the article. It is helpful for someone driving around Norway who hasn’t thought about driving etiquette there. Thank you for sharing this.

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