City Guide to Oslo, Norway: Part 1 | Public Transportation
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As you may imagine, public transportation is a bit different in every city around the world. From knowing which type of ticket to purchase, ticket validity and zone boundaries, to how to use the system (trams, trains…Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries anyone!) it can take a bit of time and research to figure it all out.
So, in order to be familiar with the system ahead of time, and not look like complete newbies when we first take public transportation, we did research on Oslo public transportation.
In an effort to share the information we found, including relevant links and tips, we've gathered it all in one place for you!
Oslo's public transportation is operated by Ruter and consists of buses, trams, metro, and ferries.
Public Transportation Zones
Oslo and the greater area is divided into zones. Most of the major sightseeing attractions are in zone one. Tickets are purchased based on the zones you’re traveling in or through. Check the Zone Map for more information and zone boundaries.
Types of Tickets
Tickets are valid for all methods of transportation and work seamlessly between them.
Valid for a single journey, including transfers. The ticket is valid for 60 minutes in one zone, plus an additional 30 minutes for each additional zone that was purchased on the ticket. A Single Ticket for one zone is 33 NOK, and for two zones is 53 NOK.
Valid for unlimited journeys within 24 hours. This ticket can be purchased in advance, as it only becomes valid after its initial/first activation. When we activated our 24-Hour Ticket on the bus, a receipt printed with activation information, that included the date and time it was valid through. The cost for a single zone is 90 NOK, and for two zones is 140 NOK. If you’re going to make three or more journeys in 24-hours, this ticket is a better deal than purchasing Single Tickets.
7, 30, or 365 Day Tickets
Valid for unlimited journeys within the time period it was purchased for. This ticket can be purchased in advance, as it becomes valid only after the first activation. These tickets can’t be purchased at machines or on-board buses or ferries; you’ll need to go to a kiosk or customer service point. A 7-Day Ticket for one zone is 240 NOK, and two zones is 440 NOK.
Purchase a Supplementary Ticket when you’re traveling to a zone that’s not valid on your already purchased ticket. For example, if you purchased a Single Ticket for zone one, but later realize you need to travel to zone two or three, you can purchase a Supplementary Ticket for additional zones. Each zone purchased is valid for an additional 30 minutes of travel. These tickets can be purchased on the RuterBillett app, on board buses and ferries (no surcharge is applied for this type of ticket) and at ticket machines (only if you have a valid Travelcard). One zone is 20 NOK and two zones is 40 NOK.
While not a type of ticket, it’s a reusable plastic card that you can load tickets onto or use as a pay-as-you-go method. Unfortunately, it can’t be topped off online, however you can top it off at ticket machines, kiosks, and customer service points. It costs NOK 50 ($5.88 USD during our visit), so unless you’re staying in Oslo for a while, it may not be the best option.
Check the Ruter website for additional information on ticket fares.
There are a several methods for purchasing public transportation tickets.
Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines located at all metro stations, larger bus and tram terminals, and train stations. You can purchase single tickets and 24-Hour Tickets, or if you have a Travelcard, most types of tickets can be loaded onto it from a ticket machine.
Kiosks can be found at Narvesen, 7-Eleven, Deli De Luca, Mix, and other select stores. Ruter staffed customer service points can be found at the Oslo and Lillestrøm bus terminals and NSB trains stations. To find a sales outlet close by, check the Ruter Map.
On Board Ferries and Buses
Purchase a ticket on-board the bus or the ferry. You can only purchase single tickets and only cash is accepted (bills under 200 NOK only). However, we don’t recommend this unless it’s your only option, as there’s a surcharge to do so. The surcharge, independent of the zone, is 22 NOK. Considering that a single ticket for one zone is 33 NOK, if purchased on board, the cost jumps to 55 NOK, a whopping 60% surcharge.
Download the RuterBillett application to your iPhone or Android device. You can purchase tickets directly from the app. You’ll need to purchase the tickets before entering metro stations and boarding buses, trams, and ferries. Check the RuterBillett website for details and FAQs on using the app. We tried using it ourselves, and were able to download it from a US based phone number. However, it’s worth noting that we couldn’t attach a form of payment, therefore rendering it unusable for us. If using a credit card, the app only accepts credit cards from select European countries (as listed in their FAQs).
Public Transportation Tips
Use the Ruter Journey Planner or Google Transit Directions to find the best public transportation route. Do note, during our visit, Google didn’t have the most up-to-date timetables available in some areas of the city. If this is the case during your visit (Google will notify you on the mobile app when it gives directions), we recommend using the Ruter Journey Planner as an alternative.
The Oslo Pass includes free, unlimited public transportation in zones one and two. It also includes the ferry to Bygdøy museums, which isn't included in regular Ruter tickets. The pass is a ticket for entry to over 30 museums and attractions in Oslo, and is valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours of sightseeing. Download the PDF Oslo Pass Brochure and find out where to buy the Oslo Pass.
Ruter tickets are valid on Oslo Ferries (except for the Bygdøy ferries), however, there aren’t places to purchase ticket on the islands, so be sure to purchase your return ticket in advance.
If you’re traveling further afield in Norway by train, you’ll be using Norwegian State Railways (NSB).
Getting To and From Oslo Airport
The Oslo Airport (OSL) is about 30 miles outside of city center. There are several public transportation options to get to and from the airport. When we arrived, we went straight to the trains and found two different competing options. It was late evening and we were looking for the fastest option, so the obvious choice seemed to be Flytoget Airport Express (after all, express is in the name). However, when we looked at the price and time to get to our destination, it didn’t make much sense to take the ‘express’ train. For nearly half the cost, we took an NSB train (public transportation) and arrived just a few minutes after the express train would've arrived.
You can purchase tickets in the airport lobby, at the train station, or on the mobile app (Android or iPhone). While this train is the more expensive option, it does include a Travel Guarantee. Also, children under 18 accompanied by an adult travel free and the train is equipped with extra space for luggage. Trains depart every 10 or 20 minutes and travel time from the airport to Oslo is between 19 and 22 minutes. A single ticket to Oslo is 180 NOK.
Bus, Taxi, Minibus
Additional options are available for transport to and from Oslo Airport. Yet, we found that buses take longer and seem to cost as much or more than the competing trains. Private transfer is also an option, although it’s more expensive and usually takes longer than traveling by train. Ultimately, how you travel is a personal choice, but as you can see there are several options available. Check Visit Oslo for all the options.
Getting to the Museums on the Island
Many of the popular Oslo museums (Viking Ship Museum, Norsk Folkemeseum, Kon-Tiki Museum, Polar Ship Fram, Norwegian Maritime Museum, Holocaust Center) are on an ‘island’ (actually it’s a peninsula). The most scenic way to get there is on the Bygdøy ferry. We recommend downloading the PDF brochure and timetable. You can purchase tickets at the City Hall Pier 3 for 45 NOK one way, or 65 NOK round trip. One way tickets purchased on board are 60 NOK, so when possible, be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time. Alternatively, while not as scenic, you can take a bus and use a Single Ticket or 24-Hour Pass from Ruter.
Oslo City Bikes
Oslo has a great city bike program (Oslo Bysykkel). It’s simple to use and is a great way to get around the city. You can purchase a Day Pass (49 NOK) for unlimited rides for 24-hours, or a 3-Day Pass (99 NOK) for unlimited rides for 72 hours. If you’re going to be around for longer, the Season Pass (299 NOK) is valid for unlimited rides between April and November. To start using the bike program, download the official app to your iPhone or Android device. Although technically the bike program can be used without a smartphone, with the app, you’ll have access to the map with station information, including if bikes are available at each station. You can ride as much as you want in 45-minute increments and if you want to extend the ride, its five NOK per 15 minutes. However, per the Visit Oslo website, it seems you can return the bike within 45 minutes, lock it up, and then immediately take out another bike. Bicycles can be unlocked and used between 6 am and midnight.
We found public transportation in the greater Oslo area to be a great option to get around town. Once you're in city center, most tourist sightseeing destinations are within walking distance, but if your venturing further than you care to walk, you should definitely consider taking public transportation. In our experience, it was well maintained, clean, and modern. Plus, between the many types of transportation available (ferries, buses, trams, metro, and trains), there are plenty of routes, both suburban and urban to get you where you need to go.