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American Express -- There is an office in Oslo. American Express Reisebyrå, Maribores Gate 13 (tel. 22-98-35-00), is open Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm.

Area Code -- The international country code for Norway is 47. If you're calling from outside the country, the city code is 2 for Oslo and 5 for Bergen. When calling within Norway, no area or city codes are needed. Phone numbers have eight digits.

Babysitters Hotels can often enlist the help of a housekeeper for "child-minding." Give at least a day's notice, two if you can. You can also contact one of the local tourist offices as well; they often keep a list of available sitters on file.

Business Hours -- Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:15am to 3:30pm (on Thurs to 5pm), and are closed Saturday and Sunday. The bank at Gardermoen Airport in Oslo is open Monday to Saturday from 6:30am to 8pm and Sunday from 7am to 8pm. Most businesses are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. Stores are generally open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm (many stay open on Thurs until 6 or 7pm) and Saturday 9am to 1 or 2pm. Sunday closings are observed.

Doctors -- Your embassy or consulate, as well as most hotels, keep a list of recommended English-speaking physicians.

Drinking Laws -- Most restaurants, pubs, and bars in Norway are licensed to serve liquor, wine, and beer. The drinking age is 18 for beer and wine and 20 for liquor.

Drugstores -- Drugstores, called apotek, are open during normal business hours.

Electricity -- Norway uses 220 volts, 30 to 50 cycles, AC, and standard Continental two-pin plugs. Transformers and adapters will be needed with Canadian and American equipment.

Embassies & Consulates -- In case you lose your passport or have some other emergency, contact your embassy in Oslo. The embassy of the United States is at Henrik Ibsensgate 48, N-0244 Oslo (tel. 22-44-85-50; http://norway.usembassy.gov); United Kingdom, Thomas Heftyesgate 8, N-0244 Oslo (tel. 23-13-27-00; http://ukinnorway.fco.gov.uk); and Canada, Wergelandsveien 7, N-0244 Oslo (tel. 22-99-53-00; http://norway.gc.ca). The Irish Embassy is at Haakon VII's gate 1, N-0244 Oslo (tel. 22-01-72-00; www.embassyofireland.no). The Australian Embassy is closed in Oslo; contact the Australian Consulate, Strandveien 20, N-1324 Lysaker (tel. 67-58-48-48). The New Zealand Embassy is also closed in Oslo; contact the New Zealand Consulate, Strandveien 50, N1324 Lysaker (tel. 67-11-00-33). There is a British consulate in Bergen at Carl Konowsgate 34 (tel. 55-36-78-10).

Emergencies -- Throughout Norway, call tel. 112 for the police, tel. 110 to report a fire, or tel. 113 to request an ambulance.

Holidays -- Norway celebrates the following public holidays: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day (mid-May), National Day (May 17), Whitmonday (late May), Christmas (Dec 25), and Boxing Day (Dec 26).

Hospitals -- Nearly all places throughout Norway contain hospitals with English-speaking doctors.

Language -- Norwegians are taught English in grade school. There are two official versions of Norwegian itself, one called Bokmail, spoken by about 85% of the population, the lesser known called Nynorsk. Nynorsk is identified as "new Norwegian," but it actually isn't. The language is a form of older dialects spoken in rural parts of the country. In the north, the Sami or Lapps have their own language, which is a distant cousin of Finnish.

Laundry & Dry Cleaning -- Most hotels provide these services. There are coin-operated launderettes and dry cleaners in most Norwegian cities.

Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover that your wallet has been lost or stolen, and then file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or a police record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's emergency number outside the U.S. is tel. 410/581-3836; call collect. American Express cardholders should call collect tel. 336/393-1111. MasterCard holders should call collect tel. 314/542-7111. If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).

Mail -- Airmail letters or postcards to the United States and Canada cost NOK10.5 ($2.10/£1.10) for up to 20 grams (7/10 oz.). Airmail letters take 7 to 10 days to reach North America. The principal post office in Norway is the Oslo Central Post Office, at Dronningensgate 15, N-0101 Oslo. Mailboxes are vibrant red and are embossed with the trumpet symbol of the postal service. They're found on walls, at chest level, throughout cities and towns. Stamps can be purchased at the post office, at magazine kiosks, or at some stores.

Passports -- The websites listed below provide downloadable passport applications as well as the current fees for processing applications. For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the International Travel Web page of the U.S. Department of State at http://travel.state.gov (click on "International Travel for U.S. Citizens"). International visitors to the U.S. can obtain a visa application at the same website. Note: Children are required to present a passport when entering the United States at airports. More information on obtaining a passport for a minor can be found at http://travel.state.gov. Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes 4 to 6 weeks (3 weeks for expedited service) but can take longer during busy periods (especially spring). And keep in mind that if you need a passport in a hurry, you'll pay a higher processing fee.

For Residents of Australia -- You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

For Residents of Canada -- Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca). Note: Canadian children who travel must have their own passport.

For Residents of Ireland -- You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 21/494-4700) or at most main post offices.

For Residents of New Zealand -- You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

For Residents of the United Kingdom -- To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-yr. passport for children under 16), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.

Police -- Dial tel. 112 nationwide.

Smoking -- This progressive country bans smoking in public places. Under the law, Norwegians are allowed to smoke in private homes and outdoors. One of the main reasons for law is to protect employees in restaurants and bars, and other places, from secondhand smoke.

Taxes -- Norway imposes a 19.4% value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services, which is figured into your final bill. If you buy goods in any store bearing the TAX-FREE sign, you're entitled to a cash refund of up to 18.5% on purchases costing over NOK315 ($63/£32). Ask the shop assistant for a tax-free shopping check. You may not use the articles purchased before leaving Norway, and they must be taken out of the country within 3 months of purchase. Complete the information requested on the back of the check you're given at the store; at your point of departure, report to an area marked by the TAX-FREE sign, not at Customs. Your refund check will be exchanged there in kroner for the amount due you. Refunds are available at airports, ferry and cruise-ship terminals, borders, and train stations.

Telephones -- The country code for Norway is 47, but there are no area codes inside Norway. Phone numbers have eight digits. In every case, you dial all eight digits. Toll-free numbers begin with the prefix 800 or 810. If a number has a prefix of 815, it is not toll free, and you must pay NOK1 (20¢/10p) per call. Also, phone numbers that start with the prefix of 82 cost extra.

Norway is the land of the cellular phone. It is estimated that some 90% of all Norwegians carry these phones. If the number you're calling starts with a 4 or a 9, chances are good that you're calling a mobile phone number. It is more expensive to call a mobile phone than it is to call a regular phone.

For information in Norway, dial 1881, or else call 1882 for international phone numbers. Dial 115 if you want to call collect or need help from an operator. Outside of Norway, call 117 for collect or operator-assisted calls.

If you wish to place an international call, you can dial directly using the access code of 0, then the country code and the number: 1 for the United States and Canada; 61 for Australia; 44 for Great Britain, and 64 for New Zealand. Access codes are as follows: AT&T Direct (tel. 800/CALL-ATT); MCI WorldPhone (tel. 800/19912), and Sprint International Access (tel. 800/19877).

To use public phones in Norway, you can purchase a Tellerskritt or phone card at most shops and kiosks. These costs NOK40 ($8/£4) to NOK140 ($28/£14). About 50% of the public phones in Norway also take major credit cards.

Some public phones are called "Green Card" phones, and these will only accept phone cards, Tellerskritt, or a major credit card.

Others are push-button phones, taking coins of NOK1 (20¢/10p), NOK5 ($1/50p), or NOK10 ($2/£1). Some of these phones will also accept NOK20 ($4/£2) coins. Lift the receiver and listen for the dial tone, then insert the coins and dial the number. Local calls from a pay phone cost NOK3 to NOK5 (60¢-$1/30p-50p).

Time -- Norway operates on Central European Time -- 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. (At noon Eastern Standard Time -- say, in New York City -- it's 6pm in Norway.) Norway goes on summer time -- 1 hour earlier -- from the end of March until around the end of September.

Tipping -- Hotels add a 10% to 15% service charge to your bill, which is sufficient unless someone has performed a special service. Most bellhops get at least 10NOK ($2/£1) per suitcase. Nearly all restaurants add a service charge of up to 15% to your bill. Barbers and hairdressers usually aren't tipped, but toilet attendants expect at least 4NOK (80¢/40p). Taxi drivers throughout Norway don't expect tips unless they handle heavy luggage.

Toilets -- All terminals, big-city squares, and the like have public lavatories. In small towns and villages, head for the marketplace. Hygiene standards are usually adequate. If you patronize the toilets in a privately run establishment (such as a cafe), it's polite to buy something, such as a small pastry or coffee.

Useful Phone Numbers -- U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory tel. 202/647-5225 (24 hrs.); U.S. Passport Agency tel. 202/647-0518; U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's Hotline tel. 404/332-4559.

Water -- Tap water is generally safe to drink throughout Norway. Never drink from a mountain stream, fjord, or river, regardless of how clean it might appear.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.