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As one of the most sophisticated countries on the planet, it naturally follows that Norway is also one of the most gay-friendly. Most Norwegians are tolerant of the lifestyles of others, including their sexual preference. Obviously, an urban center such as Oslo will accommodate a more openly gay life than in rural areas.

In Norway, gays and lesbians have the same legal status as heterosexuals, with the exception of adoption rights. Legislation passed in 1981 protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. In 1993, a law was passed recognizing the "partnerships" of homosexual couples -- in essence, a recognition of same-sex marriages. The age of consent for both men and women in Norway is 16 years of age.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 954/630-1637; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators.

Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) are gay Australia tour specialists. San Francisco-based Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) offers worldwide trips and cruises. And Olivia (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) offers lesbian cruises and resort vacations.

Gay.com Travel (tel. 415/834-6500; www.gay.com/travel or www.outandabout.com) is an excellent online successor to the popular Out & About print magazine. It provides regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide.

The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.gaytraveler.ca) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.

The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide) and Odysseus: The International Gay Travel Planner, 17th Edition (Odysseus Enterprises, Ltd.); and the Damron guides (www.damron.com), with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.

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.