Do this ASAP! If you wait too long after you arrive, you’ll no longer be eligible to exchange your license and have to start from scratch. This means taking all the lessons just as a new driver in Norway would. Which is super expensive!
Driving in Norway on your American license is permitted for 3 months after arriving in Norway. This is the date your flight landed, and the date they stamp on your passport when you enter the country. This rule applies to everybody, visitors and residents alike.
You must exchange your license within one year of taking residence in Norway. This clock starts from the date you’re assigned a fødselsnummer or national identity number. The date will be shown on the paper your receive from Skatteetaten after being granted a residence permit.
Where to Start
First, you’ll need to find your local traffic station and fill out an application to exchange your license. Be sure to bring:
- Your US license
- Residence permit card
- “A document that confirms when you moved to Norway”, the paper from Skatteetaten issuing you a fødselsnummer should suffice
You’ll then submit the application, and if the exchange is approved you’ll be allowed to book a practical driving test.
Taking a written test is not required when exchanging a license.
The Practical Driving Test
For the practical driving test you’ll have to drive around on the normal roads with somebody from Statens vegvessen for about an hour. During the test they will give you instructions on where to go, which just consists of them telling you the name of a place to drive towards. The locations are clearly marked on the road signs, but if you miss a turn it’s okay. As my instructor told me, “It’s a driving test, not a navigation test.” So, as long as you drive safely you’ll be fine.
They will also ask you some random “safety related” question. Like what a light on the dash means, or how to check your tire pressure.
Preparing for the Test
There are a few differences driving in Norway vs in the US.
First, most cars here have a manual transmission. If you want to be allowed to drive cars with a manual transmission in Norway, you’ll need to take the practical test in a manual. If you take the test in an automatic, you’ll only be allowed to drive automatic cars. This is obviously not recommended since you won’t be able to drive most cars.
Second, depending on where you’re from you may or may not be used to driving in circles. Read up on it and get some practice. Remember, traffic already in the circle has the right of way, use your turn signals when entering and leaving the circle, and stay in your lane in the circle. Circles can have multiple lanes, even if they’re not clearly marked!
Right turns on red are not allowed.
Lastly, be aware of the “Priority to the right” rule. Unless you’re on a street clearly marked with the yellow and white priority road sign, you have to give way to anybody coming from the right. Even if there’s no signage.
Booking the Practical Driving Test
You’ll be able to book a practical driving test online via Statens vegvesen after your exchange is approved.
You will need to coordinate this with renting an “approved” testing car from a driving school. You’re not allowed to take the test with a normal car since it doesn’t have things like brake pedals on the passenger side.
You can search for an approved traffic school here.
The cost of everything, as of 2016 is around 3340kr.
- Practical driving test (Statens vegvesen) – 1010kr
- Drivers license (Statens vegvesen) – 260kr
- Drivers license photo (Statens vegvesen) – 70kr
- Rental of approved car for test (driving school) – 2000kr, varies
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