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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So our journey was 10 days covering Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Here is a quick review:

Sweden - Had a great time, the FDC people were very nice and had everything prepared. The Radisson Blu is a nice hotel, right in the center of the action in Gothenburg so do try to explore. We also stayed at a Quality Inn on the way back and that was decent. Was a good price compared to most other hotels, especially for a 4 person room which we needed. Note: be careful when booking for 4 persons since most hotels will up-charge significantly.

Norway - First the good part; Fjords. If you can handle the long drive north through many tunnels and confusing roads, its worth it. Seeing God’s work in such spectacular fashion is breathtaking. We stayed in Laerdal and recommend the Sanden Pensjulat (bed and breakfast) as well as visiting the outdoor museum near Songdal. And don’t worry about trying to see a waterfall or a stave church, since they are everywhere! Also did the Munch Museum and Opera House in Oslo and would recommend those if staying there.
Now the bad part; city driving, prices, and food. I read many warnings on this forum on Oslo road confusion and wow was everyone right. I stopped 3 times for directions and each time had different interpretations. Now we didn’t do GPS and used maps, but still was beyond reality. Prices for everything, especially food, was an eye opener. Again, I was prepared by this forum, but was still shocked. A hamburger at a petrol station was around $25 (we were desperate since our main road was closed and had to drive into Jotunheim which is a beautiful but forbidding place in October). Food was interesting since our goal of trying something local was forced into the reality of faux italian cuisine much of the time, especially in the small towns in the Fjords. The good news is I lost 8 pounds on the trip! Last but not least, I was surprised about the people. Due to either culture or isolation (or that the tourist season had ended already), most Norwegians we met never addressed us, or even looked at us. But they didn’t do this to a fellow Norwegian either, most people stayed focused on themselves and didn’t interact socially unless forced to. One exception was the outdoor museum, where the 2 curators were very friendly. After meeting more fun loving and sociable Danes and Swedes, hate to say it but I feel sad for them.

Denmark - After days of depressed Norwegians and roads designed by Thor, Denmark was great. We stayed in Skagen, at the most northern tip, and we highly recommend it. Prices are better, and around most corners in the town is a bakery. We were finally able to have local cuisine, mostly fish and it was wonderful. Wish we had a couple more days to explore there.

And the Volvo S60 T5 was remarkable driving thru all of this. It’s not just a catch phrase when they say Volvos are design for Scandinavian roads. The handling, acceleration, even the speed of defrosting is commendable.

Overall recommendations:
-read this forum as much as possible
-even when your VISA rep says you don’t need a pin number added to your card, do it
-if driving in Norway, set up the autopass before going there
-after a few rounds, drive with the false confidence of a local. It works most of the time, and if you need to pull over do so in an appropriate spot and not circle around multiple times
-try as best as you can to speak some local language. Even the Norwegians seemed surprised when we could say something basic.
-bring some cash to exchange, our debit card worked in Denmark but not Norway
-fill up with the green covered petrol pumps, and don’t bother looking at the amount you just spent
-depending on age, bring your kids. Our 9 and 7 yr old soaked in more culture and language than I would have ever guessed
-trust the route sign and number along the roadways. One example is the main highway from Gothenburg to Oslo changes from a 4 lane expressway to a 1 lane side road with no stripe in the road. Yet this was still the highway.
-everyone says this, but it’s true - enjoy the experience. We may remember wandering thru Gothenburg more than any of the museums.

Sorry can't figure out how to post a picture
 

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Scott,

Thank you for sharing information about your journey to Scandinavia and for posting recommendations for others thinking of flying to Sweden for a new Volvo. I'm glad that your family had a great vacation. I appreciate your business and am grateful to have handled your S60 order. Thanks again.
 

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Yes, Skagen is a good place to mix in with the friendly Danes. Cafes serving $10 open face Scandinavian sandwiches were a enjoyable meal for us. We went for a stroll on the beach near the Skagen lighthouse hoping to find a small piece of Baltic amber. We saw no swimmers there in July, probably due to the presence of thousands of small jelly fish in the seawater.
 

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Glad you had a great trip. It was good meeting you and your family at the Factory Delivery Center. We are still at our daughters home in Germany enjoying our grandchildren. Our XC90 was perfect for transporting us and our daughters family up to Belgium last week to see our other daughter and her family. We are returning home next Monday.
 

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Actually driving in Oslo is no more difficult than any other large European city. In fact, I find Oslo easier than Copenhagen. But why would you go to a foreign country without a GPS? European capitals are old and aren't necessarily built around cars.

Norway is expensive, but not very different from Sweden or Denmark. Prices are relatively close. In fact. most of Western Europe is pricy.

As for Norwegians not being friendly, this makes absoiutely no sense nor is it anything I have ever heard from anyone before.
I challenge you to find more giving and open people anywhere on this planet.
Not sure what you mean by the green pumps? BP Maybe? Any gas station should be perfectly fine for your T5.

Using American credit/debit cards is becoming more and more of a problem. Until America switches to chipped cards I predict this will continue to be an issue. I blame cheap American banks for not getting with the program that most developed nations have switched to - chipped cards. That includes Canada as well. As usual the US is behind the time when it comes to global integration.
 

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It sounds like you had a great trip!

We went south and west (Denmark, Germany -- just passing through since we've been there before), The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and then back through Belgium, Germany, and Denmark to Sweden).

We found that everything was about 2x what we spend in the US -- but were prepared. I assumed we were going to spend a bunch so didn't worry about it.

We had layers of ways to pay -- local currency (for Sweden and Denmark), euro currency, $US, prepaid euro EMV-chipped debit card (backup), ATM/Debit cards from 2 different US banks (both ultimately owned by European/multinational banks), EMV-chipped Credit Card from Andrews FCU, and our regular US-style credit cards. I made a point of having plenty of currency because that works even when networks are down... We had PIN for everything and informed the banks of our travel plans.

I know other US banks are coming out with EMV-chipped credit cards but they are a bit hard to find (or reserved for high-net-worth customers).

It seemed like gas station payments were different in each country -- some at the pump with PIN ,some at pump without PIN, some "leave card at counter", some "we trust you, pump now then pay". That was the most confusing part after the first fill-up.

I used GPS and paper maps. We planned some via google maps when figuring out the next day's travel. We also visited McD's for their wifi to make hotel arrangements as we went along.

We found everyone very friendly and helpful. You are correct that a little local language helps -- if nothing else than showing that you're trying to fit with them rather than the other way around.

My car was great on the little roads in southern Sweden and Denmark. It was also wonderful at 130MPH on the Autobahn in Germany.
 

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Actually driving in Oslo is no more difficult than any other large European city. In fact, I find Oslo easier than Copenhagen. But why would you go to a foreign country without a GPS? European capitals are old and aren't necessarily built around cars.
We used a Garmin GPS with European maps loaded but also carried paper maps. We still had to ask for directions -- like when walking from the Trolley to Smaka (after turning the wrong way). There are times that local travel knowledge is better than the GPS routing.

Using American credit/debit cards is becoming more and more of a problem. Until America switches to chipped cards I predict this will continue to be an issue. I blame cheap American banks for not getting with the program that most developed nations have switched to - chipped cards. That includes Canada as well. As usual the US is behind the time when it comes to global integration.
That is starting to change but think about this -- what percentage of Americans travel to Europe each year (or in any 4 year lifespan of a credit card)? I found a 2007 USA Today article quoting 2006 statistics of 13 Million (that's around 3% assuming those were individuals, no repeat trips). How many of those 3% will change their credit card company to get an EMV chipped card? 10%? I got an EMV-chipped card from Andrews FCU but haven't made it my primary card. What is the added cost of an EMV-chipped card compared to current?

It isn't cheap so much as that it doesn't make financial sense.

EMV-chips are designed to eliminate (reduce anyway since they've been cracked) fraud. In the US, banks don't really worry about fraud -- when it happens the transaction is charged back against the seller (along with a fee for it!) -- the banks don't lose any money.

Some banks will provide EMV-chipped cards but only for the higher-net-worth customers (or those willing to pay more for the card -- in fees or reduced rewards or larger relationship with the bank). I tried to get one from Chase before going to Andrews. Andrews is a Credit Union with a lot of Military customers; Credit Unions are more customer service oriented.
 

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That is starting to change but think about this -- what percentage of Americans travel to Europe each year (or in any 4 year lifespan of a credit card)? I found a 2007 USA Today article quoting 2006 statistics of 13 Million (that's around 3% assuming those were individuals, no repeat trips). How many of those 3% will change their credit card company to get an EMV chipped card? 10%? I got an EMV-chipped card from Andrews FCU but haven't made it my primary card. What is the added cost of an EMV-chipped card compared to current?

It isn't cheap so much as that it doesn't make financial sense.

EMV-chips are designed to eliminate (reduce anyway since they've been cracked) fraud. In the US, banks don't really worry about fraud -- when it happens the transaction is charged back against the seller (along with a fee for it!) -- the banks don't lose any money.

Some banks will provide EMV-chipped cards but only for the higher-net-worth customers (or those willing to pay more for the card -- in fees or reduced rewards or larger relationship with the bank). I tried to get one from Chase before going to Andrews. Andrews is a Credit Union with a lot of Military customers; Credit Unions are more customer service oriented.
I totally agree with the financial implications, but once switched to chipped cards the expenses will go down. Plus Canada also uses chipped cards. Travel between Canada and the US impacts a lot more folks.
Bottom line, the US needs to step up to global changes.

Two things that the US is behind on - the chipped cards and wireless phone setup. I should be able to fly to Norway and easily be able to use my Verizon iPhone. It certainly works the other way around. Frustrating!!! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I apologize on the comment, and do not mean to deem all Norwegians unfriendly. This is just our experience on this particular trip - that's all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Glad you had a great trip. It was good meeting you and your family at the Factory Delivery Center. We are still at our daughters home in Germany enjoying our grandchildren. Our XC90 was perfect for transporting us and our daughters family up to Belgium last week to see our other daughter and her family. We are returning home next Monday.
It was a pleasure meeting you and your spouse there and I hope you continue to have a great trip!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I totally agree with the financial implications, but once switched to chipped cards the expenses will go down. Plus Canada also uses chipped cards. Travel between Canada and the US impacts a lot more folks.
Bottom line, the US needs to step up to global changes.

Two things that the US is behind on - the chipped cards and wireless phone setup. I should be able to fly to Norway and easily be able to use my Verizon iPhone. It certainly works the other way around. Frustrating!!! :)
Just to clarify, our experience with the credit card and 4 digit pin was that it worked 95% of the time. There were only a couple locations in Norway and Denmark that couldn't read the magnetic strip. And at each location they were surprised that Americans still had them :) Also, we went cold on our iphones in terms of network - only used free wifi at the hotels. This saved us around $150 in roaming fees or pre-paid service on our carrier. Otherwise I would have had some real help with determining our location in the cities.
 

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I totally agree with the financial implications, but once switched to chipped cards the expenses will go down. Plus Canada also uses chipped cards. Travel between Canada and the US impacts a lot more folks.
Bottom line, the US needs to step up to global changes.

Two things that the US is behind on - the chipped cards and wireless phone setup. I should be able to fly to Norway and easily be able to use my Verizon iPhone. It certainly works the other way around. Frustrating!!! :)
This is not really a "U.S." problem. Verizon uses CDMA technology for its network as do a number of other countries (Japan for example). AT&T uses GSM for their network which is the same system used in Europe. Verizon has much better phone coverage in the States overall.

Back on topic:
To the original poster - glad you had a great trip overall!

Most phones are now capable of being used in both places. The Iphone 4S (and I assume Iphone 5) from Verizon has both CDMA and GSM antennas. All you have to do is ask to have a Global unlock performed on your phone and you will be able to use your Iphone in Europe with a European SIM card. This is exactly what I do. I still have my Verizon account in the U.S. for the couple months a year I am in the States but also have SIM cards in Europe. Everything works perfectly well. Otherwise you can use your Verizon SIM card in Europe and sign up for an international plan while you are traveling but I imagine this is a more expensive option.

Also, not all European phones work in the U.S. If the phone is dual or sometimes even tri-band then it utilizes different frequencies than the networks use in the States. Most phones are Quad-band now and that will include the US frequencies but this was not true a few years ago.
 

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I totally agree with the financial implications, but once switched to chipped cards the expenses will go down. Plus Canada also uses chipped cards. Travel between Canada and the US impacts a lot more folks.
Bottom line, the US needs to step up to global changes.
That's it: blame Canada... ;)

All kidding aside, for the vast majority of Americans, there is no competitive advantage for the bank to issue EMV-chipped cards.

According to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/index.asp 35 Million people visit Canada, even assuming their all Americans and that count is "unique people" and not "people checked by immigration" (in other words, "border crossings"), that is still close to 10% of the US population. Considering there are about 35 Million people in Canada (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ig-gi/pop-ca-eng.htm) I bet that number is border crossings into Canada.

Another site http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_Americans_visit_Canada_each_year puts the number of Americans at 1 Million but don't provide a cite.

Two things that the US is behind on - the chipped cards and wireless phone setup. I should be able to fly to Norway and easily be able to use my Verizon iPhone. It certainly works the other way around. Frustrating!!! :)
That's strange, I've had no problem using my US-sourced phone in Egypt, England, Wales, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. I have to cycle power between major areas (i.e., US and England, US and Sweden) but when moving between local countries, no problem.

I do have a GSM-based 4-frequency phone. It was $29.99 at AT&T a few years ago (Samsung Impression, Java-phone -- not quite a "smart phone").

An underlying issue in both cases are: lack of demand and installed base. Since small percentage of the population travel outside the US, most people don't have the need (EMV-chip, GSM cell). US Stores aren't going to replace their card readers with EMV-enabled devices because their current device is good enough. Sprint isn't going to replace their cell network with GSM because it would cost a boat-load of money (and works fine now and customers aren't screaming for it).
 
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