Tips from Joalet when visiting NTNU and SINTEF in Norway

Getting there

The KLM flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam to Trondheim has only one stop-over (Amsterdam). All other flights (to my knowledge) has two. As I like to limit my time on airports, I prefer the KLM flight.

Getting around

Apart from the fact that it is safe to walk by yourself, anywhere, anytime of the day and night (even for women), public transportation in Norway is incredibly efficient and could be cost effective if you manage it well.

From the airport to town, the airport bus is a convenient way to travel. You can purchase tickets at the bus when you arrive at the airport. In town, the bus system is very convenient and the website and app easy to use.

You can also take a taxi, but that is a very expensive way to travel. On my phone (I bought a Norwegian SIM card at the SevenEleven near Trondheim Torg), I downloaded the app for the 07373 taxi company which is similar to use to the Uber-app in South Africa.

To travel longer distances, I use the train. Again, the website is extremely user friendly but I experienced problems paying online and used the website only to check time schedules. On the day I travelled, I bought the tickets at the vending machine at the station.

Before, I also used booked flights (to fly to Bergen). I booked through SAS , but was told that Norwegian could have cheaper flights. You can also check out Wideroe.

I prefer the train though, as it offers me the opportunity to see a bit of the country without having to navigate the roads – the Norwegians drive on the wrong side of the road (right-hand side) – and because of the speed limit on the roads travelling by train is sometimes even faster. Travelling with children on the train is also very convenient when you book on the train that has a family coach and one that offers meals.

Somewhere to stay

My favourite hotel in Trondheim is Augustin. I must confess, it is the only hotel I have stayed in, but I have stayed there a number of times since 2010. I really like it there as the accommodation is cosy, the breakfast good, it is situated just across the Trondheim Torg (the mall in town) and is walking distance from campus. On the way to campus one passes the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral and crosses the river.

Hotel accommodation is expensive, though, so Airbnb is to Norway what Uber is to South Africa. The website is very effective. Norway doesn’t have the guest-house concept we have in South Africa so in a sense airbnb is similar to that, but self-catering guest-houses not serviced ones. At the airbnb accommodation we are staying in at the moment, bedding and towels are provided. We cook, do the washing (the unit has a washing machine and a drying rack), and clean the apartment ourselves.

Where to eat without breaking the bank

Because Norwegians are social-democrats, wages are very similar irrespective of the job your do. Therefore, anything that someone else do for you is expensive and that goes for preparing meals too. The most cost effective way to eat is to buy your food at the grocery store and prepare meals yourself. I do that even when I stay in the hotel as it has a fridge and I love the smoked salmon, cold meets, cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables available here. The yogurt is really delicious too.

Stores are all over town in different sizes and include chains i.e. REMA 1000, Joker (I kid you not!), and SevenEleven.

Meals on campus are also very well priced and I like to buy food at the main cafeteria, the SINTEF canteen, or the food shop in the same building as the main canteen. I am busy with an experiment to determine the average price of lunch on campus during my one month stay in 2017. What I can report thus far is that buying a cooked meal at the main canteen is probably the best value-for-money. You pay by weight, so a salad – because of the water content of the vegetables – costs almost twice as much as the cooked meal for the same nutritious value.

When I go to a restaurant, I only go where I’m served if someone else is paying – seriously! EGON has a nice pizza and salad buffet that is really good value-for-money. You place your order at the bar (tip: the beer-on-tap goes very nicely with the pizza) and then help yourself.


Weather is important so check out conditions. I have a friend, who loves to travel both locally and abroad. Her one rule for travelling is that she goes nowhere without her bikini and a warm jacket. When coming to Norway, I now add a scarf (summer- and winter-type) and raincoat to the list. Both can protect you against rain and wind.

Things to do

In general, I find the advise in Tripadvisor useful when I travel – not only to Norway but also in South Africa and elsewhere.

In Trondheim, the Nidaros Cathedral is spectacular. Sverresborg has very interesting outdoor displays – I specifically found the grassed roofed houses interesting. Other places to see include the market square, the Tyholt tower, the wharves, and the old town bridge.

Any self-respecting pyrometallurgist, that gets the opportunity to come to Norway, should pay a visit to the Røros Mining Town. I once went there by train and stayed the night in a hotel but probably will book accommodation through airbnb should I go again.

Other places I enjoyed visiting (in the past) were Bryggen in Bergen, the Arctic Circle Centre north of Mo i Rana, the Edvar Grieg museum in Bergen, and the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, where there was an exhibition of South African winners of the prize at the time of my visit. During my first visit to Norway (in 1999) I also enjoyed a visit to the glacier close to Tyssedal.

Copyright © 2017, Joalet Steenkamp, Randburg, South Africa (Last updated on 30 August 2017)

Tips from Trine when visiting MINTEK in South Africa

During my stay I became friends with a couple of people at Mintek that I used to have lunch with on a daily basis. It can however be difficult to meet people that are interested in being social outside of work when you go to a company instead of a university, as people may be living far away or have families to get home to. I got the impression that a lot of people commute. It can be hard to explore the city/country on your own, particularly as a woman, due to safety issues. I was lucky enough to get a visit from Norway on two different occasions, which made it more fun and easier to explore the different things one could do in South-Africa. You feel a lot more safe if you are more than one person.

Some of the things you could do close to Johannesburg:

Lion and Rhino park: Not a very long drive from Randburg/Mintek, so you can use an Uber to get there, however the internet reception there is approximately non-existent, so it would be better to arrange for someone to take you there and pick you up. We booked a driver through my landlords that were with us the whole day. It is also possible to do game drives in the park with your own vehicles, so our driver took us around in his car so that we could see some lions, rhinos etc.

Apartheid museum

Zoo Lake: Outside swimming pool close to Randburg/Mintek

Cradle of Human Kind

Shopping centres: There are several large shopping centres within a 20 minute car ride from Mintek, including Sandton, Cresta and Rosebank. Rosebank also does Sunday markets on the roof which can be worth checking out.

Cape Town: We took the cable cart up to Table Mountain (, went to Robben Island, Wine Tour, Boulders Beach  and Cape The Good Hope, to mention some. We booked an Uber that drove us along the coast to Cape Point and made a stop at Boulders beach on our way there.

Safari: The Kruger National Park is known to be the best, so if you have the time you should definitely go there. We went to Pilanesberg National Park, which is also a good option. One can either stay at the park in tent, cottage etc., or rent an apartment through AirBnB, which is what we did.

Safety: In general Johannesburg is very unsafe compared to Norway, but as long as you are aware of what you can’t/shouldn’t do it will be fine. I did not encounter any situations that were uncomfortable. In general, all houses are gated and has a large wall surrounding the house/complex. Mine also had a wire fence on top of the wall, and grids on doors and windows. It can feel a bit weird in the beginning, but considering the contrast compared to Norway and the crime being what it is, it is probably necessary. In general I was recommended to not walk anywhere by my self. This also applies for most places even though you are not by yourself. The only place I actually walked to was the supermarket just up the street, and that was OK since there normally was a lot of traffic there. Would not be okey if it was dark outside though. You should not walk down a street that looks empty and you should never carry any valuables in sight.

Transportation: The easiest way to get around if you don’t rent your own car is by Uber. It is also considered the safest. I was recommended to not use regular taxi and bus, and was highly recommended to not walk. To get Uber, just download the app, enter your payment details and start booking your trips. I always check that the car arriving has the same number plate as stated in the app. You can also follow the travel on the app to see that the driver is headed where you are going, but it’s normally not necessary as the drivers usually use GPS to get directions to your location. I typically paid 37 rand (24 Kr) for a 10-12 minute trip. I got the people I was renting from to arrange transportation for my from the airport to the residence. To get from the airport to your accommodation when you first arrive, I recommend either using an Uber or maybe get someone (f. ex the place where you are staying) to arrange transportation for you.

Cell phone: You should get a South-African SIM-card while you are there. It’s best to get one as soon as possible, as you will need it to either book an Uber for transportation, or like in my case where I needed a SA number to be able to open the gate where I stayed. If they don’t hand them out for free at the airport (as they did in my case), you would need “proof of residence” in order to get one from the stores. The people of which you rent from can assist you with that.

Accommodation: Most likely your supervisor would help you or recommend accommodation for you. It’s important to stay somewhere where you feel safe, and that is not a given here. I worked at MINTEK in Randburg, approximately 30 minutes outside of Johannesburg city centre, and my supervisor recommended that I stay at Fern Glen Guest Cottages. This was a very nice place with fencing and a gate that only opens for registered numbers. The landlords were very nice and helpful people. There was also a nice outside area.

Copyright © 2017, Trine Asklund Larssen, Trondheim, Norway (Last updated on 30 August 2017)