Pharmacies in Norway: A Guide for Foreigners (2024)

In Norway, like in many countries around the world, pharmacies—known locally as “Apotek“—are not just places to get your prescription medications but also a hub for over-the-counter remedies, health advice, and other wellness products.

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At some point during your stay, be it short or long-term, you might find yourself in need of medical supplies, be it a simple pain reliever after a day of skiing or filling a prescription. Having a clear understanding of how pharmacies in Norway operate can save you time, reduce stress, and ensure you maintain optimal health and convenience throughout your stay.

Let’s dive into the practical details you’ll need to know, ensuring you’re well-prepared for any health-related situations in this beautiful Nordic country.

Key Takeaways

  • Norwegian pharmacies, known as “Apotek,” offer specialized services like health consultations and home deliveries.
  • Most medications require prescriptions, while a select few are available overthecounter.
  • Many cities boast 24/7 pharmacies for roundtheclock health needs.
  • Knowledge of English is prevalent, ensuring easy communication for non-Norwegian speakers.
  • Payments are flexible, with both card and cash options readily accepted.
  • In addition to medications, pharmacies stock a diverse range of health and well-being products.

Understanding the Basics of Pharmacies in Norway

Whether you’re coming down with a cold or just need some vitamins, being equipped with fundamental knowledge about Norwegian pharmacies is essential.

The Norwegian Word for Pharmacy: “Apotek”

Familiarize yourself with this term. When you see signs with “Apotek” adorned on them, know you’ve found your destination. It can be particularly helpful when navigating city streets or asking for directions.

Operating Hours

Weekday Operations

Typically, pharmacies in Norway open around 9 or 10 in the morning and close between 5 and 7 in the evening on weekdays. However, do note that these times might vary depending on the city and specific location. It’s always a good practice to check the timings of your nearest “Apotek” online or through local directories.

Weekend Operations

Life doesn’t pause on weekends, and neither do health needs. Thankfully, many pharmacies in Norway are open on Saturdays, albeit often with shorter operating hours. It’s less common to find an open “Apotek” on Sundays, but there are some in larger cities or shopping centers that provide this convenience.

Location and Accessibility

Pharmacies in Norway: A Guide for Foreigners (1)

One of the greatest conveniences about Norway is its focus on ease of access, especially when it comes to health and wellness establishments. Let’s ensure you’re never left wondering where the nearest “Apotek” is during your stay:

City Centers

Most towns and cities in Norway boast an “Apotek” strategically located in the city center or popular shopping areas. If you’re residing or visiting the heart of any city or town, you’re most likely just a short walk or drive away from a pharmacy.

Shopping Malls and Supermarkets

Larger shopping centers often house an “Apotek”, ensuring you can combine your retail therapy with health necessities. Some supermarkets might even have a dedicated pharmacy section, so keep an eye out when doing your grocery run.

Online Directories

In today’s digital age, finding a nearby pharmacy has never been easier. Several online directories and mobile apps can point you to the nearest “Apotek” based on your location. These platforms often provide additional information, such as operating hours, available services, and sometimes even product availability.

Rural Areas

If you’re venturing into Norway’s picturesque countryside or staying in a more secluded area, it’s a good idea to identify pharmacies in nearby towns. While the frequency of “Apotek” establishments might be less in these areas, they are still present and accessible with a bit of planning.

Prescription Medications

With this guide, you can seamlessly access the medicines you need during your time in Norway.

The Need for a Prescription

As with many countries, certain medications in Norway require a doctor’s prescription. Always ensure you have proper documentation, especially for medicines that may be strictly regulated.

Transferring a Foreign Prescription

If you arrive in Norway with a prescription from another country, it might be accepted at Norwegian pharmacies. However, the best approach is to consult a local doctor or healthcare provider upon arrival. They can provide a Norwegian equivalent, ensuring no interruptions in your medication regime.

Digital Prescriptions

Norway has been pioneering digital solutions in various sectors, and healthcare is no exception. Most prescriptions by Norwegian doctors are digital, meaning you don’t need a physical paper when you visit an “Apotek”. The pharmacist will simply retrieve your prescription details electronically using your personal identification number.

Validity of Prescriptions

Typically, a prescription in Norway is valid for one year from the date it’s issued. However, specific medicines might have different validity durations. It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the duration for which your prescription is valid.

Repeat Prescriptions

If you’re on long-term medication, certain prescriptions may come with the option for repeats. This means you can get the same medication multiple times without revisiting the doctor, up to a certain limit. Always check the prescription details or confirm with your pharmacist about this feature.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications

Pharmacies in Norway: A Guide for Foreigners (2)

For minor aches, pains, and common ailments, over-the-counter medications often come to the rescue.

A Wide Range of Options

Norwegian pharmacies offer an array of OTC medications catering to various needs – from common cold remedies to pain relievers, digestive aids, and more. These are usually displayed on shelves, making them easily accessible for you to pick up.

Note on Availability

One thing to remember is that a drug which is available over the counter in your home country might require a prescription in Norway, and vice versa. It’s always beneficial to consult with the pharmacist if you’re unsure or if you can’t find a familiar medication.

Seeking Advice

Norwegian pharmacists are well-trained and knowledgeable. If you’re feeling unwell or need a recommendation for a nonprescription medication, don’t hesitate to ask. They can provide guidance on what to take, dosage, and any potential side effects.

Label and Instructions

While many OTC medication packages might have instructions in Norwegian, many also include English instructions or can be easily explained by the pharmacist. Before taking any medication, ensure you understand the recommended dosage and any precautions.

Allergy and Dietary Restrictions

If you have specific allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s essential to communicate this when purchasing OTC medications. Some formulations might contain lactose, gluten, or other common allergens.

Language and Communication

Communication plays a pivotal role, especially when it concerns your health. Understanding how to bridge potential language gaps in pharmacies in Norway can simplify and enrich your experience.

English Proficiency

You’ll be pleased to know that many Norwegians, especially those in professional sectors like healthcare, have a commendable grasp of the English language. Most pharmacists in Norway are comfortable communicating in English, ensuring clarity in discussions about your health needs.

Clear and Simple

When explaining your symptoms or requirements, try to be as clear and concise as possible. Using simple language and avoiding medical jargon can make the communication process smoother for both you and the pharmacist.

Translation Tools

In the digital age, translation tools and apps have become more advanced and user-friendly. Consider having a reliable translation app on your phone. It can assist in those rare instances when you’re struggling to find the right words. Some apps even allow for voice translation, which can be particularly helpful.

Preparation is Key

If you have specific medical conditions or are on long-term medications, it might be useful to carry a translated note or card that lists these details. This can be shown to the pharmacist to ensure accurate understanding.

Patience and Openness

Communication isn’t just about language; it’s also about approach and attitude. Being patient and open, coupled with the usually accommodating nature of Norwegian pharmacists, ensures that language never becomes a barrier to your health and well-being.

Payment and Insurance

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Understanding the payment and insurance dynamics of pharmacies in Norway will ensure you’re not only medically prepared but also financially equipped.

Accepted Forms of Payment

Like most establishments in the country, Norwegian pharmacies welcome various payment methods. Whether it’s by credit/debit card, mobile payment methods like Vipps, or good old-fashioned cash, you’ll find flexibility at the checkout counter. However, it’s always beneficial to carry a card, as card payments are most common.

Blue Prescription Card

There’s the “Blaa Resept” or Blue Prescription Card for those who have established residence in Norway. This card offers discounts on certain medications, ensuring affordability in healthcare. If eligible, it’s a good idea to keep this card handy whenever visiting an “Apotek”.

Tourist and Short-term Stays

If you’re a tourist or on a short-term visit, be prepared to pay the full price for both prescription and OTC medications. However, depending on your travel or health insurance, you might be eligible for reimbursem*nts. Always keep your receipts.

Insurance Claims

If you have health insurance coverage, either from a Norwegian provider or an international one, it’s beneficial to understand your plan’s specifics. Some insurances might require paying upfront and claiming later, while others might have direct tie-ups with certain pharmacy chains. When in doubt, a quick call to your insurance provider can offer clarity.

VAT Refunds

Tourists from non-EU/EEA countries shopping in Norway might be eligible for a VAT (Value Added Tax) refund on their purchases, including from pharmacies. If you’re planning to claim a VAT refund, ensure you ask for the necessary paperwork during your purchase.

Related: The Best Credit Cards in Norway for Foreigners in 2023

Special Services

Let’s dive into some services that can significantly enhance your pharmacy experience in Norway.

  • Health Consultations: Many “Apotek” offer on-the-spot health consultations. This might include blood pressure checks, cholesterol level tests, or guidance on medication management. These consultations can be invaluable for those seeking immediate insights into their health.
  • Travel Health Advice: Some pharmacies provide travel health advice for those looking to explore more of Norway’s scenic landscapes or planning other international travels. This can range from recommended vaccinations to advice on how to manage your health while on the move.
  • Skincare and Beauty Consultations: Given Norway’s unique climate, your skin might need some extra attention. Some “Apotek” offer skincare and beauty consultations to help you find the right products for your skin type and tackle any specific issues you might be facing.
  • Home Delivery: With the rise of e-commerce, several pharmacies in Norway have embraced home delivery services. This can be particularly beneficial if you find yourself needing medications but are unable to visit a pharmacy in person. Check with your local “Apotek” or their online platforms for delivery options.
  • Digital Services and Apps: The world is increasingly moving digital, and Norwegian pharmacies are no exception. Many have user-friendly websites or apps where you can order products, book consultations, or even chat with a pharmacist online.
  • Multilingual Services: Recognizing the diverse population and the influx of tourists, some larger pharmacies, especially in major cities, might offer multilingual services to cater to non-Norwegian speakers, making the pharmacy experience even more seamless.

Health and Wellbeing Products

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From supplements to skincare, pharmacies in Norway often house a plethora of products designed to cater to your comprehensive health needs.

  • Vitamins and Supplements
    The Nordic climate, though beautiful, has its unique challenges. To counteract limited sunlight during winters or to boost general health, you’ll find a diverse range of vitamins and supplements, including popular ones like Vitamin D and Omega3s sourced from pristine Norwegian waters.
  • Natural Remedies
    Norway boasts a rich tradition of using natural remedies. At your local pharmacy, you can discover a variety of herbal teas, ointments, and supplements, each harnessing the power of nature to bring about healing and wellness.
  • Skincare and Cosmetics
    With the changing seasons, the skin often needs different care routines. From moisturizing lotions that combat winter dryness to sunscreens for the summer months, Norwegian pharmacies offer products tailored to the specificities of the local climate.
  • Orthopedic Aids
    For those who are adventurously exploring the Norwegian terrains or simply need some extra support, many pharmacies offer a range of orthopedic aids. This might include supportive shoe inserts, knee braces, or even posture-correcting tools.
  • Diet and Nutrition
    Whether you’re on a specific diet, looking to boost your nutrition, or need allergy-friendly food options, the “Apotek” often stocks a curated range of health foods and specialty items.
  • Relaxation and Stress Relief
    The hustle and bustle of travel or daily life can sometimes be overwhelming. Look out for relaxation aids like aromatherapy oils, eye masks, or even therapeutic pillows that can help you unwind and rejuvenate.

Emergency Medications and Services

Knowing how to swiftly and efficiently access emergency medications and services can make all the difference during a time of crisis.

24/7 Pharmacies

While most pharmacies in Norway operate within standard working hours, some in larger cities like Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim offer 24/7 services. It’s wise to identify and save the location of these pharmacies, especially if you’re in the area for an extended stay.

Emergency Contraception

In the event of contraceptive failure or unprotected intercourse, pharmacies in Norway provide over-the-counter emergency contraception, often known as the “morning-after pill”. Consult with the pharmacist for guidance on its proper use.

First Aid Kits

Whether exploring the Norwegian wilderness or navigating urban settings, having a first aid kit on hand is invaluable. Most pharmacies stock comprehensive kits that include essential items like bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and more.

Allergic Reactions

If you’re prone to allergic reactions, being prepared is crucial. Some pharmacies carry over-the-counter antihistamines. However, always carry prescribed emergency medications like epinephrine autoinjectors for severe allergies and be aware of the nearest medical facilities.

Poison Control

Accidental ingestion or exposure to harmful substances requires immediate attention. While first and foremost, you should seek emergency medical care; pharmacists can also provide initial guidance on certain exposures. Familiarize yourself with the national poison control helpline for Norway.

Pharmacist Consultation

In urgent situations where you’re unsure about a health issue, pharmacists can offer immediate advice on the best course of action, whether it’s recommending an OTC remedy, guiding you to a nearby clinic, or urging you to seek emergency medical care.

Additional Resources

HELFO is the national authority responsible for various health services in Norway. Their website offers insights into rights, coverage, and services available to both residents and visitors.

Their websites not only provide store locators but also valuable health advice and e-commerce options.

NIPH Official Website – For up-to-date information on public health advisories, vaccine recommendations, and more, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health serves as a comprehensive resource.

While pharmacies can assist in many health situations, emergencies might require immediate medical attention. Familiarize yourself with Norway’s emergency numbers:

  • Medical Help: 113
  • Fire: 110
  • Police: 112
Pharmacies in Norway: A Guide for Foreigners (2024)


Can you buy over the counter medicine in Norway? ›

In Norway, you can only buy OTC medicines that are approved by the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NMA). The NMA has a list of approved medicines that can be sold without a prescription. These are usually for mild symptoms such as pain relief, cough and cold medicines, and antihistamines.

How to get medication in Norway? ›

In Norway, medications are sold in pharmacies
  1. Most medications can only be purchased if you have a prescription from a doctor.
  2. You cannot use a foreign prescription in Norway.
  3. You can buy some medications at a pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor.
  4. A few medications can also be purchased at supermarkets.
Oct 17, 2022

Can foreigners get healthcare in Norway? ›

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you have your EHIC card and are traveling in Norway temporarily, you will be able to access state healthcare services at a reduced cost or for free.

How do prescriptions work in Norway? ›

If you obtain a Norwegian prescription you will need a paper version to bring to the pharmacy. If you have received a norwegian national identity number, the prescription will be digital. Always bring valid ID to the pharmacy (Passport or National ID card).

Is ibuprofen legal in Norway? ›

The following analgesics are available as OTC on the Norwegian market: paracetamol; NSAIDs: ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac; ASA and phenazone.

Can I bring Tums to Norway? ›

If you're entering Norway, you can bring medicines for personal medical use.

What to do if you get sick in Norway? ›

If you are ill or injured, you should first contact your general practitioner (GP). If your GP surgery is closed and you cannot wait until the next day for treatment, contact the out-of-hours healthcare service (legevakten) in your municipality. To contact the out-of-hours healthcare service, call 116 117.

How do I get into medicine in Norway? ›

To be accepted at a medical university in Norway, you need a university entrance qualification. It is therefore not possible to start your studies without a high school diploma. Not surprising? There are countries where you can Medical studies with a specialist baccalaureate can complete.

How much is a doctor visit in Norway? ›

User fees and exemption cards
​Doctor​User fee daytime​User fee evening
​Medical visit by GP/out-of-hours primary care service230 kroner​368 kroner
​Medical visit by GP specialising in general medicine​269 kroner​407 kroner
​Consultation with or medical visit from a specialist​375 kroner
​Laboratory tests61 kroner
6 more rows
Jan 1, 2024

What can't you bring into Norway? ›

It is prohibited to import the following without special permission: Drugs, medicines, and poisons (minor quantities of medicine for personal use are permitted) Spirits over 60% alcohol by volume. Firerams and ammunition.

How to get prescriptions when traveling? ›

Contact the embassy for assistance or check the embassy website; many US embassies list reliable local pharmacies. Contact a travel assistance or travel insurance company, if a membership has been purchased. Consult a reliable internet source such as

What is the pharmacy Act in Norway? ›

The Norwegian Pharmacy Act defines a pharmacy as a physically accessible place for drug sale to end-users where drug-related guidance is provided. Pharmacies ensures safe deliveries of drugs to end users and contributes to the correct drug use in the population.

Can I buy Viagra over the counter in Norway? ›

In 2020 Norwegians can buy Viagra in pharmacies without prescription. Viagra is the first product sold under the new regulations for prescription free medication. January 2018 new rules for prescription free medication with guidance came into force in Norway.

Do I need a prescription for antibiotics in Norway? ›

The antibiotic consumption in Norway is below the European average [11, 21] and an array of measures have been implemented to ensure effective antibiotic stewardship at a national level [10, 21]. Antibiotics have always been prescription-only medicines.

Are pharmacists needed in Norway? ›

Recruitment campaign. There is a general lack of pharmacists in Norway. Hence, pharmacies struggle to attract the best candidates.

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