Ruter, the local agency
Oslo has a great public transportation network covering both land and water. From the tramways to the buses, from the local subway to the national train company (NSB), not forgetting the ferries, every square inch of the town is near a station.
The local agency is called Ruter and it bears well the name. The logo is amazingly simple: two streets crossed by two streets. Or two pairs of tramway tracks crossing each other. Some see the hashtag sign from Twitter. Other observe a 3×3 matrix of squares. Anyway, call it Ruter and it will serve you.
Sentralstasjon, the heart of the public network
The central place in Oslo is the Railway Square (or Jernbanetorget). It is deceptively simple. All the trains, all the subway lines, all the trams and many buses are crossing in that square. Every minute, at least one vehicle is in the square.
There is a big timetable in the square with the waiting times for all bus and tram lines. Alas, the real-time table using orange LEDs flickering every second, is not very friendly with the photographers, but that is not important. The impressive 2×6 meters table is visible from a good distance and serves well its customers.
The railway station
There is an even more impressive timetable inside the nearby railway station. The whole table is a matrix of bright-colored TV screens that switch back and forth from showing the departure and arrival times to the rail network map.
The first thing to do when arriving in Oslo is to decide on how to travel across the city. Oslo is quite large. It has only 600.000 inhabitants, but this is a deceptive number. 60 percent of the city is forest. Yes, 60 percent. And excepting the central part of the city, most of Oslo is made out of individual houses. So, while central Oslo covers about 400 square kilometers, the metropolitan area is more than 8000 square kilometers. That is quite big. A trip with the subway takes more than half an hour, because of the extent of the network. Oslo is at sea level (0m) and goes up the surrounding hills to an altitude of more than 300m.
So, yes, the pass is the best way to travel. In fact, if one has to travel more than two times on a given day, it is more advantageous to buy a 24h travel pass. It is called kort and it is a contact-less card. For the people concerned about the environment, there is a mobile phone app that replaces the physical ticket.
For the tourist arriving at the central station, the easiest way is to use one of the the vending machines. The user interface defaults to Norwegian, but it is easy to switch to English. In fact, most of the public web sites and vending machines in Norway provide an English interface (and the local language, of course).
I have spent a more than a week in Oslo, and I have taken tens of pictures of the various pieces of equipment related to public transportation, so there will be several blog entries about Oslo.