Languages

Christmas travel boom

People lining up for passport control at Storskog check-point. Photo: Jonas Karlsbakk

Traffic across Russia’s border to Norway peaked to all time high in 2012 with December as the busiest month as the Russians crowded for Christmas shopping.

Location

More than a quarter of a million border-crossings took place on the border between the Kola Peninsula and neighboring Finnmark in 2012. That is up more than 57,000 - the highest year on year increase on record.

Christmas shopping in the border town of Kirkenes is the main reason for the boom in December when 29,737 border crossings were counted at Storskog, Borisoglebsk check-point, Russia’s northernmost land border to Western Europe. That is by far the highest number in a single month period.

Many of the shops in Kirkenes have designed their assortment for Russian customers. In the days before Christmas, Russian language was more common than Norwegian at the counter desks. The seasonal visitors to Norway continue to grow in early January. With New Year holidays in Russia and New Year’s sales in the shops on the Norwegian side, the traffic has shot up. 

Nearly 30,000 more vehicles crossed the border last year compared with 2011. From being a border nearly without a single car crossing during the Cold War, the 93,977 vehicles counted in 2012 shows the popularity among normal citizens to explore the other side. The increased car traffic includes the growing number of Norwegians that since June have been allowed to cross into the first 30 kilometers on the Russian side of the border without holding a visa. The majority go for cheap petrol in Nikel, the nearest Russian town.

The deal on visa-free travel for inhabitants living less than 30 kilometers from the actual border entered force in late May last year. Some 15,000 of last year’s border crossings were made by people traveling without visa.