If you are reading this post, I take it you have considered a trip to Norway and then realised, holy cow it’s bloody expensive up north! So let’s get that bit out of the way, cause no matter how you look at it, a trip to Norway will cost you a good few kroner more than most places you’ve been to. But then again, the encounter you will have with nature in this country cannot be measured in money. It is truly priceless. Norway is a magical and unique destination that is sure to take your breath away over and over again as it does with me every time I discover new areas of this long stretched nation. I am extremely proud of what we Norwegians can call home and I am always excited to meet people who have ventured to our shores, mountains and fjords to experience what I personally consider the most spectacular nature in the world. That is why I am writing this post, so that hopefully more people will be able to plan a trip to this fairytale of a land. Cause you need to know that although Norway is expensive, you can still come here on a budget and here is how!
Getting to Norway & traveling around
First things first, how do you get to Norway and how can you travel here? Most people will be arriving by plane, most likely in Oslo at Gardemoen airport. Other destinations such as Bergen or Trondheim are options too, but will most likely be more expensive or include a transit in Oslo anyway. Although Norwegians are keen on traveling we are only a few million people, which affects the offer of international flights and prices. That’s why if you are coming from outside of Europe it might be cheaper to look for flights to more popular destinations, such as London or Paris and then find flights to Oslo with low cost airlines such as Ryan Air or Norwegian.
So, you have arrived in Norway, but how are you gonna move about? For those of you who are keen hitchhikers that’s easily the cheapest option, but Norwegians are not really that into hitchhiking and you might find it hard to do. (I haven’t done it so if anyone with experience reads this, give me a shout and let me know how it went). So, your transport will be mainly buses and trains.
Trains in Norway are operated by the NSB and will take you to all major cities from Oslo all the way up to Bodø, which is the northern most destination you can reach by train. If you get to Bodø you are also on the doorstep to the spectacular Lofoten Islands, just a boat ride away. Trains are a great way to travel between main destinations as it is quicker than traveling by road. Getting the best deal on train journeys is all about planning, because advanced tickets are always cheaper than booking travel on the same day. NSB has something we call minipris, which are low price tickets for inter-city travel. Such tickets can cost you as little as NOK 249,- ($30/€25/£22). Buying an interrail ticket for one country is also an option to save money, but you need to evaluate how much you will be using the train. Here is an overview of all the tickets available with NSB. The NSB app can be downloaded so that you have for easier access on your phone.
Buses are often cheaper options than the train, but usually takes longer, however at the same time they are the only way to get to many beautiful destinations around the country. Nettbuss and Nor-Way Bussekspress are the main operators of bus travel in Norway and has a substantial network all around the southern parts of the country up to Trondheim. If you are traveling with Nettbuss or Nor-Way there’s a lot of money to be saved by booking a ticket online. Another. Low price bus company is lavprisekspressen, who have good prices on inter-city routes between Oslo – Trondheim and Oslo – Stavanger. Smaller areas will have local buses that operate between villages and towns, but be aware that they will not run frequently, maybe only a couple of times a day. Moreover, there are far less bus services outside of the main season and you will have to check the availability for when you are there. Best thing is to get in touch with the local tourism office and ask for assistance on timetables and prices. For local buses you buy your ticket as you get on the bus. Ruter is a good place to search for buses and timetables.
Norway is the sixth largest country in Europe and by far the longest one. Our coastline is the second largest in the world and stretches over 100.000 kilometers. In other words, getting around takes time and costs money. Considering this, travels here are really recommended to be done at stages so that you are able to fully enjoy one region at a time. But okay, you wanna have it all. The only way to be able to experience larger areas of Norway in a small amount of time is by flying. Like with trains, getting the best deals on flights is all about planning. Norwegian and Widerøe have the biggest flight network around Norway and also some of the lowest prices available. Widerøe also has an ‘Explore Norway Ticket’ , where you can book an unlimited 14 days flight ticket for 2 different zones or the whole country. Depending on how many destinations you are able to squeeze in, this can be a way to save heaps of money on flights.
Because of the large distances, rugged nature and faraway little gems that makes Norway so special, the best way of traveling is definitely by car. But for a budget traveler this is really only an option if you are able to drive your way up here with your own vehicle. If you do have the option to bring a car, good for you! This will be a huge advantage to make the most out of your time here. Driving though, is expensive especially in the remote areas petrol will cost your dearly. To keep fuel costs as low as possible, make sure you fill up when you are in a city or larger towns. Fuel is always cheaper on Sundays and Monday mornings so if possible head to a gas station at these times. When driving in Norway you should also know that we have a lot of toll roads that’ll add to the cost of driving. Places were there are few road fees are usually compensated with costs of ferries. At camping sites, cars are usually cheap to park up next to your tent. Car rental in Norway is extremely costly and only a ‘budget’ option if you are four or five people traveling together who can split the cost of the rental price, petrol, tollroads, ferries and parking.
Accompdation is one of those things we can’t do without, but which is definitely on of the main reasons traveling in Norway is so expensive. A bed doesn’t come cheap around here. On top of that, Norway is not very backpacker friendly. Hostels are few and far in-between and are therefore usually fully booked months in advance. If you want to come close to budget travel in Norway you have to take advantage of these two options.
Using couchsurfing in Norway is a great option for budget travelers and especially young backpackers. It is free, safe and best of all, you get to meet local people who can give you the best tips and take you out for an authentic Norwegian experience. This type of accommodation is easiest in Oslo and other cities around Norway.
Not everyone is keen on camping, but in my opinion it is one of the best ways to explore Norway because you get to be close to the most precious asset we have; nature. There are around 800 campsites in Norway usually offering an option to pitch a tent or hire cabins. Tents are usually the cheapest way to go and you pay around NOK 20-30,- (car & tent is usually somewhere between NOK 150,-/200,-) for a place on the campgrounds, which includes access to kitchen facilities, toilets and often has free wifi. Showers are usually about NOK 20,- for 5 minutes. However, if you really want to, you can pay the totalt amount of nothing to camp in Norway. We have this wonderful law that says that everyone should have the right to access the countryside and national parks for free. This means that pitching a tent in Norway can be done without spending a penny in large parts of the country. Sure, there are some rules that you need to obey, but it mostly concerns respecting nature and the people around you. So, for the best way to save money on accommodation you should do a onetime investments in some camping gear. This will let you roam freely in the Norwegian nature. Read this article from Visit Norway to know about your right to access and where you are allowed to put up a tent.
I’m guessing you’d want to eat something while you are over here too right? Well, I think it is time for you to get acquainted with the Norwegian matpakke. A matpakke is what we Norwegians make everyday to take to work. Or sometimes to the beach. Or on a hike. Or when we go skiing. It is more or less our lunch for any occasion and we love it although it is usually as simple as sliced bread with something on it. Cheese, meat, vegetables, whatever. Of course you can make it more interesting, the point is, we make our own meals when we are heading outside, because it is cheaper and more convenient. This is what you need to do too if you want to travel on a budget. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, you make it yourself either on a portable gas stove (essential camping gear) in a communal kitchen at the campsite or hostel or at your new friends house where you have borrowed the couch for the night. Eating out in Norway is simply too expensive and should not be the rule but the few exceptions when you travel here. And you can just forget about enjoying alcohol over here. That stuff will break your bank for sure.
Although the best of Norway is completely free to explore, there might be some activities that tickles your fancy more than others and this is what you should spend your money on. In cities such as Oslo and Bergen you should do your research and consider buying an Oslo Pass or Bergen Card that can save you a lot of money on attractions and transport within the city. Make sure you check out if there are discounts available in the areas that you are planning on visiting.
In all aspects of your travels to Norway it is key that you plan ahead if you want to save money. If you want to budget you have to be prepared to live the simple life and not splash out on things that are not essential. Traveling outside of high season too can save you a bit of cash, but then you need to be aware of the restricted offers on transportation, certain activities and even accommodation. Without a doubt though, a trip to Norway will be remembered for everything but the price tag and you’ll want to come again and again…