The response from our most recent post, 35 Photos of Norway That Will Make You Want to Pack Now, was overwhelmingly cohesive. Basically you all said: “Yep-Norway is absolutely stunning. I’d love to go. Too bad it is way out of my travel budget.”
It’s true. Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Although we were mentally prepared for the exorbitant prices, sticker shock still set in the moment one teeny tiny black coffee (no refills) set us back $5 USD—and that wasn’t even the worst of the prices that were yet to come.
That said it IS possible to travel Norway on a budget, provided you do as we say, not as we did. More specifically, Norway is not exactly a country where you just want to ‘wing’ it (like us).
After having regulated travel itineraries in Lapland, we were ready to slow down and see where the Norwegian air blew us. It worked well enough. Having no plans meant we could add a week in the Lofoten Islands, a destination we originally had not planned on visiting but that ultimately proved the highlight of our entire trip. However, we also learned a lot in the process, and it was a bit painful to discover all the ways we could have—and should have—saved money.
So don’t make the same mistakes we did. By following a few of the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to budget travel in Norway.
The Right Season To Travel In Norway
1. Go to Norway in the summer.
Longer days and more sunshine will make it easier to enjoy Norway’s main (free) attraction—its natural beauty. There are also more travel deals and packages during the summer months, some of which we’ll list below. Plus, some of Norway’s fjords and hikes are only accessible from May to September.
Though we were traveling during mid-April, it was still quite chilly; a lot of the hikes and climbs we wanted to experience were closed due to snow or ice.
2. Avoid traveling over the holidays.
We were traveling in Norway over Easter, which was basically a horrible idea. One-way train tickets during Easter week cost $200 USD per person; I just found the same journey in May for only $41 USD. Also, everything in Norway shuts down over the holidays, including the supermarket, so it’s not the most convenient time to explore the country anyway.
Save Money On Accommodation In Norway
Norway has a law called ‘The Freedom to Roam’. It allows all people access to public lands, wilderness and uncultivated countryside. That means that it is legal to pitch a tent just about anywhere, provided it is no closer than 150 meters from an inhabited house or cabin. This is the best way to keep your accommodation costs to a minimum (or zero) while also experiencing Norway’s immense beauty.
There are numerous campsites all across the country if you prefer to have a shower and toilets. Prices vary, but this option is of course much cheaper than a hostel or hotel.
2. Join the Norwegian Trekking Association
The Norwegian Trekking Association is Norway’s largest outdoor activities organization. They operate 400 lodgings across the country, ranging from self-service cabins to staffed lodges in the wilderness. The basic cabins only cost around $16-$30 USD, and you pay via an ‘honor system’ when you leave. These are perfect if you want to do a lot of hiking/skiing/climbing, but don’t want to carry all of your gear along. You have to pay for a one-year membership to receive a key, but the cost is minimal compared to the money you’ll save.
Unfortunately camping will only get you so far if you are visiting cities like Oslo and Bergen. However, Norway has a very extensive couchsurfing network, and we met some truly wonderful hosts during our journey across the country. We even had a private room in this mansion:
Not a bad deal, right?
4. Consider business hotels
Hotels and B&Bs are all extremely expensive, but there isn’t a huge price difference between a basic room in a guesthouse and a comfy room in a large hotel. With hostel beds averaging at $40 USD per person, these really don’t make sense for couples.
Sometimes hotels will offer special rates during the summer months and weekends. We got half-off one night at a beautiful hotel on the water by asking if they had any last minute deals for that night.
5. Travel with friends
If you have a group of around six people, cabins and lodges become much more affordable. We stayed in a fully equipped cabin that could have slept six and cost only $130 USD—total.
Transportation In Norway
1. Purchase train tickets up to 90 days in advance to get the ‘mini price’.
Pretty self-explanatory. Train tickets can be bought up to 90 days in advance. There are a certain number of ‘mini price’ tickets available, priced from 199-499 KR, but they go quickly.
2. Consider flying, or even purchasing an Explore Norway Flight Ticket.
There’s more competition between airlines than train companies, which means that you can often find plane tickets for less than other public transport. During the summer months (June 19 – August 27 for 2014) you can get an Explore Norway Flight Ticket with Wideroe, valid for two weeks of unlimited flights. Various zones cost different amounts; the cheapest ticket is $500 USD. Not the best for the environment, but if you plan on doing a lot of extensive traveling, this could be a good deal. Like we already said in the holiday tip, we paid $400 USD for the two of us to take a 10-hour train ride one way…
3. Rent a car.
Norway might be one of the only oil-producing countries in the world with high gas prices. But if you can get a good deal on a rental car, then this can become an affordable option. We rented a car for three days for a total of $180 USD.
In our opinion, driving is the best way to experience Norway, with many scenic routes along fjords, countryside, and ocean.
We’ve heard from other travelers that Norway is a hitchhiking-friendly country, but we can’t really speak from experience on this one. Most Norwegians speak near perfect English though, so communication likely wouldn’t be an issue.
5. Walk within the cities
Even Oslo, the capital of Norway, is a very walkable city. Save money and get a better sense of the cities by walking from place to place.
Save Money On Eating and Drinking In Norway
1. Cook your own food.
Restaurants in Norway are all absurdly expensive. Even most locals cook on a regular basis, only eating out if it is a special occasion. Luckily, most cabins, houses, and even small hotels will come with a fully equipped kitchen. Rice and beans, anyone?
2. Have a picnic.
There are plenty of picnic tables and public huts to use throughout the country. Pack some picnic goodies and enjoy them.
3. If staying at a guesthouse or hotel, ask if you can pack a lunch.
It’s not all that cool to stash food from breakfast in your backpack, but many hotels have a system where you can legitimately pack a few sandwiches for lunch for only a few dollars.
4. Purchase your alcohol from the Vinmonopolet
A local brew at a restaurant is going to set you back around $11 USD. Don’t even think about a cocktail. If you want to drink, do it in your room. To buy alcohol above 4 or 5 %, you must go to a Vinmonopolet, or liquor store. They’re only open Monday-Friday until 6pm, and Saturday until 3pm, so plan your weekend accordingly.
Must-See Attractions In Norway
1. Nature is free, and it’s probably what Norway does best.
Get outside and enjoy the beauty that is Norway. You’ll find epic hiking, cycling, climbing, and skiing opportunities, just to name a few. Norway’s quaint and colorful cities are worth visiting as well, but we found it to be the landscapes that were out-of-this-world gorgeous.
2. Buy a Fjordpass or City Pass
The Fjordpass gives you discounts at hotels, on rental cars, and on various attractions around the country. You need to do some money crunching to see if it is right for you. Similarly, if you enjoy museums and such, both Oslo and Bergen have city passes that get you into multiple attractions. Again, it just depends on your personal travel preference.
Even utilizing the tips listed above, Norway won’t be as inexpensive as your Southeast Asia backpacking trip. But it doesn’t have to be outlandish, either. We reckon that if you do your planning correctly, you can easily—and enjoyably—stick within a budget of $50 per person per day. Hopefully one day we will be able to return to Norway and put our own tips to use!
Does Norway sound more affordable to you now? Have you traveled Norway on a budget? Any tips to add?