Norway, a country known for its indescribable natural beauty, and for being one of the most expensive places in the world.
Norway hovers on many travellers ‘to visit’ lists for years- much like Japan, I’ve been told people are hesitant to visit because they’ve heard it’s expensive.
While planning my March/April bank holiday trip (the UK has Good Friday and Easter Monday off), I knew I wanted to go somewhere I’d be less reliant on restaurants/bars/museums being open (after visiting Stockholm last year), and settled on somewhere scenic. Once I decided I wanted to spend as much of the weekend in nature as possible, Norway was an obvious contender (along with the Faroe Islands and Scotland).
Ultimately, I decided to do Norway because I’d be able to take trains/buses/boats everywhere, which meant I wouldn’t need to rent a car.
And, as for the question of whether it’s expensive?
Yep, sure is. On our first day, we bought six beers, two kinds of cheese, and crackers from the grocery store near our Airbnb and gaped when the total came to nearly £40.
Fortunately, as with any trip, there are ways to keep cost down. For me, staying on a budget on my trip to Norway was important- Norway was the first trip in a month where I had two other city breaks (to The Netherlands and Krakow, Poland) planned. While I knew those trips would be considerably cheaper, I also was in the midst of planning summer and early fall travel, and wasn’t looking to break the bank, so to speak.
Yes, Norway is expensive. Accept it. The fact that it’s expensive though is no reason not to visit. With a few of my tips and a bit of planning, you can enjoy a long weekend in Norway at the cost of only slightly more than if you’d spent the time in another major European city- Paris, London, Amsterdam, etc.
10 Tips for Saving Money in Norway While Travelling
- Visit in the Off Season: Hear me out- I know Norway is spectacular in summer (May-August), and there’s a greater chance you’ll have good weather. We were extremely lucky with our five days of sunshine in early spring (definitely not the norm for the region), but I’m a major fan of first time visits to places in the off-season. Chances are you’ll save on just about everything and it’ll be less crowded. Also, everything we did (sans hike to Mount Ulriken) could have been done rain or shine. If you’re set on going during a certain time of the year, say peak season- book as early as possible
- Plan Ahead: I’ve said it again and again, but it’s truly the secret to traveling on the cheap in Europe- book things as early as possible.
- Flights/Ferry: In early January, I booked a one way flight from Stavanger to London for £25, slated to leave early evening Easter Monday. My one way flight to Bergen cost a bit more (£120), but that’s because I waited too long to reserve it. We also booked the ferry from Bergen to Stavanger fairly early (£22 a person) because we were concerned prices would go up
- Lodging: Because I started looking at Airbnbs in January as well, I was able to snap up great deals for awesome places during Easter weekend that were £50 or less a night
- Activities: The only area we fell short in the planning department were our activities. We waited until arriving to plan out our days- namely because we were concerned the weather wouldn’t be in our favour and didn’t want to book outdoor tours if it was going to rain/snow all day. Turns out we had nothing to worry about- we enjoyed five days of sunshine and blue skies during our late March visit. I’m not sure how much we would have saved on the Norway in a Nutshell tour or fjord tour we did by booking in advance, but always worth looking into before you travel- every quid (dollar) counts!
- Transportation: We didn’t rent a car in Norway- that’s the reason we chose to visit it over Scotland or the Faroe Islands, actually. We walked around the cities we stayed in, hopped on local buses only as needed, and took airport shuttle buses
- Ditch the Hotel: Airbnb in Europe is the only accommodation I consider 80% of the time. There are exceptions- Amsterdam, a city where a hotel can be cheaper than Airbnb, is one of them. But, for the most part, Airbnbs are a clean and comfortable alternative to hotel and their insane room mark-ups. Plus, you’ll have a fridge/kitchen at your disposal. In Bergen, I found an affordable Airbnb studio apartment near Hotel Clarion Royal that was a ~10 minute walk from the fish market- score! And, in Stavanger, we decided to stay in an Airbnb that was a ~13-15 minute walk from city centre in a private room of someone’s apartment. We totally lucked out when our host told us she’d be gone for the Easter holiday, and we’d have the entire place to ourselves
- Don’t Eat Every Meal Out:On our first afternoon in Bergen, we visited the grocery store and stocked up on goods for breakfasts, sandwiches, cheese boards, and picked up a supply of Norwegian ales and ciders to try. We ended up taking what we didn’t use in Bergen to Stavanger with us, which was a good move with the grocery stores closed for Easter. As for actual meals, we ate breakfast at our Airbnbs every morning. And, we made sandwiches/snack bags for some of our activities – hiking, the Norway in a Nutshell tour, our fjord cruise to limit the amount of money we’d spend on food out of necessity/availability. That said, we did enjoy a few great dinners out- especially at the fish market in Bergen. And, pro-tip: like in England, if you dine in at a restaurant that offers takeaway (such as, Fish Me in the Bergen fish market), you’ll be charged a small service fee. Twice, we got our sushi to go (saving a few pounds) and enjoyed it in our Airbnb while sipping beer/cider and relaxing/watching Netflix. Like most things in life, it’s about balance
- Limit Alcohol Purchases at Restaurants/Bars: Drinking in Norway is expensive- there’s a country mandated tax on all alcohol. On our first day, we discovered a Norwegian ale and pear cider we loved and stocked up on both in anticipation of stores being closed over Easter. Only three times did we visit a bar/order a drink in Bergen (once at the mountain bar atop Mount Ulriken), and we enjoyed each instance thoroughly. Same goes for Stavangar- twice, we shelled out for a beer/cider in restaurants. One was a really cute cafe that we spent the afternoon at playing games, and the other was a waterfront restaurant, where we sat in the sun for a bit and admired the view. Both times, we only ordered one drink because we knew we had more alcohol at our Airbnb and didn’t want to continue paying upwards of £9-12 per pint. But, for a few drinks, in the right places or environments, it’s worth it
- Refill Water Bottles: Norway has some of the best (and cleanest) tap water I’ve ever tasted. Even if you aren’t trying to save money on your trip, I’d still recommend drinking it
- Walk Everywhere: If you’re staying in a city, try to find accommodation that’s walking distance or on a bus route. If you’re taking local transit, buy your tickets before getting on the bus- it’s much cheaper (e.g. in Stavanger, buying beforehand at central station was ~£3 vs. ~£6 on the bus). Not only is walking a great way to get exercise, but you’ll also see and notice more than you would if you took transit everywhere. Of course if you’re in a bigger city, like Oslo, you’ll likely need to take public transit more, but we found Bergen and Stavanger to both be easily walkable
- Take Public Transit or Shuttles To/From the Airport: We never took a taxi in Norway, but I’ve heard it’s insane- worse than Japan, which is really saying something. We booked FlyBussen (available in most major cities in Norway) before our trip for both Bergen and Stavanger and thought it was great- easy to find outside the airport terminals, quick and clean. As with everything else, book the shuttle ahead to save a few Krones. If you’re really on a budget, there are local buses too you could take- although, they’ll likely take longer (e.g. in Stavanger, when we looked up city centre to the airport, FlyBussen was ~20 minutes and the local bus was ~60-75, and only £5 cheaper by comparison)
- Don’t Go Shopping: This was a tough one for me, I looooove Scandi everything. But, it’s essential- the conversion from Krones to GBP (or Euros / USD) just isn’t worth it. Unless you see something you can’t live without, try to find an alternative either where you live or on another trip
- Set a Trip Budget: One of the most essential parts of any trip, in my opinion. We set a daily trip budget and stuck to it, for the most part. Some days, we went slightly over, but we knew that just meant we’d have to re-budget slightly for other days to still come in even
Have you ever visited Norway, did you think it was expensive in comparison to other destinations? If I missed any of your tired and true money saving tips, let me know!