Famed for its majestic fjords and snow-capped mountains, Norway is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Its remoteness completely appealed to me, and its hikes are renowned for being some of the best in the world.
But it’s also one of the most expensive countries in Europe (in fact, the whole of Scandanvia has the same reputation). I had heard that petrol is expensive, food prices are high, and activities verge on being unaffordable. But, with cheap flights found on Skyscanner, I took it upon myself to see if we could travel in Norway on a budget.
We decided against using public transport in Norway because, from what I had read beforehand, it seemed like the more expensive option. By booking in advance, you can save some money on train tickets – but by advance, that means 90 days beforehand (3 months!!) Personally, I never organise ANYTHING that far in advance (we only booked our flights about a month before our trip) so this wasn’t really an option for us.
As for buses, well – given that many of Norway’s roads twist and turn around fjords, lakes and mountains, we didn’t really want to be sitting on them. Again, prices aren’t cheap, but are a bit cheaper if booked in advance.
In particular, public transport can be pricey to the starts of walking tracks – because tourists obviously need to use them!
We opted for a rental car so we could have as much freedom as possible while we were in Norway. We wanted to see quite a lot in our six short days so didn’t want to have to schedule public transport timings (and possible delays) into our itinerary.
We booked our rental through AutoEurope which offered the cheapest deal online with Thrifty Rentals. The car was great – fairly new with low mileage and large enough for all our luggage!
Because Norway is covered in fjords, there’s a lot of water everywhere – which can be quite the obstacle when you’re driving. This means ferries are an additional cost on pretty much any itinerary. For example, if you take the road from Bergen to Stavanger or vice versa, you need to take 3 different ferries. The ferries are quick and comfortable with refreshments sold onboard, and although they aren’t expensive, they quickly add up. The most expensive ferry cost around £33 GBP for the two of us.
Toll roads – Instead of paying for toll roads as you drive, charges for using toll roads were calculated by the rental car company at the end of our visit and charged back to my credit card. This totalled 586 NOK (about £55 GBP).
Parking – in big cities and at the start of walking tracks, parking can be pricey. There is a new car park at Trolltunga which costs 500NOK (about £47 GBP) for the day, whereas parking at the bottom of the hill costs 300NOK (about £28 GBP).
One of the biggest and most important expenses will be your accommodation; you need to find something you’re comfortable with, so you aren’t scrimping too much and compromising your happiness! The below options will give you a feel of which might be best for you if you are travelling Norway on a budget.
Hotels and Hostels
When I search for accommodation, I scour websites like Booking.com and Hotels Combined to find the best deals. Normally I’m able to find cheap dormitory rooms in hostels, but Norway was having none of that. In fact, hostels don’t seem to be very common outside of the bigger cities. Hotel prices started at around £100 a night, which only included a room (or breakfast at most) and would have meant eating out for lunch and dinner. These costs would soon add up.
Camping is totally free in Norway year-round and ‘wild camping’ is a thing – you can set up wherever you like (but be sure to leave no trace, i.e. take all your rubbish with you). We had planned to camp in Norway in order to save money, but decided against it just 3 days before we flew, simply because we worried it would be a) too cold and b) we had way too much stuff to take on the plane. This is an option I would explore in the summer months though!
The cheapest rental company I could find totalled over £1,000 GBP for six days – it was out of the question. Many companies offer discounts for longer periods, but I still would not suggest hiring a campervan if you’re on a budget.
AirBnB was our saviour in Norway and we had only good experiences. Norwegians are very hospitable and will welcome you into their homes with open arms. We stayed in a mix of shared accommodation and ‘entire homes’, the cheapest costing £45 a night for the two of us, and the most expensive costing £82 (but it was absolutely lush). In total we spent £250 on 5 nights of accommodation in Norway in May.
We limited our spending on paid attractions whilst in Norway as the main reason we were there was to experience the outdoors.
Magic Ice Bar, Bergen
A novelty to the both of us, we decided to visit the Ice Bar in Bergen when we were stuck for something to do on our first evening there. The admission cost is 195 NOK (around £20 GBP) which includes one free drink. Not cheap, but worth it for the amusement of drinking Norwegian wine from a glass made of ice and shiver-dancing on an ice dance floor!
This simple cable car lasts a few minutes and takes you to a lookout over the city. The views are admittedly worthwhile, and it isn’t overly expensive at 95 NOK per adult (about £9 GBP). The other cable car in the city, which travels up Mount Ulriken, costs 115 NOK for a single journey (about £11).
The best way to see Norway is to get out and about and appreciate its incredible landscapes. Hiking is completely free in Norway so you can make the most of the great outdoors without breaking the bank. We hiked Trolltunga and Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) whilst in Norway and loved both of them. The only cost is your car parking – walking the trails is free of charge.
Eating and Drinking
One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone looking to travel in Norway on a budget is to scrap the fine dining and favour self-catering instead!
Restaurants and Takeaways
We only got one takeaway while in Norway and that was because all the shops were closed on Sunday evening! Top tip – plan ahead! Two pizzas cost us £45 – not exactly a Domino’s Deal!
Restaurant prices are steep in Norway so if you are on a budget, I don’t recommend making a habit of it! A burger and drink can easily set you back £15, so budgeting for this twice a day quickly adds up.
Cooking for yourself will definitely save you money in Norway. My best advice is to stay in self-catered accommodation, stock up on pasta and noodles at the start of your trip, and sacrificing fine dining in order to save your buck!
‘Own’ brand products were much cheaper than branded ones – by almost double the price – and we found bread was surprisingly expensive.
Drinking is expensive in Norway; this isn’t the destination for you if you just want to get drunk!
A beer in a bar or cafe will easily cost you £6-8; we spent £13 on two in Bergen. Basically, think London prices. And don’t think that drinking at home is cheap! A pack of 6 cans in the supermarket set us back £16 – and it was a simple Pilsner.
Shop my essential travel gear for Norway:
Have you visited Norway? Do you think its possible to travel Norway on a budget?
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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