Norway is quite a spectacular country. The beautiful mountain landscapes, stunning fjords, and access to some of the most pristine natural wilderness the world has to offer are hard to beat. But, if you have ever traveled around Norway or are planning to and have had a look at some of the prices then you’ll know that Norway is one expensive country.
I learned the hard way by getting over-excited about the prospects of exploring the rivers and Fjords with my fly rod and not checking the prices of things before I got there. When I ordered a burger at a gas station and it cost $15 US and buying a beer was around $10 US in a bar, I suddenly realized that my budget for the trip was no way near what it should be – thank god for credit cards.
But, you can do Norway on a budget, it just takes so solid research, trip planning, and being clever about your accommodation. Here are all my tips and tricks for traveling around Norway on a budget.
The first step to doing Norway on a budget is by making sure you have planned your itinerary in advance so you can book the best deals and here is how.
The first step to going to Norway on a budget is by making sure you get the least expensive flights possible. Make sure to plan your trip way in advance so you can pick up the best low-cost fares with airlines like Ryan Air or Norwegian Airlines. You can easily get a return flight to Norway for less than 100 euros with baggage when flying from Europe but from the US it might be a little more expensive.
Remember when booking low fares that extra costs such as baggage, seat selection, and onboard refreshments usually come at an extra charge and the last thing you want is to get caught out. For example, with Ryan Air, if you don’t pre-print or bring a mobile boarding pass with you, then charge you 50 euros to get one at the check-in desk.
Another reason for planning your trip is way in advance is that you can book any bus or rail travel in advance too. Advance train and bus tickets are a lot more affordable in Norway than simply turning up on the day and paying.
Every bus or train fare in Norway has a select amount of tickets on offer at minipris fares that are available on a first-come-first-served basis. So if you really want to do Norway on a budget you’ll have to create a strict travel schedule and book all your connecting train and bus tickets way in advance.
This does make your travels a lot less open for change but if you want to save some cash, then this is the only way to do it.
The best way to have all the freedom in the world while exploring Norway is by hiring a car. The roads are excellent, you can get anywhere in the country, and it allows you to get off the beaten track. Plus, if there are 3-4 paying adults in your group it can be a lot more affordable.
It’s not as cheap to travel in a hire car as it is to use buses and trains but it does give you access to free accommodation in the form of Wild Camping, which you might not be able to access on foot or by train or bus without one.
Hiring a car in Norway costs around $50 per day depending on the season and length of time you’re renting it for. But, if you consider that this gives you access to free accommodation in the form of camping and you’re sharing the costs with a group, your overall costs will go way down.
One fantastic feature of Norway that makes it easy to do on a budget is that the whole country is pretty much spectacular meaning you don’t have to go far to see amazing things. There are stunning mountains and coastline next to almost every town or city.
When planning your travels around Norway, don’t plan long distances and keep them short. If you’re using. hire car this will keep your fuel costs down, and if you’re using public transport your costs will likely be cut in half.
That being said, you might only ever go to Norway once, so don’t limit yourself too much, but try to plan things with minimal distances to bring the general costs down.
There is a huge range of accommodation options in Norway but it’s certainly not cheap if you want a solid roof over your head. Luckily, despite being one of the most expensive countries in the world, there are a few very budget-friendly accommodation options one of which is completely free.
As I mentioned above the best way to do Norway on a budget when it comes to accommodation is by wild camping. Norway has a right to roam rule which means you are allowed to camp anywhere in the countryside in forests, mountains, or by the sea for two nights, as long as you are at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin.
Even if there is an inhabited house or cabin close by if you ask politely the owners are usually super friendly and have no issue with you pitching your tent.
If you plan on staying for more than two nights you must ask the landowner’s permission. Also, wild camping in Norway comes with some responsibility and you must not leave any trace that you were there – so no rubbish or anything like that can be left behind.
Luckily when I was there we had a tent and this made our trip far more affordable. We even managed to find a field looking down a fjord and had a better view than the most expensive hotels in the area.
But, in order to Wild Camp, you will probably need a car and you’re going to need to bring all your camping gear with you. But, it’s a small cost compared to paying for accommodation every night whilst you’re there.
If you’re traveling around Norway solo then one of the best ways to get free accommodation in the cities is by using Couchsurfing.com. You get to stay with locals for a night or two, meet some new people, make some new friends, and probably have an experience of Norway that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
The next most affordable accommodation option after wild camping is staying at an actual campsite. These have the benefits of hot showers, bathrooms, and are usually close to a town or have an onsite shop so you can re-supply quite easily.
Plus, they usually have affordable cabins you can rent which are far more affordable than hotel accommodation.
Even if you pan on wild camping, you’re going to need to spend a night or two under a reel roof at some point. Maybe the weather is bad or you are in the city.
The most affordable option is to stay in a dorm room at a hostel which will cost you around 200 NOK per night. Private rooms go for around 700 NOK per night which is manageable if you’re sharing with a friend of your partner. Be aware that hostels in Norway usually charge you 50 NOK for the linens, so don’t be surprised if this hits your bill. You can use your own but using a sleeping bag is not allowed.
If you plan ahead, Airbnb can be a great way to do Norway on a budget. You find rooms on Airbnb for around 500 NOK per night plus you get added bonus of hanging out with some locals. Apartments or houses are around 750 NOK at a minimum per night, which is very manageable if you’re in a group.
Hotels in Norway are going to cost you anything from 800 NOK to up to 2000 NOK for a double room per night depending on the level of luxury. Stay clear of these as much as possible if you’re serious about doing Norway on a budget. But, if you fancy treating yourself to one night of luxury, then go for it.
Food, like everything else in Norway, is expensive but there are some ways around it. Here is how to make sure you do Norway on a budget when it comes to keeping hunger at bay.
This might sound like a crazy idea but it’s going to save you crazy amounts of cash too. Even the most basic foods like pasta and noodles are expensive in Norway so it’s a great idea to bring them from home.
Packing your bag with basic items from home like coffee, tea, sugar, powdered milk, granola, oats, nuts, pasta, energy bars, pesto, chocolate, wraps, tinned fish and tinned beans is an excellent way to beat the high prices of food in Norway. You might have to pay a little extra for your check-in baggage but believe me, it will cost you a whole lot less than buying them at a supermarket.
Now, you’re not going to get around Norway without ever going into a supermarket, there some things you are going to have to buy.
The first step to buying affordable food in Norway is going to low-cost supermarkets like Rema and Kiwi where the prices are a lot lower than the other supermarkets.
Once inside the supermarket, make sure you shop for store-brand food only. Almost every item in the supermarket, even vegetables, will have a non-store brand or store brand version and the prices are very different.
A non-store brand loaf of bread might cost $5 or more whereas a store brand loaf will be more around $1. The same goes for everyday items like milk and even tinned mackerel. So when shopping, be thrifty and search out the bargains, you probably won’t taste the difference either.
Alcohol is very expensive in Norway compared to anywhere else in Europe and if you like a drink in the evenings then you will save a bunch of cash by buying your favorite tipple at duty-free on the way. Make sure you buy your full allowance or you will be regretting it.
You can also stock up even more at the arrivals duty-free at Olso airport – if you like a beer this is a must as a beer can cost you up to 10 euros when out at a bar. Plus, you can really carry a few cases of beer onto the plane but once you arrive you can easily load them into the hire car.
When you run out of drinks, buying them at a supermarket is much more adorable than resorting to going to a bar, in fact, it’s about 50% cheaper. So if you do need a little top-up to your booze supply, make sure to add it to your supermarket shopping list.
Eating out in Norway starts at around $25 and that is just for a single takeaway pizza. If you’re thinking about going to a restaurant for a 3-course meal, then plan around $100 per head at the minimum.
Being able to cook your own food is one of the best ways to do Norway on a budget and you should consider the costs of eating out when booking your accommodation, as having a kitchen to use is going to save you a pile of cash.
If you’re camping, then you are going to be bringing your own cookware and stove so you can make meals out in the wild, Noway is set up for this and you can even buy your butane cans at the airport before starting your adventure.
But, what I found is that eventually you going to want to explore the nightlife of the town around you, and you’re on holiday so fighting this urge is pretty impossible. We found that eating at home/camp followed by a few beers and then paying for a beer or two at the bar was the best of both worlds.
One of the best ways of doing any country on a budget is avoiding having to pay for drinking water. Luckily in Norway, all the tap water is drinkable and all the mountain streams, lakes, and rivers are almost drinkable too which is great if you’re camping.
Make sure to bring a large reusable water bottle for everyone on the trip which can be filled up at every gas station or hostel. If you’re camping, invest ins a $20 water filter that will give your drinkable water from any stream, river, or lake, without you having to waste any butane by boiling it.
As with every country in the world, the prices in Norway’s cities are far higher than in the countryside. So make sure to stick to the beautiful wilderness are much as possible. This is another huge bonus of camping and having a hire car, as you are saving money on every part of your trip in Norway.
If you want to spend some time in Norway’s cities then a great budget way to do it is by getting a tourism card. Now, this only pays off if you’re planning on visiting a lot of the sites such as museums and art galleries and the card also comes with free public transport too.
Take a look at your itinerary, see what it costs, and then compare it to the cost of a tourism card. Chances are, you will be paying a similar amount for doing a lot less and a tourism card will give you access to doing a whole lot more for the same amount of money.
If there was a time to visit Norway, then it’s probably now. Back in 2008, you would only get around 5 NOK for 1 USD but now it’s up to 8.4 NOK for 1 USD which is a saving of around 20%. The market looks to remain in the dollar favor for around 6 months to a year so if you have ever planned on visiting Norway then now might be the time.
One of the best reasons to visit Norway is to experience its beautiful natural landscapes and luckily all of these are pretty much free.
If you spend your time hiking in the mountains, around forests, seeing the glaciers, visiting the national parks, and walking the beaches of the Fjords you are going to spend far less than wandering around the cities having a coffee or three as you go and paying for access to every museum or art gallery. Plus, in my experience, you are going to feel a lot better too.
Norway has over 47 national parks where you can see reindeer, lynx, wolves, waterfalls, beautiful rivers, plus hundreds of mountains for you to hike and climb. Access to the national parks is also affordable at around 200-600 NOK per vehicle per day.
If you’d love to do certain activities which Norway is famous for like taking a cruise around a Fjord to see the spectacular scenery and sea life, then holding back isn’t really an option, as chances are you might not visit Norway again.
But, activities like this, while they are worth it, are extremely expensive compared to what you’d pay at home. Pick the activities you’d like to experience wisely and don’t choose too many of them, this way you get the best of both worlds.
Between the middle of June and August, everything in Norway is a bit more expensive and crowded than in the rest of the year. If you book your travel during the month of May or in September you are going to save on everything from your flights to accommodation and car hire plus you’ll have loads more accommodation options and far-less tourists to deal with too.
The best way to do Norway on a budget is with a group of 4 sharing a hire car, camping most of the time, and spending some nights in an Airbnb when you need a break from your tent.
If you can, make sure to plan your trip to Norway with 3 other friends or family members. This will make your car hire costs around $13 per person per day, cut the fuel costs down by 25%, and the same goes for your Airbnbs.
Everywhere in Norway accepts card payments so there is no need to withdraw a bunch of cash are travel around with it. Also, Norwegian cash machines and card payments do no charge for their services so your best bet is to bring the right bank card with you.
Your regular bank is going to give to you a terrible exchange rate and most likely charge you for a foreign transaction fee so make sure you have a Revolut or Monzo card with you. Both Revolut and Monzo do not charge you for foreign transactions and they give you the exact exchange rate at the time you pay so you are always getting the best rate.
Not only does this save you money but it will also save you a lot of hassle too as there will be no need to manage cash or find a currency exchange. Just live as normal as you would at home but using a Revolut or Monzo card instead of your normal bank card.
As you can see, traveling to Norway on a budget is very doable and you shouldn’t wait to go once you can afford it. If you plan it well and get a group of you together then you won’t have any issues getting around on less than your might have thought.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!