Norway doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being budget-friendly. Oslo is one of the world’s most expensive cities and the country’s average monthly wage is around $5,200, so proportional costs of living can seem pretty steep. But that doesn’t mean the country is inaccessible to the average budget traveler. In fact, by tightening the purse strings, you’ll be able to experience the country far more richly than if you followed the somewhat standard travel template of three-star hotels, restaurants every night, and door-to-door taxis. Here’s how to pull it off.
Hotels in this story
Where to Stay
Avoid high-season rates by visiting during the bridge or low season. Don’t be afraid to stay outside of the center of town — with air as fresh and crisp as , you’ll look forward to a bit of walking. But this doesn’t mean you have to compromise either. The self-service Citybox hotel in , for example, costs approximately $80 per night in March, is situated right in the center of the city, and has a hip, minimalist vibe. Other solid options include the Comfort Hotel Xpress Youngstorget, which does away with frills like room service and minibars to keep rates under $100 per night. If you don’t mind shelling out a bit more, but still want to keep nightly rates under $100, the Clarion hotel chain has properties in Trondheim — a good jumping-off point for fjord-exploring — and Bergen.
How to Get Around
With so much to do and see, you’re not going to want to stay in one spot. The country is famous for its jaw-dropping natural scenery and the journey from one place to another is an experience in and of itself. Combine transit and pleasure with Norway in a Nutshell, a DIY tour that takes you from Oslo to Bergen on your own schedule using trains, buses, and a fjord cruise. (The views from each are too special to skip). If you’re the adventurous type, copy the itinerary on the Norway in Nutshell website and book the tickets yourself to save around $60. The sooner you do it, the better, as train tickets are heavily discounted (approximately 40 percent), if you book far in advance. As far as traveling within the cities, this isn’t the place to take a taxi. Utilize public transportation in a bigger city like Oslo or, if you’re up for it, walk — Norway’s cities are compact enough and pleasant to cover on foot.
Where to Eat and Drink
Food in Norway doesn’t come cheap, but thankfully there are farmer’s markets. Try the smoked salmon or samples of caviar at the fish market in Bergen’s harbor. Don’t miss the lefse (Norweigan flatbread), cheese, and beer from the surrounding vendors either. Grab some locally-made food and a picnic table in Bryggen, the city’s district of 17th-century merchant houses. You’ll be surrounded by other Norwegians getting their drink on, which make for an unforgettable experience.
If you’re in a self-catering hotel (another money-saving option), hit up the grocery store for breakfast, snacks, and sandwich fixings to cook your own meals. But budget and set aside cash for one or two well-researched restaurants that you’re keen on visiting (it is vacation, after all). One amazing restaurant is worth several mediocre ones. If you prefer dining at restaurants for dinner, fill up on the grocery store loot during the day and have (or split) a wallet-friendly starter, instead of an entree, at night. And if imbibing is on your itinerary, save your pennies and buy your booze from the grocery store (a beer in a bar will run you about $12 to $15). A six-pack of beer can still cost up to $30, but it’s the more budget-conscious option.
What to Do
After spending hours marveling over Norway’s scenery from trains, buses, and ferries, the next best thing to do is experience it on your own two feet. Plus, hiking is always free (just bring a bottle of Norway’s amazing water with you; the tapped stuff is just fine, too). A good place to start is Bergen’s Mount Fløyen, where you can take your pick of hills. Or, if you go with Norway in a Nutshell, arrange to stop in the town of Finse for two national parks or a seven-and-a-half-mile hike to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier.
Plenty of good museums are also free or cheap, with tickets less than $10. The well-kept Bergenhus Fortress, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is free to enter. And the variety of city museums, which include country mansions, settlement reconstructions, and King Hakon’s more than 750-year-old hall (all for less than $10 a ticket), are also appealing.
In Oslo, visit the Royal Palace to catch the changing of the guard ceremony. Then, head to Vigelandsparken to view more than 200 unusual granite and bronze statues. The Oslo Pass, which starts at $41 for 24 hours, grants free admission to more than 30 museums and attractions, travel on all public transit, entry to outdoor swimming pools, walking tours, and plenty of discounts. (Bergen also has a similar card).
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