How to Enjoy Norway on a Budget
Packed with natural wonders and uniquely Scandinavian charm, Norway is a destination not to be missed. Sadly, many travellers write it off as simply too expensive – don’t make this mistake! Although a Norwegian vacation will never be as budget-friendly as a trip to Southeast Asia, a little planning and a sense of adventure can make a visit to this stunning country affordable. This is your essential guide to enjoying Norway on a budget.
What’s the best time to visit Norway on a budget?
Norway is strikingly beautiful all year round, however, the decision of when to travel might have a significant impact on your budget, so there are a few things to consider.
- The winter months (December – February) are all about short days, spectacular snowscapes and cosy evenings by the fire, not to mention the delights of a Scandinavian Christmas.
- Summer (June-August) is downright idyllic as the nation busies itself with festivals, boating and outdoor pursuits while the long days stretch on forever – after all, it is called the Land of the Midnight Sun.
As for our suggestion of when to go? Save some cash and get the best of both worlds by visiting during the shoulder season. Consider travelling in September, when the days are fairly warm and most summer tourist attractions will still be open, or March, when there’s plenty of snowfall but the days are starting to lengthen.
Of course, if you’re determined to experience a particular attraction that’s season specific (northern lights, anyone?) you’ll need to plan your visit around it. It’s all about deciding what you really want to see.
There are many things that I enjoy and love about Norway, but if I only have to pick one, it is simply nature. The wonder and beauty of nature here in Norway is something you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I experienced the magical moments with the Northern Lights, the abundant wildlife, endless deep forests, and magnificent fjords. It is like a living postcard everywhere around you.
Travelling to Norway on a budget is not easy, but it’s doable. Most importantly, if you can budget your transportation costs, half of your job will be done. When that is done, let nature do the rest with summer, sun and “softis” fun. Also, don’t miss going on a fjord cruise. – Criz, Crizzy Kiss
Unless you’re already in a Scandinavian country, the cheapest and easiest way to get to Norway is by plane. If you’re in Europe, keep an eye on the budget carriers – they regularly offer great deals, but don’t forget that you may have to factor in a long bus ride from a budget airport.
Those further afield needn’t despair. Check out sites such as Skyscanner to get an idea of a good price from your hometown. Then, when you see a bargain, you’ll be ready to click that mouse and book.
Norway can certainly be expensive, but the county’s breathtaking nature is absolutely free. Summer is the perfect time to get out and be active in its fjords, mountains and forests! Even major cities boast impressive wilderness on their doorsteps, and there are plenty of well-marked hiking trails for all levels of fitness.
Why not take a relatively easy walk up Bergen’s Mt Fløyen for a great view of the surrounding area, then take the funicular back down for a very reasonable US$6.35?
If forests aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty to see by stretching your legs. Enjoy the city atmosphere with free guided walking tours in Oslo and Bergen (although tips are appreciated). Prefer doing it yourself? A quick online search for self-guided tours in your preferred region can set you up with an itinerary, directions and some interesting facts. All you have to do is start walking.
Love museums and art galleries? Norway’s got you covered. The National Gallery in Oslo is a must-see, with works by Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne and local hero Edvard Munch (yes, they have The Scream). Best of all, entry on Thursdays is entirely free! Oslo’s Vigeland Sculpture Park features over 200 unusual sculptures (all by artist Gustav Vigeland) and is open to visitors free of charge all year round.
I’ve been to Oslo and Tromso now, and what struck me was just how calming both cities were. Tromso in particular was so magical in January with cosy cafes and restaurants on every corner. The one thing I’d recommend to visitors travelling to Norway is to choose your accommodation wisely. It’s well worth spending a little extra before you go to make sure that breakfast is included. Don’t underestimate just how much you can save by staying in an apartment too – stock up on food in a supermarket and prepare lunches before you head out to explore! – Emily, The Cosy Traveller
Travelling within Norway
Domestic travel can add up, but there are indeed ways to keep the cost down. The easiest way to do this is to minimise long-distance domestic travel. Focus on one or two unique areas, and explore them to your heart’s content. There is so much to see, and you can always come back!
- Train: Booking travel as far as possible ahead of time makes a huge difference. For example, the seven-hour train journey between Oslo and Bergen is one of the world’s most scenic. It’s more than just transport from A to B: it’s an experience in itself, and there’s even free WiFi so you can make your Instagram friends jealous in real time! Buy a standard one-way ticket on the day of travel, and it could set you back almost US$120 – but book the same journey online three months in advance via the Norwegian State Railways website, and you could score yourself a discounted Minipris ticket for just under US$50. It does pay to plan.
- Car: Fancy a road trip? Car rental can be reasonable if you split the cost with a few friends, and your transport will come in handy if you’re hoping to experience the great outdoors by camping and hiking. Fuel can be expensive, so choose the most efficient car possible. Roads are exceptionally well maintained, and all hire cars are fitted with winter tires during the colder months. You’ll also be easily able to access accommodation away from the main tourist areas, which can certainly save you a few kroner!
- Ferry: It’s also worth keeping Norway’s excellent ferry system in mind. If you’re longing to go cruising but are short on time and money, a 15-minute ride on the public ferry from Oslo’s Aker Brygge wharf will get you to the charming islands of the inner Oslo Fjord quickly and cheaply. If you’ve got your heart set on a longer journey, ditch the luxury cruise ship amenities for a comfortable passenger cabin on a mail or cargo boat heading north from Bergen. You’ll still see all the breathtaking sights of the Norwegian coastline – and you’ll get more of an authentic glimpse into life in port towns and cities along the way.
My favorite thing about Norway are the fjords, and particularly the Aurlandsfjord on a sunny day. That’s the fjord where I was lucky enough to grow up, and I love sharing it with visitors! Spend your day out on the fjord, either by going on a Fjord Safari or a Fjord Cruise, and then head up to the Stegastein viewpoint for spectacular views of the fjords.
If you are traveling to Norway on a budget, my number 1 tip is to do your research. There are plenty of posts out there on how to travel Norway or Oslo on a budget. My favorite budget hack is to not splurge on the Airport Express when you land in Oslo, but rather catch a local train for half the price. Other little tricks is to invest in the Oslo Pass, which gives you free entry to plenty of museums and attractions across the city.
If you are traveling across Norway on a budget, opting for the bus instead of the train can also save you some serious cash. There are plenty of coach companies taking you through the beautiful country, allowing you to see loads on your journey. The earlier in advance you book, the cheaper! – Lisa, Fjords and Beaches
You might also want to consider taking a group tour through Norway in order to save money. You’ll benefit from having costs broken down for you at the start of your trip since everything from transportation to accommodation is planned in advance. You’ll still get to enjoy the freedom to wander but you won’t be subject to “going with the flow” mistakes that can result in unexpected additional costs.
Save on accommodation
There’s no getting around it. Accommodation will be one of your most significant expenses, but there are still plenty of ways to save. The particularly adventurous might want to try camping. It’s perfectly legal to pitch a tent on uncultivated public land so long as you’re no closer than 150 metres from an inhabited residence. An official campground with showers, toilets, and electricity will be far more comfortable while still being very easy on the budget. Don’t know your way around a tent? Rent a basic cabin on a campground site for as little as US$32.
If campgrounds aren’t for you, consider a hostel. Prices vary a great deal depending on location, facilities and the time of year, but they’re a great way to meet fellow travellers so long as you don’t mind a bit of noise now and then. Breakfast is sometimes included, and you may have access to kitchen facilities, which can help cut down on food expenses.
While hotel bargains can be found, Airbnb is often the best option for those seeking comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price. You’ll get the chance to live like a local in a genuine Norwegian home, and having access to a kitchen and living room means you’ll be able to cook for yourself and enjoy the occasional quiet night in.