Last Updated January, 2020
Planning a trip to Norway? My post about how to travel to Norway on a budget may help you see this country and save money at the same time.
I personally wanted to visit Norway for such a long time. For both Mark and I, Norway has been a dream destination for ages. Perhaps we wanted to see fjords, mountains, northern lights, white nights or maybe there was something else that beckoned us.
We don’t really know what was the reason but we always wanted to visit this gorgeous Scandinavian country. A few times we even tried to plan a trip there but it never really worked out.
And then this summer the stars aligned and Norway happened in our lives.
You know what we find interesting though. We always believed that Norway, along with other expensive destinations in the world, cannot and should not be visited on a budget.
There was this idea that in order to have a truly outstanding experience we had to save a lot of money before even thinking to plan anything. Otherwise, we would end up sacrificing and missing on many amazing events.
This year we learned that visiting Norway on a budget is possible and you shouldn’t be postponing it until some better times in the future.
We would love to share how we traveled to Norway on a budget and offer you a few other options on how to see a prime destination without breaking your bank.
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Option 1: Fly to Gothenburg, Sweden and Rent a Car There
This is the option we opted for. It may suit better those who are already traveling in Europe though. However, we were also checking ticket prices from the U.S. to Gothenburg, and they didn’t differ much in price from tickets to Oslo.
If you consider flying straight to Bergen, Alesund, Tromso, Trondheim or anywhere else in the north, skip this option then. Also, it works better if you are not traveling solo and can split the cost with someone else.
For some reason, flights from many European cities to Gothenburg are often cheaper than to Norwegian cities. We, for instance, flew for 11 dollars from Krakow. Cars are two, three times cheaper too.
You may be thinking.. what? How renting a car in Scandinavia can equal travel on a budget? That’s what we thought before calculating all the expenses on public transportation, tour companies, buses and trains between cities.
It turned out that the best way to travel Norway and explore it in full while being on a budget is through a car rental. And your best bet is to rent a car in the nearby country.
Transportation within and between the cities in Norway is crazily expensive as well as car rental. But, if you come by car from Sweden you’ll be able to save money and cover so much more on the way to your final destination.
Driving in Norway opens up a totally different world. You can go wherever you want and spend as much time in one place as you want.
All the jaw-dropping nature and scenery can be found outside the cities, not in them. A drive from Gothenburg to Oslo and then from Oslo to the West or North is absolutely spectacular. There won’t be a minute when you feel bored.
On average, depending on a city, a price for the car rental class mini is around $150 per day in the summertime, in winter around $100. In Gothenburg, you may find deals when the price is $150 per week.
Some people may still think that it’s rather expensive but if you add up all the costs for buses and trains, you’ll see that they cost you the same or even more than car rental, gas, and tolls altogether.
Option 2: Fly to Any Other City and Hitchhike
Don’t fly to Oslo and expect to see fjords, mountains, northern lights, midnight sun, Scandinavian architecture and mind-blowing nature in just one city. Oslo is definitely worth a visit and surrounded by some pretty landscape but that’s not a type of nature one should travel to Norway for.
You know, it’s like flying to Phoenix, Arizona expecting to see Grand Canyon. All that beauty Norway is famous for is located far to the West or to the North, and outside the cities. Check this post to see where exactly.
If you are a backpacker who is thinking about backpacking Norway on a budget, choose to hitchhike. Apparently, it is very common in Norway. And, the most important thing hitchhiking is very safe.
During the time we’ve been in Norway, we have given a ride to a couple of hitchhikers.
To us personally, hitchhiking is not an option but many people do it and enjoy their experience. Just keep in mind that you can’t rely solely on this type of transportation because there might be days when no one will be giving you a lift.
Use Free Accommodation
Forget about hostels and motels that by no means are cheap. You are going to spend a lot of money staying in them. On average, a bed in a dormitory will cost you around $70, in places near fjords much more. And that is just a bed, with no privacy and comfort.
Going with free accommodation will not only help you save money but get to know locals, experience life from within and enable you to stay in a country longer.
There are four different types of free accommodation you can choose from: volunteering, Couchsurfing, housesitting and camping. The best option is to combine a few of them.
What is especially cool about those projects, they are located in the most beautiful places – Bergen, Trondheim, Tromso, around National parks and not far from the fjords. How awesome would it be to spend a few weeks in a village on a fjord? Usually, food and accommodation are provided in exchange for a few hours of work per day. Often hosts provide bikes, allow to use kayaks or give you a ride to help you have a great time while volunteering.
In Oslo, our host became our guide, showed us around the city and brought us to places we wouldn’t know about ourselves. In Ulvik, we stayed in a beautiful home right on a fjord. If it wasn’t because of Couchsurfing, we would have just passed this town.
So it’s not only about free accommodation. Couchsurfing is wonderful because of the people and opportunities to see a place in a totally different light.
We personally came to Norway to housesit and that was a great decision. This is actually our first official housesitting experience together as a couple and using this website.
After hearing hundreds of stories from other travelers how awesome housesitting is, we decided to give it a try ourselves. We found amazing hosts who were looking for a sitter for almost 3 weeks in Bergen – a city which is a gateway to fjords. Since we rented a car, we are able to explore as much as we want and not only tied to a city.
If you are short on time or don’t have any desire to do anything mentioned above, camp and camp some more. Norway is one of the best destinations when it comes to camping.
You are allowed to camp on any uncultivated land for up to two days. The only rule is to be no closer than 150 meters to an inhabited house. So you can camp near the city (quality campsites can be found within a few kilometers of the city centers) or anywhere in the wilderness.
For more rules and details on how to camp, see this website.
Eat Homecooked Meals Only
After spending years in Southern California we thought no other place could surprise us with the prices. Norway did it well. We knew that it is an expensive destination but didn’t expect that food would be so pricey.
Fruits and veggies are very expensive because most of them are imported. Surprisingly for us, meat and fish are very expensive too. I would say that organic produce in the States or Canada cost the same as non-organic in budget grocery stores in Norway.
The only way to eat in Norway on a budget would mean not to dine out and try to cook all your own meals.
But even with more expensive groceries, there is still a way to save. REMA 1000 and KIWI are supermarket chains based on a discount concept. Comparing to other stores, groceries in REMA and KIWI are cheaper, perhaps the cheapest you can find. It doesn’t necessarily mean that produce is crap, no. There are lots of good and healthy options.
If there are days when cooking is not an option, buy hot food at one of MENY stores. The selection is good, many healthy options are available and it doesn’t cost a lot. We, as a couple, were able to have a meal for both of us under $10 on some occasions.
Regarding the street food or budget restaurants, I don’t think they exist. The cheapest food we could find was the one in a Kebab place. These Mediterranean eateries are very popular around the country and the price for a vegetarian kebab is between $8 and $10. On average, the main course in other restaurants costs between $15 and $20.
Side note: When you are shopping in any grocery store, double check the prices at the register. Cashiers often check out items incorrectly. We were buying strawberries, they rang up cherries (3 times more expensive.) When we chose regular $2 bananas, they charged us for organic ones. We came with our own bag, they added an expense for a plastic one. It was happening too many times because of the cashiers’ negligence.
Come to Visit Norway Today
As you can see, traveling Norway on a budget is possible. Actually, after comparing expenses here to our recent expenses in Bali we can tell that in Norway we spent just a little bit more per month than we did in Bali. With a car rental, gas, tolls and all the groceries, we still met our budget.
The beauty of Norway is all about its nature. No matter where you go it is incredibly beautiful. There is no need to pay for the attractions because most of them are free. The scenery, hiking trails, natural and historical sights along with lots of museums are free in Norway. Come today and travel inexpensively.
Visiting Norway on a budget is possible for everyone.
Are you planning to visit Bergen by any chance? We have a post about things to do in Bergen, tips in this article come from a local. Also, if you do end up renting a car, check our parking in Bergen post.
If going to Norway is still expensive, then visit Montenegro! Probably now you are thinking I lost my marbles. But seriously, Montenegro in some ways reminds Norway in miniature (like fjords, stunning nature, etc.) We’ve been to both countries and can affirm that!
And no matter where you go – happy travels!
Have you been to Norway yet? What do you think so far?