When I talk to people about my travels to Norway the typical response is, “I would love to go there, but I could never afford it!” To which I say, you totally can afford it and you should definitely go!
The “high” price of a trip to Norway really doesn’t have to be that high. Promise.
Dan and I are not rich by any means, so if we can afford it, you probably can too. Yes, we do often stay with family when traveling to Bergen, but we have also traveled around the country and have managed to do it on a reasonable budget each time.
Although it has been historically pricey, the Norwegian krone has hit a bit of a low in recent years, which means our U.S. dollar goes further. Plus, with budget airlines like Norwegian Air (my favorite), you can usually get a pretty great deal on a flight as well. In short, it’s never been a better time to visit Norway!
While there are certain things in Norway that are most definitely more expensive than in the U.S. (clothing, a beer at the bar), most of the necessities really aren’t as bad as you might think.
Here are my top tips for traveling Norway on a budget:
The biggest savings tip I can give to you is to fly Norwegian Airlines. They aren’t even paying me to say this, I’m just obsessed with them (and totally open to them paying me).
You can fly to Norway from major cities like New York, L.A., or Orlando for less than it costs to fly a few states over in the U.S. This airline has saved us so much money over the past few years. Prior to its existence it would cost upwards of $1,000 for a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Norway, but with Norwegian Air we can get a round trip ticket from Orlando to Oslo for less than $500. Norwegian Air also regularly has sales and if you’re in New York you can often find one-way international flights for as low as $99.
And once you’re in Norway, it’s pretty inexpensive to fly from city to city on either Norwegian or Wideroe.
You can find affordable hotels in most of the major cities in Norway. In both Oslo and Bergen you can find a place with a decent review for under $150 per night.
My favorite hotel in Oslo is the Scandic Vulkan. It’s not in the heart of the downtown area, but it’s in one of the cooler neighborhoods of Oslo called Grünerløkka which has tons of restaurants, cafes, and shops to browse. It’s also right next door to Mathallen (food hall) which is perfect for a quick snack when running around the city. It’s close to the bus line and trolley, so there is no problem getting into the heart of downtown quickly and cheaply if you’d like to do some sightseeing.
There are also inexpensive hostels in most of the bigger cities in Norway if you’re traveling alone or want to save even more money.
Many of the smaller cities and towns won’t have as many hotel accommodations to choose from so you might end up spending more if you wish to stay at a hotel somewhere more remote.
The best bang for your buck anywhere in Norway is to rent an Airbnb. There are a ton of Airbnb options to choose from both in the cities, as well as out in the fjords and mountains for under $100/night. Many families in Norway have summer and winter cabins (called hytte) that they only use seasonally, and a lot of them seem to rent them out when they aren’t in use. Most are very nice and very koselig, as Norwegians would say.
We stayed in a brand-new, really nice apartment right on the bus line in Tromsø for only $80/night. Plus, if you stay in an Airbnb you are typically provided a kitchen you can use to cook some meals at home, which is another way to save money.
If you choose to go the Airbnb route and need to sign up for an account, use this link. Using my link saves you $40 on your first booking, and I’ll get $10 when you book your first stay. Win, win!
3. Food and drinks
If you are staying in one of the more populated areas of Norway, you can easily find food options that won’t cost you that much more than a meal out at a decent place at home. However, if you are staying somewhere off the beaten path, you probably won’t have many options as far as restaurants go.
This is where an Airbnb comes in handy. You will need to stock up at the grocery store. Even if you do have the option of affordable restaurants, cooking at home is a great option to save you some cash while traveling.
The cost of most items at the store will be close to or on par with food prices at home, albeit a tiny more expensive for some things. Although, to be honest, thanks to the higher regulations on food in Norway, the quality of food is much better, so you are getting your money’s worth in my opinion.
You won’t find a dollar menu anywhere, but if you are used to eating real foods at home, you won’t have sticker shock at the prices for most groceries in Norway. However, something to note is that there is a tax on unhealthy foods like sweets to encourage people to eat less of them. Because of that tax, it’s actually cheaper to eat healthy foods like fruits and veggies than it is to eat processed foods. You know I’m all for that!
Pro tip: Most of the stores in Norway, including most grocery stores, are closed on Sundays. Make sure you plan ahead and stock up on food on Saturday if you plan to eat meals at home.
We try to eat at home as much as possible in Norway and go out for a couple of nice meals, but these are my favorite places to pick up a quick, inexpensive meal-on-the-go:
- Haralds Vaffels – Oslo- Waffles are a tradition in Norway, and at this shop you can grab a traditional waffle with jam or brunost or a not-so-traditional waffle like the blue cheese and bacon option.
- Søstrene Hagelin – Bergen- This is my favorite place for a quick bite in Bergen. I am obsessed with their fish cakes and their fish soup. The fish cakes are the perfect handheld snack to munch on while walking around the city and I have to have at least one whenever we visit.
All over Norway the most popular quick and cheap snack might surprise you…
It’s a hot dog!
Yes, you read that correctly. Norwegians love hot dogs, or as they are known in Norway—pølse. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Pølse are higher quality than your typical hot dog in the U.S. and can often even be gluten free. You can get this sausage on a traditional white or wheat bun, or try the Norwegian specialty of lompe, which is a tortilla-like wrap made of potato. The Norwegian pølse is your best bet for a quick, cheap snack anywhere in Norway and you can find good ones even at a 7-Eleven.
While you can easily find some cheap eats in Norway, one item in Norway that will give you sticker shock is the price of a drink at the bar. We’re talking almost $10 USD for a “cheap” domestic beer! I
f you just fell off of your bar stool, I don’t blame you. Having a night out on the town in Norway is not cheap. There are tons of fun bars to visit, and if there is a brewery or a spirit you really want to try, go for it, but in my opinion, your time and money can be better spent elsewhere.
Save the drinking for a cheaper country.
Although, if you really can’t go that long without a drink, you can save a lot of money on alcohol by purchasing it at a store instead of at the bar. Some grocery stores sell beer, but to purchase liquor and wine you will need to visit one of the few government-sanctioned liquor stores called Vinmonopolet. Go there and grab a bottle or even a box of wine to enjoy during your trip.
Fun fact: Unlike in the U.S., in Norway, boxed wine is really popular and high quality. They even have organic boxed wine! So, don’t hesitate to buy it by the box.
If you plan on staying mostly within the city limits, you don’t need to rent a car, but if you plan on renting a cabin further outside of town, or plan to do a road trip, go for a rental.
Shop the different rental companies like Hertz, Avis, and Rent-A-Wreck for the best offer for your travel dates. We’ve managed to find pretty good deals when we’ve needed a car by booking with Hertz and using our AAA discount. If you don’t have AAA, Hertz often has deals on their specials page that you can apply as well.
Public transportation in Norway is great. The major cities have multiple public transportation systems you can use to easily get from point A to point B; the most popular being buses and ferries. In Oslo there are also subway and tram systems that can be used, and if you are traveling between major cities, there are train lines as well. I recommend using the bus when possible in any of the Norwegian cities. It’s pretty easy, goes everywhere, and is pretty inexpensive.
If possible, buy a bus pass ahead of time from a local shop like 7-Eleven or Narvesen. You can buy tickets on the bus, but it will cost more and the driver will probably be annoyed with you for slowing everything down. You can buy single-day passes if you are staying for less time, but buy the 7-day pass if you plan on using it for more than a few days. It will save you money in the long run.
If you will be in Oslo or Bergen and know you would like to do some sightseeing and visit a few museums, you should purchase the Oslo or Bergen Pass. There are 24-, 48-, or 72-hour options for the pass and the cost includes public transport as well as free or discounted access to many museums and attractions. Check out the list of attractions included first to make sure it will be worth your money.
If you love the outdoors you will never be at a loss for inexpensive things to do in Norway. There are so many beautiful mountains and trails to hike that won’t cost you a penny. Norway is a country with insane natural beauty and it is truly its best asset in my opinion.
No matter your abilities, you must take at least one hike when visiting. We try to take as many as we can. There are very easy, paved hikes as well as more difficult terrain for the experienced hiker, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
If you are interested in even more one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures, I highly recommend making the trek out to see a glacier if you’re down for a road trip. Viewing the Nigardsbreen Glacier up close was one of the highlights of my life.
The fjords of western Norway are breathtaking and taking a boat ride or ferry through the fjords is a definite must as well. You can catch a ferry or tour boat from Bergen for a great tour of the fjords.
And of course, the pièce de résistance in northern Norway—the northern lights.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the nature here is insane!
Many of the cities and towns also have beautiful flower or sculpture gardens for you to revel in, free of charge. In Bergen check out Byparken and in Oslo check out the Vigeland Sculpture Park.
If museums are more your style, there are plenty of options to check out in Norway.
- Viking Ship Museum- Hands down the coolest museum I’ve ever visited. It has 3 intact, original Viking ships as well as many Viking artifacts. It’s amazing to see so much Viking culture perfectly preserved. It’s a must-see if you are in the area.
- Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art- Fabulous contemporary art museum with stunning collections and rotating exhibitions.
- Akershus Fortress and Museum- A great way for history lovers to spend an afternoon. It’s free to walk the grounds, and cheap to tour the Fortress.
- Kode Art Museums- A top-notch collection of art museums and beautiful historical homes, including Edvard Grieg’s home which is set on a beautiful waterfront property. For a one-time fee of a little less than $15 USD you can get into all of them over a 4-day span.
- Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum- Dan and I both really enjoyed this small modern Scandianvian art museum. It also has the added bonus of free entry.
- Perspektivet Museum- We really wanted to check out this museum on our trip this year, but it was unfortunately closed for construction while we were there. Nevertheless, it has great reviews and it’s free, so I’m adding it to this list.
One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon in Norway is to stroll around and take in the beautiful architecture while sipping a great cup of coffee. Norway is a very safe country, so you could wander for hours and not have to worry about where you end up. The architecture ranges from Viking and medieval to neo-classicism to Scandinavian-mod, so there is plenty to take in in that regard.
- National Opera House (built to look like an iceberg)
- Akershus Fortress
- Stortinget (Parliament building) and the other buildings along Karl Johans Gate
- Bergenhus Castle and Fortress
- St. Mary’s Church
Tromsø has the most stunning contemporary architecture I’ve seen.
- Tromsø Public Library
- The Arctic Cathedral
- Polaria Museum
If you get the chance to see a stave church in Norway, DO IT! We visited the Urnes Stave Church a few years ago and it was unbelievable. There aren’t many places you can find a perfectly maintained wooden building dating back to the year 1132.
When in Norway I love browsing the cool Scandinavian shops we don’t have at home. My favorite is Illums Bolighus (although it’s Danish) and I never make a trip to Norway without stopping in. I usually end up leaving with some kind of souvenir like a cool pair of glasses or an ultra-modern kitchen utensil. I live for the minimalism of Scandinavian style.