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One week in Norway on a budget: yes, it’s possible!

Hi all! So, you must be tired of hearing my speak about Norway but I’m truly in love with this country and I want to play a bit mythbuster now. When me and my boyfriend were looking for a place to go in August that we both hadn’t been yet in Europe (it’s a difficult task!), Skyscanner showed us an awesome 138€ round trip price from Lisbon to Oslo in effing August, the most expensive month of all to travel. So, without much thought, with 3 months advance, we booked our flights with a very reasonable price and not knowing much about Norway apart from fjords and Vikings and ordered a guide to start preparing the trip.

BUT WAIT!

Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world!

All our friends say they’d love to go to Norway but prices scare them off.

We will be bankrupt after the trip. Help!

All these doubts kept creeping in my mind, also because the way I get money to travel is based on my travel piggybank. The travel piggybank started in September 2015 and provides all the money I can spent on a given travel. Not one cent more, I’m very strict! What I do to fill it up is to put any bills I have left in my wallet and try to pay most things with cash to have more bills there 😀 When the piggybank is full, I count the money, deposit it on my account and keep the net total of the piggybank on a spreadsheet. The piggybank paid for my trips to Évora and São Miguel, Azores, both in Portugal, and I had money left from those two trips. I’ll write them about them later, don’t worry! But how can my piggybank fund my travel to Norway? I had to get creative.

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Current state of the piggybank. Not too shabby!

Before the beginning of my trip, I had to book plenty of things, like accomodation and transportation. However, I kept on collecting money and before the trip I had collected as a total maximum budget (including flights) 807.76€. I got home and counted all I spent and the total expenses related to one week in Norway were 723.63€! Incredible! I managed to stay well withing budget. If we exclude the flights, which were 138.65€, I spent 585€. If you read my previous posts, you’ll know I didn’t refrain from exploring. So all this included:

I believe I could even have gone below 500€ excluding the flights but this was awesome! So here are my tips to you on how I accomplished this feat and you can do it too.

1. Book accomodation and transportation early

One thing that really helped, since some train rides have discounts for tickets bought with 3 months advance, which can cut down the cost of the Bergen-Oslo train ride from 865 NOK to as low as 250 NOK. We did the same for the ferry rides and buses that allowed to buy tickets online to ensure good prices and time availability, but I think the main deal of booking early is for train rides. Regarding accomodation, the earlier you book, the better chances of cheap available accomodation there are as always.

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2. Opt for places where you can cook

Don’t even get me started on the prices of eating out in Norway. We ate out four times: a hot dog cost 70 NOK (7€), pad thai at a Thai street food van cost 120 NOK (12€), a Burger King menu also cost 120 NOK and eating Norwegian food at a brown cafe in Oslo cost 180 NOK (18€). Bear in mind that we saw plenty of regular looking restaurants with main courses priced from 250 NOK. Rule of thumb: on Sundays most supermarkets are closed, so it’s probably a good idea to stay on the same place on the weekend and charge your fridge well on Saturdays so that you avoid eating out twice the same day. Staying at AirBnBs, hostels and camping parks with fridges and cooking material was awesome to save money. Of course most things in the supermarket are more expensive than in Portugal, but meals like a pizza cost about the same (25NOK approx 2.50€) and some fruits that are quite expensive in Portugal, such as blueberries, had a good price there = having the same price as in Portugal, approximately 2.5€ per package. My mom even said I came back with a very fresh look, must be from all antioxidants from fruit with yoghurt/Quark cheese in the morning. The best supermarket for us, and the one I was always looking for after reading Heart My Backpack’s post on eating cheaply in Norway, was Kiwi and it never disappointed!

3. Salads all the way!

Almost all my lunches were composed of a salad with lettuce, pasta and chicken (with some variations, of course) bought at the supermarket. These salads generally cost 25-30 NOK and are quite lightweight, so we could make a picnic whenever we wanted. We had fruit after and I was good to go since salads are quite filling and I was still eating healthy.

4. Bottled water? NEVER!

I always carry with me a refillable water container so that I don’t buy plastic water bottles. I read several blogposts and all said that tap water in Norway is top notch and I agree so I never bought a bottle. The cheapest bottled water I found was about 10 NOK (1€) for 1.5L which is super expensive for me since I buy 1.5L water bottles for 0.30€ in supermarkets here.

5. Lay off the booze if you can

I’m not a super night life girl, I don’t go to clubs often but I like going to interesting bars and drinking new brands of beer wherever I go. Well, I heard horror stories of 12€ per beer in Norway! Oh my, I could drink 12 beers in Portugal with that money! Since the biggest asset of Norway is nature, if you hike a lot likely you won’t have much energy to go out. Since I never went to a bar there I don’t know the prices in bars but I know that having bought a can of Hansa Ipa beer in the supermarket cost 30 NOK (3€). So yes, alcohol is super expensive and it might take a toll on your budget.

6. Enjoy all the free attractions and avoid paid ones

As someone said, the best things in life are free. Norway is not a place with many unmissable museums from what I saw, so almost all interesting places are related with nature. Enjoy it even with a little rain, a rain poncho and good boots will help. The only paid attractions we went to were in Oslo: the Viking Ship Museum (50 NOK) and the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower (110 NOK). I’m not going to say either of those two attractions are unmissable but they were very interesting and I don’t regret having spent money on them. Anyway, if I was really on a tighter budget, passing them would not have been that dramatic since Oslo has a lot to offer outdoors.

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7. Make food your souvenir

This is my rule of thumb in every travel. I always bring some food as a souvenir for my family. I also buy a postcard for myself and a magnet for my parents’ fridge but it is something that they can remember more. I brought a Freya chocolate bar (very good, try it, the price is about 20 NOK so not bad!) for my family and Nordic Bread for me since I loved it so much. I now know it’s Swedish but nevermind. Supermarket souvenirs are the best quality/price relationship.

8. Bring your ISIC card

Some transportation companies only accept the International Student Identification Card, or ISIC, as a proof of studentship. Better safe than sorry, since you save up to 50% with student discounts! I got mine here in Portugal for 8€ and it already paid off for me: the money I saved on student discounts in Norway was more than 8€ and I won the ISIC Portugal contest to have a weekend trip to Brussels with paid accomodation and travel! I’ll be in Belgium in early December so stay tuned for my next piggybank trip (I can spend more money in chocolate and beer since I have other expenses paid for =D).

So now let’s make a breakdown of the total expenses!

  • Flights in and out of Norway: 138.65€ (19.2% of expenses)
  • Transportation inside Norway: 262.75€ (36.3% of expenses)
  • Accomodation: 176.73€ (24.4% of expenses)
  • Food: 113.61€ (15.7% of expenses)
  • Cultural activities: 22.01€ (3.0% of expenses)
  • Miscellaneous (souvenirs, bathrooms, etc): 9.88€ (1.4% of expenses)

I hope this inspired you to travel this awesome country! With careful planning you can have a good time without breaking the bank. I know there are some things which would help bring the cost down, like camping for free, Couchsurfing, hitchhiking or riding a bike everywhere, it’s up to your style of travel!

What are your tips for traveling on a budget in Norway?

Cátia

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8 thoughts on “One week in Norway on a budget: yes, it’s possible!

  1. While not as expensive as Norway, I found a lot of the tips you gave here are also great for saving money in Sweden. I spent seven days in Stockholm this summer and did a lot of cooking, refilling water bottles, and walking. So yes, it can be done on a budget with quite a bit of willpower!

    1. Hi Alaina, thanks for reading! Definitely one of the main reasons people refrain from going but it’s doable as as I said I could even have spent less. Mabe it’s not the right place for foodies on a budget since eating out is so expensive. Hope this helps and you can make it to Norway someday! 🙂

  2. Norway is such a beautiful country and it’s so sad that people avoid a visit because they’re scared of the prices. I mean, what you really come to Norway for is the nature and the gorgeous landscapes, right?!! And they’re all free 🙂 Plus, it’s free to camp in the wilderness if that’s your thing though I’m with you on renting a flat with kitchen (and bathroom) access 😉

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Vanessa! I actually read your blog a few times before visiting Norway and I hope to go to Tromso too someday 🙂 I totally agree with all you said and I’m really glad I made the plunge of visiting Norway, it was really unique and if I didn’t have so much of the world still to visit I’d go back every year. Well, if I came by car or had checked luggage for free I could have brought my tent and then accomodation costs would go down a lot, but I thought the AirBnB prices (between 25-30€ per person per night) quite ok and similar to other European countries. Hope you are seeing many Northern Lights now, that’s on my bucket list 🙂

  3. Great post! We went to Norway this summer and I was worried it would break the bank too. But we took trains and busses at early or late hours and that helped a lot to get their “mini-prix”. We do all the free things in a city first, and then if there is a paid attraction that we still want to visit we go for it, but often after visiting all the free ones on our list, we are tired or we figure we’ve already seen something similar to the paid attraction. We do a lot of walking!

    1. Yes the mini-prix is best in overnight trains. We thought about doing that between Bergen and Oslo but anyway we wanted to see the view so we didn’t mind paying 450 NOK instead of 250 NOK. And well, most really interesting things in Norway are free, what can really add up is the transportation. What was your itinerary there? I am so eager to go back to Norway, really loved the country!

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