The biggest objection I hear to Norway travel? It’s prohibitively expensive, or expensive enough to sway people in the direction of other destinations.
That has motivated me to write my first post ever on budget travel, although it’s not a primary topic of interest for most of our regular readers. Still, as you’ve no doubt realized from our recent Norway series, I’ve become a devoted fan of this unique, pristine country, and I firmly believe that financial considerations shouldn’t prevent even one single person from visiting.
Did you know that Norway offers practically-free cabins for hikers? Or that ferries follow the same routes as the luxurious cruise ships? Or that both trains and planes offer discount “explore Norway” passes, similar to the Eurail Pass? Read on, and we’ll share some great secrets in this guide to Norway on a budget.
Norwegian Trekking Association cabins
The Norwegian Trekking Association, or DNT, maintains 460 cabins or “mountain huts” that are spaced at increments approximating a day’s hike or ski (scroll down on their homepage for a map). There are several tiers of service and amenities, starting at 195 NOK ($33) with a membership for self-catering shared cabins. You can also stop in just to use the kitchen for 55 NOK ($9.50).
Reserve in advance, or work on the fly (in summer months they can become quite crowded). You’re on the honor system here, so fill out a credit card slip on the day you’re leaving. (While we were there, several people referred to these cabins as free. I’ll let your own compass guide you on that one!) Most have basic food staples available, which you’ll also pay for when you leave.
Imagine your own little cabin deep in the dramatic Norwegian interior, for less than the price of a Motel 6. Ah, this is a generous country….
Even if you don’t plan to stay in their cabins, this site offers great hiking routes and maps.
As I’ve mentioned already, Norwegians hold dearly to the tenet that nature should be open and available to all. What does that mean for you? It means you can camp pretty much anywhere you’d like. Meanwhile, camping sites provide the obvious amenities (showers), and also tend to offer cabin options.
Hostels and other budget accommodations
Want to stay in a fisherman’s hut or a lighthouse? Or stay on a working farm for the whole farm-to-table experience? A few savvy entrepreneurs have figured out that tourists will pay large sums for this kind of experience. Luckily, many have not! Here’s a listing of affordable but unique places to stay.
Like elsewhere, there are plenty of hostels in Norway. Here, they just happen to be cleaner than almost anywhere else. See HI Hostels Norway for the largest association.
Many families offer rooms for rent. Look for signs that read “Rom til leie.”
Timing is everything, right? Yes and no. While some prices obviously increase during the summer tourist season, the added availability of transportation and tourist offers during this time leads to great bargains. It pays to check for Norway travel deals well in advance.
The Norwegian State Railway offers “Minipris” tickets from NOK 199 ($34), regardless of the length of your journey, but you’ll need to order in advance.
For large distances (remember, flip Norway upside down and it stretches to Rome) or time constraints where only air travel will do, Widerø offers some good deals. The Explore Norway Ticket gives unlimited flights for two weeks during the summer season for 3975 NOK ($689). Stay within one or two regions for greater savings.
Norwegian ferries are also inexpensive, and follow the same routes, through the same beautiful fjords, as pricey cruises. You can travel from Point A to Point B with in an express boat or car ferry, or opt for the hop-on, hop-off option to go from place to place.
Contrary to what you might think, gas is relatively cheap here in the home of one of the world’s largest oil producers. On our Norway route we had a diesel-fueled car, and our total expenditure was a whopping $40! That’s fantastic, especially when you consider that it’s the same amount we paid for two sandwiches and one small bottle of water in Oslo’s airport. Yikes.
Speaking of expensive food costs…
Cheap food and drinks
Food (and dining) is one of the most expensive parts of a Norway trip, and I won’t try to persuade you otherwise. It makes sense to bring supplies from home for an extended stay.
That’s especially true for alcohol. In Norway, there is only one, state-run outlet in which to buy highly taxed alcohol, beer and wine. As we mentioned in our post on Alesund, the legal serving size in cocktails is 4 centiliters. Both of those add up to one extremely expensive buzz, so to speak, and it’s worth your checked baggage fees to bring bottles from home (see the caveat under “Cheap Shopping,” below).
Luckily, tasty water is one of Norway’s little miracles, and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for tap water at a restaurant.
If you’re willing to live off the land, there is no cost to fish in Norway. We met some people who made their way around doing just this. Yes, they did become pretty sick of fish after awhile, but (fill in the blank…) it was a great experience.
Yes, “cheap” is a bit of a misnomer, but there are a few interesting products which are cheaper in Norway than elsewhere. Need a dose of omegas? High quality fish oils is one such product. Gas is another. Surprisingly, so is wine in some instances. Since Norway’s liquor-distribution system is not profit oriented, some of the most expensive bottles, which carry the highest “marketing markup” here at home, actually work out to be less expensive.
Ready to go?
Are you ready to visit Norway? Hopefully this has overcome any objections about travelling to my new favorite destination. If not, feel free to leave your remaining doubts in the comments below, and I’ll give you a candid response.