“Norway on a budget? You MUST be joking,” people told me, when I told them I wanted to add Norway into my Eurotrip. “You know it’s the second most expensive country in the world after Switzerland, right?” (I Googled this later, and apparently it’s true, according to the Huffington Post). But I’d made up my mind, and I wasn’t going to let money stop me from seeing the #1 thing on my Europe bucketlist. Even if it meant I had to sacrifice other countries and go back to the US earlier. Plus, trying to stay on a budget in Norway and prove people wrong just added a fun little challenge to my trip.
So, how did I travel Norway on less than $40 per day, you ask? I can nearly answer that in just three words: couchsurfing, hitchhiking, & supermarkets.
This is the thing that was most worrisome to my bank account. When searching for accommodation, the cheapest hostels that were coming up were around $50 for just one night!! Then many had additional costs for things like linens & wifi. That would have been over my daily budget JUST on accommodation. So instead, for most of the nights I was in Norway, I couchsurfed. Of course I bought my hosts a few thank-yous (aka beers), but these were nowhere near the price I would have paid for a hostel. And actually, while I went into it to save money, I ended up having the best time with some really awesome hosts who took the time to show me around their cities, and the amazing experiences I had with them were actually more worth it to me than the money I saved (more on this in my next post).
The only hostels I stayed at were in places that had deals for slightly cheaper than, say, Oslo. In Odda and Bergen, I stayed at hostels for around $26-30, and they were nice enough to let me use a duvet for free. Then one night in Odda when everything except expensive hotels was booked up, Trolltunga Studios let me sleep on the couch in their TV room, along with another girl who didn’t have a hostel either. And my only other night not covered by couchsurfing or hostels was spent on an overnight train, so that saved me a night of accommodation as well.
Total spent on accommodation for 11 nights: $127
Transportation in Norway can be very expensive, depending on how you want to get around. While busses are usually the same rate, train prices increase significantly last minute. One way I kept transportation costs down was by planning ahead – not something I usually do, but it was necessary to afford Norway. My train from Oslo to Stavanger, which I booked about 10 days in advance, was only $30 (“Minipris” – meaning non-refundable and non-changeable), but tickets for the same train were selling for over $100 the day of travel. In this case, planning ahead was crucial.
To get around cities, I generally walked if I could. Though my hostel in Bergen was 4km from the city, I walked down when I had the time to spare, saving me over $4 on a single bus ticket. Then in Oslo, though my host lived only five minutes by tram from the city center, I usually just spent the extra 15 minutes walking, saving me around $4 each ride as well. One good thing about having unlimited travel time is being able to relax and not having to rush to see everything in one day.
And finally, (though I don’t recommend relying on this method), I hitchhiked! Partially by choice, since it’s always been something on my to-do list), and partially because there was no public transportation at the time I wanted to get to Trolltunga. Hitchhiking is not too common in Norway (not nearly as common as somewhere like New Zealand), but it seems generally safe to me. I wouldn’t hitchhike everywhere, but to a place like Trolltunga where I knew everyone heading that way would be hikers (who are generally a friendly and adventurous bunch), I felt perfectly fine, and I saved $25 round-trip on shuttle tickets.
During my eleven days in Norway, I think I tried just about every form of transportation available. Plane, train, tram, bus, rideshare, hitchhiking, and walking. I have to admit, ridesharing is the easiest and cheapest way to get long distances (and trains if you book in advance), while hitchhiking and walking are best to get around a smaller area.
Total for transportation: $210*
*This does not including my flights to/from Norway, which were $100 for Croatia → Norway and $25 for Norway → Sweden)
Going out to eat is a sure way to kill your budget in Norway, so I resorted to supermarkets most of the time. Since I was mostly hiking and exploring the outdoors, I needed foods that I could take with me, so I ate a lot of sandwiches, wraps, fruit & nuts. But of course I tried the typical Norwegian foods such as Brunost (brown cheese) with strawberry jam on toast. I also was lucky enough to have friends that took me out for a meal in Oslo (most expensive burger I will ever eat – thanks guys!) and a Couchsurfing host who worked at a restaurant and gave me food. So yes, part of this was luck, but the other was just being smart about what I bought and not eating out as much as I would in cheaper countries (and honestly the experiences I had in Norway were well worth sacrificing some nicer meals).
Total spent on food: $100
On top of the main three (accommodation, transportation, and food), the last way I cut down costs was by traveling slowly. I didn’t just rush through to cover as much of the country as possible. Though I would have LOVED to make it north all the way to Molde, traveling quickly can really rack up expenses. Plus, I actually prefer to stay in one area longer and get a real feel for the place. My itinerary was:
Oslo: 2 days
Stavanger: 4 days
Odda: 2 days
Bergen: 3 days
It’s also lucky that my main reason for going to Norway was for the outdoor adventures, not for the expensive guided tours or anything. Once I paid for transportation, all the hiking I did was free! And I’d say I experienced better views than most of the tours would provide anyways :)
So that’s how I traveled to Norway for $39.60 per day. It’s no secret really… You might sacrifice a bit of luxury, but it IS possible to make Norway cheap if you really put your mind to it.
Questions about traveling Norway? Feel free to ask!
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌