“But Norway is expensive” I hear you shout. True, but you can visit Norway on a budget without missing out on a lot of fun…

Visiting Norway on a budget:

how to save money and cut costs

“But Norway is expensive!” I hear you shout. No shit, Sherlock. But don’t let that be a reason to keep you from visiting. There are plenty of ways to cut down on costs and make Norway an affordable reality. 
 
Getting to Norway is actually pretty cheap (especially from the UK and Europe). Norway’s national air carrier, Norwegian Air has some super cheap deals. Check them out for long haul too – they currently have some super affordable fairs from the UK to both the USA and Asia (Singapore return for less than £300! *insert shocked emoji…).
 
So you’ve gone and booked your flights and are ready for your trip. Hurrah! During your stay in Norway, there are things that you can do to cut down on the total cost of your trip.

Okay, so I had envisaged this as being a nice, short, bullet-pointed article. But once I started writing about how to actually visit Norway on a budget, I had so many ideas that I’ve ended up with the blog version of War and Peace. Rather than delete what might be helpful information to one of you, I’ve broken this post into sections. Check out the contents section, below, for links to each part of the blog post: 

  1. City Passes
    1. Oslo Pass
    2. Bergen Card
    3. Worth It?
  2. Food and Drink
  3. Accommodation
  4. The Outdoors
  5. Transport

~ City Passes ~

You can buy city passes for both Oslo and Bergen. These come with a number of benefits, as explained below.

THE OSLO PASS

The Oslo pass is available for periods of 24, 28 or 72 hours, costing 395 NOK 595 NOK or 745 NOK for adults. Discounted prices are available for children and seniors). Purchasing the Oslo Pass provides free entry into various museums, free use of public transport as well as joining city centre walking tours for free.
 
To get a flavour of museum prices without the Pass, the National Gallery, Nobel Peace Museum and Viking Museums are all 100 NOK to enter. The Munch Museum, meanwhile, will set you back 120 NOK.
 
The Oslo Pass also allows unlimited free travel by bus, tram, underground, boat and local train (zones 1 and 2 only). This map sets out the various zones. The airport is in zone 4 and is not covered by the card. Transportation to and from the airport is relatively simple – the Flytoget shuttle train runs every 10 minutes from 05:35 to 00:35. The journey time is approximately 20 minutes and a one-way ticket will set you back 160NOK.
 
Finally, the Oslo Pass provides discounts at a selection of restaurants. For full information about the Oslo Pass, click here.

The Oslo Pass allows free entry into the National Gallery

THE BERGEN CARD

In Bergen, you can purchase the imaginably named Bergen Card. As with the Oslo Pass, it is also available for 24, 48 or 72 hour time periods. For a single adult, the Bergen Card will set you back either 260 NOK, 340 NOK or 410 NOK, depending on how long your stay is. 
 
What does the card offer? Free entrance to a hoard of museums. Without the card, the KODE Art Museum would usually cost 120 NOK and the Leprosy Museum 90 NOK. It also offers free entrance to the aquarium between November-February and a 25% discount for the rest of the year (usual price: 220 NOK).
 
It also provides a discount for reaching the two most popular mountains in Bergen: Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken. A return ticket for the Floibanen funicular is normally priced at 95 NOK. With the Bergen Card this is free between October-April or discounted by 50% between May-September). The card also entitles its holder to a 20% discount when travelling to the top of Mount Ulriken (normal price: 270 NOK for the cable car and bus journey, 170 NOK for the cable car only)

For more information on the Bergen Card, click here.

The views that await you at the summit of Mount Fløyen

ARE THE CARDS WORTH IT?

It all depends on what activities you are looking to do (for ideas/ information on what there is to do in both of these cities, have a look at my posts for Bergen and Oslo). After writing all of that, I didn’t actually buy one of the passes. Haha!

Oslo book-ended the trip and so we only had limited time in the city. Whilst I did visit the National Gallery, purchasing the Pass would not have been value for money. We enjoyed some rather nice early autumn sun and made the most of it by staying outdoors and walking around, rather than hitting up the museums or using public transport.
 
Similarly, in Bergen we were lucky that there was no rain (considering its status as the most rainy city on the planet!). Again, we enjoyed the outdoors and exploring the city, rather than checking out the museums
 
If you are planning on seeing a lot of the museums, then the city cards are worth some serious consideration. If, however, like me you plan on being outside as often as the weather allows, they probably won’t be value for money.

~ Food and Drink ~

If you’ve decided to visit Norway on a budget, food and drink (in particular) can be rather expensive and eat into your funds. We chose to keep it cheap for the majority of the trip so that we could indulge ourselves from time to time (some of the food in Bergen was absolutely fantastic!).

  1. Cut down on the alcohol intake. I know! I know! It’s not what you want to hear on holiday, but alcohol is eye-wateringly expensive in Norway. The most I paid for a beer during the trip was approx £13 (and it wasn’t even a full pint!). If you are like me and can’t go without (in my view, it’s not officially a holiday until I’ve had a holiday beer. The same goes for ice cream), you could just limit yourself to one drink with dinner. Your bank balance will certainly thank you. Alternatively, grab a beer (or three) from the supermarket, which is always cheaper than in a bar.
  2. Stay in a hotel which includes breakfast in the price. Additionally, you could always sneak a couple of bread rolls out and use them for sandwiches at lunch. 
  3. Visit the grocery store and prepare sandwiches for lunch and/or cook your own meals (particularly if you are staying somewhere with it own kitchen, as our accommodation did in Flam). Two of my friends take this approach to the extreme when visiting notoriously expensive countries: when they travelled to Switzerland, for example, they included a number of cans of tuna and bread in their check in luggage so that they could prepare cheap sandwiches every day.
  4. Take a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water (which, unsurprisingly, is safe to drink in Norway). Both your wallet and the environment will thank you 🙂
  5. If you don’t fancy making your own sandwiches, you can buy fairly cheap sandwiches and hot dogs from the Deli de Luca sandwich shops and 7-Elevens. Both of these are plentiful in Bergen and Oslo.

We opted for cheap food for the majority of the trip, which allowed us to splash out in Bergen 🙂

~ Accommodation ~

Accommodation in Norway can be rather expensive. Obviously, you can be sensible –  planning the trip and booking your accommodation well in advance for cheaper rates. Naturally, I failed to adhere to my own advice and planned the trip last minute (and accommodation was either more expensive or the cheaper places were sold out).

The time of year will also affect prices. You might want to think about visiting in the shoulder or low seasons (although, on the flip side, certain hikes etc are not advisable in the depths of the Norwegian winter).

Aside from hotels/ hostels you may wish to consider using Airbnb (especially if you are thinking about preparing your own meals!) or even couch surfing.

The cheapest option is to camp. In Norway, you can camp in the wild for free (as long as you stay at least 150m from houses, don’t stay more than 2 nights and don’t make a campfire). Norway also has many campsites where you can pitch your tent (or rent a cabin if that is more to your taste). If you are going to camp, bring your own gear – it will be much cheaper than buying or renting once you get to Norway. For full information about camping in Norway, check out the Visit Norway website.

One of the Brekke Gard Hostel guest houses - a cheap place to stay when visiting Flam

The Brekke Gard Hostel: cheap and homely accommodation in Flam

~ The outdoors ~

Norway is spectacularly beautiful. As I have alluded to in other blog posts, the nature here is something else. You will be treated to majestic fjords, snow capped mountains, jagged coastlines, lush green forests, crystal clear lakes and the ethereal Northern Lights. Most of these, with the exception of the fjords (where a boat comes in handy), can be seen and enjoyed for free. For tips on visiting the fjords, read this

When we stayed in Flam, we spent a good proportion of our time out walking and enjoying the countryside. For more information about these walks, take a look at this post.

Similarly with the cities – explore them on foot. If you are anything like me and love to walk about and take photos, this is a completely free and fun activity!

A view of the Aurlandsfjord as seen from Flam - Norway

Views like the one above can be enjoyed for free

~ Transport ~

Public transport in Norway is excellent. Rather than hiring a car, take the train. NSB, Norway’s premier train provider, have an easy to use phone app and if you book in advance there will be discounted tickets available. 

We took the train from Oslo to Bergen and used the NSB app to book these tickets. It was simple and straightforward. This train journey is also the easiest way to reach Flam and take a trip on Norway’s most spectacular train ride: the Flamsbana Railway.

Exploring Norway by train - Myrdal Railway Station

The Oslo-Bergen train journey

It is possible to visit and enjoy Norway on a budget. Hopefully the above will provide you with some food for thought and help to plan an amazing trip to Norway!

By CHRIS BURCHILL

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