The following is a guest post from Daniel Schjetne.
A foreign visitor once told me: “There is something very different about this town and this country. It seems like there is… no struggle at all. For anything.”
Having grown up in what I like to call the real “great white north” might not have given me the same general perspective of this cold place as others have.
Neither is it a preferred backpacking destination for kids out of college, and much of the reason for that has to be that it’s a country with an average annual salary of $73,000. Prices in a proportional range makes it pretty bloody expensive to visit on a budget.
Five million Norwegians share the benefits of oil reserves with an estimated value of $813 billion.
Is it possible to get by on a budget? Well. In a way.
Got more time than money? Check out this Travel Hacking Guide to Norway
How to Sleep Cheaply
A bed to sleep in will probably be your biggest expense traveling through Norway. Sleeping outside is a no-go for about ten months of the year.
During the winter the temperatures can easily creep down into -25C, and most summer nights aren’t exactly scolding hot either. You can get a single room at a budget hotel for between $80 and $110 in most towns, but for a proper backpacker that is a “no way in hell.”
It has to be said that budget hotels in Norway are actually pretty nice hotels. Good breakfasts are always included, and if you’re willing to pay that it isn’t that bad. But for me personally, $100 a night is never okay.
Sadly, there isn’t much of a hostel culture in Norway. The bigger cities usually have hostels, but even there a dorm bed will put you back $50 to $60 a night. Again, since the standard of living is pretty high, these hostels are usually very decent ones. Hostels tend to charge a ridiculous linen-fee for using their sheets, which is usually about $5.
Camping is absolutely possible during the summer, and as long as you get out of the city center (and stay away from people’s gardens) camping on state-owned land is actually free and legal in Norway. But beware of the night, because it always gets colder up here than you might think.
Couchsurfing and staying with locals is of course always a good and cheap option, and also possible up in Norway.
How to Eat and Drink Cheaply
Prices of dining has rocketed together with every gallon of oil those vikings pull out of the sea. I would suggest cooking your own food as much as you can, as eating out is very overpriced.
This is a place where 18-year old waitresses make $20/hour. Do the math. Dinner at an average restaurant will put you back between $40 to $100, depending on what you drink.
A baguette and a coffee at 7/11 is yours for around $12 to $15.
Alcohol is insanely expensive in Norway. A six-pack of the local beer is yours for between $20 to $30. My advice is to do as every single Norwegian does; drink loads at home before you go out, and don’t buy anything while you are at the club.
Even though $20 is a stiff price for six beers, the price for one at the club is easily $12 to $15. Liquor prices shouldn’t even be discussed. Take your drinks at the hostel before you go out, and you’ll be fine.
Keep in mind that a kebab on your way home cost about $10 to $15, but when you’re drunk it is absolutely worth the money.
How to Get Around
Norway is not very populated, but the country is longer than a dark year. Thankfully, this frozen place is well-connected.
All big cities have good public transportation including trains, trams, buses and metros. The prices vary from place to place, but a single bus ride will put you back $3 to $5 on average.
Buying weekend and/or weekly passes can save you a reasonable amount if you are staying in the same place for a while.
Traveling from town to town isn’t just that cheap, but it can still be done on a budget. Booking in advance is the main key here.
Check out multi-day Eurail Norway Passes here for affordable train travel in the country.
NSB is the Norwegian train operator, and it runs trains all over the country. I would suggest booking train rides to and from major towns at least four weeks in advance. This qualifies you for the cheap tickets.
Seven to ten-hour train rides between Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim can be yours for about $40 to $60 if you are smart with your booking.
Flights between these cities can be even cheaper. Always book flights inside of Norway with Norwegian Airlines. If you plan ahead, you can get one to three-hour flights inside the country as low as $35.
Hitchhiking is absolutely possible, but not very popular in Norway. Norwegians are pretty defensive, and picking up people from the road is just… not how we do things up here. I have picked up and met several hitchhikers around Norway, and getting a ride isn’t always difficult.
The best way to do this is to hang out at roadside stations and ask lorry (truck) drivers, as they tend to be happier with extra company. If you’re hitching in the winter; bring your biggest jacket.
As I mentioned before, your bed will be your bane in Norway. Book your accommodation carefully and in advance, and you’ll get by.
Cook your own food, cut down on the drinking in bars and book your flights in advance. Norway is horrible for your wallet, and there is no way around it.
This might turn many travelers off, but knowing what this fantastic country has to offer makes it all worth it for me.
The Vikings have been around for thousands of years, long before the idea of the USA was even formed. Norway is full of fantastic history, culture, tradition and incredible nature.
Go skiing in the winter sun, fish fresh salmon in the fjord and cook it on the open fire, or watch the northern lights with a cup of Karsk. (Typical for the northern parts of Norway. It is basically coffee and 96% alcohol moonshine. Mix to taste, it will warm your inside up all right!)
Feeling adventurous now? Check out this guide to hike Norway on a budget!
About the Author: Daniel Schjetne is a 19-year-old traveler from Trondheim, Norway who went out on his first solo backpacking trip through Europe just after his 18th birthday.