I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone that I’m half Norwegian, or more recently that I live in Norway (you can read why I chose to move to Norway here), and they’ve sighed and said that they would love to visit Norway someday, but it will have to wait until they have enough money.
I hate hearing this, because I hate the thought of someone putting off a trip to Norway, perhaps indefinitely, when they really don’t need to. Because while yes, Norway is more expensive than a lot of other places, it doesn’t have to be prohibitively so. And you don’t want anything to stop you from visiting Norway, because guys, never in the 70+ other countries I’ve traveled through have I experienced anything quite like this drop dead gorgeous country.
It’s hard to find truly useful advice for budget travel to Norway, I guess because most backpackers don’t stay in Norway long enough to learn all the budget hacks here, while Norwegians, well, make Norwegian salaries.
Norwegians are the first to admit that their country is really expensive, but the truth is most Norwegians can afford to live in Norway in an expensive way. And the secret is that there are ways to avoid those expenses, if you really want to.
In fact when Dan and I moved here last summer my aunt warned us that we shouldn’t expect to be able to save any money while living in Norway, yet even last month without really watching my finances I saved the equivalent of $1,300 while working 4 days a week at a supermarket (I’m excluding any money I made blogging). Norway on a budget is totally possible.
But before I get further into the specifics of traveling through Norway on a budget (you can read my full post on budget transportation in Norway here), let’s first do something about that notion that “Norway is just insanely expensive.”
1. The Norwegian krone is super weak right now
This is the number one reason that everyone who is even a bit interested in Norway should visit, like now.
I can’t remember the Norwegian currency ever being this weak, and it makes a huge difference in prices here. As in, suddenly everything in Norway is 20% cheaper than it usually is for American visitors, which means that suddenly everything here is, well maybe not cheap, but certainly affordable.
This is how many Norwegian kroner 1 USD has been able to buy over the past decade – no, Norway was not cheap in 2008! via XE
I’ve asked a lot of people about it and most people here seem to think that the krone will stay weak for the next year, but then it will strengthen again, so you should probably come soon, before this 20% off sale is over!
2. It’s beautiful everywhere
You don’t have to cover huge distances to see Norway at its best, because it is stunning absolutely everywhere.
How does this help you as a budget traveler in Norway? Well, it means that you don’t have to visit tons of different destinations in Norway in order to experience its beauty. In fact, you really can just fly to Bergen for a weekend break and you’ll see more stunning scenery than you would spending days on the road in some countries.
Though I should add that there is a catch: if you visit just one place in Norway you will definitely be coming back to see more.
3. The best things to do in Norway are free
People don’t come here for the amazing shopping, booming nightlife (ha!), or really anything that you have to pay for. People visit Norway to see the nature.
Okay yes, you could spend a lot of money on a fjord cruise or rail adventure (and it will totally be worth it), but you can also hike up from whatever city you flew into and it is going to be breathtaking. This is one of my favorite things about living in the Norwegian mountains – even just walking around my cabin I find myself catching my breath in awe of this place.
4. You can camp anywhere
Yes, even hostels in Norway are laughably expensive, but if you really want to visit and can come in the summer, just bring a tent. You can camp basically anywhere here (as long as it’s 150 meters from the nearest house or cabin) which makes travel so much easier. It also means you can be more spontaneous with where you go!
If wild camping isn’t your thing, Norway is full of campgrounds, many of which also have cabins available for those who really aren’t into the whole sleeping in a tent thing – and they’re usually quite cheap accommodation compared to staying at a hotel or guest house.
You can read my full post on finding budget accommodation in Norway here.
And if you’re planning to stay in Norway for a while, housing is pretty affordable, especially if you’re making a Norwegian wage.
I’m actually still paying $600/month for my half of the apartment in the center of Trondheim that I’m no longer living in (the lease is up in August though!) and no, that’s not cheap considering that it’s a tiny studio. But that’s also in the most beautiful area of Norway’s third largest city. Rent here in Rauland is less than half of that.
5. Store brand supermarket food is actually quite cheap
Food in Norway is expensive. A loaf of bread can easily cost you $5 – except if you choose that whole wheat loaf in the plain white package which only costs $1. You see, every supermarket either carries their own cheap store brand version of most food staples, or they’ll sell “First Price” brand food, which is always a fraction of the cost of everything else.
A lot of people say the store brand isn’t as tasty, but I usually can’t tell the difference (especially when we’re talking about vegetables) and it will definitely be fine for budget travelers in Norway.
And don’t think this means you have to stick to bland, un-Norwegian food during your trip to Norway – just buy the cheap version of tinned mackerel, smoked salmon, and cloudberry jam and you can still have have the cultural experience of indulging in Norwegian food!
I’ve also written an in depth post on eating in Norway on a budget, which you can read here.
6. Education is free
Yes, even for international students. And yes, there are loads of programs taught all in English. Go get yourself a free Master’s degree!
And if you’re Norwegian you can actually get paid to study. I know, what? It’s like they think education is important or something.
7. Norwegian Air is super cheap
You know how everyone visits Iceland these days as part of the free Icelandair stopover? Well, Norwegian Air is quickly making Norway a more affordable destination as well.
In fact, Norwegian often offers the cheapest flight to Europe both from Asia and the U.S., which means that you can squeeze in a weekend in Norway before catching a budget flight to your final European destination and actually end up saving money.
So, who’s visiting me this summer?