I’ve talked about how to find cheap accommodation in Norway and how to travel cheaply around Norway, but there’s been one huge missing hole in this Norway on a budget puzzle: food! Because as beautiful as Norway is, you’re not going to be able to enjoy it if you spend your entire trip here hangry.
Okay, so here are some rules to live (eat?) by when traveling in Norway on a tight budget:
Only eat out somewhere really nice with tons of atmosphere, otherwise don’t even buy any prepared food
That includes convenience store hot dogs and even ready made sandwiches from a supermarket. When I work in the bakery section of my supermarket I make those sandwiches, and personally, I would not pay 40 kroner for a baguette filled a few slices of recently expired ham and cheese – it would be cheaper to buy a plain baguette and an entire new packet of ham.
This is where your accommodation choice in Norway is key: in my post about finding cheap accommodation in Norway I strongly recommended staying at an Airbnb, not only because it will likely be cheaper than a hotel, but also because you can then self cater, which will save you so much money.
And don’t worry, cooking for yourself doesn’t have to mean missing out on Norwegian cuisine! I’ve put together a guide to 10 Norwegian meals to make for less than $10 (and I’ve linked to all the supermarket listings for the ingredients, so you’ll know exactly what to buy).
Only buy food and snacks at supermarkets, never gas stations or convenience stores
So often I’ll hear tourists saying that they paid a shocking $10 for a bottle of water and a chocolate bar at a gas station, and I’m always like what were you doing buying food at a gas station? Go to a supermarket, they are everywhere.
Rema 1000 and Kiwi are the cheapest supermarkets, though other more expensive stores will still carry either a cheaper store brand or “First Price” version of most basics. I know that at least as far as First Price brand food goes, must of their stuff is exactly the same as regularly priced food, it just has simpler branding or their fruit or vegetables won’t look as pretty.
You can also download this app to find all the current special offers and sales going on in supermarkets in Norway.
Bring a reusable water bottle
Norwegian tap water tastes like magic, and bottled water is absurdly expensive.
Bring a thermos
Hiking in Norway can get a bit chilly, so I always try to bring a thermos full of hot tea or cocoa to keep me warm. Also pack some chocolate, or healthy snacks if you prefer, and then you won’t be tempted to stop into a convenience store or gift shop during the day.
Bring your own dehydrated food
If you’re going to do longer camping trips and will want dehydrated food, definitely bring that with you from home, because it’s super expensive in Norway!
And on a slightly unrelated note, make sure you like the food before packing tons of it – not all dehydrated food is equally yummy! (I like this one.)
Skip the pubs
Norway isn’t exactly known for having lots of cozy pubs – in fact I think I’ve found exactly two pubs that I like in all my time in Norway. And I would argue that the clubbing scene in Norway is even worse – likely because buying drinks at a club in Norway is so expensive that most everyone pre-games and arrives super drunk, which doesn’t exactly make for the most fun atmosphere.
Alcohol at a restaurant, pub, or bar is going to be absurdly expensive, so my advice would be to just skip the drinks altogether. Remember what I said about Norway’s magical tap water?
If you do want to sample the local beer, buy some at a – you guessed it! – supermarket and if it’s a nice day take them to the park or fjord. It’s technically illegal to drink outside but I’ve seen police pass by outdoor picnickers without saying a word.
And if you really think you’ll want to be drinking while in Norway, buy some liquor at Duty Free! (It will still be cheaper to buy it in the country you’re flying from than when you land in Norway though.)
Check out the Asian food stores
Most sizable Norwegian towns have an Asian food store, where you can get great bargains on things like lentils and PG tips tea. If you’re really strapped for cash then lentils and rice is one of the cheapest meals I know!
Opt for the fancier restaurant
Wait, what? No, it’s true – the price difference between a really nice restaurant and a fast food place is surprisingly small (is that some sort of Norwegian socialist thing?) so if you’re going to spend money on eating out, then at least get the most out of it!
You might also consider having your nice restaurant meal for lunch instead of dinner, as lunch menus will often be cheaper.
And if you’re in Oslo, there’s a 3-hour buffet on wooden boat sailing through the Oslo fjord that you should totally check out. Check prices and availability here
To splurge or skip?
Of course there are some things worth splurging on in Norway, and some things that you can probably go ahead and skip.
Splurge: Freia milk chocolate
Norwegian chocolate is the best in the world, and definitely not something you want to miss out on!
Skip: Solo and Kvikk Lunsj
Let’s hope no Norwegians are reading this, because they would surely be horrified to hear me put down their favorite hiking snacks like this but… Solo really just tastes like any old orange soda, and Kvikk Lunsj is exactly the same as a Kit Kat bar.
There, I said it.
Splurge: Brown cheese
Only buy a small package of it because you’ll likely hate it, but then again some foreigners instantly adore brown cheese so you never know! At any rate, it’s incredibly Norwegian and so you can’t really leave Norway without at least trying it.
Skip: Expensive vegetables you can get at home
A lot of vegetables in Norway are absurdly expensive – maybe wait until you’re back home to satisfy that avocado craving.
Splurge: Hobby, Troika, and waffles
Hobby is one of my favorite Norwegian chocolate bars and I can’t think of anything I’ve tried anywhere else that tastes at all like it. And if I liked marzipan I would be a huge fan of Troika, which from the rate I see people buying them at the supermarket seems to be the Scandinavian equivalent of a Snickers bar. And you can’t come to Norway without indulging in some cardamom waffles!
If you’re staying at an Airbnb then your kitchen might be equipped with a waffle iron, otherwise buy some waffles in town – they’ll be worth it, I promise.
Tough call: aquavit
If you want to sample the most Norwegian of drinks, give aquavit a try. Then again, I’ve never seen a visitor to Norway actually enjoy aquavit so… maybe skip it?
Anyone have any tips to add? Share in the comments!