I mean it when I say Norway is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. However, figuring out how to travel Norway can take some work.
I also mean it when I say Norway is the most expensive place I’ve ever been. Norway is the land of $30 six-packs.
But with some good advice and the right resources, it can be much more affordable.
– As an added bonus, Norway is a great place to shed your beer belly –
So, for this post, I’m going to give you the best tips and tricks I’ve found for having a great travel experience while also saving money.
I asked Karl,who is a Norwegian, for his recommendations and I’m also putting in what I’ve learned during 3 trips to Norway in both the summer and the winter.
I hope it helps!
First things first, Norway is a bigger country than you might have thought just looking on the map.
It’s also not as fast to travel by road as some other countries because mountains and fjords make the roads windy and require travel by ferry.
Here are the best ways to get around the country.
For most of us Americans, we are traveling on short vacations (7-14 days). Because of that, if you want to see a lot of the country but not spend a ton of time on the road, you can fly. Most of the flights here will be small planes to single-gate airports.
Widerøe Air has an awesome deal called the Explore Norway Ticket. It’s similar to the Eurail Pass where you buy a ticket that is good for two weeks of unlimited flying to 42 destinations around Norway. It’s awesome, you can find more info here.
The other airlines you can use to search for flights within the country are Norwegian Air and SAS. If you search these using Google Flights you can occasionally find really good deals, especially if you book in advance.
Trains are not as common in Norway as they are in other areas of Europe. However, if you are traveling the southern part of Norway, you will find they are often the easiest way to get around.
Starting from Oslo and staying in the southern districts, trains will be a great way to go. Click here to check stations and costs.
You can also take trains to Northern Norway but they are slow and often a similar cost to flights. However, this is a good option if you have more time and less money and are going to be stopping in a more prominent city or town.
Renting a car or campervan are really good options for Norway. Here, they drive on the same side of the road as the US and traffic rules are boringly similar. You won’t have to make any major adjustments for driving except for getting used to round-a-bouts and most vehicles being manual transmission.
Although rentals are not cheap, it may be the most cost-effective way to go depending on your destinations.
Click here for some great tips on renting cars in Norway.
Also, if you are renting a campervan, you can group your accommodations and transportation into one expense and often save. The nice thing about this option is you also have a mobile kitchen with you at all times so you save on dining as well. Lastly, you get to be up close and camp on beaches, hilltops and fjords which is nothing short of incredible.
Remember – Insurance costs for rental cars are ridiculous! Most people forget that a lot of major credit cards include car insurance in the benefits. Call your credit card company before you leave and see if this is a benefit they offer and if you can use it in Norway.
There are busses throughout Norway. This will be the most economical option and is definitely a nice way to meet other travelers too.
The busses are usually clean, comfortable and run on time. For bus information click here.
Unless you are sticking to the inland areas (which you really shouldn’t), you will be along the coast and traveling the coast means taking ferries.
Ferries are a way of life for most Norwegians, but for the rest of us, they mean planning ahead. You can get information on the ferry schedule here.
Some ferries require calling ahead to reserve your space. In the summer, they run more ferries due to increased tourism. However, in my experience, I’ve found that sometimes the ferries are over-crowded so you end up waiting for the next one. Sometimes you wait hours….
Be prepared, you may have delays, but as long as you’ve got some snacks and a good book, it’s often a nice opportunity to relax.
The Hurtigruten is the coastal ship that travels along the fjords. It’s also a ferry. Taking trips on the Hurtigruten is an awesome experience for the views. Although it isn’t a budget option, you can rent a cabin and stay overnight, so don’t view it as just transportation, depending on your trip it may be lodging as well.
Because Norway is so safe, a lot of backpackers feel safe hitch-hiking here when they wouldn’t in other countries. Especially around Lofoten, there were hitch-hikers everywhere!
I’m not going to recommend this, just because you never really know who you are going to be picked up by, but it is an option. If you decide to do it, just remember, it’s best not to travel alone and you may get caught out in the rain so bring rain gear and a cover for your backpack.
Budget options are few and far between here, but most of the country is open for camping. As Karl said, “Norway is for everyone.” You can set up a tent alongside the road outside of most towns and there is designated camping as well.
You can rent camper vans in Norway and have your accommodation and transportation in one. This really is a nice way to travel since you can be in the middle of the best sites. Here is a link to one of the more prominent companies.
Hostels are available in more touristed areas and bigger cities. Be prepared because hostel beds can run around $50/night.
Hotels are generally very nice and many offer a free breakfast that is better than any continental breakfast you find in the US. Think smoked salmon, all varieties of toast, fruit, cereal and good coffee. You’ll pay more for hotels ($70-150) but not drastically, and they are a great option.
I really like Thon Hotels for the breakfast.
AirBnB has really picked up in Norway. There is a lot available! And although the cost will be more similar to hotels, you get a more authentic local experience this way. Also, if you’re interested in staying in one of the iconic fisherman’s huts in the fjords, AirBnB is most often the way to reserve one.
Norway doesn’t have a cultural tradition of eating out. You won’t find fast food or convenience stores throughout most of Norway.
Grocery stores have snack and drinks that you can stock up on and some gas stations do as well.
When dining out, costs will often be 2x what we are used to paying in the US. The food is generally good but the service is similar to much of Europe. Servers do not make their income based on tips so you will get more of a laid-back approach to customers.
If you are in a bigger town or city, there will be some nice options for restaurants and coffee shops. In smaller towns, you may have a local café. I like the local cafes because they are a good way to experience the local culture, however, many are only open during the summer and even then, may only be open several hours a day.
Do not depend on finding restaurants and dining options outside of populated areas.
For some weird foods you find in the grocery store click here.
For any time other than summer, pack for winter. That’s the safest option.
For summer, pack for all seasons. I’ve been here almost a month and there has been beautiful days with 80 degree temperatures. There has also been more temperate and moderate days with rain and a few that were cold, especially near the water.
Bring clothes that layer easily. For an all-seasons packing list, click here.
Make sure you have a hat and sunglasses, and definitely don’t forget raingear! If you are opting for a lot of outdoor activities, include a pair of rainpants too.
The main seasons for tourists tend to be Summer and Northern Lights.
If you want to see summer, July and August generally have the best weather. The flowers are blooming, the hills are green and the midnight sun shines all night.
Don’t miss out!
Norway is absolutely incredible. It’s not a budget destination, but don’t let that dissuade you from coming. It will be worth every penny. Just plan ahead, be budget-minded and know that the most amazing experiences you will have here are going to be enjoying the landscape, which is free!