There’s no denying it: Norway can be pretty expensive for tourists. Groceries, eating out, public transport, renting a car, or even paying admission to entertainment avenues usually cost a lot more than in our neighboring countries, and many tourists get shocked at how expensive many things are in Norway.
Despite a high price point, it’s also absolutely possible to visit Norway on a budget, and there are many small things that you can do to make the trip less expensive than it has to be. Many of these things are just common sense for Norwegians, but hopefully most of them will be useful for tourists who come to visit Norway.
So, let’s take a closer look at 13 different things you can do to make your visit to Norway a bit more affordable!
1) Drink tap water, and bring a refillable bottle
The tap water in Norway is safe to drink for anyone, and it is considered to be one of the best tap water sources in the whole world. So if you ever want to drink water, just go to any tap and fill a bottle.
Paying 20 – 30 NOK for a bottle of water at a grocery store is just a waste of money, and the bottled water is exactly the same as the tap water. So instead of buying a bottle of water every time you want a drink, invest in a good refillable water bottle that you refill with water from the tap.
If you need a cheap bottle, go to a Europris, Nille og a sporting goods store. You will usually find at least one of these in any shopping mall in Norway. Many grocery stores in Norway also sells refillable water bottles, but these are not typically the cheapest ones.
Most places you go to will allow you to fill your bottle up for free. Most cafés will give you a glass of water for free if you ask for it, and water is pretty much always free as long as you opt for non-bottled water.
2) Buy groceries from the cheapest grocery store
There are several different grocery store franchises in Norway, and these actually have a pretty big price difference. Places like Spar, Meny, Bunnpris or Joker is considerably more expensive than the cheapest options.
The cheapest supermarkets in Norway are:
- Rema 1000.
- Coop Extra.
These 3 are considered to be cheaper than any other grocery store franchise, so buy your groceries from either of these. All three of them are competing to be the cheapest one, but Rema 1000 is usually the supermarket chain that ends up being the cheapest of them all.
Avoid Meny at all costs if you care about price. This is a premium chain of supermarkets that do have much higher prices than the rest. This great thing about this grocery store is that they have a much bigger range of products than other supermarkets, but don’t go there for regular shopping if you want your visit to Norway to be as cheap as possible.
Joker, Bunnpris, Spar, Coop Prix, Eurospar, and Nærbutikken are usually somewhere in the middle of the price range. Not exactly cheap, but also not that much more expensive than the three cheapest options.
3) Always pay in NOK
Most shops won’t even ask you, but if you are in a super touristy area you might get asked if you want to pay in NOK, EUR or even USD. The correct choice here is to pay in Norwegian kroner. This will let your bank choose the current exchange rate, which is usually pretty fair.
However, if you choose to pay in EUR, USD or any other currency, the store itself gets to pick the exchange rate. This will 99 % certainly be tipped in their favor, and you end up paying more for the exact same thing.So always choose to pay in NOK if you get asked!
If you don’t get asked, don’t worry, this means that they charge you in NOK. It is illegal for stores to not accept Norwegian kroner.
4) Don’t give tips unless you want to
Most workers in Norway gets a decent wage, and do not rely on tips to get by. You can choose to leave a small tip when you are eating out or drinking coffee, but it is not expected. Only a minority give a tip to the waiters in cafés, but it is somewhat common in restaurants.
So if you don’t want to leave a tip, don’t do it. That said, people who work at waiters are far from the best paid workers in Norway, so they will be happy if they get a tip from you.
Also be aware that most cafés will charge up front without adding tip to the cash register or even giving you a chance to change amount of pay. These places will instead have a tip jar that accepts cash only.
Restaurants will be different. You will typically pay after the meal, and the cash register will show the amount to pay, but leave a blank slot where you can choose which amount to pay. This is to allow people to leave a tip if they want to.
5) Book buses and trains in advance
Both buses and trains can be a pretty cheap way to get from one place to another in Norway, but it won’t be cheap if you buy same-day tickets. The earlier you book your ticket for public transport, the cheaper it is.
The main train company Vy will have som “minstepris”-tickets. This can be translated to “lowest price tickets”, and will save you a lot of money. For example, a ticket from Oslo to Trondheim for one adult costs around 1,800 NOK if you buy it the same day, but if you book it at least one week in advance, you can get it as cheap as 400 NOK.
Also read: How to buy train tickets in Norway.
The local buses usually don’t have these cheap tickets, but buses that travels between large distances do.
Aim to book tickets at least 1 week in advance to get a decent price, but if you book 2 weeks in advance you are pretty much guaranteed to get the best price they offer.
The only downside to buying these cheap tickets is that they are not flexible. So make sure you actually get on the right bus or train at the departure time, because the ticket will not be valid for any other trains or buses.
6) Make your own meals
Most Norwegians make their own breakfast, lunch and even dinner, and if you want to travel to Norway on a budget you should be prepared to do like the Norwegians does.
Eating out is actually very expensive in Norway, and a single dinner at a regular restaurant like a burger place can easily cost 300 – 500 NOK. Fine dining is even more expensive, and can often cost 1000 to 2000 NOK. It really depends on where you eat, but it will certainly get expensive to eat out every day.
Most places don’t really have breakfast menus, but you can pick up lunch at a café. Expect to pay around 100 NOK for a normal lunch menu.
If you want to save money, head to a grocery store to buy ingredients to make your own breakfast and lunch, or even dinner. A typical Norwegian breakfast consists of sliced bread with something on top. There are hundreds of options for topping, so go safe with white cheese, ham or jelly, or try the well-known Norwegian brown cheese (sold under the brand name Gudbrandsdalsost).
7) Avoid riding taxis
Taxis are extremely expensive in Norway, and you should only ever ride a taxi if you are prepared to cash out a lot of money for the ride. There is no cheap option for riding taxis, but Uber is available in Oslo. Uber is cheaper than taxis, but still not very cheap.
If you ever visit Norway on a budget, learn how to navigate the public transport instead of relying on taxis. Even a short ride can cost several hundred kroner. A taxi from Gardermoen to the city center in Oslo can cost 800 NOK or even more at night!
The big cities will usually have a decent public transport system, while you won’t really need transport in smaller cities or towns since the city center is usually small and condensed.
8) Buy store-brand items
Most stores have their own brand of products that are much cheaper than regular brands. Some of the store-brand items can cost as little as half or even 1/3rd of the price of the other almost identical products.
These brands does not only carry food items, but also regular household items like toothpaste, toilet paper etc. So you can usually save a pretty big chunk of money by going for the store-branded items whenever you are shopping. Most supermarkets in Norway has these low-price brands.
The cheap store-brands for Kiwi, Spar, Joker and Meny is called First Price.
The cheap store-brand for Rema 1000 is called Prima or just Rema 1000.
The cheap store-brand for Coop stores like Extra, Prix or Obs is called X-tra or Coop.
The quality of the items are usually high, and Norway has a strict regulation that makes it very difficult to sell low-quality food products. In some cases these items are actually the same as the premium items, but with a different branding. That said, some of them might not taste exactly the same, but it is definitely worth trying.
9) Visit in the off season to save on accommodation
You can save a lot of money on accommodation if you visit Norway during the off season. Many hotels lower their prices to fill up rooms that would otherwise be unused, and you might get a very good deal if you travel at a time where most people don’t.
So when exactly is off season in Norway? It depends on where you are going. As you can guess, the most busy season in coastal areas in the south of Norway is during the summer, and especially during the “fellesferie” – a 3 week period where pretty much everyone has vacation at the same time.
Many places will also have a very busy season during the winter, especially around the holidays. This will mainly be in mountain areas with skiing opportunities as well as northern locations where the aurora borealis and arctic winters brings in tourists.
So the off season will depend on where you want to go. Skiing resorts will obviously have many spare rooms in the summer, while the coastal hotels that usually cater towards summer tourists will have vacancies during the winter.
The spring and autumn will typically also be off-season, and many places will be amazing at this time!
10) Bring a tent and stay in the forest
If you don’t even want to pay a single krone for accommodation, simply go into the forest and set up a tent or sleep under the stars. Most places in Norway allows you to freely camp without paying anything, as long as you don’t stay for more than two days in the same spot.
You will also need to be at least 150 – 200 meters away from any building or place where people stay, so you need to get out of sight to to speak.
After two days at one spot, move at least 200 meters away, and you can stay another two nights.
If you want to wild camp in Norway, go crazy and enjoy yourself. There are many places where you can camp, and you probably won’t have to travel far from a city or town before you find a suitable place to set up camp for the night.
Please respect the nature and bring any waste with you when you leave. There are some limits to when you are allowed to make a campfire, and the general rule is to not use open fires between April 15th and September 15th.
Also keep in mind that Norway can get very cold during the winter. Do not stay in a tent if it is below the freeing point unless you have experience with this, because it is much more dangerous than it might look like. There are unfortunately some tourists that get injured from the cold weather because they’ve stayed in a tent without being sufficiently prepared.
11) Check out the many free things you can do
Norway is full of things that you can enjoy for free. Most of the nature is completely free, and you don’t have to pay a single krone in admission to any national park or other wildlife area. This means that you can see the fjord, glaciers, deep boreal forests or the unique landscape of Lofoten without having to pay an entrance fee.
As a matter of fact, you can do wild camping in Lofoten without paying a single Norwegian krone.
Many museums and parks are also completely free, and you will have a nice selection of these in Oslo. There are not that many free museums outside of Oslo, but the admission is usually very cheap.
12) Get comfortable with booking tickets online or from apps
Most places in Norway will give you a certain price reduction if you pay online, either from their website or their app. This goes for most tickets to museums, tickets for buses and trains, and even tickets to go to the movies or see a concert.
You should get comfortable with downloading apps, making a user account and paying for stuff there right away, and you will usually get the best price. There is no strict agreement to how much the online booking discount usually is, but expect somewhere in the 10 to 20 % range.
Some places demand additional fees for non-digital tickets as well, so you might pay somewhere in the range of 10 – 79 NOK as a “paper fee” if you do not want to have a digital-only ticket. This is obviously a bummer when you want tickets to bring back home as a memory, but most industries are moving towards mainly offering digital tickets these days.
Norway is very digital compared to many countries, so pretty much everyone has a smart phone to use for tickets and stuff like that.
13) Check out the Too Good To Go app
Many Norwegian stores, bakeries, gas stations, restaurants and places like that uses the Too Good To Go app. This is an app for your cell phone where you can get good deals when stores are closing for the night. They will typically do inventory of fresh goods that will have to be thrown away at the end of the day, and put these up for sale on the app.
You can make some good deals and get a lot of nice food for very little money in the app, but you never know what you might get that day, so it’s far from reliable. But it’s a great app to check, and just open it to check for deals at the evening the places are beginning to close for the day.
I have made some great deals from Too Good To Go myself, and have been pleasantly surprised by how much food I got for my money, but this will depend on where in Norway you are and which deals you accept.