Norway isn’t inherently very affordable; food, lodging, and transportation costs can really add up. Despite having a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in the world, we’ve proven it can actually be rather budget-friendly! We were able to do this trip on a budget without sacrificing experiences, and we’re here to show you how you can do the same.
- How much does Norway cost to visit?
- The best time to visit Norway
- Our actual expenses for a 10-day trip
- Ways we could have made Norway even more affordable
- How to best prepare for your trip to Norway
- 8 ways to make Norway more affordable
- Why Norway is one of our favorite countries
How much does Norway cost to visit?
Hotels are typically between 780kr ($75 USD) and 2460kr ($235 USD) per night, though there are some cheaper options.
Food can range anything from about 120kr (~$11 USD) at a fast food meal to 410kr (~$44 USD) per person at a mid-range restaurant in Norway.
Fortunately most activities you’ll want to do in Norway are out in nature, free of charge. For the few paid activities, expect around 60kr (~$6 USD) for minor things like park access or parking in certain places.
What’ll really get you is the gas prices, at a whopping 80kr (nearly $8 USD) per gallon.
Given these prices, I would ordinarily budget around $200 USD per day for two people. Fortunately, we spent nowhere near that!
The best time to visit Norway
This really depends on your preferences! For those who have ever visited Alaska, latitudes, weather, and daylight hours are very similar.
If your goal is to catch the northern lights, you’ll want winter: December through February. March can provide a good balance of wintertime activities without quite as much darkness.
It doesn't have to be!
Just 5 budget tricks can save you $100s on your next trip!
Most tourists hit Norway in the summertime months of June through August. These are the warmest months and the longest days, but these also come with the highest prices and the largest crowds.
We are actually big fans of traveling in shoulder seasons: the perfect balance between crowds and weather. Springtime affords beautiful blooms with residual snow, and autumn is still warm enough after the kids have gone back to school. I’d probably avoid November, though, as not much is happening except cold and darkness.
We visited in late May, and we serendipitously caught a warm spell. Folks were actually swimming in Oslo, and most of our super warm clothes went unused for the duration of our trip. For all that perfect weather, the most popular viewpoints were all but abandoned, and we still caught snow on the ground, making for some spectacular photos.
Our actual expenses for a 10-day trip
For airfare, the prices were pretty outrageous from our home town of Portland at around $1,100 to $1,500 per person. However, checking nearby Seattle got the price down considerably to $858 per person, directly with Norwegian Airlines. While we flew during peak season, this wasn’t bad considering it included meals and our bags. Similar flights at the end of September were even cheaper.
We always set up price alerts on Google Flights, which almost always helps us get the price even lower. You could also check other hub airports, like New York, to piece together your own cheaper itinerary. Iceland Air is also worth looking at, especially if you want to have a several week layover there with no additional charge. You can go to both of these beautiful countries on an extended trip!
Google Flights is a great place to start, but they don’t always show all results for every airline. Norwegian airlines is not even listed for many flights to Norway, so be sure to check multiple sources for flight information. Kayak.com is also great for this.
Flight Cost: $1,716 (for two)
This is really where we cut some serious dough. Instead of staying in expensive hotels, we brought our basic camping gear and mostly camped throughout Norway, making it much more affordable!
This works great if you already have lightweight gear and can share a tent with someone. Norway also has some pretty awesome Right to Roam laws that allow visitors to hike and camp almost anywhere throughout the country, completely free of charge. Alternatively, you can do what we did and pay around 420kr ($40 USD) a night for an established campsite that comes with some pretty lush amenities. Most are near beautiful waterfalls, fjords, or other natural landscapes. We’ll take that over a sanitized 300 sq. foot hotel room any day!
We arrived a day earlier than our friends, so we elected to couchsurf with a local couple in Oslo. This proved to be an amazing experience, as they invited us to their graduation party that evening and recommended a remarkable local sculpture park.
Lodging Cost: $232 (for two)
Knowing eating out would be expensive, we brought a lot of our own freeze-dried meals with us from the U.S., many of which fed two. We went to a couple of restaurants as well, but a 470kr ($45 USD) lunch of fish ‘n chips and a couple glasses of wine convinced us to stick with the camping meals as much as we could. Most of the time, we were out in the countryside anyway, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on five-star cuisine.
If you can minimize restaurants and just buy food at convenience stores or bring it with you, you can save a bundle.
Alcohol is also notoriously expensive. We took our couchsurfing host’s advice to buy it at the airport duty-free store, picking a bottle of wine and a flavored vodka on our way into the country. Due to the local taxes, this ended up being far more affordable than buying it at stores during our visit.
Purchase at the airport if you can, or simply go dry for your trip to save on this extraneous cost.
Food Cost: $305 (for two)
We rented a car for most of the trip which was perfect since we wanted to see a lot of the country in a short period of time. The rental car was reasonable in price but fuel was wildly expensive, at least for an American. At nearly 17kr/liter (about $8 USD/gallon), these costs definitely added up. However, with all the savings in other areas and sharing the expenses with multiple people, it wasn’t bad. If you can fill your car with 4 people, the cost per person would go down further.
In Oslo we took a train from the airport to city center to our couchsurfing accommodation. Had we picked up the rental from the airport, we would have had the extra day of cost on the rental as well as parking charges. Oslo is not a car friendly city, so this was the best way to see the city at a low cost.
Ferry rides were another expense but they were taking us to some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Plus it is like a boat tour of the fjords at the same time. While these costs did add up, we wouldn’t have had half of the experiences of this magnificent country without them.
- Rental Car $395
- Petrol/Gas $195
- Train $29
- Ferry $135
Transportation Cost: $753
I think we did a pretty good job, considering we aren’t budget travelers and still did everything we wanted to in the country.
- Flights: $1,716
- Lodging: $232
- Food: $305
- Transportation $753
Total Trip Cost: $3,006 ($1503 per person)
Ways we could have made Norway even more affordable
Overall, there were some areas where we splurged that drove our costs up a bit.
We could have spent less on meals by not purchasing alcohol or avoiding meals out, entirely.
For flights, we could have adjusted our dates to find an even better deal. Or we could have employed credit card reward points.
It doesn't have to be!
Just 5 budget tricks can save you $100s on your next trip!
We could have cut down on our transportation costs by sharing our car with some travel buddies.
And on lodging, we could have wild-camped everywhere, avoiding the fees of the posh campsites. But, c’mon.. they were worth the splurge!
We do not regret any part of our trip and feel that $3,006 is pretty cheap for an international trip to Europe. We spent nearly $9,000 for a similar length trip to Japan.
How to best prepare for your trip to Norway
If you’re headed to Norway, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind for your trip.
What to pack
This depends largely on the time of year you decide to visit, but we always advocate for layers. This makes your wardrobe much more versatile so you can pack far less. For the truly expert take, check out our ultimate packlist for any climate and any duration – that also happens to all fit in carry-on.
If you’re adventurous at all like we are, then you’ll definitely want to bring durable hiking clothes as well. Most of the hikes you’ll find will take up you straight up fjord walls, so you’re likely to get sweaty, even on cooler days. Make sure to pack clothes that breathe well, dry quickly, and don’t stink.
If you’re camping, you can bring gear and food with you, but leave the propane at home (those can’t go on the plane). You can always buy canisters once you arrive.
And of course, don’t forget the camera(s)! You’ll be in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, so you’ll want to be able to take LOTS of pictures!
Where to go
You will likely fly into either Oslo or Bergen, both of which deserve a day or two by themselves. Otherwise, there are dozens of national parks and thousands of kilometers of fjords to explore. You’re welcome to browse our other articles on Norway to see the route we took, but you honestly won’t be disappointed anywhere you go.
My personal top recommendations would be:
- Geiranger Fjord
- Nigardsbreen Glacier
- Nedre Oscarshaug
- Vigeland Sculpture Park (Oslo)
In Norway there are also National Tourist Routes which are somewhat planned driving routes to many scenic areas. If you car camp, you can stop off at some of the most scenic locations and put up your tent for the night. The options are limitless!
How long to stay
This is really a personal preference, but I’d definitely recommend at least 10-14 days, more if you can spare it. Norway is stunning, but it takes a while to get from one end of it to the other (it spans 1770km/1100 miles from north to south!). While we were there, we missed Bergen and the iconic Trolltunga, entirely, because of the distance to get there.
We found that most Norwegians speak really excellent English – many better than some native speakers! – especially in the cities. However, we recommend you pick up at least a few key phrases, as the locals always appreciate it!
Keep in mind that daylight hours might not be as you’re used to. When I first went to Alaska, I figured I’d have no trouble falling asleep in the daylight when I was tired. I was right, but what I hadn’t anticipated was my body’s natural desire to get up as soon as the “sun rose.” So I had a devil of a time convincing my brain to go back to sleep at 3am when the sun was up. In short: bring a soft eye mask, especially during the summertime months.
This does also mean that golden hour lasts for literal hours. If you’re a photographer like me, you will love the lighting!
Research the hikes you want to do ahead of time, and make sure you’re in shape and have the proper gear. Trolltungua is on all the Instagram accounts, but it can take 8-12 hours to complete. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!
And if you’re coming from the States, note that many establishments in Norway (and in many places all across Europe, in fact) require a pin to use your credit card. Make sure you set one up with your bank before you go so you aren’t forced to use debit cards. And if you find yourself in a situation where a 6-digit pin is required while you only have 4 digits, simply enter two 0s before your pin.
8 ways to make Norway more affordable
To summarize, here are the 8 major ways to more affordable travel in Norway:
- Check neighboring airports for cheaper flights
- Fly during less popular times
- Set price alerts for the best flight deals
- Camp instead of staying in expensive hotels
- Save even more by wild camping instead of using established campsites
- Bring your own freeze-dried meals for the backcountry
- Buy your alcohol from the duty-free shop in the airport, or skip the booze altogether
- Travel with some buddies to split rental car costs
Why Norway is one of our favorite countries
Firstly Norway is just breathtakingly beautiful. You can drive for hours throughout the country and see the most spectacular sights right from the road. It is a photographer’s or nature-lover’s dream.
Secondly, the people there are super friendly. We were out in the country most of the time we were there, but every encounter was warm and welcoming. You’re bound to make some friends in the cities and in the campgrounds!
Speaking of the campgrounds, even if you want to save on costs, do yourself a favor and check out at least one of these amazing campgrounds. They’re so luxurious, you’ll forget your camping!
And outside of the campgrounds, the country is just so open and accessible. English is widely used, you can openly camp almost anywhere you want, and wifi connectivity is superb – even outside the cities! The country seriously felt like a second home, and we can’t wait to return.
What is the most beautiful country you have visited so far?
Psst… planning a trip to Norway? You might also enjoy these:
- Amazing Norway Architecture and Natural Wonders You Have to See to Believe
- 18 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Norway
- Top Waterfalls of Norway
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6 thoughts on “Affordable Norway: 8 Easy Ways to Spend Less and Explore More”
What a great tip to buy alcohol at the airport. That goes against the normal perception that airport prices are more expensive.
Usually that is the case that everything is more expensive at the airport. However the taxes are so high in Norway it is much cheaper to get it duty free. Thankfully our host gave us this tip before we arrived.
These are SUPER awesome tips! Thanks for sharing- I definitely will have to reference this if we have the chance to visit Norway
Thank you! I hope you can change the “if” to a “when”. It is an incredible country.
I really really hope so too!!!
I remember travelling to Scandinavian countries, life always seemed more expensive there than in the countries I lived in. So your post is interesting to identify ways to save money according to one’s priorities.