A lot of people skip visiting Norway because of how expensive it is. It’s true that Norway is not a budget destination. Even the most frugal person will have a hard time saving money here.
However, Norway is so amazingly beautiful with incredible people that it’s worth paying the extra money or doing bare-bones activities while here. The Norwegians are wonderful people; everyone speaks fluent English, and the sheer beauty of this country is too compelling to ignore. There is nothing like sailing around the fjords in the north.
And, thankfully, there’s a lot of free outdoor activities in Norway that can fill your days without emptying your wallet. It’s not easy to visit Norway on a budget but it’s not impossible.
Use this guide to Norway to find out all the ninja ways to save money, see more, and get the most out of your visit here!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Norway
1. Check out the Fjords
2. Explore Oslo
3. Experience Bergen
4. Explore beautiful Lofoten
5. See Trondheim
Other Things to See and Do in Norway
1. Peek over the Preacher’s Pulpit
Preikestolen (Preacher’s Pulpit or Preacher’s Chair) is one of the most famous landmarks in Norway (you’ve probably seen it on Instagram). An unusually flat and wide surface located atop a cliff, Preikestolen is only reachable by hiking a 4km trail. With around 200,000 visitors per year, you’ll want to make sure you arrive early in order to take some photos without all the crowds. The hike is free and relatively easy though you’ll need to pay 200 NOK to park your car. June-September is the best time to go.
2. See the stunning National Parks
Norway is host to some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world. Home to 47 national parks, you’ll see everything from waterfalls and glaciers to reindeer, lynx, and wolves — and much more! You can also enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities, from caving and canyoning to rafting and ziplining. Consider a visit to Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to the largest glacier in continental Europe; Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella National Park, which has tons of hiking and also lots of wild reindeer; or Jotunheimen National Park, which is home to over 200 mountains you can hike and climb.
3. Journey to the North Cape
The northernmost tip of Europe, Norway’s North Cape is great for hiking, trekking, road trips, and more. Located almost 2,000km from Oslo, here you can explore the jagged coastline of Finnmark county, which includes six national parks. In the summer, the midnight sun shines here for 2-3 months straight (from May-July), while in the winter there is 2-3 months of complete darkness (from November-January). You don’t get more remote than this!
4. Head north to Tromsø
Perfect for a 24-hour party, Tromsø in the summer is a city that doesn’t sleep because the sun is up 24/7! Located over 1,700km north of Olso, come here to experience unbroken sunlight amidst the many pubs. Or, if you happen to visit in the dark and cold of winter, catch the Northern Lights. Tromsø is one of the best places in the world for both. It’s also a world-famous fishing destination and home to incredible, postcard-perfect fjords. Like Lofoten, this is one of the best destinations in the country for photography.
5. Engage in some winter sports
Norway is one of the top ski destinations in the world! Rauland, Geilo, Skeikampen, and Hemsedal are all great options for snowboarding, telemark skiing (which mixes Alpine skiing and Nordic skiing), or cross country skiing — and they’re all just a few hours from Oslo. Lift tickets range from 300-450 NOK per adult for weekdays. Expect to pay more on the weekends (the slopes are busier on the weekends too).
6. Eat at the Bergen Fish Market
Open daily, this market offers more than just fish. Come here for a glimpse into the local culture and history of the city. Explore the many stalls, snap some pictures, and check out the waterfront. It’s just a short walking distance from many museums and galleries. If you have access to a kitchen, grab some fish to take back for dinner. It’s one of the more affordable places to buy fresh fish in the city!
7. Visit the Vigeland Sculptures
If you are in Oslo, don’t miss these sculptures! Located in Frogner Park, this is one of Norway’s most popular visitor destinations. This unique collection is host to the world’s largest display of sculptures created by a single artist. There are 212 statues in the open-air “gallery” spanning over 80 acres. It’s one of the most popular places in the summer to have a picnic, relax, people watch, and enjoy the fleeting summer sun. Don’t miss it!
8. Walk Through Gamle Stavanger
One of the oldest parts of Stavanger, this area is composed of narrow cobblestone streets lined with old wooden homes built during the 18th century. Taking a walk down here is like going back in time. After WWII, all of the city’s wooden buildings were replaced with concrete and stone buildings — except for this section. Be sure to take in the history and check out the various paintings, pottery, and more offered by local artists within the area.
9. Check out the Royal Palace
Built during the first half of the 19th century, the Royal Palace in Oslo was the creation of King Charles III who ruled both Norway and Sweden at that time. Today, it’s where the official residence of the monarch. Beyond the architecture, and historical significance, be sure to see the changing of the guards at 1:30pm each day. The palace is open during the summer for guided tours (self-guided tours are not permitted) which cost 140 NOK for adults (110 NOK for students/seniors/children).
10. Ringve Music Museum & Botanical Garden
Located in Trondheim, this a nice change from your typical museum trip. Check out the awesome collection of musical instruments (there are over 2,000 of them here from all around the world!), walk around the park amidst the farm buildings, and enjoy lunch at the tea house. This is one of the most underrated stops in Norway. Adult admission is 130 NOK. Children under 15 enter free.
11. Visit the Norwegian Folk Museum
There are many museums throughout Oslo showcasing Norwegian history and Viking tales, but this is the most interesting. Home to over 150 buildings, this open-air museum lets you immerse yourself in the history of the country. The biggest attraction is the Gol Stave Church, dating back to 1200 AD. Other incredible sights to see are the 14th-century farmhouses and the 18th-century tenement buildings. Adult admission is 150 NOK for adults and 40 NOK for children under 15.
12. Attend the Stavanger Jazz festival
If you are a jazz fan, you will definitely want to catch this festival! Held every May, this festival is a weekend-long, fully-packed event, featuring some of the most well-known jazz artists in the world. The city gets bustling and crowded so be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. The weather might be balmy as well so make sure you grab your coat too. Ticket prices vary for each performance (you pay per performance, not for a festival ticket), ranging from free to 300+ NOK per person.
13. Take a free walking tour
One of the best things you can do when you arrive in a new city is to take a walking tour. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and learn about the culture, people, and history of the destination. You can find free walking tours in Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen — tours that give you much more insight than any guidebook. Just be sure to tip your guides at the end!
14. Hike to Trolltunga
Located 4 hours from Bergen, this is one of Norway’s most famous hikes. Trolltunga (which means “troll’s tongue” in Norwegian) is a 12-hour hike that takes you to a long outcropping of narrow stone that towers over the landscape (the rock looks like an outstretched tongue, hence the name). The journey is challenging but the reward is one of the most scenic views in the entire country. You can only access the hike from June-September without a guide (you need a guide for the other times of the year). Parking is 600 NOK per vehicle.
Norway Travel Costs
Accommodation – Accommodation (much like everything in Norway) is not cheap. Hostels start around 275 NOK per night for an 8-person dorm and about 800-900 NOK for a private room with a twin or double bed. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have lockers and self-catering facilities if you want to cook your own food.
Most hostels charge a 50 NOK surcharge for linens, as is the custom in Scandinavia. You can bring your own but you cannot use a sleeping bag instead.
A budget hotel begins around 700 NOK for a basic double room, however, budget hotels are also rather rare. Mid-range hotels (think 3-star hotels) are much more common, with prices starting around 900 NOK. For a hotel with a pool, expect to pay at last 1,200 NOK per night.
Shared rooms from sites like Airbnb can be found for around 250 NOK per night. A private room costs around 460 NOK per night while a whole apartment or house costs at least 600 NOK per night. Expect to pay more in Oslo compared to the rest of the country.
Wild camping is a good budget option as it is legal (and FREE!) to camp almost anywhere in Norway. Norway has ‘Freedom to Roam’ laws (called “Allemannsretten”) that allow anyone to camp anywhere for 1 night as long as it’s not on cultivated late. You’ll need to make sure you are not camping near someone’s house, that you take all trash with you when you leave, and that you aren’t in a farmer’s field or garden. But other than that, you can pretty much pitch your tent anywhere!
If wild camping is not your thing, campgrounds are also common though many require a Camping Key Europe card. You can purchase it at your campsite or online for 150 NOK. Most campsites have modern facilities, including toilets and showers. Expect most plots to cost around 200 NOK per night.
Food – Food is expensive here. Like very expensive. A lot of food has to be imported so anything that isn’t grown here is going to be pricey. Street food like hot dogs costs around 25 NOK and you can usually find “cheap” meals for just under 200 NOK at an inexpensive restaurant. For a nicer meal, expect to pay double that.
Beer at the bar costs around 80 NOK though you can get it for less than half that price if you buy it at the store. You can usually find slices of pizza for around 30 NOK and cheap sandwiches at cafes for around 60 NOK.
Grocery shopping here is the cheapest way to get by on a budget. Expect a week’s worth of groceries to cost around 700 NOK depending on your diet. That includes basic staples like rice, pasta, chicken, and some fruits/veggies.
Activities – Free activities are the name of the game here. There are tons of trails and national parts to explore, most of which are free (usually you just have to pay to park, which costs between 200-500 NOK per vehicle). There are also free walking tours in a few cities to help you keep your budget afloat.
Most museums and tours cost between 100-150 NOK per person while a bike rental costs as little as 50 NOK per day. For a lift pass to ski, expect to pay around 400 NOK.
Backpacking Norway Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to travel Norway? That depends on your travel style! To help you plan, here are a few suggested budgets you can use as a rough guide:
On a backpacking budget, you should plan to spend between 645-735 NOK ($70-80 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, cooking your own meals, using public transportation, and participating in basic activities like hiking or taking free walking tours. If you camp, you can likely lower this a little (but not much).
On a mid-range of budget of 1,240-1,515 NOK ($135-165 USD) per day, you can stay in budget hotels, take trains between destinations, eat fast food, and do a few more excursions (like visiting more museums or renting a bicycle).
For a luxury budget of 4,138+ NOK ($445+ USD) per day, you can afford to stay in nice hotels, hire a rental car, do some guided tours, and eat out for every meal. You’ll be free to do as many activities as you want, including visiting skiing resorts or taking a cruise along the fjords.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Norway Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Norway is super expensive. It’s very hard to save money here, unless you camp and just cook all your food from cheap grocery stories. It was really hard to save money here but, while it may not be the most budget-friendly destination, there are still plenty of ways to save while you’re here. It takes some work but it can be done! Here are some tips to save money in Norway:
- Cook your own food – Food is very, very expensive in Norway so the best thing you can do is it simply make your own meals. Go grocery shopping but skip buying lots of fresh vegetables or whole chicken fillets as they are very expensive. Minced chicken is cheaper. Kiwi and Rema 1000 are the cheapest grocery stores. Avoid eating out!!!
- Eat cheap – If you do decide to eat out, your cheapest options are shwarma and pizza. These meals usually cost under 100 NOK and can be found all around the country.
- Couchsurf – The best way to avoid expensive hostels is to not stay there. Couchsurf or use Airbnb to rent a room or apartment so you can save your money for what is really important — sightseeing and beer!
- Camp – Free public camping laws allow you to camp in the parks and public lands for free as long as you have your own tent. You can generally stay 1-2 nights in an area as long as you are quiet and respectful. Make sure to leave the area as you found it! If you plan on camping a lot, make sure to get the Camping Key Europe card. It’s 150 NOK and offers discounts to most of Norway’s campgrounds.
- Get a tourism card – Attractions in Norway can get very expensive, especially since the exchange rate is so bad. The best way to afford all the attractions is to get a city tourism card so you can get free entry into all the attractions as well as free transportation
- Book in advance – If you can plan your transportation in advance, you can save up to 50% off the cost of your train or bus tickets. Buying last-minute means it’s going to be more than any budget traveler can afford, especially if you want to visit a number of destinations in Norway. Book in advance and save yourself some money!
- Stay sober – At 80 NOK per drink (often more!), going out destroys your budget. While the Norwegians love to go out and have a good time, if you are on a tight budget, skip the drinks! Better to save your money for sailing around the fjords.
- Buy your drinks at the store – If you do plan on drinking, buying your drinks at the Vinmonopolet (the state-run chain of stores that sell alcohol). You’ll save 60% or more doing this!
- Travel with friends – If you rent a car (which is the best way to get around) try to find people to join you to share costs. You can use the Couchsurfing platform or just ask around in hostels to find people. This will help you save money on gas and rental prices — which can eat into your budget quickly!
Where To Stay in Norway
Hostels are not all that plentiful across Norway, mostly just available in the 3 main cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo. Here are my recommended places to stay while you’re in Norway:
How to Get Around Norway
Public Transportation – Public transportation in Norway is modern, clean, and reliable. Buses and trams are common in each city; only Oslo has a metro system. Single tickets cost around 36 NOK and are usually valid for one hour. You can get a 24-hour pass in Oslo for 108 NOK and a 7-day pass for 205 NOK.
You are able to get on most buses and trams without showing a ticket, however, patrols are common and the fines are heavy if you get caught without a ticket. Don’t risk it!
Bus – Buses are a cheap way to get around the country, though they are slow and rather limited since the distances between cities can be great large. For example, the 10-hour journey from Oslo to Stavanger cost around 750 NOK each way. Trains are a much more effective way to get around for those who don’t have a car.
Nettbuss is the most common bus company, though you can also find deals with Nor-Way Bussekspress and Flixbus (though Flixbus has a limited presence).
Train – Trains are the best way to get around Norway (unless you’re on a road trip). They are faster than buses and much more comfortable. The eight-hour train ride from Oslo to Stavanger, for example, can be done for as little as 550 NOK. That’s both faster and cheaper than the bus!
Trips to Bergen from Oslo takes 6.5 hours and cost around 500 NOK each way. You can even take a train from Oslo to Trondheim for 750 NOK. The journey is nine hours.
Reservations shoudl be made in advance as you can often find great deals that way. Last minute tickets can be double what I quoted above!
Flying – Flying around Norway isn’t cheap, but it’s also not that expensive. From Oslo, you can reach many destinations in teh country for as little as 1,100 NOK round trip.
For example, Oslo to Tromso is 1,055 NOK for the two-hour flight (the one-hour flight to Trongheim from Oslo is also around 1,055 NOK). From Oslo to Stavanger, expect to pay around 875 NOK for the one-hour flight.
Flights to nearby Stockholm from Oslo can be found for as little as 575 NOK round trip.
Norwegian Air is the most common budget airline here.
Car Rental – Renting a car is the best way to explore the country, however, it’s not cheap. Expect to pay at least 600 NOK per day for a vehicle. Most vehicles are manual transmissions as well. Additionally, gas is usually around 16 NOK per liter ($7 USD per gallon) which means road trips are best done with friends or family so you can split the cost.
If you don’t have someone to travel with, check at the local hostels or on Couchsurfing.com to find people to travel with so you can split costs.
Ride-Sharing – Uber no longer exisits in Norway, so you’ll need to stick to taxis for short distances. For longer rides, use sammevei.no. It’s a ride-sharring/carpooling app similar to BlaBlaCar and great for longer journeys.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking here is doable though it’s also quite rare. Make sure you’re near a main road and be prepared for the weather to change rapidly. Also, try to look presentable. Wait times can be long so make sure you have flexible plans. HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Norway
The ideal time to visit Norway is from June to August, when the weather is warm and the days are (really) long. The country is at its liveliest during this time, and you will find locals taking advantage of the good weather at every opportunity. The parks are always full, and there are always fun events happening around town. Temperatures are often in the 20s Celsius (60s and 70s Fahrenheit) during the summer months. Not too hot, but warm enough to swim, hike, and lounge about.
The downside to visiting then is that, since Norway has a very short summer, the cities can get busy so be sure to book your accommodation in advance. That being said, “busy” in Norway is a far cry from “busy” in cities like Paris, Berlin, or London.
The shoulder season makes for a good time to visit as well. May typically has decent weather with occasional rain, while September gives you cooler temperatures and changing leaves. You’ll beat the crowds and still be able to explore the city on foot without the weather getting in your way (too much).
Attractions begin to close around late September/early October (including some hiking trails). The days begin to get dark early in October and temperatures start dropping around this time too. However, prices also decrease, and you’re likely to find cheaper airfares and accommodations during this time. Be sure to pack layers if you plan on visiting during this time of year as it can be quite cool — even during the day.
The winter is very cold and sees a lot of snow and darkness. In the depths of the winter, you only get a few hours of light each day and temperatures plummet to below 0ºC (32ºF). The plus side of traveling during the off-season, however, is that you’ll be offered the cheapest accommodations, and fees for certain attractions are lower as well. This is the prime time to see the northern lights or go skiing, so there is still plenty to do if you plan on visiting during the winter!
How to Stay Safe in Norway
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, it ranks 19th on the ranking of the world’s safest countries! However, in cities like Oslo it’s still good to keep an eye out for pickpockets, especially around the train stations and on public transportation. Just be aware of your surroundings and use common sense and you should be just fine.
Most Norwegians speak some English so you shouldn’t have any language issues in an emergency. However, it won’t hurt to download the Norwegian language pack to your phone so you have offline access just in case. Additionally, download offline maps for each destination you visit in case you get lost or need to explain directions to a cab driver.
Solo female travelers should feel comfortable traveling alone — even a night. Taxis here are quite safe and crime is rare against solo travelers. But keep your wits up and never travel alone at night if you’ve been drinking, just to be safe.
The tap water here is safe and clean — in fact, it’s the second cleanest in the world. There is also no real risk of natural disasters or terrorism here either.
At the end of the day, always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID as well. It never hurts to be prepared!
Worried about travel scams? Read about these 14 major travel scams to avoid.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Norway Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel around Norway. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people!
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings!
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Norway, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Norway Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Norway Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
This is a deep, reflective, and poignant novel set in the easternmost regions of the country. Written in 2003, the book paints a vivid picture of life after the German occupation, jumping in time to reveal the truth behind the main character’s past and the tragedies that have befallen him. In classic Scandinavian taste, it’s a touch melanchoic, but nevertheless a worthwhile read. It won numerous awards and was adpated into a film in 2019.
The World of the Vikings, by Richard Hall
If you’re looking to learn about Norway’s viking past, The World of the Vikings does a great job of constructing a historical narrative that’s easy to follow without being overly academic or boring. The book focuses on the facts and strips away some of the more romanticized stereotypes of the culture while providing lots of photos and information about the discoveries we’ve used to inform ourselves of the viking era.
Shadow on the Mountain, by Margi Preus
This is more of a young adult read but it’s an interesting topic inspired by the true adventures of a spy during the Nazi occupation of Norway who just happens to be a teenager. Based on true events, the book captures what live was like during the occupation and how the Norwegian resistance went about its operations on a day to day basis. It’s a quick read yet insightful at the same time.
One of Us, by Åsne Seierstad
in July 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people and injured over 300 more in what is considered the worst act of terrorism in Norway’s history. One of Us is a powerful, gripping read that paints a portrait of both the killer and his victims. This is one of the most formative events in Norwegian history and comprehending it will go a long way towards helping visitors understand the psyche of modern Norway.
The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo
This dark crime novel is the 7th in a series, however, it can certainly be read on its own. Norway — like much of Scandinavia — loves it gritty crime novels and The Snowman is one of the best. Written in 2007, it’s a suspenseful roller coaster of a novel with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat!