When traveling Europe, a lot of people skip Norway because of how expensive it is. While it’s true that Norway is not a budget-friendly destination, it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, rivaling iconic destinations like New Zealand and Iceland when it comes to natural beauty.
To top it all off, Norwegians are wonderful people, almost everyone speaks fluent English so it’s easy to navigate, and the scenic fjords are never far from sight.
And, since Norwegians love nature, there’s a lot of free outdoor activities that can fill your days without emptying your wallet.
Use this travel guide to Norway to find out how to save money, see more, and get the most out of your visit!
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. Visit Bergen
4. See Lofoten
5. Visit Trondheim
Other Things to See and Do in Norway
1. 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 and Bergen — tours that give you much more insight than any guidebook. Just be sure to tip your guides at the end!
2. Hike to 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 250 NOK to park your car. June-September is the best time to go.
3. See the stunning national parks
Norway is host to some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world. With 47 national parks (and over 3,000 protected areas), Norway offers 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. The national parks are all free to enter (though there are fees for parking).
4. 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 for 2-3 months straight (May-July), while in the winter there are 2-3 months of complete darkness (November-January). You don’t get more remote than this!
5. Explore 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 in the Arctic Circle over 1,700km north of Olso, tourists come here to experience unbroken sunlight amidst the city’s many pubs. Or, if you happen to visit in the dark and cold of winter, you can catch the vibrant northern lights. 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.
6. 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), and cross-country skiing — and they’re all just a few hours from Oslo. Lift tickets range from 300-450 NOK per adult. Expect to pay more on the weekends (the slopes are busier on the weekends too).
7. 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 (this market dates all the way back to 1200 CE!). Explore the many stalls, snap some pictures, and check out the waterfront. It’s just a short walking distance from many museums and galleries too (the Art Museum, the Hanseatic Museum, and the Leprosy Museum are all nearby). 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!
8. See the Vigeland Sculptures
If you are in Oslo, don’t miss these sculptures! Located in Frogner Park, this unique collection is the world’s largest display of sculptures created by a single artist. Gustav Vigeland created all 212 statues in this 80-acre open-air “gallery.” It’s one of the most popular places in the summer to have a picnic, relax, people watch, and enjoy the fleeting summer sun. It’s free too!
9. Stroll around 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 stepping back in time. After World War II, all of the city’s wooden buildings were replaced with concrete and stone buildings — except for this section. Be sure to check out the various paintings, pottery, and other artisanal works by local artists in the area.
10. 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 the official residence of the monarch (Norway is one of a dozen countries in Europe tha still have a monarch). Be sure to see the changing of the guards at 1:30pm each day (it lasts around 40 minutes) and spend some time relaxing in the 54-acre park that surrounds the palace. The palace is open during the summer for guided tours (self-guided tours are not permitted) which cost 95 NOK.
11. Wander the Ringve Music Museum & Botanical Garden
Located in Trondheim, this unassuming museum has an awesome collection of unique musical instruments from all around the world (there are over 2,000 in the collection). The museum is in the botanical gardens so there are 32 acres of plants and trees to see as you stroll around. The museum also has rotating exhibits from time to time so check the website to see if anything is on during your visit. Admission is 150 NOK and children under 15 enter free.
12. 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, which dates to 1200 CE. Other incredible sights to see are the 14th-century farmhouses and the 18th-century tenement buildings. This is a fun activity that blends entertainment and education, so it’s a great choice for anyone traveling with children. Admission is 140 NOK.
13. Attend Stavanger’s jazz festival
Held every May, MaiJazz is a weekend-long festival 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 bring a 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.
14. Hike 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.
For more information on specific cities in Norway, check out these guides:
Norway Travel Costs
Accommodation – Accommodation (much like everything in Norway) is not cheap. Hostels start around 200 NOK per night for an 8-person dorm. Private rooms start at 700 NOK. 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.
Budget hotels begin around 700 NOK for a basic double room, however, budget hotels are also rare. Mid-range hotels (think 3-star hotels) are much more common, with prices starting around 800 NOK. For a hotel with a pool, expect to pay at least 1,200 NOK per night.
Private rooms on Airbnb can be found around 500 NOK per night while a whole apartment or house costs at least 750 NOK per night.
Wild camping is a budget-friendly option as it is legal (and free) to camp almost anywhere in the country. Norway has ‘Freedom to Roam’ laws (called “Allemannsretten”) that allow anyone to camp anywhere for up to two nights as long as it’s not on cultivated land. 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 for 160 NOK or online for 140 NOK. Most campsites have modern facilities, including toilets and showers. Expect most plots for two people without electricity to cost 200-350 NOK per night.
Food – Norwegian cuisine focuses heavily on seafood. Smoked salmon is a local favorite and one of the country’s staples. Cod is also super popular, as are prawns and crab (locals host “crab parties” when they are in season). Lamb is the most popular meat, and open-faced sandwiches are the go-to choice for both breakfast and lunch (usually composed of dark bread, cheese, and either meat, seafood, or vegetable topping).
Overall, food is expensive here. 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 cost 45 NOK and you can usually find “cheap” meals for under 200 NOK at inexpensive restaurants. For a multi-course meal with table service, expect to pay double that.
Fast food (think McDonald’s) costs around 100 NOK for a combo meal while Chinese food starts at 150 NOK per main dish. A basic large pizza starts at 110 NOK (140 NOK for one with more toppings).
Beer at the bar costs around 90 NOK though you can get it for less than half that price if you buy it at the store. Lattes/cappuccinos cost around 45 NOK while bottled water is 30 NOK.
Grocery shopping here is the cheapest way to get by on a budget. Expect a week’s worth of groceries to cost around 725 NOK. This includes basic staples like rice, pasta, vegetables, and some meat or fish.
Activities – Free activities are the name of the game here. There are tons of free trails and national parts to explore, you just have to pay to park (which costs between 200-600 NOK per vehicle). There are also free walking tours in a few cities as well as plenty of parks and beaches and lakes you can swim in.
Most museums and tours cost 100-150 NOK per person while a bike rental costs as little as 60 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 of 555 NOK per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all your meals, take public transportation to get around, limit your drinking, and do free activities like swimming and hiking. If you plan on drinking, add 50-150 NOK per day.
On a mid-range budget of 1,325 NOK per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eat out for most meals at food trucks and fast-food restaurants, take the occasional taxi to get around, have a couple of drinks, and do paid activities like museum visits or guided tours.
On a “luxury” budget of 2,425 NOK or more per day, you can stay in a budget hotel, eat out for all your meals at cheap casual restaurants, drink more, rent a car to get around, and do more paid activities like cruises or kayak rentals. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an 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 NOK.
Norway Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Norway is super expensive. But, while it may not be the most budget-friendly destination, there are still plenty of ways to save while you’re here. It just takes some work! 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 cook your own meals. Go grocery shopping and stick to cheap local staples. Avoid eating out!
- Eat cheap – If you do decide to eat out, your cheapest options are shawarma and pizza. These usually cost around 100 NOK and can be found all around the country.
- Couchsurf – The best way to avoid expensive hostels is to not stay in them! Use Couchsurfing to connect with locals and get free accommodation. It’s the best way to save money and make new friends!
- Camp – Free public camping laws allow you to wild camp in the parks and public lands for free. 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!
- Get a tourism card – The best way to afford all the attractions in a city is to get a city tourism card. Oslo and Bergen both have tourism cards that can save you money if you plan on seeing a lot (they include free public transportation too).
- 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 money!
- Stay sober – At 90 NOK per drink (often more!), going out destroys your budget. While Norwegians love to go out and have a good time, if you are on a tight budget, skip the drinks!
- 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 50% 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!
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water in Norway is super clean, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and lower your plastic usage. LifeStraw makes a bottle with a built-in filter so you can always ensure your water is clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Norway
Hostels are not all that plentiful across Norway (they’re usually just in the larger cities). 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 285 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 — always buy a ticket!
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 8-hour journey from Oslo to Stavanger costs around 450 NOK each way while the bus from Oslo to Trondheim takes around 9 hours and costs at least 600 NOK. Prices can double when not booked in advance though.
Vy Buss is the most common bus company, though you can also find deals with Nor-Way Bussekspress and Flixbus.
Train – Trains are the best way to get around Norway (unless you’re on a road trip). They are often faster than buses without costing much more — and they are much more comfortable. The 7-hour trip from Oslo to Trondheim costs as little as 800 NOK while the 6.5-hour trip to Vergen from Oslo can cost as little as 290 NOK. The trip from Oslo to Gothenburg, Sweden takes under 4 hours and can be done for less than 200 NOK.
Reservations should 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 super cheap, but it’s also not that expensive. From Oslo, you can reach most destinations in the country (as well as destinations in Sweden) for as little as 500 NOK (one way) if you book early and are flexible. Norwegian Air is the main domestic carrier, though SAS also flies several major routes.
Car Rental – Renting a car is the best way to explore the country, however, it’s not cheap if you’re a solo traveler. Expect to pay 400 NOK per day for a vehicle if you rent for at least a week. Gas is roughly double what it costs in the USA, costing around 54 NOK per gallon. Most rental vehicles are manuals as well, so keep that in mind when renting (you usually have to pay more for an automatic).
If you don’t have someone to travel with to keep costs low, check at the local hostels or on Couchsurfing to find people to travel with so you can split costs.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking here is possible in Norway though it’s not very common. Make sure you’re near a main road and be prepared for the weather to change rapidly. Also, try to look presentable and have a sign. Wait times can be long so make sure you have flexible plans. HitchWiki is the best website for additional 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 long. The country is at its liveliest during this time and locals take advantage of the good weather at every opportunity. The parks are always full, and there are usually fun events happening on the weekends. Temperatures are often in the 20s°C (60s and 70s°F) during the summer. 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 (May-June and August-September) makes for a good time to visit as well, with temperatures ranging from 40-50°F (4-10°C). 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 on foot without the weather getting in your way (too much).
Attractions begin to close around September/October (including some hiking trails). The days 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 (and rain gear) 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. Temperatures plummet below 32°F (0°C). The plus side of traveling during the winter is that accommodation is cheaper and fees for certain attractions are lower. This is also 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 17th 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 station and on public transportation. Just be aware of your surroundings and use common sense and you should be just fine.
Solo female travelers should feel comfortable traveling alone — even at night. Taxis 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.
If you go hiking, always bring water and sunscreen. Be sure to check the weather before you go as well. If you rent a car, don’t leave any valuables in it overnight. While break-ins are rare, it never hurts to be safe!
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for police, 110 for fire, and 113 for ambulance services.
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!
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Sweden, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer 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!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- 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!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
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 (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 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 melancholic, but nevertheless a worthwhile read. It won numerous awards and was adapted 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 life 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 be read on its own. Norway — like much of Scandinavia — loves its 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. It was also adapted into a film.