Norway is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but with the high standard of living that Norwegians have comes a high cost, which can seem off-putting to travellers, especially those on a limited budget. The stunning natural beauty of the country and the friendliness of the Norwegian people mean you should make sure that this is somewhere you don’t miss out on visiting. Sure, you’ll have to make some compromises to reduce your spend, and these are a few of my tips to help you make the most of the country without breaking the bank.
- Couchsurf. Or arrange a home-stay with locals. This can make a huge difference to your finances, especially in the far north where budget accommodation options are severely limited, but is also a winner in terms of the other benefits it can bring. You get to live like a local, and pick up tips on the best bars, restaurants and attractions to visit that avoid the usual tourist traps. You can make connections with people you wouldn’t usually meet that can help you out on your journey, and you get to meet a whole range of fascinating individuals and find out about their lives and interests. There is no such thing as a typical Couchsurfing host.
- Visit Finland. Or Sweden. I don’t mean re-arrange your planned trip to another Scandinavian country on the basis that they are all interchangeable, but do like the Norwegians do and take advantage of cheaper costs on the other side of the border. It’s not uncommon for Norwegians living on the Barents Sea coast to make a 200km round trip to Finland to stock up on alcohol and meat for holidays and special occasions. If you’re making a road trip, look out for the shops in towns just over the border to pick up self-catering supplies, lunchtime snacks and forgotten toiletries. Finnish supermarkets are usually a fantastic hotchpotch of items, from 30 different kinds of rye bread and a range of liquorice-flavoured sweets to augers for ice fishing and Marimekko designed fabrics, so you may also pick up practical items you never knew you needed and some really good souvenirs of your trip too.
- Get outdoors and get active. Norwegians live for the outdoors, with many owning cabins in the countryside to make the most of their passion for fresh air and fair weather. And in a country where everything is expensive, it costs nothing at all to appreciate the spectacular landscape, watch wildlife and stretch your legs on some of the best hiking trails in the world.
Nordic skiing is another great way to explore the outdoors, and equipment can be hired cheaply in most locations or, even better, borrowed from a friend. It isn’t as complicated as it looks (honestly!), has a fast learning curve and provides you with a tremendous full-body workout; great if you’ve been missing the gym. It’s also a good laugh to go out as a group and watch each other try to keep on your feet as you get more and more confident. Pack a picnic and a thermos of something warming to make it into a micro-adventure!
For an idea of how costs compare to the UK, continental Europe and North America, the cost of living index for Norway gives a useful guide to prices for a range of items.