While being one of the most beautiful getaway destinations for backpackers, the picturesque fjords, high mountains, and idyllic townships of Norway are also – by most backpacker standards – quite expensive. As a result, it’s often a struggle between trying to fit in as much sightseeing and activities as possible without bankrupting yourself in the process. That said, with a little preparation, and a willingness to be adaptable, it’s quite easy and viable to travel on a shoestring and still be able to experience everything that Norway has to offer.
Accommodation – this is probably one of the biggest expenditures no matter where you travel, but thankfully Norway has a lot of budget accommodation, including youth hostels. There is also the eminent Fjord Pass; this 150 NOK pass is good for a whole year (and for two people, if you’re traveling with a friend or partner) and offers a variety of discounts, including up to 50% off in over 120 different hostels throughout the country. It also gives discounts up to 25% on other activities related to tours, car rentals, and even spas. Additionally, if you’re headed to Bergen or Oslo, there are specific passes for both cities that offer similar discounts. Ultimately though, if you’re willing to rough it, Norway is an ideal country for camping – the website http://www.campingguiden.no/english/index.htm has comprehensive lists of various camping grounds that are maintained and up-to-date.
Failing that, there are plenty of places off the road, and a tent can be pitched on any unfenced land according to the legislated ‘right of access’ (or alemmannsretten). This provisional right guarantees citizens and tourists alike the ability to travel and/or camp on any part of land that is unfenced – meaning non-private property. There are a few stipulations of course, including a mutual respect for the land (what you bring, you take out) and staying at least 150 meters from other houses or permanent structures. What’s even better, is that it includes the ability to forage in these areas for berries, roots, mushrooms, and flowers. So if you’re really desperate, the world literally is your oyster.
Food – probably the second biggest expenditure, food can be quite expensive in Norway. However, buying at bigger outlets and local markets is a great way to cut down on expenses, which can pile up very quickly if you’re eating out every other night. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask the locals! Many times they know the cheapest places to stay and eat, and can be an indispensable source of information.
Alcohol – what probably does in most tourists is bar tabs. Alcohol in Norway is much more expensive than other European countries. If you are planning on an extended trip through Norway, it’s best to bring your own alcohol from out of country, or if you’re a bit of a pub-crawler to do plenty of pre-drinking in your hostel/hotel room before you head out to the bars. A note on buying bottled water as well: Norway is a first world country, and has some of the cleanest and freshest tap water in the world, so save your cash and the planet by investing in a reusable water bottle.
Transportation – like many of its neighboring countries, Norway actually boasts quite a respectable transit system, although it’s not always the cheapest way to travel. Avoid taxis like the plague. In general, Norway is a reasonably safe country as well, and lots of solo travelers have had a lot of success hitch-hiking – it’s also a great way to meet the locals, and who knows? You might even get invited back for dinner.
So now that your survival needs are out of the way, what about actually experiencing Norway? Because of its vast wilderness areas, hiking is a popular (and free) activity, and there are countless climbing and trekking trails across the country. If you’ve packed a tent, it also offers some spectacular vantages to watch a sunrise. In the bigger cities of Bergen and Oslo, many of the cultural attractions also cater to the dollar-a-day travelers. The Norwegian Opera and Ballet building in Oslo has free entrance to their rooftop terrace, and the National Art Gallery also has free admission and features a number of classical and contemporary exhibitions of renowned artists and painters.
In Bergen there are number of free historical areas to walk around, including the UNESCO Haseatic Warf near Bryggen. The reconstructed houses here are quintessential samples of traditional Norwegian architecture, and a short walk to Old Bergen will also give you a glimpse into the past, when this bustling town was a major port and trading facility. There are two mountains near Bergen, Floyen and Ulriken, which also offer some relatively easy hikes to the top, with some expansive panoramic vantages from their summit of the town below.
In most cases, learning how to travel on a budget is a matter of personal taste, and a lot of trial and error, and usually involves a combination of different strategies like the ones listed before. But especially in a country known for its hospitality and general friendliness toward foreigners, it’s hard not to stress the importance of putting yourself out there and connecting with locals and other travelers who can point you in the right direction. Especially if the direction is toward a pub at happy hour.