Norway has a reputation for being beautiful…and expensive. As a result, a lot of travelers and bloggers seem to avoid the gorgeous Scandinavian country, but it is possible to travel Norway on a budget. I must admit, even though I had Norway on my list of countries I’d like to visit, I kept putting it off because of the cost. But after my son graduated from high school, we told him he could choose our next destination, and he chose Norway. So now instead of going to Norway “sometime in the future,” we are going in May!
One reason Norway is on my list of places to see is it is the home of my ancestors. My great grandparents on my mother’s side came from Norway, and my father’s relatives also have roots in Norway. My son is a tall redhead with Viking blood running through his veins – a fact that makes him proud and a fan of the folklore and history of his ancestral marauders.
Seeing Norway through my son’s eyes, and in the company of my parents who will be joining us, is going to make this trip especially personal and memorable. As a result, I don’t want to cut corners and see Norway on the cheap, but I do want to find the most economical ways to experience the country while still traveling in comfort and seeing everything we want to see.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on what to do, where to go, and the most affordable options for all of it. Here is the best tips from my research on how to visit Norway on a budget.
Plan Your Travels Around High Season
The most popular times to travel to Norway – June through August – are also the most expensive times to travel to the country. Summers are popular in Norway because of the moderate temperatures and longer days, which means hotels, attractions, and transportation will be in higher demand and at premium prices.
May and September are Most Affordable Months to Travel to Norway
The best time to travel to Norway on a budget is late spring or early autumn. The weather is still beautiful in May and September in Norway, and the milder temperatures will be more appealing to many. Because May and September are not as popular as the summer months in Norway, the prices of flights, hotel rooms, and entries to attractions will be more affordable than the summer months. In my opinion, the best part of visiting Norway, or any other country, during the shoulder seasons is the smaller crowds. I do not care for large crowds, impatient and pushing, so I much prefer to visit places when there are fewer tourists to contend with.
Average temperatures (Fahrenheit) in both May and September in the southern half of Norway, including Oslo and Bergen, range from highs in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s during the day to low 40’s in the evenings. Days are mostly sunny in the spring and fall, making the brisker days quite comfortable and ideal for lots of walking and touring.
Norway on a Budget in Winter
Winter months in Norway can be very cold and snowy, but also the most affordable time tour the country. For those not accustomed to cold temperatures and the complexities of snow, it can be a dangerous time to visit without proper preparation. But if snow and cold are not daunting to you, nor the long dark days of winter in a country so far north, then there are many amazing reasons to visit Norway in the dead of winter, including dog-sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, and seeing the northern lights in full splendor. Just be aware that many hotels and attractions will close for the winter season, especially in more remote regions. Be sure to check ahead of your travels as to the hours and availability of hotels and attractions in the regions you plan to visit. With planning, a winter tour of Norway can prove to be a great adventure.
Save Money Booking Flights to Norway
When to Book Your Flight
International flights can be expensive, especially if booked at the wrong time. I try to book flights 6 months or more in advance of the travel date for international flights in order to save money. I’ve made the mistake of waiting, hoping prices will go down in the months and weeks leading up to the departure date and ended up paying hundreds of dollars more than needed on flights. We are visiting Norway at the end of May, and we saved money by booking our tickets in early December.
That’s not to say that deals can’t be found weeks before you plan to depart, but you run the risk of not getting the exact dates needed, or the number of tickets needed. If you are traveling alone or with one other person and your travel dates are flexible, then holding out for last minute deals may be a money-saving strategy. Airlines often offer deep discounts on tickets to many destinations on short notice, but the dates are typically set by the airline and inflexible. If you have hotel reservations or excursions paid for at your destination, waiting for deals that align perfectly with your travel dates is risky and could prove very expensive.
As said above, I find the lowest prices are six months or more in advance of your planned travel dates for international trips. If you are not able to firm up your travel plans that far in advance, then the next best window of time to purchase your tickets is typically 10 to 12 weeks in advance of your trip.
In my experience, the most expensive time to buy tickets is four to five months ahead of your travel, and again about four to eight weeks out. Keep in mind, though, that airlines can do unpredictable things and flight prices can dive and soar when least expected, though the above patterns seem to be the norm in most cases.
Another tip is to use the Incognito mode to actually make the airline ticket purchase once you decide it’s time to buy. Websites store cookies and the theory is that the airlines will keep the prices higher on the flights that you have a history of searching. By using the incongito mode on your browser to make the purchase, you should get the best price available because none of your search history follows you. If you don’t know how to access the incognito mode on your browser, a quick search of how to access it in the browser you use should give you the easy directions.
Best Sites for Watching and Buying Flights
There are many sites that search the airlines for flight times and prices, listing them by cheapest, shortest travel time, least number of layovers, and best value. These can be very helpful to see what the range of prices are at the various airlines. There are also sites that will show you the expected pricing trends of specific flights, letting you know the best time to purchase your tickets.
For seeing the anticipated flight price trends and predictions on the best time to purchase tickets, I like the Hopper app on my phone, and Momondo.com for researching on my laptop. Both will search the internet for the best flight prices, but they also provide information on whether or not the prices are expected to go up or down, and when the best time is to buy tickets based on your travel dates.
For researching the best prices and airlines to fly, I like Momondo.com and Orbitz.com. I find both of these sites helpful in seeing who has the best flight times and prices for the trip. It’s important to always look at the fine print and the details on flights being booked on any website. Some flight options with fantastic prices will tack on extra fees for seat assignments, higher than usual baggage fees, or include unexpectedly long layovers that may even stretch into the next day.
Staying in Norway on a Budget
When I travel, I like my accommodations to be ideally located, very comfortable, and offer a few amenities. If staying in a large city, I want to be near the city center so that I can walk to most of the attractions, or at least have easy access to public transportation and a variety of restaurants. Safety and cleanliness are also very important to me even when traveling on a budget.
Hotels in Norway
Hotels in Norway can be expensive, especially in the larger cities and the more popular destinations. Paying $200 – $400 per night for a centrally located hotel room of four star or better rating is not unusual. If you’re planning to stay 10 to 14 days in Norway, spending $200 or more per night for accommodations for two people can get very expensive. And if you you’re traveling with a group of five, as I will be in May, spending $600 to $1000 per night for three rooms can make a ten day trip unaffordable.
The first option to save money and visit Norway on a budget is to scale back your hotel expectations to include a bit less luxury and fewer amenities, which can be done without giving up cleanliness and safety. You may have to choose a hotel that is a little less centrally located, does not offer breakfast, and offers more basic rooms to do this. There are many three-star hotels in the $100 – $150 per night range, offering comfortable and clean accommodations with fewer amenities that can make your trip more affordable.
VRBO’s and Airbnb for Private Homes or Apartments
Another option, which is the choice I prefer, is to book alternative accommodations through outlets such as Airbnb or VRBO, especially when traveling with a group. For our group of five people, we were able to get an apartment near city center in Oslo for under $200 per night total. A couple can rent accommodations for under $100 per night. By using a home rental services like Airbnb or VRBO, you can get fabulous accommodations at often less than half the cost of a hotel. For our group of five adults, we are spending about a third on accommodations by using Airbnb compared to what we would spend if we stayed in three hotel rooms each of the ten nights.
Many people worry they are giving up comfort by staying in a rented house or apartment compared to a hotel, but the opposite is true. There are many advantages to staying in a home as opposed to a hotel room. (Click here for more information on the pros and cons of VRBO’s.) Personally, I think one of the greatest advantages is having access to a kitchen for keeping snacks, food, and drinks on hand. Having a full living room to relax in after a long day of touring is far more comfortable than a hotel lobby or sitting on the bed of a hotel room, and many houses or apartments come with a washer and dryer as well.
Eating on a Budget in Norway
Restaurants on a Budget
One of the best experiences when traveling is trying the local cuisine, but eating out for every meal of the day can get expensive, even when at home. The average price of a meal at a moderate priced restaurant in Norway will run about $25 per person. Expensive restaurants will cost upwards of $50 per person, while restaurants providing faster and cheaper fare will average about $10 per person. The prices are fairly comparable to restaurants in the United States, so the cost per meal is not the issue, so much as the number of meals to be purchased every day of your vacation.
When you do eat out, be sure the restaurant you choose fits within your budget. Even when traveling abroad, there are many websites that rate restaurants, publish the menus and prices, and let you know what to expect. Look to Yelp.com, and other reputable sites for the top ranked area restaurants wherever you are. Yelp will even break down the top rated restaurants in each price category, making it very easy to find a great place to eat while abroad in the price range that fits your budget.
Take Advantage of Local Markets to Save Money
For many people, even if the cost of eating out every meal of the day is not daunting, the idea of eating restaurant sized portions three times each day is overwhelming. With a full day of touring and walking ahead of me, the last thing I want is a heavy breakfast, and if there is a lot to see, stopping for a prolonged lunch may not always fit in the schedule. Shopping the markets is a great way to experience the foods that are local to a region while staying within your budget.
To save money on your daily food allowance, I recommend stopping by a local market for groceries, especially if you have accommodations that include a kitchen. Stock up on local breads, fruits, eggs, and other items that can be easily prepared for breakfasts and portable snacks. For the price of an average meal, you can purchase groceries for several days of breakfasts and snacks. If you prefer to save your money for souvenirs and attractions, then squeeze more out of your budget by making sandwiches to pack for lunch as well.
Travel to Norway on a Budget, but Don’t Skimp on Comfort!
With a little planning and research, traveling to Norway on a budget is very doable. Being flexible enough to travel in the months before and after high season will save you money on flights and accommodation rates. Venturing out of your comfort zone to stay in an Airbnb or VRBO instead of hotel will also save you hundreds of dollars, especially if traveling with a larger family or group. And enjoying the local markets to stock up on groceries for breakfasts and snacks will help you to stay in budget and get the most out of your trip abroad.
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