A lot has happened since the last time this blog has seen a new post. To reward myself for the work I had put in over the last couple of months and to celebrate all the good things that have happened recently, I decided to finally add Norway to my list of visited destinations. While there is a lot of truth to Norway’s reputation of being one of the most expensive countries in the world, there is a number of things you can do minimize your expenses, particularly if you are a student traveling solo.
Today, as a comeback to this blog, let me share some of the things you can do to spend less money on your trip.
Before you go:
Set your financial priorities
Walking the streets of Oslo, distracting myself from the pain in my feet that had been carrying me for the past 8 hours, I came to think about how different people have different habits that affect their spending. If you want to save money, especially in regions as expensive as Scandinavia, it may help to think about what things are the most important to you. Some people have the need to go for coffee and cake between lunch and dinner. Others like to sit down at the end of the day to have (at least) one glass of beer while some of my young fellow travelers cannot imagine going on vacation without a night out at a club. Think about what activities you tend to spend most of your money on and how many of these are really essential in order for you to have a great time. For me, concentrating on discovering the city on foot, looking for photo compositions has helped tremendously to set my financial priorities. At the end of the day, I only spent money on the things I actually needed, leaving things like shopping or fast food cravings for another day in a more affordable place.
Set an approximate budget for every day of your trip
When I first started traveling at the age of 18, still without a credit card and a debit card that would lead to additional costs abroad, my biggest fear was that I would run out of cash in the middle of my trip, having nothing left for food or unexpected expenses. Things may be different now, but I still plan out how much money I might need for every day of my stay. Knowing how much money I actually have at my disposal has so far helped me to stay below the budget while still taking care of all my needs. At the end I can use what was left for either a special treat or invest it into my next adventure.
When in Oslo
Instead of losing money at currency exchange points that certainly won’t offer you the best rate, pay with your credit card or draw the amount of money you need from an ATM. Make sure to be charged in local currency at the ATM to avoid additional conversion fees.
Book an apartment, a hostel or anything that has a kitchen
Eating out in Oslo is costly. Even the prices at McDonald’s were so high, my junk food craving decided to go away all by itself. When comparing prices of hotels in Oslo, I noticed that renting a hotel room would cost as much as renting a place at an apartment-hotel. The upside to the latter was that it came with a fully equipped kitchen and all the basic utensils for cooking. If you have been using Airbnb so far, stick to that. Having said that…
…make your own food
Not just any food though. As plain as it might have tasted, I realized that pasta, canned tuna, salmon, canned vegetables, premade seafood salads, rye bread and cottage cheese kept me full for longer periods of time than frozen pizzas would have. So don’t forget to consider nutrition when shopping for ingredients. At the end of the day I spent about €30 for 4 days worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Bring your own water bottle
Even though bottled water may be cheaper in supermarkets than in corner shops, tap water in Norway is absolutely safe to drink. Also, bringing your own bottle will help reduce waste.
Group your walking and public transportation days
When planning a trip, I tend to mark all the places I want to visit on a (digital) map. That way I can see if any clusters form when a number of attractions can be found within walking distance from one another. Divide your activities into groups: one group with attractions that can be reached on foot and one group for things you may need public transport for. Try to do the things that need driving on one day and the walkable ones on another so that you don’t have to buy a public transport ticket for every day of your trip.
Take the NSB trains rather than the airport express shuttle
Once in Oslo, there are several ways to get from the airport to the city center. I did not check whether or not Uber was available. When faced with the choice of trains however, there are two choices: Norwegian State Railways (NSB) or the Airport Express Train (Flytoget). The express train may be faster and run more frequently but if you are in no rush, NSB offers more value for the money. Even though there is the option of a 50% discount for students with the Flytoget ticket (according to the website), it cannot be used on any other line than the express train. Meanwhile, the NSB ticket is valid for 2,5 hours after validation and can be used for transfers within that time period.
Check for free admissions to museums on specific days of the week
Admission to museums in Oslo is free on certain days of the week. A number of them have free admissions on Thursdays, others on Sundays. It is best to look up beforehand if the museums you want to visit have free admission days. If you are lucky, the museum, landmark or open air exhibit of your choice may be entirely free. Such was the case when I visited the Vigeland Park or the Akershus Fortress.
Don’t forget your student ID card
If you won’t be in Oslo on any of the free admission days, having your student ID card on you can work miracles with your budget. Being a student from Germany, I got to visit the National Gallery for half the price (NOK 60 instead of NOK 120).