[Marie Land Andersen | Contributing Writer]
Scandinavia, especially Norway and Denmark, are infamously some of the most expensive countries in the world and yet also a very popular travel destination. In this article, I will attempt to successfully guide you through a holiday in Oslo where you’ll get to see several historical landmarks and beautiful Scandinavian scenery on a low budget.
A few things about Norway:
- The currency is the Norwegian Krone. One Norwegian krone = 10 British pence. One British Pound is 10 Norwegian kroner.
- The language is Norwegian, but every Norwegian you will meet has had basic English education at school and will be able to speak English to you.
- Shops are closed on Sundays.
- Legal drinking age is 18 for regular beer and cider etc. but in order to buy anything with more than 22% alcohol in it, you have to be at least 20 years of age.
Alcohol is very expensive in Norway and we have very strict laws where you can’t buy beer or cider at the grocery store after 8pm on a weekday, and not after 6pm on a Saturday. No alcohol may be purchased at all on Sundays (if you find a shop that happens to be open, of which there are very few), and all hard liquor and wine may be purchased at a Wine Monopoly, which closes normally closes at 7pm on a weekday and at 5pm on a Saturday, restricting the times where you can buy stronger alcohol even further. You may buy alcohol in restaurants, bars and clubs though, but only after noon, and only until 2am in the morning, on a weekday. Yep, we are a super liberal country with one of the most conservative drinking cultures ever.
What do you need for budget trip?
First of all – plane tickets! Yep, you’ll need those as getting the ferry will be at least twice as expensive, and frankly not that comfortable. Package deals are available from sites including Norwegian.co.uk, RyanAir, or Expedia.co.uk.
Norwegian.co.uk is my go to plane ticket seller as I travel back and from Oslo as often as my studies permits. Depending on how you plan your journey, you will be able to get return tickets from Gatwick airports to Oslo Gardemoen airport, a 1 hour and 45 minute plane ride, for approximately £60. From Oslo airport, you get the train into central Oslo and pay about £10 for a one-way ticket in to Oslo Central Station. This is the very heart of Oslo, and from there onwards you will be able to get anywhere.
In Oslo, you will find several youth hostels, and all have to live up to a certain living standard, so even though they may not be the fanciest of establishments, you won’t find any bed bugs or scary things in the walls. Just from an online search with a random search engine, I was able to find a bed for £65 for four nights. It is all about what standard of living you require – if you don’t mind sleeping in a room strangers, Oslo can be a very cheap affair.
There’s of course CouchSurfing, if you are one of those gambling types, but as I think that sounds even more risky than strangers in a hostel, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are some slight hiccups, like having to rent bed linen and towels, and sleeping bags being illegal to use on the premises, but let’s add another £20 to that and you’ve still got a very reasonable stay.
Then there’s the food part. Since most hostels offer cooking facilities, we are going to use the cheapest options available to us, and that’s pasta and making your own sandwiches. If you’re being particularly generous with yourself, we’ll say you’re budget for that four night stay comes to about £35 on food. Water is free and very good in Norway, so we won’t count drinks into the budget.
In central Oslo you can walk a lot of places, but if you’re looking to see all the free tourist attractions, then you’ll need a public transport pass. The benefit of this is that for approximately £24 you’ve got a seven day ticket that you can use on any form of transport, sans boat, including buses, the tram, the underground and so on, as long as it is within central Oslo.
For free, using that ticket as your transport, you can go swimming in the beautiful lakes up at Stemmern at Grorud and see some lovely nature.
You can go up to Frognerseteren and on a clear day catch a stunning view of the entire city, as well as seeing the Ski hop, and the offroad bikers risk their lives!
You can go down to Akerbrygge and see the docks and walk on and inside Akershus Fortress, which many, including my own father, claim is haunted, and is the place where we used to execute people!
The very last people to die there were war criminals from the Second World War, convicted as traitors to the country. There is also a lot of World War Two history in the museum they’ve built on the property, and the last time I was there, it was free to go in, so we shall assume it still is.
You can also take a stroll further down Akerbrygge and see all the artwork we have about – the Astrup Fearnly museum, most known for its cow split in half that you can walk between, is located there and lots of the museum’s art is displayed on the outside, free for anyone to look at and touch.
Vika also has a stunning view of the fjord, and an artificial beach and diving dock that you can use free of charge, including a little shower system.
You can head up towards the city again and see the Oslo National theatre and the royal palace and walk around its grounds and all the way up to the door if you like.
You can walk down Karl Johan’s street and all the way at the bottom, at the opposite end of the Royal Palace, you will see the Opera House, lying in Bjørvika, a part of the Oslo fjord, and you are allowed to walk on and all around it. As the building is a giant white marble sculpture, and from the top you will have an amazing view. You can also go swimming in the fjord there, as the building has no fences around it and goes straight into the fjord. A lot of people use it as a marble beach.
You can also go see the Vigelands Park, known to most Oslo inhabitants as the Vigelands park, using the tram at Akerbrygge, and see some absolutely stunning pieces of art, for absolutely free.
It contains 214 statues, one massive fountain, one granite monolith that measures at approximately 56 feet and 13 wrought iron gates, all chiselled out and welded by Gustav Vigeland himself, with help with a few apprentices. The park stood finished in 1943 and is the most elaborate and costly art investment in Norway to date, if you don’t include the aforementioned Opera house, which cost about 4 billion Norwegian Kroner, or 40 million British Pounds.
When you’ve successfully packed your bags and are ready to leave Oslo, you will have to purchase a train ticket once more, costing about £10, and off to the airport you will be!
This puts your total spending-wise at £234, not including petrol/tickets to and from Gatwick Airport. As holidays go, that is a fairly reasonable one. Keep in mind that hostel prices vary, but on the whole, a very low budget trip to Norway is possible!