Norway regularly tops the ‘most expensive countries to visit’ list, but it is still possible to visit Oslo on a budget. From saving money on flights to eating like a local, there are plenty of ways to keep costs down whilst still having an action-packed weekend. Let me share my top tips for a budget trip to Oslo that won’t break the bank.
Is Oslo Expensive?
Yes, Oslo is expensive. Thanks to Norway’s oil wealth, the whole country benefits from good benefits and high wages which, in turn, drives up the cost of living. This can make it increasingly difficult for visitors to afford accommodation, food and activities. For example, even a small bottle of water can cost as much as 45NOK (that’s £4 to you and me!) With prices like these, it’s hard not to spend a small fortune on a weekend trip to Oslo, but it doesn’t have to be that way…
Top tips for seeing Oslo on a Budget
Find cheap flights
The best way to start your trip to Oslo on a budget? By booking cheap flights! Thanks to the plentiful supply of no-frills and budget airlines available in Europe, Oslo is both easy and cheap to get to. For those travelling from the UK, Norwegian Airlines puts on multiple flights a day from London Gatwick to Oslo Gardermoen (the city’s main hub) from just £27 each way.
Take the NSB train from the airport to the city centre
If you want to know how to get from Oslo airport to the city centre, there are plenty of options including trains, buses and taxis. The best and cheapest way if you’re visiting Oslo on a shoestring is to take the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) train. It costs 101NOK (~£9) for a single ticket, and while this seems like a lot, it’s definitely the cheapest option! The NSB train takes just over 20 minutes from Oslo airport to the central station, and runs 3 times an hour. The trains are comfortable, clean and you get lovely views out into the countryside as you travel.
The alternatives to the NSB train are the premium Flytoget train, which runs every 10 minutes but takes the same amount of time as the NSB. The worst part? The Flytoget costs 190NOK (~£16) for a single ticket, so it’s really not worth it! A taxi would cost a minimum of 599NOK (~£55!) Surprisingly, buses are double the price and take over twice as long to reach the centre as the NSB train.
Get a great deal on a hotel in Oslo
While the average price for a hotel room in Oslo is 1,625NOK (~£150), there are bargains to be had when you know where to look. We stayed at the Smarthotel*, which was prides itself on its value and location. The rooms are basic, and the cheapest (and smallest at just 8m2) rooms consist of a small but comfy bed, a fold-down table, free wi-fi, a TV and en-suite bathroom! Bigger rooms are available, but you won’t want to upgrade – a weekend stay in their small double with no extras could cost just 975NOK (~£90) a night. And it’s totally worth it. If you’re doing Oslo on a budget, there’s really no need to pay for any extras, but if you wanted to, you could take advantage of early check-in (though I’d recommend you just use the left-luggage room for free), a play on their shuffleboard table and a very well-stocked breakfast too.
The location is incredible – just steps away from the Royal Palace, and walking distance to most other major sights including the Opera House, Akershus Fortress, the City Hall and waterfront. The hotel also gives you free access to their bicycles if you wanted to travel further afield both cheaply and healthily! Smarthotel is an Eco-Lighthouse certified hotel, which demonstrates its commitment to reducing its impact on the environment and social responsibility. Smarthotel is therefore a great choice for the eco-conscious traveller too.
Invest in the Oslo Pass
The Oslo Pass is one of the best ways to save money in Oslo. Not only does it give you free entry to over 30 of the best attractions in the city, it also gives you unlimited travel on public transport (except to and from the airport) and hundreds of other discounts.
You can buy a 24 hour pass for 395NOK (~£37), 48 hours for 595NOK (~£55) or 72 hours for 745NOK (~£69). While it may seem expensive at the outset of your holiday, buying an Oslo Pass will save you money in the long run and encourages you to pack more into your visit. For example, if you take the museum ferry over to the museum district (69NOK return), visit the Viking Ship Museum (100NOK), the Fram museum (120NOK) and Kon-tiki museum (120NOK) in the space of 24 hours, the Oslo Pass has already paid for itself. And that’s the least you could do in a day!
Disclaimer: we were given 4x 24 hr media passes by Visit Oslo for our visit, but we would have recommended it anyway. The benefits of the Oslo Pass are obvious when you look at the savings!
Eat at budget restaurants or buy from supermarkets
Eating out in Oslo can be the most expensive part of your trip, but there are still a few options for people visiting on a budget. Instead of eating dinner at a restaurant in the main tourist hub of the city, try heading a little further into the suburbs for a great value meal.
We loved San Francisco Bread Bowl* – a quirky cafe where guests can pick from a variety of hot food served in large hollowed-out bread bowls from just 99NOK or £9! The meals range from vegan soups and a veggie mac and cheese, to meat-filled stews and chilli to keep the meat-eaters entertained too. Just remember, it’s almost impossible to eat a whole ‘normal’ size bread bowl to yourself, so you could save even more money by sharing one between two, or opting for a ‘baby’ bowl instead (from 60NOK or £5.50). There’s also a sharing platter of four baby bowls if you want to try more than one.
If you have your heart set on eating in the city centre, Peppe’s Pizza is a great choice. Pepe’s is a chain of pizza restaurants across Oslo, all with a huge choice of great-value pizza. We shared a large cheese and tomato pizza for 198NOK (£18), which was more than enough for us. We even had some left over for lunch the next day!
>> Don’t waste money on alcohol – it’s prohibitively expensive and totally not worth it! Bring your own from Duty Free or just drink water instead. All restaurants will serve you a glass of tap water if you ask for it – it’s delicious and free!
Another way to save money in Oslo is to visit convenience stores instead of restaurants. Each morning, rather than spending 125NOK on breakfast from our hotel, we bought 3 chocolate croissants from 7eleven for 49NOK (£4.50). For lunch, we bought mini pizzas from Narvesen (a Norwegian chain of newsagents) to save us from spending 110NOK (£10) on a baguette from a local bakery.
Oslo is a brilliant city to visit for a short break, and you certainly shouldn’t avoid it because of its prices. Just follow my advice, and you’ll be able to see Oslo on a budget without compromising on your time there.
Have you ever been to Oslo? What are your top tips for a budget trip to Oslo?
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