Oslo is expensive. That’s a well-documented and unavoidable fact. However, visiting the Norwegian capital on a budget isn’t *that* difficult. The problem is that many travellers don’t know that they’re paying much more than they should be for the basics. Rather than the usual “don’t eat in restaurants” and “don’t drink alcohol” advice, this guide aims to provide some useful tips that you haven’t heard 1,000 times before.
(Before we start, you can find a full breakdown of how much things cost in Oslo here).
Don’t use Flytoget (or Flybussen)
Not long after clearing the passport checks at Gardermoen Airport, you’ll see lots of shiny signs and ticket booths with ‘Flytoget’ branding on them. Avoid these, because you’re going to be ripped off. As for the airport bus, it’s 175 NOK for a single and the journey and the journey takes between 40 and 50 minutes. I don’t think that anything else needs to be said about that.
Flytoget trains are more frequent than NSB-operated ones, but that doesn’t justify the sizeable price difference. Rather than 196 Norwegian Kroner (NOK), or just under £18 for a one-way ticket with Flytoget, you could travel with NSB instead for 105 NOK (£9.50). Both take under 25 minutes to reach the city centre.
To buy a ticket for the NSB-operated trains, download the ‘Vy’ app on your smartphone and buy a single ticket from Oslo Lufthavn to Oslo S. The platforms are tucked behind the Flytoget-branded desks, so walk past these on the left-hand side and you’ll find them. If you get lost, then don’t worry – it’s signposted throughout the airport with English translations.
Get your alcohol from the airport
If you want to go out in Oslo as part of your trip, then do it. As I mentioned in ‘How expensive is Oslo for backpackers?’, it’s a fun night out. Just like Iceland, the key to saving money on alcohol is buying it from the airport.
At Gardermoen Airport, there’s a duty-free store once you clear passport control. In here, you’ll be able to find packs of beer for roughly what you’d pay in a Swedish liquor store (which is some sort of consolation, even if not much of one). Spirits can also be purchased from here. If you’re looking for an adventure, however, then you could go to Sweden and buy your booze from there. Gothenburg is only three hours away…
Buy long-term public transport tickets
If you’re going to be using public transport a lot – including the ferry – then you can save yourself a small fortune by purchasing a 24-hour ticket. This is valid on all systems throughout Central Oslo isn’t necessarily confined to one calendar day. For example, if you bought the ticket at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday then it would be valid until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
If you’re staying for three days or longer, look at the seven-day pass. This costs 270 NOK, meaning that you effectively get three-and-a-half days free (if my maths is good, which it probably isn’t). All of Oslo’s public transport route maps can be downloaded from ruter.no.
Norway is expensive for visitors, but not necessarily for residents. Honing your cooking skills will make your money stretch further As far as the cheapest chains go, REMA 1000 and Kiwi are your best friends. The selection of food in Norwegian supermarkets is limited compared to what you’re used to, if you come from the UK or USA, but that’s good because it means you’re in-and-out without the unnecessary dabbling about.
It’s worth noting that the cost of meat can be absurd, so try to limit your consumption in this respect. However, you can often find fish – salmon in particular – to be reasonably-priced. Bonus tip: you’re better off bringing some seasoning in your backpack or suitcase, because it’ll be difficult to find here unless you go to a more multicultural food outlet.
If you’re looking for more affordable restaurants, you’ll find a range of international cuisines in Grønland and Grünerløkka for prices lower than in other parts of the city. With that being said, if you find something you fancy elsewhere then go for it. You’re going to pay a premium in most places you go, so you might as well dine somewhere that you really want to.
Where are you going to sleep?
Finding well-priced accommodation in Oslo isn’t as difficult as you’d think. If you’re willing to stay outside of the city centre, then you can find decent deals on hotels. Just make sure you know whether or not it’s in zone 1 on the public transport network, before booking, because if you’re further out then you’ll have to pay more to get into the city.
Hostels are sparse, but there are a few options. I stayed in Anker Hostel on my first visit to Oslo and found the beds to be very comfortable, though I wasn’t enthusiastic about each bedroom having a kitchen and the showers were minuscule in size. Breakfast also isn’t included, but it is located close to the main nightlife area. Swings and roundabouts.
Another option is Saga ‘Poshtel’, which is effectively a hotel with a shared dorm. Bed sheets and towels are provided for free, as is breakfast (which, by the way, is the best selection I’ve ever had at a hostel and would trump most hotels too). The showers are a good size, I didn’t think that the beds were very comfortable. Both options are located close to the main train and bus stations, so it’s best to check out the reviews on Hostelworld and make a decision based on your personal desires. Note that neither are particularly social, but you might get lucky and have some fun roommates if that’s what you’re looking for.
Oslo is more expensive than pretty much every European city that isn’t Swiss or Icelandic. However, visiting on a budget is achievable. Getting your alcohol sorted at a duty-free store will cushion your bank balance a bit more, as will knowing where you should shop for food. Sticking with the national rail network to and from the airport, as opposed to using express trains and buses, will also save you a considerable amount.
Public transport in the city is affordable, but Oslo is very walkable. Therefore, you might find that you don’t need a ticket at all. In general, the best rule you can follow is to only spend your money on things you really want to. And since the best things about Oslo are free (its nature), you don’t need to fork out a fortune elsewhere.
Do you have any additional budget tips for Oslo? Comment below.