Overview of The Highlights and Lesser-Known Areas
Summer is a great time to visit Scandinavia. The days are long, with the sun often setting well past 11:00 p.m., and rising at 3:30 a.m. While other parts of Europe are sweltering in the summer heat, Norway and Sweden offer cooler weather. What are the other key considerations about budget travel in Scandinavia?
Cost of the Trip
Prior to our trip, I was curious to know the true costs of traveling and spending time in Norway and Sweden. We began our trip in Oslo after flying from Reykjavik. My podcast covers the trip we took to Iceland. Oslo is a manageable city. Public transportation is the best way to get from Oslo’s airport into the center of the city. The cost of this trip is about $20 USD one way for an adult. Our kids were free under 16 I believe.
Once at Oslo Central Station, the next easiest mode is the tram service. This service offers several lines identified by a number. I recommend downloading the Ruter Billet travel app prior to getting started. This will help with route planning. Unfortunately, there is a separate app for purchasing the actual tickets which did not work for us on our trip. I presume this was because of our American credit cards. Rather, we were forced to purchase tickets from the 7-Eleven store. I recommend at least a 24-hour period ticket so you can travel around freely. The cost for this period ticket was approximately $11 USD for an adult.
Oslo’s hotel scene is expensive. We stayed in the Anker Hostel for three nights. There are multiple Anker Hostel locations. We stayed at both. They were both adequate and well under $200 USD for a room that slept up to six. The cost, therefore, can be defrayed if there are multiple paying adults.
I recorded a podcast from the roof of our hostel detailing the things we did in Oslo. We were fortunate to meet with a distant cousin for breakfast who gave us an insider tip. As I state in the podcast, these tips are extremely valuable.
So just how expensive is it to spend time in Oslo? The answer depends what you are comparing it to. For instance, my beer at dinner cost about $10 USD for a half liter of beer. That is a very common price for a half liter throughout Norway and Sweden. As will be discussed, infra, beers in Southern Sweden are actually slightly cheaper.
Areas We Focused on During Our Trip
Unless money and time are limitless, you’ll need to focus in on a few areas. For us, that was the Norway-In-A-Nutshell approach. Though we didn’t take this specific tour, we loosely traced its location itinerary. We flew from Oslo to Bergen on a short flight. You can stay affordably in Bergen at the Moxy hotel, especially if you use Bonvoy points.
When in Bergen, the public transportation should be used to and from the airport. There is only one tram line, and only a handful of bus lines that go one of two directions, so it’s easy to master. After Bergen, we cobbled together a Norway itinerary as follows: Norled ferry to Balestrand for a four-night stay. Then, take the Norled ferry to Flam, where you pick up the famous Flam Railway to Myrdal. Once in Myrdal, it’s a train back down to Oslo.
From Oslo, we traveled by train to the island of Marstrand. This is a fantastic–but not cheap–island with a fortress and abundance of history, hiking, and swimming.
Our second focus was Gothenburg and the surrounding areas. We picked up our car in Gothenburg. Our initial agreement with Hertz was breached by them when I changed our pickup time by three hours. This resulted in a tripling of the cost, and an easy decision by us to cancel. Sixt car rental offered a seven-day rental for $400 US with unlimited kilometers. After picking up the car, we headed to the area around Gråbo. Affordable lodging throughout Sweden appears scarce. We scrambled and located Björsjöås Vildmark. This was a working farm with a family bunk room and cabins for rent.
By now, we understood affordable lodging in Sweden requires lowering your standards. But with these lowered standards came a more openminded approach. The resulting experiences were richer. Along these lines, we found Isberg Mountain Resort outside of Hestra. We picked this location because it was close to our family reunion later in the week, offered outdoor experiences, and had a hostel within our budget. Our hostel came to $130 per night when factoring in linen and cleaning fees. Training our children in the art of hosteling was important to me. After several weeks in Scandinavia, mission accomplished.
The mountain resort offered mountain biking, ziplining, and other obstacle courses for children of all ages. It gave our kids the opportunity to challenge themselves and gain confidence doing difficult and intimidating tasks.
This area in general, highlighted by small towns like Lerum and Boras, is off the tourist grid. It offers, therefore, a richer cultural opportunity which we relished.
Our final stop in Sweden was the lovely town of Laholm. The town lies about 4 kilometers from a substantial white sand beach called Melbystrand. We quickly mastered the public transport of this region (a county called Halland), and the world was our oyster in the words of Shakespeare.
A quick note here: public transportation has been a must so far on our trip. Mastering it has saved us lots of money and provided a much richer experience. Take the time to do this well and you’ll have a better time.