The primary reason I added Norway to my 2018 travel wish list was because I wanted to complete the famous Trolltunga hike.
Seeing as though the cheapest flights from the UK are to Norway’s capital, it made sense to fly into Oslo, and I figured that if I was going all the way to Trolltunga then I may as well travel a little bit further to Bergen, too.
But if any of you have considered visiting Norway (or perhaps you’ve already been there and have first-hand experience), you’ll know how high the cost of living is there. Business Insider ranked Norway as the sixth most expensive country in the world to live in, in 2017. It was therefore going to be pretty difficult for this budget traveller to spend any length of time there, especially since – when I was initially planning the trip – I envisaged it being a solo adventure.
For this reason I planned just five nights in Norway:
- One night in Oslo
- One night in Bergen
- Two nights in Odda (for the Trolltunga hike)
- One night in Bergen
As luck would have it I ended up travelling to Norway with a friend and colleague from work, so we were able to split all accommodation costs between the two of us (which made our individual costs quite a bit cheaper overall), but we still spent hours of our time meticulously researching and planning every detail in order to keep costs as low as possible.
Here’s a run down of our itinerary and costs for five nights in Norway, in case you fancy taking a similar trip yourself.
Day One: Fly to Oslo | overnight in Oslo
We booked our flights from Manchester to Oslo via Skyscanner (my go-to flight booking site) and paid £50 each including taxes. When you arrive into Oslo airport, unlike many European destinations where the bus is a much cheaper option to get into the city, here the train is your most affordable option – by quite a significant amount. At the time of writing, bus tickets were around 180 NOK each and train tickets were just over 100 NOK (£9.30).
Our flight arrived into Oslo mid-afternoon and our train to Bergen was leaving at midday the following day, so we had precious hours in which to explore the city. Here’s what we did manage to see:
Akershus Festning (fortress). When Oslo was named capital of Norway in 1299, King Håkon V ordered the construction of Akershus, strategically located on the eastern side of the harbour. Entry is free, but you’ll need to pay to get into the Akershus Fortress Information Centre, inside the main gate.
Oslo Opera House. This unique, imposing structure initially caught our eye because its angled white exterior made it look like a ski slope rising from the waters of the harbour upon which it’s located. Opened in 2008, Oslo’s Opera House was designed by Oslo-based architectural firm, Snøhetta and cost around €500 to build. Climbing on the roof is a definite highlight (and affords great views across the harbour), but don’t miss the interior, too.
Telthusbakken and Damstredet. One of the prettiest parts of Oslo, Telthusbakken and nearby Damstredet are lined with colourful wooden houses dating from the 1700s and 1800s – all of which are inhabited. As is the case with many neighbourhoods favoured by a city’s creative crowd, Damstredet was once an impoverished shantytown. There’s a lovely park and coffee shop nearby.
Our Saviour’s Cemetery. We actually stumbled upon this place while searching for the above (they’re in the same part of Oslo). As well as being a beautiful, peaceful place to wander around, it also happens to be where the grave of Edvard Munch (‘The Scream’ artist, for the uncultured among you) is located. Of course, we had to find it.
Oslo City Hall. Unfortunately we only managed to squeeze in a very fleeting tour of Oslo’s City Hall (we *nearly* missed our (pre-booked and paid for) train as a result of stopping here), but I wish we’d have had longer. Don’t let the ugly functionalist exterior put you off ; it’s the inside you’ll want to see. Its walls are decorated with some pretty magnificent artwork, including Edvard Munch’s ‘Life.’
Here’s what we didn’t manage to see but wanted to:
- Vigeland Sculpture Park. The reason we didn’t make it here is because this park is not in central Oslo; you need to take a 30-minute tram ride to reach it. Vigeland Sculpture Park is the largest sculpture park in the world by a single artist, boasting more than 200 sculptures by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) in bronze, granite and cast iron. Entry is free. You can read more in this post by The Whole World is a Playground.
- Vikingskipshuset. This is Oslo’s Viking ship museum and can be found on the on the Bygdøy peninsula, on the western side of Oslo. It contains the world’s best-preserved Viking ships and finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. Admission is 100 NOK (£9.24) so it would’ve been a bit steep for our budget anyway.
- A wander around Grünerløkka. We almost made it this far when we visited Telthusbakken and Damstredet, but we just didn’t have the time available to wander any further out of central Oslo. Labelled as the ‘Shoreditch’ of Oslo, Grünerløkka is one of the hippest parts of the city and is where you’ll find street art, exhibition spaces, artisan eats, indie boutiques, and vintage fashions. The Mathallen Food Hall looks like somewhere reminiscent of Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island.
Accommodation in Oslo
We stayed at the Saga Poshtel Oslo Central, a modern, clean and centrally located hotel just an 8-minute walk from Oslo’s Central Station. There’s a communal area in the downstairs reception with large windows overlooking the street outside, which is a great place to chill out at the end of the day. Our room was pretty small (but this seems to be the case with many of Norway’s ‘budget’ stays (hey, it’s all relative here!)), but perfectly clean and functional. There’s also a fantastic buffet breakfast included, which makes the room price a lot better value for money, considering the cost of food in Norway.Check availability at prices at Saga Poshtel Oslo Central here
Day Two: Train to Bergen | overnight in Bergen
Another of the reasons we wanted to fly into Oslo (apart from the fact that it was the cheapest option) was the fact that the Oslo to Bergen train journey was supposed to be one of the most spectacular in all of Norway. We booked our seats as soon as they went on sale three months prior to our travel date, on the NSB website. We paid 849 NOK (£78.45) per person for the six and a half hour journey.
We chose our seats to be on the left side of the carriage, as those were supposed to offer the best views (and, to be fair, until the very last section of the journey, they did), it was just unfortunate that – in spite of it being August – the weather outside was reminiscent of a dull and overcast autumn day.
In all honesty we were both a little underwhelmed by the journey (or rather, the scenery on the journey). Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the frustration of trying and failing to successfully take photographs through the glazed windows of a fast moving train, but the experience didn’t live up to the high expectations we originally had for it.
That said, trains are one of my favourite forms of transportation for covering long distances, and by choosing to take this journey, we got to have a look around Oslo too.
We arrived into Bergen around 6:30pm, which gave us just enough time to find our accommodation, get our bearings, and locate somewhere we could afford to eat. Considering the price of food in most of Norway’s restaurants, we stumbled upon a cosy little cafe just minutes from where we were staying that served huge bowls of pasta and tasty pizza (Norway is big on Italian food) for under £10. We loved it so much we ended up returning when we were back in Bergen three days later.
Accommodation in Bergen
We booked a cosy little apartment called Mi Casa Tu Casa, located on the western side of the lake close to the KODE Art Museum. It was the only time on the trip that we had our own private bathroom and kitchenette – even if the absence of a toaster did mean that we had to be a little ‘resourceful’ in order to toast our bread.Check prices and availability at Mi Casa Tu Casa here
Day Three: Morning in Bergen | bus to Odda | overnight in Odda
As we knew we’d be returning to Odda, we weren’t too concerned about trying to see everything today. We concentrated on one main activity in the morning – hiking to the top of Mount Fløyen.
The information we sourced through a few internet searches reckoned the hike would take us 45 minutes, which is about right if you don’t stop to take too many photos of the trolls in the woods.
Bergen is one of the wettest places in Norway with an average of 265 days of rain per year, and it definitely lived up to its name on the morning of our hike. There is a reason Norwegians are very good at manufacturing innovative, high performance outdoor gear that is actually fashionable: because the climate over here makes such gear essential, and if you’ve got to wear something every day then you want it to look good, don’t you?
Mount Fløyen stands 399 metres above sea level and when you’re rewarded with views like these, it’s worth the climb – even in the rain.
If you’d rather not walk though, it’s also possible to catch a funicular to the top for the price of 50/95 NOK (single/return journey).
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to explore a bit more of Bergen – in between trying to sort out the bus journey to Odda later that day, which proved to be a lot more complicated than we’d anticipated it would be.
If you’re planning to make the same journey, please note the following information:
- Although there are frequent departures to Odda, only two of these per day are direct (i.e don’t involve any changes or alternative forms of transport; you stay on the bus for the entire journey). Ironically the non-direct ones are much more expensive (presumably because they involve a scenic boat trip across the fjords), so if you’re travelling on a budget, make sure you book yourself on the right one. At the time of writing, there was a departure around 8:30/9am and then another at 8:55pm
- The best place to buy your ticket from is at the bus station itself (located next to the train station). There’s an information desk available with a ticket system in place. If you’re using the ticket machine to purchase your ticket (waiting times at the information desk can be long!), you’ll need to choose the option “via A-D + F + ferje Tor-Jon” which should be 137 NOK.
- It is also possible to buy a ticket via the Skyss app, however you’ll only be able to purchase the ticket for the bus (97 NOK); you’ll have to pay for the ferry crossing separately in cash to the bus driver. The cost is 40 NOK – hence the 137 NOK total.
Sound complicated? Now you may have some idea how we felt trying to figure it out!
In spite of spending well over an hour at the bus station (and probably an equal amount of time at the Tourist Information Office) trying to figure out the timetables and prices for transport to Odda, we did have time to check Bryggen and the Bergen Fish Market off our list. Both are located down by the harbour.
Bryggen is a small collection of old hanseatic buildings dating from the middle ages that line the eastern side of the Vågen harbour in Bergen. The area has been on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites since 1979. It was a lot smaller and more touristy than I’d anticipated, but still an interesting part of Bergen’s history. I loved browsing all the little art galleries and shops selling traditional and unique crafts.
Whilst the Fish Market is more of a tourist attraction rather than a true local market where Bergen residents actually shop, it’s definitely worth a quick look around. And the fish cakes (at 15 NOK (£1.38) each) are surprisingly good value for money – and delicious.
As a result of our previously mentioned discoveries, we could not catch the bus until 8:55pm, which meant arriving into Odda at 11:55pm. Fortunately our hosts at the Airbnb we’d booked were very understanding and sent us the key code for the door, as well as directions to our room. The lady of the house even came out to greet us as we attempted to make ourselves cups of tea as quietly as we could when we arrived.
The plan had been to do the Trolltunga hike the following day, but due to our late arrival (and the appalling weather conditions that were forecast; yep, even in Summer it’s so important to check the Trolltunga Trail Information on a daily basis), we had to postpone this until the day after.
Accommodation in Odda
We stayed at a lovely little Airbnb around a kilometre uphill from Odda’s bus station, which I can recommend for the hosts alone. We were blown away by their kindness and hospitality – which I will elaborate on further on in this post. If you haven’t yet made a booking with Airbnb, register using this link to get £15 off your first stay.
Day Four: Explore Odda | overnight in Odda
Because we’d not actually planned for a day in Odda, we weren’t really aware of what there was to do in town, if anything. By around 11am we’d had a look around the only outdoor shop in sight and had coffee at the only cafe we could find that wasn’t the one attached to the bus station.
Considering that Odda is the closest town to the Trolltunga Trailhead (and therefore a lot of travellers stay here before and after their hike), there really isn’t much of a tourist infrastructure in Odda at all. That’s not a bad thing at all; just surprising.
We visited the Tourist Information Centre down by the harbour to ask for some advice on what to do with the rest of the day, and the helpful lady pointed out a ‘cultural trail’ around Odda that would take us 2-3 hours.
It’s a trail that we actually really enjoyed, and one that took us far from the post-industrial landscapes that line much of the water’s edge on the opposite side of the fjord.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon/evening sorting out what turned out to be a bit of a logistical nightmare regarding our Trolltunga hike.
Because we’d delayed our hike by a day, we now had to be back in Bergen the night after we’d completed the hike, as we’d pre-booked accommodation there (the only other option was to forfeit the money we’d spent and pay for another night in Odda, at whatever the going rate was for booking a room last minute).
There is usually a bus back to Bergen at 8:45pm, but not on a Sunday. So the latest bus we could catch left at 5:10pm, which meant catching a shuttle back from the trailhead at 3:30pm. Considering that all the articles we’d read online reckoned that the hike would take anywhere between 8-12 hours, even if we caught the earliest shuttle from Odda to the trailhead the next morning, we’d risk not making in back in time to catch the 3:30pm shuttle. We also had the issue of how we were going to get our backpacks from our Airbnb (it was around a half hour walk there and back – half an hour we wouldn’t have).
Fortunately our amazing Airbnb hosts came to the rescue. Maren offered to take our backpacks down to the Tourist Information Office for us, in order to store them in the lockers there so that we could collect them after the hike and make the bus back to Bergen in time. She also booked a taxi for us to the trailhead and helped us to find two other people to split the fare with (so that we paid 100 NOK each instead of 200).
I honestly don’t what we would have done without her.
She even shared her delicious homemade sweet potato and red pepper soup with us when we arrived back at the house that evening.
Day Five: Hike to Trolltunga | bus to Bergen | overnight in Bergen
Our day started early! The taxi was booked for 3:30am and we arrived at the trailhead at just after 4am. Now that I’m armed with the knowledge of just how relentless that initial uphill climb was (we came back down the same way later that day), I’m actually really glad that we completed it in total darkness. Considering that it was effectively the middle of the night and we’d not had a lot of sleep, we were feeling surprisingly energetic and full of excitement and anticipation for what lay ahead.
With head torches strapped to our heads and the hoods of our waterproof jackets pulled around our faces, we plodded along in the drizzly rain, hoping and praying that it didn’t get any heavier as the day progressed.
I don’t want to say too much about the Trolltunga hike, because I’ll be writing a full post on it very soon, but I will say that I’m so glad we started as early as we did. Not only did we avoid all the crowds on the way up, but we also didn’t have to wait too long to get our photos at the top. And we made it back to the trailhead by 2pm, so we had enough time to enjoy a large celebratory coffee and to munch our way through all the snacks we’d forgotten to eat on the hike itself. We worked out that it had probably taken us between nine and ten hours altogether, including stops.
The Trolltunga hike is not a technically difficult one, but it is long (and for that reason very gruelling) with a lot of relentless (and quite steep in places!) uphill sections on the route there. It’s also bloody cold at the top, so pack plenty of layers, as well as some warm gloves and a hat.
Accommodation in Bergen
We chose to stay in a slightly different part of the city this time around, and somewhere a little closer to the bus and train stations. Marken Gjestehus is just 300 metres to the train station and was one of the best value rooms we found in Norway. Bathrooms were clean and there were plenty of showers to choose from, and there were also laundry facilities and free luggage storage available. It’s more like a hostel set up rather than a guesthouse, with a shared kitchen and communal lounge area. There’s a 20NOK charge for towels.Check prices and availability at Marken Gjestehus here
Day Six: Morning in Bergen | fly to Manchester
We were craving a scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast this morning, and that’s exactly what we found (on sour dough toast) at Colonialen Litteraturhuset – for a fairly reasonable price (for Norway) of 110 NOK (£10.14).
We then chose to spend our last morning in Bergen exploring Bergenhus Fortress and then wandering half the way across the city looking for some elusive street art near to the university.
We didn’t find the street art but we did stumble upon this delightful little cluster of colourful wooden houses: a scene that exactly resembled the Bergen I imagined before visiting.
From there we stopped for one last coffee and cinnamon bun (one of the things I love about travelling in Scandinavian countries) before hopping on the tram (known as “light rail” over here) to the airport.
And that concludes our five nights / six days in Norway.
And now on to the number crunching bit…exactly how much did that trip cost us?
I wasn’t about to add up every single thing we ate and drank, because, well, I do have a life ‘n’ all, but we were reasonably frugal with the whole food and drink thing:
- We (or rather, I) bought one beer on the whole trip – to congratulate myself for completing the Trolltunga hike (it was less than a pint and cost me £6)
- We made our own breakfast every morning (with the exception of the inclusive breakfast in Oslo and the last day in Bergen when we ate out)
- We made sandwiches and bought fruit from the supermarket for the Trolltunga hike
- We got dinner from the 7-11 in Oslo and cooked our own dinner at our Airbnb in Odda
- When we did eat out, we sought out the “cheap eats” on Trip Advisor.
I did, however, make a note of all of our other necessary costs. They are as follows.
Five nights in Norway | Costs per person for a two-person trip
- Flight from Manchester to Oslo with SAS – £50
- Train from Oslo airport to Oslo centre – £9.30
- Accommodation for one night in Oslo – £52.97
- Train from Oslo to Bergen – £78.45
- Accommodation for one night in Bergen – £39
- Bus from Bergen to Odda – £12.63
- Accommodation for two nights in Odda – £74.50
- Taxi from Odda to Trolltunga trailhead (split four ways) – £9.22
- Shuttle from the trailhead to Odda bus station – £13.81
- Bus from Odda to Bergen – £12.63
- Accommodation for one night in Bergen – £35.35
- Light Rail from Bergen centre to Bergen airport – £3.41
- Flight from Bergen to Manchester with SAS – £69.85
Total costs (including all flights, accommodation and ground transportation) = £461.12
Our biggest expense was the train fare from Oslo to Bergen, so you could save quite a bit of money by skipping Oslo altogether and flying straight into Bergen. However, flights are more expensive into Bergen so that reduces the amount of money you’d save. In the end we decided that we’d rather pay a little extra to experience Oslo and to tick a bucket list train journey off our list.
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