How to travel Scandinavia on a budget

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So, you’ve been searching for your next getaway (on Cheapflights.co.uk, obvs) and that budget flight to Copenhagen has caught your eye. “Can it really be that cheap to fly there?” you ponder to yourself as your mouse tentatively drifts over the ‘Book Now’ button.

But then you remember your mate, let’s call him Dave, who spent the better part of a month saying, “Guess how much a pint was! Just guess!” to anyone who would listen after his long weekend in Oslo. Yes Dave. The beer was expensive. We get it.

Granted, Scandinavia does have a reputation as being a tad… extortionate. But that’s not to say that keeping costs low is impossible. So before you decide that Prague will be more suited to your beer-budget needs, take a look at these tips on visiting Scandinavia – without breaking the bank.

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Forget the hotel and be at one with nature

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If the Nordic countries are known for anything, it’s their undeniably epic scenery. Who’d want to miss out on that? Save on pricey country hotels and pitch up your tent. In Norway and Sweden it is entirely free to camp on public land (and with permission if it’s private) as long as you follow a few ground rules: only staying for a short period, leaving the land as you found it and not pitching your tent up near public buildings.

With Denmark being more populous, this is not the case. You’ll need a Camping Card or a Transit Pass for a single night stay and these are available direct from the campsites. However, priced at 75-100kr (around a tenner), campsites are still a great budget way to enjoy the great outdoors.

Or stay in budget accommodation

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If nature’s not your thing and you’re more of a city break kind of traveller, there are still loads of great, budget-friendly options for your trip. Hostels are perhaps the most obvious choice, and it is possible to still get a private room for those who aren’t fans of bunking up with strangers. In Norway, most are run by Hostelling International (HI) with members benefitting from discounts of up to 15%, although non-members are still able to stay in these hostels. This is also true for Denmark, and Sweden also has its fair share of quirky hostel accommodation.

Heading out of the cities? Fell stations (hostel-esque lodging along mountain routes) in Sweden and mountain cabins in Norway provide reasonably cheap accommodation that range in amenities. Some simply provide a roof over your head, while others cover meals and some even have saunas.

Take the bus

Sites like Bus4You (if you don’t mind navigating around the dodgy Google Translates) will allow you to book your bus tickets in advance if you’re planning to try and see several destinations across Scandinavia. Travel between the likes of Oslo and Copenhagen can be under £20 if bought far enough in advance. And unlike the UK, where you are resigned to spending your time in a sticky Megabus, buses tend to be pretty comfortable and usually have free Wi-Fi (which is always a plus).

And explore by bike or on foot

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Scandinavian cities are extremely walkable. And many (including Copenhagen and  Malmö) are even better for cycling, offering great cycle routes and cheap bicycle rental. With very few exceptions, Scandinavia’s cities are pretty compact, with most attractions being within a very scenic walking distance. Whether it be meandering through Stockholm‘s parks or along Oslo’s waterways, if you’ve got the weather, there really isn’t a need to buy a bus or tram ticket.

Choose alternative destinations

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Oslo. Stockholm. Copenhagen. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that popular capitals are going to incur the biggest expenses. But Norway, Sweden and Denmark have so many other great cities (not to mention towns and villages) that may just offer a cheaper alternative. Think student cities such as Malmö or Visby in Sweden and Bergen in Norway. These places are by no means Eastern European-cheap, but they do offer a slight reprieve on the wallet compared to their big-city cousins.

Get a hold of discount cards and passes

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Big cities like Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm all do city cards, giving you free and discounted entry to a variety of attractions, as well as discounts in cafes and restaurants. They also come with great transport discounts. For example, with the Oslo Pass you can get free parking, and the Stockholm Pass comes with free coach and boat tours.

If you’re heading to the fjords, a Fjord Pass will get you discounts at over 80 attractions for just over a tenner, ranging from museums and cruises to car hire and active pursuits.

Explore all things FREE

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Glorious, glorious free attractions. Yep, even in some of the priciest countries in the world, you can still find great free things to do. In Oslo, how about climbing the slanted roof of the opera house for awesome views, or visiting the slightly surreal statues at Vigeland Sculpture Park? In Stockholm, many of the museums do free evenings and if you’re looking for some art in unusual places, the city’s metro system is home to 110 kilometres of sculptures, paintings and mosaics – in fact, it is the world’s longest art exhibition. In Copenhagen, some the most iconic attractions are free to visit, including  Dyrehavsbakken (one of the world’s oldest amusement parks), the Little Mermaid Statue and Christiania (Copenhagen’s famous autonomous commune).

Keep food costs down

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As well as just generally being cheaper than hotels, staying in hostels with communal kitchens or in a self-catering, Air BnB type apartment will allow you to prepare your own food. Look out for supermarket chains such as Netto, Rema 1000 and ICA – they’ll be a lot cheaper than smaller shops and 7/11s.

Saying that, if you’re in Sweden and really want to eat out, look out for ‘dagens rätt’ (daily specials) at lunchtimes. These cheap lunches (usually just over a tenner) include a salad, a main course, and a drink.

And when all else fails… there is always Ikea meatballs…

And a word of advice about booze…

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Let’s not beat around the bush. You’re not going to get a Wetherspoons-style deal on drinks in Scandinavia. A bottle of beer in Oslo is likely to set you back on average just under £6, whilst in Stockholm, it’ll be just over £5. Even in supermarkets, the price of a six pack of beer is likely to raise your eyebrow. Buying alcohol at the airport and enjoying it in the comforts of your accommodation is the most cost effective way to have a drink or three while on holiday. Either that or enjoy the ambience of the bars and stick to a booze budget.

Does Scandinavia seem less out of reach now? Find that impulse-purchase worthy flight by visiting Cheapflights.co.uk and use our smart travel tools to bag yourself a bargain.

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How to travel Scandinavia on a budget was last modified: April 10th, 2017 by Kirsten McCroskrie
Author: Kirsten McCroskrie (88 posts)

Scottish-born London dweller who uses any chance she gets to chase the sunshine. Most at home when sipping cocktails by the sea, but will always happily settle for a double-shot cappuccino in an inner-city hipster café...