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  • Joshua Liston

Visiting Norway on a Budget

How to Live Cheap in Norway

In the heart of the Nordic summer, I embarked on an epic Scandinavian adventure that spanned forty days and forty nights. This was no ordinary vacation; it was a journey through the breathtaking landscapes of Scandinavia, particularly the stunning yet pricey Southern Norway. Unlike the typical images of Norway filled with majestic fjords, towering mountains, and unparalleled outdoor activities, my summer saga unfolded in the flatter, yet equally mesmerizing regions where the absence of mountains is compensated by a wealth of cultural experiences and the stark reality of high living costs.

During my winter visit to Norway, I had braced myself for the steep prices, but returning in the summer, the inflation hit me harder than a Norse hammer. The cost of a simple meal, a humble cheeseburger paired with a refreshing beer, could easily set you back $20. Dining out in Norway quickly became a luxury affair, prompting a deeper exploration into the art of living frugally in one of the world's most expensive countries.

Fortune smiled upon me as I found solace and savings by staying with my fiancée at her mother's home. This not only saved us from the exorbitant costs of hotels, hostels, or Airbnbs but also gave us access to a kitchen—a game-changer for anyone looking to navigate Norway on a budget. The local grocery stores, while reflecting the country's high cost of living, revealed that with a keen eye, one could still find affordable shopping options. Brands like First Price became my beacon of hope, offering a range of products from frozen pizzas to pantry staples, all at prices that didn't require a Viking's ransom.

The culinary challenges of traveling in Scandinavia led to creative solutions. Armed with local ingredients like a robust loaf of bread, a tube of mayonnaise, and a block of the iconic Norwegia cheese, I mastered the art of preparing simple, satisfying meals. This not only helped stretch our budget but also added a delicious dimension to our Scandinavian adventure. The indispensable Norwegian cheese slicer, the ostehøvel, became a symbol of our culinary ingenuity, a tool that no traveler in Norway should be without.

Our quest for affordability took us beyond Norway's borders, into the welcoming arms of Sweden. Just a short drive away, Swedish grocery stores offered a sanctuary from Norway's sky-high prices. There, our dollars stretched further, turning a routine shopping trip into a treasure hunt for the best deals. This cross-border shopping strategy became our secret weapon, allowing us to enjoy a rich array of Scandinavian foods without breaking the bank.

Transportation in Scandinavia proved to be a breeze, thanks to the region's efficient mass transit systems, bikeshare programs, and e-scooter options. The highlight of our travels was the ferry ride from Fredrikstad, Norway, to Stromstad, Sweden. This wasn't just a means of transportation; it was an experience, a moment to savor the beauty of the Scandinavian coast, indulge in duty-free shopping, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a beer against the backdrop of the sea.

However, the journey wasn't without its challenges. My attempt to switch from cigarettes to vaping met an unexpected obstacle in Norway's ban on nicotine in vape juice. This regulation, peculiar yet reflective of Norway's commitment to public health, prompted a side quest to Sweden, where regulations were more relaxed.

It takes about an hour and a half between the two cities, and it’s a great time to unwind and relax with a beer while you look out at the ocean and remote homesteads on the islands you pass by along the way. Since it’s an international ferry, they sell tax-free or duty-free items like chocolate and tobacco too! Even in the off season, a round trip on the Sagasund between Fredrikstad and Stromstad costs about $15 USD and is always a fun adventure. If my memory serves me correctly, I bought a carton of cigarettes and brunch for two with beer for about $50 USD.

Navigating the Nordic countries, with their stunning landscapes, high living costs, and unique regulations, was an adventure of a lifetime. It was a tale of discovery, of finding joy in the simple pleasures of Scandinavian life, and of learning to adapt to the challenges of traveling in one of the world's most beautiful yet expensive regions. The journey from Norway to Sweden, the culinary adventures, and the endless summer nights are chapters in a story that continues to unfold. As we set our sights on Gothenburg for our next adventure, the narrative of our Scandinavian saga is far from over. Stay tuned for more tales of exploration, adaptation, and the indomitable spirit of adventure that defines the Scandinavian experience.


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