Norway: On a Shoestring Budget

Budget Flights to Norway?

Yes! Norwegian Air is becoming more well-known these days in North America due to the news of cheap-as-chips trans-Atlantic flights. Well, I booked one from NYC JFK to Bergen for about $200 USD back in 2015, which was and still is an extremely affordable way to get to mainland Europe. I still use Skyscanner, of course, where finding the cheapest days to travel is easier than the Norwegian website. Click the image below and search “United States” to “Norway,” and select “cheapest month.” Then, boom, so many options. 

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Click here to search flights

Norway as a Budget Destination?

Again, yes! I spend about $50 US per day over a week, but could have spent less by skipping the train ride and first night in a hostel and restaurant meals. But you have to be happy with modesty and be ready to push your comfort zone. Everything is expensive compared to North America and other parts of Europe, therefore don’t spend any money! Hitchhiking works well and there are plenty of Couchsurfing hosts. The keys are to bring a tent and seek out some beautiful campsites and buy food and grocery stores!

My only initial travel plans were the flight and the first night in Bergen, Norway this hostel. Beautiful views and a local shop nearby the that hostel, but it was far away from the city centre. I would recommend the YMCA hostel in the town, where I had a look-about.  

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Waterfront Bergen

20 June 2015
Bergen, Norway

After much trepidation and apprehension, I arrive at the hostel in the lovely small city of Bergen, and my first steps every in Europe. I felt  that this is a good place to be; in a new city not knowing anyone, and unaccustomed to a place where people don’t speak English unless they find out your are an English-speaking tourist. A sense of the adventurous unknown permeates.

Staring up at Mt. Ulriken I find myself refreshingly chilled after spending a sweltering June working outdoors in the Southern U.S. The hill does portray a sense of intimidation, steep and covered in equal numbers of evergreen conifers and deciduous trees. After wandering the city centre on foot and seeing the beauty of the old buildings and laneways, I appreciate the liveability of the town. From my first impression, Bergen has two distinct architectural sides; an old colonial style and an angular, modernist type done with taste. However I do wish I had a local to show me about.

View from my hostel in Bergen
View of Bergen from my hostel

Nearing the end of the first day though, I remember that I am on a mission and seeking to travel cheap and not pay for the expensive Norwegian hostels, especially with a tent and sleeping bag in my backpack. My friend Torrey recommended the year before that I would love the town of Voss (where the fancy bottled water is indeed from). I purchased a train ticket for the next morning.

 Couchsurfing

This is a popular option in Scandinavia for budget travellers. I reached out to a number of hosts in Bergen, but to no avail. On the next visit to Norway I will certainly try again when I stay in the towns. The reason being not just for free accommodation, but to have local’s insight, which, to me, is more important. 

21 June 2015
Near Odda, Norway

This whole day was defined as one of adventurous spontaneity and of following my instinctive mindset. I left Bergen for Voss on one of the typical clean, streamlined Scandinavian trains. I had the intention of setting up camp in Voss, but arrived to find the town bustling with an extreme sports festival.

Upon asking a passing couple for advice on where to sleep; I find the two to be American, a brother and sister tandem from New York. After chatting to Andre and Alli I learn that Voss is not the place to try and camp for free due to the festival and many others looking to do the same. Andre and Alli invite me to hitchhike with them out of town. I agree to attempt knowing that the likelihood of a threesome getting a ride is always slim. But I would learn some surprises from Norway.

Typical scenery along Norway's roads
Typical scenery along Norway’s roads

After an hour waiting outside of town, a local man from Odda pulled over. He was a hardware store clerk in Odda, where we were heading. The drive through fjords and was breathtaking and awe-inspiring, noticing our wonder, our hospitable driver took some side roads and showed off his home country. I sat and stared in silence at glaciers and cliffs. Our driver, name now forgotten, seemed vicariously cheerful at our amazement.

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Camp at Trolltunga trailhead

He dropped us on a one-way mountain road leading up to the trailhead of the famous Trolltunga hike. We walked a few kilometres up the road and found a few others camped besides a clear reservoir and sheer rock faces. Such an eventful day and turnaround after waking up in the hostel in Bergen. Sometimes you have no idea where you will end up if you do not make plans.

Andre stoking the fire at camp near the Trolltunga
Andre stoking the fire at camp near the Trolltunga

Freedom Camping

 In Norway this is one of the major perks of travelling here for those happy to sleep in their own tents . The unspoken rule is that you can camp almost anywhere as long as you don’t have to jump a fence to get there. And there are plenty of park lands available for camping.  Respect people’s private property, but often the kind people will let you camp if you ask. Further always abide by Leave No Trace principles no matter where you go, so freedom camping can continue for others!

22 June 2015
Odda, Norway

Awaking in the shadow of the Trolltunga hike; me, Andre, and Ali set out on the road-less-traveled route up to the top of the fjord. The goal was to venture up the side of the cliffs on a rebar latter set into the stone, referred to as steigklettern. We all had climbing harnesses and two carabiners to stay safely attached as you climbed up.

approaching the steigklettern
approaching the steigklettern

 

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Andre looking up during a steigklettern
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Looking up at the steigklettern
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Trolltunga!

Upon summitting up and over the ledge, we found a meter of snow lying in all directions. We tramped through that, sometimes post-holing, to the famous Trolltunga (Troll’s tongue), a rock ledge precariously pitched over an idyllic valley- the definition of picturesque.

Up over the ledge
Up over the ledge
View from the same valley from a higher vantage
View from the same valley from a higher vantage

After a long lunch break basking in the view and watching other hikers take pictures, we ventured on the trek downhill back to the trailhead. All in all it took 11 hours to complete the circuit, but the day was not finished. We caught a taxi bus down the mountain and into the lovely town of Odda.

There we found a stealth camping site on a forested edge of town, taking advantage of the freedom camping allowed in Norway (or at least part of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy).

Hiking the Trolltunga

The Trolltunga is one of the most iconic walks in Norway and maybe all of Europe. But it is not without its dangers, a few months after our trek, a young tourist fell to her demise. When hiking in precipitous country, make sure to stay alert and aware. I’ve seen many people forget and walk backwards up on fjord cliffs for a good picture. Stay safe; and also prepare for snow hiking at all times of year in Norway.

23 June 2015
Rennesay Kommune, Norway

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Church in Odda

Awaking to activity at the bus terminal at the camp in Odda, the three of us had a lovely coffee at a cafe in Odda recommend by our likeable driver from two days before. We later found his hardware store and went in to say “thank you” in person. Over coffee and pondering, the three of us decide to head toward Stavanger again by thumbing. This proceeded to be a full day of catching rides.

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Beautiful spot to hitch

Nonetheless incredibly impressive that we even got one, considering there were three of us.
The first ride brought us to the edge of town to a better spot, the next was a young women loudly blaring a Nickelback album about 10 kilometres. At that spot (below) was one of the most beautiful hitchhiking destinations to wait. We tossed the frisbee there which, I believe, encouraged a young Norwegian kayaker returning from Voss to pick us up. He dropped us at Knappsund, and shortly after another fellow brought us to the ferry to cross the Stavanger fjord. For a daily total the three of us caught 5 rides from 5 different Norwegians on this day; a strong testament to their overwhelming hospitality.

Ferry across Stavanger Fjord
Ferry across Stavanger Fjord

In the well-lit evening we had to walk along the road for an hour or so before we found a public park area where we could set up camp. The location was again incredible. With curious sheep grazing around we slept on green pastures overlooking a dark bay.

Walking through dusk to find a camping sight
Walking through dusk to find a camping sight

24 June 2015
Stavanger, Norway

Awaking in the field to sheep’s faces staring into the tent, we made our way into the city of Stavanger by obtaining a ride by a young teacher. She dropped us in the city centre and there we walked into quaint small city for a lunchtime meal. Leisurely visiting and eating, I forget to check the train schedule to Oslo. Venturing to the train and bus terminal, I find that I have missed both modes of transit to get me to Oslo in time for my scheduled flight to London. Oops.

Campsite in the Rennesay Kommune region
Campsite in the Rennesay Kommune region
Quant laneways!
Quaint laneways!

As a last ditch effort, I checked Norwegian Air’s website for flights. I saw one cheap one departing in just a couple of hours from Stavanger to Oslo Gardermoen. Bidding adieu to my new friends Andre and Ali glad that fate allowed us to meet, I left for Oslo.

25 June 2015
London, England, UK

I arrived in the Oslo City Centre from the flight from Stavanger late that evening and began searching for the Pride Festival where I would meet my friend Olav, whom I met the year previous in Australia. After a hour of wandering, I found the festival and entered into the park awkwardly with my trekking gear on my back and personal stuff on my front. I must have looked out-of-place to the revellers. I met Olav and through the crowd I saw a familiar face, Stephen, whom I met in Luang Prabang, Laos 6 months previous but failed to exchange contact information. And here we meet again in Oslo! Truly a small world. I visited with the jovial character that Stephen is before returning to Olav’s flat for a short nap before venturing to the lost-cost carrier Rygge airport.

Oslo lit by midnight light
Oslo lit by midnight light

Again Olav’s hospitality and generosity was representative of the general feeling from nearly every person in Norway.

From this point of record as I sat in London writing at my friend Yannick’s home, I recalled the adventure in Norway with such fondness. A whirlwind and just a quick taste of the people, the picturesque settlements, and the scenery. And, as always, transcribing events from my journal makes my wanderlust grow, but, more importantly, I remember the people with whom I shared those events and made the experience unique the memory fond.

Happy times in Norway!
Happy times in Norway!

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