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Potential money saying options in Norway – Hotel and Car Rental

Just returned from 5 days in Norway at the end of a summer trip to E Europe (Belarus, Odessa-Ukraine, Chisinau-Moldova, Iasi-Romania). Will do a trip report for those few interested in that part of the world. Detailing out what I did for hotels and car rental if it helps others in the future.

In Norway, all but one of our nights were spent in Choice hotels which have many different brands (Comfort inn, Comfort Suite, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion). What I discovered is that one brand provides not only a full breakfast but also dinner as part of the room rate. This is only for the “Clarion Collection” hotels. Given how expensive Norway is for room & board, this could be a great way to save money.

Paying for the room – While I could have paid cash for the rooms, I investigated what the rooms would cost if I used points. I joined the Choice Hotels program and checked how many points I could get for opening a credit card which wasn’t bad (32,000 pts). However, Choice hotels frequently sells points using promotions where bonus points are awarded based on how many you purchase. I ended up getting a total of 70,000 pts for a total of $550 (there was a 40% bonus if buying 50k points).

Most of the hotels I booked cost either 16000 pts/night or had a Cash and Points rate of 6,000 points + $75 copay. This meant that I effectively paid $122/night for these hotels. I considered this a good price to begin with before including a full dinner that one could take advantage of.

Caveats/Lessons Learned
- Only the Clarion collection hotels seems to have the dinner option. Do check and confirm if going this route. My first night in Bergen I booked an Ascend Collection hotel and found out late that dinner was not included
- Not all locations will have a Clarion Collection hotel – for example, the only property in Sogndal was a Quality inn
- Don’t buy points speculatively. Only buy if you know you are going to use them
- Choice hotels do limit the point you can purchase on an annual basis though for couples, you can open two accounts and therefore buy twice the amount of points, if needed
- I like the Cash and Points options since the cost works out the same as using all points. HOWEVER, note that the cash portion of this reservation is non-refundable should you cancel the reservation. This was only noted after I completed the booking and got a confirmation
- Due to our travel schedules, we only got to try out dinner once and it was very good. This was at the Hotel Folketeateret in Oslo. Dinner consisted of two types of salad, one soup, grilled vegetables, and all the fixings for a chicken gyro. Dessert was not included. Soft drinks/wine/beer were extra.
- Choice hotels are not limited just to Norway and are also available in other parts of Scandinavia. I believe the dinner option may be available at the other Clarion Collection hotels in those countries too.

Posted by
1497 posts

Car Rental
If spreading the NIN over multiple days, I would recommend getting a rental car especially if there are 3 or more folks. I had a great experience renting from Hertz out of Kaupanger. I started in Bergen and did the train to Voss and bus to Gudvangen before taking the car ferry to Kaupanger. I had looked at other rentals too (Baelstrand, Sogndal) but got a great rate from Hertz and they seemed to be the only one with an office in Kaupanger – though their office is about 3 km from the ferry terminal.

I had called Hertz a few weeks prior to the pickup to confirm they would have an Automatic and they offered to come pick me up from the ferry terminal which was a huge help as it was raining when we arrived and I didn’t see any taxis and the bus to Sogndal would only come much later (there were quite a few folks that were doing this circuit as a variation of the NIN trip – from here they were taking a bus to Sogndal followed by another bus to Leikanger and then a fast ferry back to Bergen). The gentleman from Hertz picked us up with all our luggage, drove to the office and had our car ready and just handed us the keys. Since I had a Hertz account, there wasn’t any paperwork – I just got in the car (RAV 4 Hybrid) and off we went especially since I was trying to make the earliest Hella-Dragsvik ferry since we had a long drive ahead of us.

I ended up dropping off the rental car at the gas station in Leikanger (which is a Hertz drop off) so that I could then take the fast ferry to Flam. The only thing I had to account for is that the drop off is about 3+ km from the ferry so needed to call a cab for this and had to allow ample time since I dropped it off on a Sunday and most things were closed. If doing this again and if it wasn’t on the weekend, I would probably drop in Sogndal and take a bus to Leikanger to meet the ferry – the Hertz office and bus terminal are very close.

Some data points: 2-day rental with all taxes and a small drop off fee and the minor road tax came to $212. Gas came out to be about $90 for driving about 730 kms. These do not include the additional 4-5 ferries I took the car on. Since there were 4 of us, the total per person was quite cheap (IMO) and gave us the freedom to stop and sightsee as we pleased and allowed us to cover significant ground in a short amount of time.

Posted by
838 posts

I eagerly await your "Eastern Europe Report", although the accommodations in that region are of secondary importance, at least to me. I'm more interested in that region as a source of cultural interest. I hope your report is forthcoming.

Posted by
4355 posts

Some points on points: I also got the Choice card, plus some work trip finagling to get the 8000 point bonuses, for Choice hotels in Norway. The Clarion Collection in Trondheim was fabulous, the free dinner was 4 kinds of pizza, 3 kinds of fish, many pasta or lettuce salads, 7 or 8 breads, several flat breads, 10 cheeses, really like a holiday feast, and all free. Breakfast was again about 40 different items, also a feast. The Choice breakfasts in the US are like a soup kitchen in comparison.

Anyway wanted to say that the choice $75 plus points isn't nonrefundable, what you are doing is using the $75 to buy enough points for a points reservation. Cancel it, and you get those points you bought deposited in your account. Some people book dummy reservations with points/$ then immediately cancel them because it is a cheaper way to buy points.

Posted by
2048 posts

Hi Arnold, looking forward to your trip report. Our first visit to Norway was July 2018, beautiful country. We enjoyed it so much we booked another trip! FYI, the Thon Hotels also offer complimentary breakfast and dinner.

Posted by
1497 posts

So good to know the Thon hotels also has the dinner in the price.

Thanks Tom for noting that if one cancels the Cash and points, the 75$ gets converted into points - will keep this in mind for the future.

Posted by
60 posts

Great post and responses. The new knowledge will help me strategize better for my next trip. Question about Thon hotels, though. Wondering now if I missed a rate when booking which included dinner given Donna's post. I stayed in the Thon Opera in Oslo in May; breakfast was included but dinner was not.

Posted by
3035 posts

Thanks for this information! The Thon hotels don’t include dinner, only breakfast. We stayed at the Thon Hotel Panorama in Oslo, no dinner included.
We just did 10 days in Norway and I posted a trip report on this forum.
We loved Norway!

Posted by
1829 posts

Really interesting that this hotel chain includes dinner.
Thanks for all of the details of how the system worked.

Posted by
5828 posts

I stay at the Thon Hotel Astoria when in Oslo. Breakfast is included but not dinner.

Norwegain mountain guest houses often offer meal plan options from breakfast only to full board. Hotels with half board or full board options are usually located in areas where dinner meal options are non-existant or limited.

Posted by
2048 posts

We stayed at the Thon Hotel Orion in Bergen July 2018 and both breakfast and dinner were included. I checked several other Thon Hotels - Thon Rosenkrantz in Oslo and Thon Terminus in Oslo and their websites say that they also include an evening meal. I guess you need to check with the specific hotel. This was the first time we used the Thon Hotel chain and we were very happy with the accommodations. The hotel was in a good location, near shops and steps away from where we boarded our cruise ship.