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Trip costs in Norway - independent travel or on a tour/cruise

My wife has Norwegian ancestors, and would like to do a trip there. We have heard that costs in Scandinavia overall are high.

Does it make as much sense to travel independently in Norway or are cruises/tours better? We are experienced independent travelers in general

Posted by
904 posts

I just completed a DIY trip. You might take a look at Norway in a Nutshell, the route between Oslo and Bergen that gives various options for train(s), fjord and bus routes - ultimately arriving at either city . There are options for stops along the way or a one day journey. The route is easily booked through the NIN agency, but you can also book each leg of the journey by yourself. It is all a public transit route. That might be a good place to start looking, especially if you prefer not to rent a car.

There are train routes or ferries to many of the Norwegian towns/regions that might interest travelers.

Our trip was simple, involving a flight into Oslo, train to Bergen, Bergen and some day trips including a fjord cruise. 9 nights total for what we wanted to experience in those cities.

I didn't price out the difference between a cruise or self-tour. If you do the self-tour, look at the Rodne and Hurtigruten websites for options for short cruises you can book yourself. As experienced independent travelers, Norway will be easy!

Food is expensive. We found we were spending the USD equivalent of about $35 - 45 for a main dish at a "relaxing, nice", but not expensive-by-Scandinavian standards sort of place We found many Indian and Italian places lower in price than seafood or "traditional" sort of places. They were popular!

The Norway TripAdvisor board is quite active with lots of itinerary questions and good answers. You might want to look there also.

Personally, I prefer DIY because I can see what I want to see, not what is determined to be of general interest. Some of my ancestors were Danish - the big advantage I've found in searching the Danish familial roots on several Denmark journeys was that I could get to small towns by train or rental car. A Norwegian cruise may not hit these places if your wife would like to truly see the villages or areas or cities her ancestors came from.

Norway was very, very easy do independently and to research. This was my first trip there. English was well spoken all over. It is a virtually cashless country. I had no problems with our US Master or Visa cards. I could book train tickets in advance using PayPal. The website doesn't work with US credit cards - they make that clear and suggest PayPal.

Posted by
3059 posts

ORDtraveler: Thanks for those comments. Very helpful indeed.

Have you any notion of your per diem costs for your trip?

Posted by
642 posts

We are going for 18 days next month. The cost for travel insurance, hotels, two day tours (train and fjord), flight, dinner at one hotel, and the car rental is $6394.10. Unknown additional costs include food, gas, maybe more insurance for car rental, and parking at MSP. Several of our hotels include breakfast, and we have a few others where we can prepare our own meals. I am budgeting an extra $900 for gas, $1800 for food, and $300 each for additional insurance and parking.

Posted by
2526 posts

I made 5 trips to Norway independently with my own car and was happy with that.

Travelling independently is easy going in Norway because most people speak English and also a lot of written information and explanations at sights are available in English language.

If you think of renting a car three tips:
1) One-way rentings can be very expensively.
2) If you plan a longer Scandinavian trip the car rental in Copenhagen is much cheaper.
3) Cars are not welcome in Scandinavian cities - often you do not find parking options and if they are expensive. On landside there is nearly no option.

Posted by
8504 posts

I just completed a 15 day Norwegian cruise as a solo traveler in a balcony cabin. My daily cost, inclusive of all expenses except airfare, was $160/day. I did find an exceptionally good price on the cruise (Princess). I don’t think I could have visited Norway more economically.

I saw wonderful scenery and explored ports as far North as the North Cape. It was amazing. What I didn’t get to do was have very much interaction with Norwegians themselves. I found myself considering this a “Norwegian Sampler” that gave me a taste of Norway but not the full meal.
However, when I read land based plans, I notice they are also just sampling. Few ever venture beyond the southern part of the country and the Norway in a nutshell track.

I hope you find a way to visit Norway that works the best for your family.

Posted by
4599 posts

Mnannie: There’s no way you will spend $900 on gas, maybe just a quarter of that. Rent a hybrid.

Posted by
7813 posts

We love Norway, but it was, from my experience the most expensive country in Europe, even more than Switzerland.

I remember on our first visit to Norway, we were on a cruise that stopped in Bergen and had previously stopped in Portugal.

I paid less than one Euro for a beer in Portugal (this was about 8 years ago) and for a beer in Bergen, Norway it was the equivalent of 8 Euro.

We did a wonderful cruise up the coast of Norway to the North Cape, stopping at six ports. Great way to see the fjords. We had wonderful tours (not from the ship, but private). Best part, not having to unpack. Also, on the cruise ship we had all our meals provided as well as entertainment and up to three alcoholic drinks per day.

Prior to the cruise we spent some time in Stockholm and Copenhagen (not as expensive as Norway, but not cheap either).

Posted by
6532 posts

I'm also very sceptical that a cruise would save you any money. It will most likely cost more, and tie you to what the cruise thinks you should see/where they are allowed to go.

I am budgeting an extra $900 for gas

If you're planning on driving that much you should probably rent an electric car.

Posted by
8504 posts

I find it fascinating that while I was able to provide actual data, less than a month old, that cruising in Norway can be done quite economically, a forum member immediately announces it can’t be done.

There are trade offs in all travel decisions. The key is not to think that your preferences are the ones everyone else should have and project negatively, just because.

The OP should simply weigh the pros and cons of all travel modes and costs and find the choice that works well for him , his travel style, and budget. Whatever your choice, I hope you make it to Norway. It is a beautiful country.

Posted by
4599 posts

Carol: The question was whether a cruise is more economical than a car rental situation.

Extrapolating from my 5 year old figures, and my experience that Norway can be visited for about 10% more than Germany or France, that $120/person/day could be achieved by 2 traveling together. This assumes using apartments and cabins, and avoiding expensive food options when out, and eating snacks out of a car when all options are expensive.

I don’t think $160/day each is that economical ($320 for 2) for the main part of the country, but I know that many budget $250/day each for Italy and think that’s average.

I am envious that you saw the far north, as it is expensive and time consuming to see that. For a person traveling alone and seeing what you saw $160 is a good price.

Posted by
642 posts

Mnannie: There’s no way you will spend $900 on gas, maybe just a quarter of that. Rent a hybrid.

Whew! I remembered tolls and ferry fees need to go into that $900, so I should be good. We rented a Vitara and plan to drive about 2600 km.

Posted by
27349 posts

I went to Norway last summer; I used only public transportation, including two overnight segments on Hurtigruten coastal ferries. Whether a cruise would be cheaper than a land-based trip depends to a large extent on:

  • Whether you get a great deal on the cruise.
  • Your standards for cruise cabins vs. hotel rooms.
  • Whether you'd sign up for cruise excursions or take the do-it-yourself approach.
  • Whether you'd be willing to drive during the trip and stay in less popular towns (and how many people would be sharing the car).

Non-fast-food restaurants in Norway are very expensive. I believe alcohol in restaurants is even more expensive, but I'm a non-drinker and cannot cite specific costs.

Food in supermarkets is not too out of line with what I pay at home. Cheese, smoked salmon, eggs, fruit were all reasonable. Taking full advantage of the good supermarket prices requires access to a refrigerator, which not all the least expensive hotels have.

Oslo hotels can be comparatively reasonable in the summer; I guess business travel drops at that time of year. In Bergen and the popular rural areas, especially places accessible via public transportation, too much demand is chasing too little supply. In the hotel part of the lodging market, budget options such as you'd find in most other countries (very small rooms, laminate furniture, no breakfast) seem not to exist. You're likely to be forced into at least a standard, business-class hotel. It's not easy to find a centrally located single room at less than $140 per night. You will of course pay more for something a little special, a place in Flam, etc.

It seems that travelers are resisting the hotel rates, resuIting in creation of some chains of hotels offering very little serice--no front desk, no cleaning service without paying fee, etc.

Breakfast is usually included in the room rate (not in the no-service hotels) and not something you can opt out of, which is one reason the floor for room rates is as high as it is. On the plus side, those breakfasts are usually large, and the quality of the components is relatively high.

Train fares can be rather high if you don't buy in advance or qualify for the senior discount. Buses, too, are not a trivial expense.

Posted by
3059 posts

Thanks to all for your very interesting comments. It helps quite a bit. We don't have plans at this time for a visit, but as we are aging, we will have to decide to within the next 10 years. We'll probably do our normal approach - independent travel with thorough plans for hotels, etc.

Posted by
3289 posts

In 2018, our family of 4 went to Norway for 10 days. It cost approximately $11,000 not including airfare. My trip report is somewhere on this forum.