I keep reading about needing to bring sheets and towels, yet were going to try to travel light. any suggestions? do we need pillows? do they provide blankets? the prices in Norway etc seem so high for hotels, were going to try a few hostels, but I havent done that in 30 yrs!
It depends on the hostel, but I just got back from a trip in Scandinavia staying in hostels and it seems to be more likely that they charge a higher-than-normal fee for sheet rental (okay, so it's maybe 7 euros, but that adds up). I brought along a set of 15 euro sheets and then "donated" them to a lost and found box at the end.
Even if your hostel gives you free sheets, the towel will probably cost 10 crowns to rent, so those travel towels are great.
Even hostels are kind of pricey in Norway! I can recommend the Perminalen Hotel/Hostel in Oslo, which is really pricey for a hostel, but the service was great, they even packed me a breakfast the day I had to leave too early for theirs. The Bergen YMCA was fine too, and had the added benefit of having a kitchen.
I haven't been to Norway, but I did stay in Ireland for 2 months and I never had to pay for pillows, sheets or blankets - they were always provided. You did alwayas have to pay for a towel though, so I brought one of those travel towels. They dry pretty fast and were small enough to put in a back pack. If you go to hostelworld.com, and look up the places you want to stay, the hostels will outline what is included in the stay.
I'm still looking for the hostel that doesn't provide sheets. The hostels I stay at are HI hostels, I pick the ones that seem quieter (rather than party hostels). We traveled a few years ago, planning to stay almost exclusively at hostels, and never needed our bed bags once.
My advice, don't bring them. Even if you run into the very rare hostel that doesn't include free bedding, they will have it available for a couple dollars.
A pillow is a different story. I don't bring one because I pack light. If a pillow will make a big difference to you, however, you might want to consider bringing something with you. Hostel pillows aren't that great.
Pillow = jacket/sweater wadded up in a stuff bag.
Traveling light is relative. If you're going to Germany, the HI hostels there that are part of DJH provide sheets free. In the summer of 2009 I stayed at 3 HI hostels in Germany (ate dinner at three more without staying there): all of them provided sheets (Bettwaesche), the pillow is on the bed. Tuck it under the sheet or a pillow case is part of the sheets package. The 2 independent hostels also provided sheets as a matter of course,
towels can be rented.
It's not like doing the hostel thing back in the '70s and '80s when you had to bring your towel and your own linen sack to sleep in...I know.
Because of the resurgence in bed bugs around the world, you will find many hostels actually forbid use of your own bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets sleep sacks or sleeping bags). In a full year of travel around the world, I only encountered one hostel that did not provide bedding for free and that hostel wasn't even in Europe. That particular hostel did, however, rent bedding and linens for a low charge (about $2 per night).
What is not so common is getting a bath towel or a washcloth. A microfiber towel from a camping store (while not plush and comfy) is a worthwhile investment as it will dry quick and takes up almost no space.
On another note, pack a pair of cheap plastic flip flops to wear in the showers which are typically less than sparkling clean, and if you are a light sleeper, a pair of earplugs can be handy to have in a shared hostel room or if your private hostel room happens to be located in a high traffic area (ie, near the front door or the bathroom). An eye mask can also block out unwanted light when bunk mates come in late at night or you have a room with very sheer curtains.
I do pack a towel. I found a great microfiber towel as part of a car wash set at Costco (3 mitts and 2 towels for about $6). It's much better than "travel" towels I bought online for $20.