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More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

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More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

Here are a few tips to add from our trip the first week of August 2014.

We enjoyed Norway in general, but without planning, we would have enjoyed it way less. The cost of most everything was outrageous compared even to being in the UK, where we were the first week of our trip. Feeling that most everything is too expensive to enjoy felt oppressive after a week. I am not a cruise enthusiast, but I can see why people visit Norway on a cruise boat or just do the Nutshell in a day from Oslo. If you are from the Pacific Northwest, it will feel very similar to home. If I was doing this again I would do the Norway in a Nutshell, then visit Sweden as, amazing as it sounds, the cost is much more reasonable,

Norway is incredibly expensive for everything - if you are using the USD. Be prepared not to eat out - even an ice cream cone is $5 USD, hamburger with no fries about $20. Get breakfast at your hotel - it is likely the nicest affordable meal you will get while on vacation in Norway,

Oslo hotels do not have air conditioning, and almost no ventilation. Hotel windows may not open more than a few inches. If it is nice outside you will likely be frying inside of museums and your hotel, so be prepared.

Bring an umbrella for frequent but passing rain storms. We had to buy one and it cost $28 but was worth every penny to enjoy the folk museum which is mostly outside.

Bring food with you like granola bars, etc, to keep you going. We brought almond butter, Starbucks Via coffee packets, crackers, trail mix and granola bars. We also brought a small insulated flask that we filled with hot water. Renting a car for travel outside of Oslo was a good value with two of us.

The Oslo Pass worked really well for us, although some of the museums on it are not very interesting or are free anyway. If you stay downtown you will be walking distance from most everything. During our visit the trams and trains were having trouble due to the heat so the pass may or may not help with the transportation cost.

If you are planning to stay anywhere besides a hotel, and particularly outside of Oslo, bring twin sheets to save money. This saved us about $30 per night. Also note, doing laundry is expensive. In a camp ground $18 to wash and dry one load ourselves.

Be aware that anywhere that if you are not a tourist area, everything except mini-marts, will be closed on Sunday - everything! We ended up buying bread and jam to go with our peanutbutter at a mini-mart because everything, except one or two cafes, was closed. We were driving from Oslo to Lom, and when we arrived in Lom discovered that the grocery store was open, but again, everything else closed.

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1. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

"The cost of most everything was outrageous compared even to being in the UK"

Thanks a lot for your feedback, but with all due respect this statement is somewhat exaggerated to say the least.

I would be very surprised if the cost of hotels in Norway was more than the cost of an equivalent hotel in the UK, especially London. Perhaps you could give some examples. The cost of public transport in Norway is also significantly lower than in the UK, but perhaps you didn't use that.

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2. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

Always good to get feedback. Yes, few places will have air conditioning. You were incredibly lucky with the weather - this summer has been the hottest since records began - hence problem with rail and tram lines buckling. Air conditioning is rarely needed. However you'll find heating adequate wherever you go.

In restaurants and cafes remember tipping is not expected. If you are travelling in remote places for the scenery then don't expect to find a great choice in shops and services. In a place the size of Lom there probably are only a couple of cafes - the Bakeriet cafe http://www.bakerietilom.no is well worth a visit.

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3. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

I wish I were exaggerating. My husband is a CPA and I am a small business owner. We travel often out of the US. In the last year we have been in Germany, Austria, Turkey, Spain, England and now Norway. Our families lives in Ireland and in the Outer Hebrides, islands off the west coast of Scotland. I have lived in Sweden and have also been a tourist in 20 other countries, most of them in or surrounding Europe. We always do our own trip planning and research well in advance.

Norway's costs are way out of line with anywhere else we have visited in Europe. It's the choice of the Norwegian people how they set their pricing and we don't have to visit. We knew this going in so we were prepared for it - other visitors from the US who want to enjoy the scenery and not feel oppressed by the cost can do as we did and enjoy themselves as we did. By making well informed choices you can enjoy that $8 box of just picked raspberries while waiting for the ferry to come and wisk you across the fjord!

Here are just a few examples from only 3 weeks ago:

Our camping hut near Bergen was $120 per night, 30 min outside of town, bathroom was 1/2 block away across a road with traffic not from the camp ground. We had brought our own sheets from the US, otherwise it would have been $30 more, and we cleaned it our selves, which saved another $30. The cheapest hotel room we could find in Bergen town was about $178 per night, no breakfast. In London you can find B&B locations 30 min out of town for less that $100 USD per night with a bathroom and Breakfast. Inside of London I did find rooms for $120 per night in a hotel, not a camping hutter, with a real bed where I don't have to clean it myself or bring my own sheets.

You can book trains in England using Trainline.com - we went from Stanstead Airport to Birmingham Airport for about $18 USD - 3 hours on trains with 3 transfers. Our tram trip in Oslo from the National Theater to Frogner Park was 100 Nok each, one way, for a 20 min trip. In the metro stations only kiosks were open and if you do not have a chip and pin credit card you must buy from a convenience store or pay double in cash on the tram. Kiosks do not take cash. We did have the Oslo card for one day - we used it for the boat to the Fram Museum but not much other transport as everything was walking distance from our hotel.

Road tolls really added up on our trip from Oslo to Bergen and there was no warning that you were on a toll road until it was too late to get on it. I would recommend that, if you get a car, you find out where all the toll roads are, what they cost, and how to avoid them. The bill for the tolls does not come until after you are home - another unpleasant surprise if you aren't prepared.

Other surprises awaited at the Oslo airport regarding transportation before we had our car - our 4 minute (we timed it) ride from the airport to our hotel cost $12 per person. Our hotel advertised "airport transportation" but didn't bother to say it would cost us $24 one way for the two of us to get to the hotel, then another $24 to get back to the airport to pick up our car.

There are no water fountains in the airports we were at in Norway - Gardermoen and Rygge were the two we used. If you don't want to buy their $5 water once you throw yours away before going through security, then your only choice is the bathroom sink. In Heathrow, Stanstead and Birmingham airports there are water fountains to fill your water bottle once you are inside security.

The only bathroom inside the Oslo train station requires a credit card to go to the bathroom or to pay in cash for 10 tokens which you likely won't use as a visitor. If you do not have a chip and pin card you must use a debit card. This means a trip to the bathroom can cost about $4 with fees.

It isn't Norway's fault that the US has not adopted the chip and pin system widely, yet. It has made it inconvenient and more expensive for travelers from the US.

Comparison of the cost of a tube of crisps, crackers and cookies. One tube of digestives in

Sheffield, England was 75 pense or about $1.50, in Norway the same size tube of a Norwegian made digestive was nearly $5. Meal deal in England is about 4 pounds (about $7) for a sandwich, crisps, and a diet coke. Just the diet coke, or any other drink, in Norway is about $5. Our best meal deal in Norway was a Subway sandwich of the day - about $5 for a meal which we ate outside in the sun in a splendid park surrounded by flowers.

Most novel breakfast we had was at the giant IKEA store outside of Bergen. Great cheap breakfast, good coffee, and a maze of Scandinavian design. Beware, if you want something made in Norway, check the label. I bought a cloth book for my granddaughter - the tag said, IKEA, in small print, Made in Vietnam. Oh, well . . .

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4. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

"Our tram trip in Oslo from the National Theater to Frogner Park was 100 Nok each, one way, for a 20 min trip."

This is clearly wrong. A single ticket for public transport within Oslo costs 30 NOK when bought in advance (from convenience store or ticket machine), 50 NOK when bought on the tram/bus/metro (https:/…).

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5. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

Norway is certainly more expensive than most countries, and particularly for things that visitors pay for (such as eating and drinking out), and particularly in Oslo. But the reasons for this are less obvious. The main reason is that Norway is a very rich country, which means that wages are higher, for instance 30-40 % higher than in Sweden (which certainly also a rich country). Wages are also more compressed such that low skill jobs such as waiting in cafes or driving taxi are relatively well paid. Finalley special taxes on alcohol, tobacco, petrol and cars adds to prices.

On the other hand you pay only the price listed (no hidden additions). And the best things are free of charge, such as general safety, a very orderly society, fresh air, nature.

Air condition is rare in Norway because it is of very little use (except a couple of weeks this unusual summer, but even then I slept well with window open).

When I travel abroad I don't expect things to be like at home.

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6. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

You have obviously done a lot of planning and have a remarkable memory or records of costs, but unfortunately you made some expensive choices in how to arrange your trip.

I'm not sure it's fair to compare a B+B on the outskirts of London with a hotel in central Bergen. Water out of any bathroom tap in Norway will be just as good as any bottled or fountain water. You have to pay to go to the toilet in London and many other UK train stations - nearly everywhere else it's free both in the UK and Norway. A 24 hour travel pass in Oslo would have cost NOK80 or so, far cheaper than London and much better services. Hotel breakfasts in Norway always an extensive, unlimited buffet so you don't need to buy expensive snacks the rest of the day.. The very few hotels that don't include breakfast are to cater for people who can't face breakfast in the morning and are rarely better value for money than places where it is included. Train fares in the UK are incredibly complicated, but yes they can be low if you can book far enough in advance and travel to the limited number of places where they are available. Standard fares are outrageous compared to standard fares in Norway. Fares booked in advance in Norway are very reasonable and with a very simple fare structure.

Anyway, enough said. Obviously you were left with the feeling that everything was very expensive according to your needs, but I think you have made some rather exaggerated general claims that don't stand up to scrutiny.

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7. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

I need to comment on the tap water in case future visitors read this post. Even though you cannot find water fountains at the airports, you can walk over to any of the cafe/restaurants/bars and ask them to fill up your bottle. I do this frequently and my requests for water have never been rejected.

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8. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

Just in case any other travellers read this, and remember even Norwegians find prices for the smaller things in life high too so we know how to make some savings - here are some tips.

Don't buy groceries in a petrol station or a convenience store - prices are double those in a supermarket (biscuits costing USD 5 are not supermarket prices)

Make a sandwich pack for lunch and petrol station coffee is reasonable.

You cannot avoid toll roads - but what you can avoid is car hire companies charging you a service fee for paying your tolls - pay them yourself - http://www.autopass.no/en/visitors-payment.

Cabins suit people staying a few days - you only pay one linen charge and do (or pay for) one cleaning per stay. Taking your own sheet sleeping bag avoids the linen charge and doesn't weigh much or take much room. Self catering also saves you some money and anyway in remote places there isn't much in the way of restaurants.

Avoid airport hotels - apart from the shuttle fares for those off-site, they are expensive and restrict you to eating in their expensive restaurants - the train trip to the city takes only 20 min, so you are not saving any time.

Don't forget that what you are paying in remote tourist area lodging and restaurants has to tide them over the 9 months of the year when there aren't any tourists - and no tips are expected.

Get credit card and debit cards that don't charge high fees for foreign transactions - I think I have read that Capital One card is good. Chip and pin is common throughout Europe - get one!

Edited: 18 August 2014, 20:20
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9. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

More Norway on a budget:

visitnorway.com/us/…

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10. Re: More advice for Oslo travelers, especially in summer

I've been back from a most amazing 5 days in norway just a few days ago.

By doing just a little bit of preparation, we were able to have the most awesome time with just 150 eur per person per day (incl. everything- food, acco, transport, and even flight charges added in).

- Book the cheap cabins in place of hotels.

- Book the cabins with kitchen and cook your meal. We made our own breakfast and dinner and ate out for lunch

- Rent a car; when traveling in a group (like we did) this is more cost-effective than public transport, plus allows to make the drives and stoppages lot more flexible.