How to Travel Scandinavia on a Budget
Updated: May 3
Lured in by impressively cheap flight tickets, we ended up booking a ten-day trip to one of the most expensive regions in the world, Scandinavia! After doing extensive research, we developed an itinerary that would take us through parts of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, but from the get-go, there were concerns about how much the trip would cost. As a couple of self-described flashpackers, we generally stick to cheap travel destinations, but we were determined to make it work and by taking some money-saving measures, we managed to have a great trip away on a relatively small budget. To help you plan your trip to Scandinavia on a budget, we have compiled a list of our best money-saving tips for the region.
1.) Use Public Transport
The countries which make up Scandinavia are well known for their fantastic public transport systems, consisting of well-organised networks of trains, trams, and buses, which operate within and between major cities in the region. Compared to renting a car or using taxis, public transport is a lot cheaper and often just as efficient.
If you are in an area for at least a day or two it may be worth getting a local travel card, which can be used on public transport for discounted or free fares. If you would prefer to avoid the crowds, many cities offer bicycle and electronic scooter rental for a reasonable price. It may seem intimidating at first, but the public transport in the region is very well organised and the locals are friendly and willing to help.
2.) Hit the Pavement
As mentioned before, car rental and taxis can be extremely expensive in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, so public transport is a great option for travellers on a budget, but if you don't mind the exercise, walking is an even cheaper alternative. Most Scandinavian cities are quite compact, making them easy to walk around and navigate on foot. Exploring a city by walking can be a great way to get to know a place and find some hidden gems, while also reducing your transportation costs. Just make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes, appropriate clothing and a waterproof jacket, as Scandinavia is known for its unpredictable weather. If you have the time and are up for it, then we highly recommend you throw on your walking shoes and hit the pavement during your time in the region, as it is a great way to explore a new destination!
2.) Cook Your Own Meals
Restaurants, bars, and cafes are very expensive throughout Scandinavia and while it may be nice to go out for a meal a few times during your trip, it just isn't feasible to do it every day if you are travelling on a budget. Buying food from supermarkets and preparing it at your accommodation, is a great alternative option, and fresh food and produce are surprisingly inexpensive. If you do not have access to cooking facilities, many supermarkets also stock ready to eat meals that require no cooking, including a variety of sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses, and pasta. By cooking meals and eating food from supermarkets you will save a huge amount of money while travelling in Scandinavia, so grab your reusable bag and head to the local supermarket, your bank account will thank you later!
3.) Snack at Bakeries
As you travel throughout Scandinavia one thing you will notice is that there is no shortage of bakeries, which are a great place to grab some snacks when you are out and about. Bread, sandwiches, and pastries are relatively inexpensive in the region and are a great way to fill up for cheap, just make sure you shop at street front takeaway bakeries, as sitdown cafes are a lot more expensive. Not only is the food from bakeries cheap and filling, but it can also be easily thrown into your backpack, which saves you from spending money at pricey vending machines or cafes when you feel hungry on the road. During our time in the region, we noticed that most supermarkets and convenience stores also had small bakery sections with a wide variety of quality baked goods
4.) Stay Near the City Centre
Many people may think that staying in a city centre will be extremely expensive in terms of finding a place to stay, but this isn't always the case. If you look hard enough across various accommodation providers and book in advance, you can usually find a centrally located place to stay for an affordable price. The benefit of this is that you will save time and money, as you will not have to go back and forth from your accommodation to the city centre and its attractions. Although central locations in cities have many high-end restaurants, cafes, and bars, they also provide many cheaper options for purchasing food, with an abundance of supermarkets, bakeries, and street vendors. During our time in Scandinavia, we always tried to stay in accommodation located near main train stations, as this helped us reduce transportation costs and due to the high foot-traffic in the area, there were many cheap places to eat. Take the time to do research and keep a lookout for deals and you will be able to find affordable accommodation near city centres, which will make your trip more affordable by making it easier to cut down transport and food costs.
Below is a list of the fantastic places we stayed at during our trip. All accommodation was close to the city centres and by booking in advance, we were able to get some great deals:
Copenhagen: Danhostel Copenhagen City
Oslo: Citybox Oslo
Bergen: SG Apartments
Stockholm: Malardrottningen Yacht Hotel
5.) Buy the City Cards
Major cities throughout the Scandinavian region offer travel cards for visitors, which include discounted or free access to attractions, local tours, restaurants, and shops, as well as unlimited use of public transport within the capital zones. If you are planning in being in a major Scandinavian city for at least a day or two, these cards can be really worthwhile, especially if you are hoping to explore and visit numerous attractions. We purchased both the Copenhagen card and the Bergen card during our trip and it ended up saving us hundreds of Kroner each, so we would definitely recommend them to fellow travellers on a budget.
Links to travel cards in major Scandinavian cities are listed below:
7.) Book Tickets in Advance
If you are going to be travelling between cities in Scandinavia, either by plane, ferry or train, we highly recommend you book your tickets in advance, as many transportation companies offer early bird fares which are considerably cheaper. Due to the conditions of Kong's visa application, we had to book all of our internal transportation in advance, as proof of our travel itinerary. Although this seemed like a hassle at the time, it turned out to be a great money saver, as we saw that ticket prices were considerably more expensive closer to the time of our trip. Make a plan, be prepared, and book in advance, this will save you money before your trip has even begun.
Links for advance ticket booking in the region can be found below:
Noway train travel: VY website
Denmark train travel: DSB website
Sweden train travel: SJ website
Regional Ferry: DFDS website
Flights: Skyscanner website
8.) Avoid Organised Tours
Scandinavia is a region which is not often frequented by backpackers and budget travellers, largely due to its reputation as an expensive travel destination and while this may be true in comparison to many other countries, a trip to this region can be a lot more affordable than you think, especially if it is done independently. We highly recommend avoiding organised tours in the region whenever possible, as they are usually geared towards travellers with a larger budget who are happy to pay for convenience, and therefore the added fees can often be extortionate.
Something we did while planning our trip, was to look at the travel destinations and routes offered by tour companies and then book the same trips independently. This strategy gave us more freedom to alter our travel plans and ended up saving us a lot of money, a great example of this was when we independently booked the infamous Norway in a Nutshell journey, which ultimately saved us hundreds of Kroner. Do your research, get creative with your itinerary, and book your Scandinavian trip independently, it may take time but it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Although Scandinavia's price tag definitely does not make it a budget travellers dream destination, it is a lot more affordable than most people think. By using these money-saving tips, you could have a fantastic trip anywhere in Scandinavia, without having to empty your bank account, so what are you waiting for?
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