Norway is a great country for hitchhiking. The streets are modern and from decent quality, the people are friendly and we never had to wait longer than 30 minutes to get a ride! Plus while you are waiting you can appreciate the beautiful landscape surrounding you (it’s NORWAY, the land of “Behind-Every-Corner-Waits-Another-Fantasy-Movie-Set”). It always felt very safe hitchhiking and sometimes the best opportunities are born out of these random meetings with strangers. We think it´s one of the best ways to get around in Norway and if you are patient, open-minded and present a smile in a way that can’t be misinterpreted as serial-killer-creepy, you will eventually catch a ride!
Tipps for hitchhiking in Norway:
Of course we don’t want to sugarcoat the fact, that for some people it could be a bit stressful to be in a self-contained space with somebody you have never met before, so here are a few helpful tricks, that will help you with this very rewarding way of traveling.
- Bring Camping Gear with you (wild camping is allowed in Norway! Scroll down to Accommodation for more infos). This way you can stop everywhere you like and don‘t have to worry about reaching the next town and sleep where ever you want to, if someone gives you a ride (or even if nobody gives you a ride at all). It helps to ease your mind, and brought us the felling of ultimative freedom while traveling.
- The weather in Norway can be unpredictable. Bring warm clothes and protection for those rainy days. Keep a plan B in mind if the weather gets to bad. Hitchhiking in the rain is no fun and even if some people will pity the wet fool (cheers BA), most drivers don’t want to take a soaked backpacker in there cars. It‘s always good to have other options (for example camping somewhere close by, taking the Bus from the next town, ...)
- Be patient. Even though we were pretty lucky with our rides, sometimes you have to wait long time until someone stops. Especially in the northern part of Norway traffic is rare and only a few cars are passing by (and not all of them are willing to pick you up).
- Make the best out of it and appreciate nature’s beauty! Even if you have to wait for a while, use the time to have a look around. The landsacpe is stunning and you should enjoy every minute of it!
- We sometimes used a sign if we wanted to go somewhere very specific, but just putting up the thumb usually works better. If you write a city onto your piece of cardboard, it’s easier for the driver justifying to pass by, if he won’t go exactly to your chosen destination. It’s always better to take any ride into your general direction and then start again, when the driver takes a turn left or right at some point.
- Be visible on the street and choose a spot, where it’s easy and safe for the driver to stop. Don’t wait for cars just before or after a turn and keep out of the lane! For visibility and to increase their chances to get picked up, there’s a rumor of backpackers who hold a Norwegian flag up high, to be more visible and appeal to the national pride of a Norseman. To be honest, we think that’s a pretty stupid approach to traveling through a foreign country, but that might be the special opinion we Germans tend to have towards national symbols.
- Traveling as a couple can be very helpful. Women who gave us a ride told us, that they stopped because we are a couple. A single man might wait a bit longer but will eventually get a lift, too in Scandinavia (But it‘s easier and more fun (maybe safer, too) to travel with a partner, friend, or travel mate.
- We heard more than a few voices, that hitchhiking just won’t work for male solo travelers. Well, we strongly disagree: I hitchhiked through Australia a couple of years ago with nothing but a backpack on my back, and a Mohawk on my head and I still managed to catch rides on a daily basis. It’s all about a positive attitude, a smile on your face - oh, and try not to look like somebody who is robbing people for a living ;) If you ARE struggling with the whole “standing-next-to-the-street-thing”, the best way to convince potential rides of your good intentions is to just ask people at gas stations or the parking spaces in front of a supermarket. If you approach people in a friendly and non-threatening way and tell them what you are doing and where you want to go a lot of people will say yes. This method also multiplies the chances of getting a ride for couples and traveling companies!
- Look clean, friendly and don‘t hide your Backpacks! Many people told us, that they stopped because of our big Backpacks. Sounds strange? The Backpack marks you as a traveler who is just looking for a lift, happy about a warm (or air conditioned) car and a place to set up the tent later - not a Killer on the loose, waiting for his next victim. And if the Backpacks look heavy, people might take some pity on you too ;)
- Smalltalk Baby! Some people are just naturally skilled in the art of conversation and this helps loads to overcome these awkward silences in an hourlong car ride. If you’re not one of these people, think ahead and find some light topics to shmooze - and when the ice is broken, you sometimes have the best and deepest talks with random strangers.
- At last, safety first: The horror movie scenario of the backpacker-slaying psycho is often brought up from people who never tried to hitchhike themselves, but usually it’s safe as every other car ride. The best tip we can give you is to be aware! Talk to the driver first and ask questions (most people in Norway speak more than decent English). Check for signs of drunk driving or narcotics. Have a look into the car and trust your instincts. If you get a weird vibe or feel unsafe don’t get in the car (if it’s to late, tell the driver firmly to let you out (Luckily we never had to do that in Noway).
Maybe we lucked out here, but we just had good experiences hitchhiking in Norway. For example: after someone gave us a lift to town, he wanted us to try the best Coffee in Bodø and invited us to a Cup of hot perfection. Another time we slept in a Bed & Breakfast 2 Nights for free after the Owner picked us up at the streets and heard about our plan to reach New Zealand without flying. That‘s only a couple of our own experiences and someone else will have different ones. We think to fully enjoy this kind of transportation, you have to be comfortable with spending an uncertain amount of time on the street and in the cars of strangers - if you are willing to give it a try though, Norway is waiting with many locals (and tourists!) happy to help you out! For more information on this topic, visit www.hitchwiki.org ;)
The rail network in Norway is not as well connected as we are used to it from other european countries, but it‘s still a beautiful, easy and relatively cheap way to get around. The rail network is good in the South and West of Norway and reaches it‘s northernmost stop in Bodø (that‘s way above the arctic circle and pretty far north!). The railway passes stunning landscapes and most of the time you will have better views out of a train-window, than out of a car. The trains are modern and comfotable. Except for a few routes, traveling by train is not that popular in Norway and therefore tickets are easy to get. The most popular train ride is the route between Oslo and Bergen and vice versa. These tickets are quickly sold out and should be purchased with some time ahead.
Tipps for Train-travel in Norway:
- Watch out for minipris tickets! Every month the NSB sells these cheaper tickets. It‘s pices vary through the interaction of availability and demand. If you plan ahead, your chances are great to get really cheap tickets this way. But even with only a couple of days in advance we managed to get with the minipris tickets almost 50% off the offical ticket price, so we ended up paying around 47 Euro per Person for a 10 hour and almost 700 km train ride. The earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets, but keep in mind that the minipris tickets are not refundable. The website of the Norwegian Railway is also available in English and pretty easy to understand Click here to get the cheapest tickets!
- Be prepared to be amazed by the stunning view out of the trainwindow!
- The trains have a surprisingly well equipped Bordbistro with a decent foodselection (also vegetarian options). We brought our own food so we don‘t know if it‘s tasty, but it looked good on the menu.
- If you leave early in the Morning and are planning to stay the night at the Trainstation, keep in mind that most of the stations close around 11 p.m. and they might close the Platforms too (at least this happened to us in Trondheim and we had to take a Hotel because we couldn’t set up our tent in the middle of the City).
- If you want to safe accommodation costs, you can also take the night train. But be aware, that you will miss incredible landscapes of mighty fjords, vast forests and breathtaking mountain ranges. Almost every view out of the window could easily be printed on a postcard ;)
We haven‘t used the Bus in Norway, but if you don‘t want to hitchhike or are traveling in wintertime, Bustrips might be your only chance to travel up north. There are also night liners on the road, if you want to safe some money for accommodation. But trying to catch some sleep in a moving bus on the snakelike streets of Norge can be - let’s say challenging. Take a bus on weekdays, to safe some money on the ticket! Further north (Finnmark) you have to check local busses. Ask at the nearest tourist info for schedules and routes.
While traveling through Norway, you will realize soon that Ferries are a big part of the Norwegian Tansportation System. Some Ferries only travel from A to B. They are used to cross a Fjord or to take a short cut and avoid the long hours on the Streets. These Ferries are pretty cheap, especially if you don‘t take a car on board. We payed for a 5 hour ride from Bodø to the Lofoten around 23 Euro per Person.
The Cruise Ship Travel Hack:
Another way to travel over sea are the Hurtigruten - big Ships that travel on the old Postship routes. They where used to bring goods, mailing and passengers to the secluded little settlements in the Fjords all around Norway. Today they are mainly used as cruise-ships for tourists. With beautiful cabins, stylish restaurants, cafes and bars they travel 1500 miles on the nowegian sea and pass multiple Fjords on their way. This is for sure not a cheap way to travel and you are propably wondering why this is on a list for budget traveling in Norway. Well, what most backpackers are not aware of is, that you can still use these ships as an a-to-b-transportation without having to purchase an expensive cruise ticket. In contrast to standard all-inclusive-cruises, it‘s possible to book port to port tickets and even to take your car onboard (which is of course more expensive). The reason why the tickets are still pretty expensive are the cabins you have to book for a longer trip on the Hutigruten. This is understandable, the cabins are like really nice little Hotelrooms and of course therefore not a budget option. But if you book a trip that is shorter than 24 hours, you don‘t have to book a cabin! This way you can have a Ferry trip on a fair price while enjoying most of the amenities of the ship. Here’s an example on how you can take it even one step further: We wanted to travel from Bergen to Tondheim. This trip takes two nights and one and a half days on the ship. Officially you have to buy a ticket including a cabin and the prices for this trip was around 150-250 Euro per person. But instead of booking one long trip, you can just book two shorter trips, for example from Bergen to Maløy and then from Maløy to Trondheim. This way you purchase two trips that are shorter than 24 hours and you don‘t have to book a cabin. This way we were able to only pay around 100 Euro per Person for the same trip and still enjoy the stunning view, the Jacuzzi, a hot Shower and the Fitnessroom of the ship while cruising along the Fjords. Of course you have to be comfotable to spend the nights somewhere in the public area with your sleeping bag (we slept on deck at the ouside lounge-area) and people will look at you a bit strangely. The bigger part of the passengers have been German and American elderly people enjoying the comfortable cruise-life, so it’s appreciated when you are nonchalant about the way you are spending the nights. But if you smile and put your things away early in the morning you will be fine and have an amazing time (I mean, in what other transportation-system is it possible to watch the sunset while sitting in a hot jacuzzi?)
Tipps for traveling on a Ferry in Norway:
- You can book your tickets for the Hutigruten on their Homepage. The process is fairly simple: Just select the option „port to port“ and play a bit with the different destinations to find the cheapest option. It´s also possible to get the tickets for the short trips directly at the harboring ship.
- Obviously Hurtiguten don‘t want you to buy just one short trip after another on the same ship and end up doing a two week trip for half the price, sleeping all the time on deck and confusing the other pessangers. So try to be as low key as possible. The crew is pretty chill about it, if you cooperate and don’t do the party cruise thing and don’t bother the normal cruise passengers.
- We wouldn’t recommend spending more than 3 nights on a ship like that.
- Bring your own food and drinks so you don‘t have to purchase an expensive dinner on board. But don’t take your food to the Cafés and restaurants at business hours and of course not at all to the fancy à la carte restaurant! You can have a self brought beer or beverage at the panorama deck, if you are low key about it and sit at the windows, not at the bar or the tables. Also don’t use your camping stove to prepare your dinner on deck! Open fire is forbidden anywhere on the ship and it would bring to much attention to you anyway. To safe some money, we stocked up on groceries at the cheapest supermarket on land and had mostly sandwiches and cold food while cruising.
- You can use the Sauna, Jacuzzi and Fitnessroom for free, so make the most out of your trip and try at least one of these amneties.
- The Hurtigruten ships have a laundry room on board, it‘s around 3 Euro. This is cheaper than most laundryservices in hostels or on campgrounds.
- If you haven’t booked a cabin on board, you can use the storage room to store your luggage. In addition the ships have Lockers to keep your valuables safe.
- The tickets for the Ferries that only cross the Fjords or ship to the Lofoten you can purchase directly at the port or when you hop onto the ship.
- Be aware, that you might have to come to the terminal area early in the morning or at night time, to do the ticket verification for your “second” trip, when you reach your first destination. If you don’t verify your second ticket, you will be considered a stowaway!
- We can’t stress this enough: this is kind of a loophole in the system, so act as low key as possible to preserve this awesome opportunity for other budget travelers. ;)
5. Shared Ride
A shared ride is the more organized and payed form of hitchhiking and is a good way to travel inexpensive from A to B. Basically there is a platform of people who have a car and are looking to save some money on fuel, and people who don‘t have a car looking for a ride. In Germany it‘s a really popular way of traveling and since we couldn‘t find a Norwegian website for this, we tried our luck on the German Homepage www.blablacar.de. We actually found a couple of rides to and around Norway and saved a lot of cash because of that on our trip from Oslo to Bergen.
Of course there are multiple airports scattered all over Norway and a lot of low-budget airlines are operating here. Today it’s probably the cheapest way to travel from A to B, but there’s a catch: if you just fly for example from Bergen to Tromsø, you will skip the most part of the country and therefore miss a big part of the beautiful scenery of Norway. It depends on how you want to approach your trip. Is it a journey through this amazing country you are looking for, or do you want to give in to convince and take a nice holiday? We would always recommend the first ;)
Obviously it‘s pretty expensive to eat at restaurants and cafes in Norway. So be smart and bring a camping kitchen (a small stove and a pot is enough) and prepare your own food. The supermarkets in Norway are well equiped and if you watch out for the cheap homebrands of the store, the prices aren‘t that different to other western countries. Avoid food that has to be imported from far away, choose seasonal products and take what‘s marked with a reduced sign. At every supermarket you can find a big selection of fresh fish and you are probably able to find pretty cheap fish in Norway (then again, we don’t eat fish so we really don‘t have a clue what a good price for fish is).
If you are anything like us and still want to have a nice dinner on a regular basis and don’t want to rely on ramen-noodles every day, you will spend some money on food. Even though we cooked our own food all the time and ordered only twice something at a bar, food was (after transportation) the biggest asset while traveling through Norway. But in the end we spent pretty much the same as we would have at home - and it’s fun to get creative on a camp kitchen! We had some really delicious meals. Just watch out for seasonal products, maybe something that is expensive at home is cheaper here and vice versa. If you adjust to the available food you will see that there are a lot of affordable options!
We are really happy with our little camp kitchen - here's what we used on a daily basis:
- small and lightweight Gas Stove*
- this is the american version of our camp kitchen*
- Wind Screen* for those windy evenings at the Fjords
- A sharp knife* is a must-have, and we LOVE this one!
So we read that it‘s really easy to find good food in the Dumpsters of Supermarkets in Norway. Even thought we dumsterdived before, we didn‘t do it in Norway, mainly because the Supermarktes are always open until 10 or 11 o‘clock at night and most of the time we slept pretty far away from the next Supermarket. We heard that it‘s possible to find awesome food in Dumpsters, due to the fact that fruits and vegetables are often so expensive in Norway, that nobody will buy it and eventually it has to be thrown away (what f*#cked up times we live in!). Apparently it‘s possible to find Mangos, Pineapples and Avocados at the Dumpsters regularly. We were too lazy to check if the rumors about the Dumpsterdiving-Paradise Norway are true or not. Honestly, our impression is, that a lot of the Supermarkets lock the dumpsters up these days, but we still spotted some unlocked dumpsters in Bergen and Trondheim. We also spotted the stacked boxes with “old” bread and baked goods more than a few times. So if you are brave and hungry enough, you could give the dive a try. Just to be clear - like in many other countries, Dumpsters Diving is not legal in Norway. We personally think, it’s better to safe still perfectly eatable food from a dumpster, instead of burning it at a Norwegian landfill, but of course the decision is yours in the end. You might find some usable information at www.trashwiki.org
7. Bring a reusable Waterbottle
In Norway the Water is really clean. You can drink the Tapwater without hesitation and even the water from the Rivers and Lakes are usually drinkable. We haven‘t bought a single Waterbottle while traveling through Norway! So do your wallet and the nature a favor and bring a reusable waterbottle with you. We use this one*.
When camping in the wilderness it‘s also a good idea to bring a small water tank with you. We use a foldable tank* that we can easily put on the outside of the Backpacks when empty. It comes in so handy when you put up a camp for more than one day, to do the dishes, to cook and have always enough drinking water at the camp.
Even though you probably won’t need it a lot, bringing a filtersystem for water helped us out a couple of times. This way you never have to worry about fresh water and you are on the safer side. While camping you can just cook the water, but while hiking or hitchhiking a filtersystem is more than handy! We use a UV-Filter from Steripen plus the Steripen Pre-Filter*.
8. Bring a Tent
Camping is not only the best way to explore the nature of Norway, it‘s one of the cheapest ways, too. You can pop up your tent for free everywhere you want, as long as you stay away from Drinkwatersystems, keep a minimum distance of 150 Meter from houses and cabins and keep the area clean and garbage-free. We spent next to nothing on accomodation this way. We only payed for a campgound if we fancied a hot shower, a proper kitchen or a steady internet connection. The rest of the time we just scanned the area for a nice spot and set up our tent. Even in bigger Cities it‘s possible to find a nice spot if you get a bit out of the center. Just ask at the local Tourist Office or check Google Maps for green spots that look like nature areas. Please appreciate nature and leave no trace! This is the new version of our beloved Salewa Ultra Light Tent*.
Another great way to safe money on accommodation is couchsurfing. Especially when visiting bigger cities or if the weather is too bad for camping, couchsurfing is a great option to save some money. It‘s also a chance to meet locals and experience the area in an authentic way, while meeting interesting and open-minded people. This should always be your main motivation when considering couchsurfing. We only had good experiences, both as hosts and surfers and recommend this way of connecting to locals. The main idea behind couchsurfing is not just having a free place to crash, but to interact with different people and to share thoughts, experiences and laughter. This is what keeps the community of couchsurfing alive. We always try to give something back: an invitation to a drink in a bar (which can be almost as expensive as a hostel room in Norway, but you will have great memories for the rest of your life) or a homemade dinner for the hosts.
10. Hostels, Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins
If you are looking for a bit more comfort and convenience, the best chances to find cheap accomodation is to book well ahead or travel off season. Check out accomodations on Airbnb (if you are new to Airbnb and use this link for registration, you will get 30 Euro off your next trip with airbnb.com!) and compare the prices on www.booking.com (if you use this link you will get 15 Euro off your next trip with booking.com). Dormitories in hostels are often the cheapest option of course. But if you travel as a couple or with a friend, it‘s always worth a try to check the prices for cheap hotel rooms and compare them to the hostel prices for one bed in a dorm. Most of the time you can find a double room for the same price or only a bit more expensive than two single beds in a dormitory and the comfort and privacy is worth the few bucks more! And no, unfortunately you can’t share a bunk bed in a dorm. Well, you can share a bed, but you still have to pay for two ;)
Things to do
11. Going out for drinks / coffee
Okay, there is no easy way to say this: Going out for drinks in Norway is flippin’ expensive. You will pay a minimum of 8 Euros for a small beer in a pub or bar and we haven‘t found a cheaper way. You might get lucky and find a bar with a reasonable happy hour, but sometimes you have to stop thinking about money and just enjoy the evening!
On the other nights: don‘t drink alcohol (it‘s not good for you anyway;), or buy your booze at the grocery store and enjoy a cold brew outdoors at sunset with the stunning view over the Fjords. If you choose the non-alcoholic or light-alcoholic beer it‘s cheaper and it is still pretty nice after a long day of hitchhiking. If you are a coffee-lover like we are, a good way to cut your daily expenses is to invest in a cheap french press and a bag of good coffee. We used this one*, to safe massive amounts of money and still were able to satisfy our need for caffeine!
The best way to experience wild Norway is definitely by hiking. You will find thousands of hikingtrails all over the country. There are short and easy ones suitable for beginners and close to the City, all the way up to challenging multiple-day-hikes in the back country. The Norwegians love hiking too and most of them will take any chance they can get to be outside, so most of the trails are in very good condition. If you are looking for advice, there are numerous sites that can point you to great trails. Have a look at the following links, to get an idea of the wide hiking possibilities Norway has to offer:
Norways Cities are cozy, beautiful and always close to nature. Even in Oslo you don‘t have to use the public transportation system to get around, you can easily walk around by foot and check out the nice parks, the harbour or the castle for free. All the Norwegian cities we have been to present themselves in their own charming way, with beautiful wooden buidlings and colorful Fassades, parks and nature reserves, harbours and much much more - you don‘t have to spend money to enjoy these gems!
Tipps for Citytrips:
- Most Museums are free one day per week, or offer a reduced price. Check the official website of the city for information beforehand or just visit the local tourist info. The staff are used to budget travelers and are happy to help you out!
- Norways urban areas are easy accessible and walking around the city center is the best way to get a feeling for the vibe of a city.
- If you are couchsufing, ask your host about his or her favorit cafe or bar. These tips from locals are almost always the better option and more authentic than what you can find in the guidebooks - and most of the time it‘s cheaper, too. Cities are also ever changing areas, so what is marked in your lonely planet from 2014 as the hottest place in town, could be long gone and replaced with another Starbucks.
- You can also check out www.tripadvisor.com before you even arrived. The platform is updated by travelers and you can find lots of options for budget travelers in there.
- In Bergen there is a bus that brings you to IKEA for free, so if you spend a couple of days in Bergen, why don‘t you hop on one of them (they are marked, with a massive IKEA logo) and have a cheap coffee or lunch at IKEA ;)
- The harbours in Noway are alway really nice place to hang out, eat street food or just enjoying the beautiful scenery. We love to prepare a sandwich in advance and have lunch at one of the jetties, watching the sailing-boats and ships passing by - watch out for seagulls, they will always have an eye on your lunchbox!
14. Watching the Aurora Boralis
If you come to Norway in Autumn or Winter, you have to watch out for the amazing natural wonder of the Aurora Boalis. Norway is the perfect spot to see the northern lights in all it‘s beauty. Nature doesn’t want any money to show off her beauty, you only have to be patient and a bit lucky to catch it. The free app "My Aurora Forecast" (for android / for iphone) works like a weather forecast for the northern light, this way you don’t have to stay up all night and stare into the sky (which is also quite an experience on a clear night in Norway!), just set the alarm to the recommended time ;)
15. Free WIFI
Okay, you get it: The nature of Norway is exceptional. But sometimes we want to connect with the world in a different way - the Internet. You miss the daily dose of cat videos or want to skype with your grandma? Luckily Norway has a great WIFI Network and you can find free WIFI even at the grocery stores. If you have to do some online work to do and are looking for a nice and quiet work space (without having to pay horrendous sums for a black coffee at Starbucks) with power outlets and sometimes even desks and a nice harbour view (Bodø!) libraries are always our go-to option. The Tourist Information usually has free WiFi, too. But depending on the season, they can be packed with tourists.
So these are our 15 ultimate tips for traveling on a budget through Norway! If you want to learn more about budget traveling or you are looking for some inspiration for your next trip, visit our YouTube Channel!