The budget city break guide to Oslo
Back in April I headed to Norway for the weekend with my good friend Hannah, you know, as you do. It was like many of my recent trips away; the result of cheap flights and a compulsive need to use my passport again. It was all hastily booked before I discovered that time and time again, Oslo had been named as the most expensive city in the world. Oops! With a low bank balance things weren’t looking particularly great, but we managed to do some really cool free or low cost things. Here’s a round up of all you need to know..
Where to stay; Citybox Oslo, Prinsens gate 6, N-0152
I spent a good few lunch hours researching where the best place to stay on a budget was and Citybox kept coming up, so we checked trip advisor and we’re suitable satisfied. Citybox describes itself as “combining simplicity with comfort and low prices” and that’s totally spot on. I had low expectations based on its budget nature, but I was actually really really impressed. It’s cosy, comfy and our room as a massive window. The hotel’s location is SO central to the city; literally a five minute walk from the massive train/bus station hybrid thing they’ve got going on, and it’s just off Oslo’s main street Karl Johans Gate. Because of this it’s basically super easy to navigate your way around the whole city. Reliable wifi comes as standard and check in is automated. To keep the price low they’ve scrapped things such as TV’s & Mini Bars, but offer a communal lounge should you need a fix. If your on a budget and looking for a nice place to crash, this is definitely it. Cost: Our twin room cost somewhere around the £80 mark for 2 nights.
How to Travel:
- To Oslo: We flew with Ryanair from Liverpool John Lennon airport to Oslo Torp and then flew back from Oslo Rygge back to Manchester. This sounds much more complicated than it actually was. Cost: around £40 each return, but we booked as two single trips.
- To and From the Airports: Both these airports are quite away outside the city and a taxi is way too pricey. There are two different bus/coach style services operating to the airports from the main station, both doing exactly the same thing. I think it cost us around £20 each to get into the city from Torp and £11 over to Rygge. You can book in advance but they are right there when you come out the airport so I wouldn’t say you needed to!
- Around the city: If you can, walk. We covered a lot of main attractions and a very good distance over the weekend thanks to our feet. Oslo is really pedestrian friendly and unless you need to, hiring a car is really pointless (think of them fuel & parking costs too!) However if you want to use public transport you’ve got plenty of regular buses, trains, trams and the metro at your disposal. The one time we used anything was the tram to a sculpture park (see more below) it took about 20 mins to the destination, costing about £5. However your ticket is valid for something like 90 minutes which is useful if you’re just hopping on and hopping off.
- Don’t think that because you’re a savvy bargain hunter eating out cheaply in oslo is possible, ’cause it’s just not. When we arrived we headed straight for some food and stumbled upon a bagel place. We awkwardly ordered and paid. It was only when we sat down that we converted the price and realised it cost us around £17 for a bagel and a smoothie. EACH. So we’re talking just shy of £35 for a very basic lunch for 2. Doesn’t that make your bank balance want to cry.
- Do save where you can; Whilst eating out is one of my favourite things, sometimes you just have to compromise. Lots of small newsagents style shops sell a variety of hot food items like panini’s, pizza slices and even some takeaway noodle dishes. If you’re hungry and can face the prospect of eating back at your hotel rather than out at a restaurant, do it. It’s hard to find traditional cuisine in any capital or main city, so really dining out basically means you’ll be eating a similar style of food to what you can get back home, only with a much higher price tag. Your choice!
- Don’t expect to drink. I mean sure, if you want to spend 365 NOK (currently just shy of 30 GBP) on the cheapest bottle of wine in a chain restaurant then be my guest, but i’d just say stick with having an alcohol free weekend. If you’re looking for a city break that includes a bar crawl, Oslo is not the place!
- Buying and drinking in your hotel isn’t cheap either, due to Norway’s history of drinking problems, the government controls the purchase of alcohol with state owned Wine Monopoly’s and high taxes. You also can’t drink anything above 4% if you’re under 20 either. Save your money and stay sober!
- Norway is a very equalitarian society and its the norm to split the bill on all meals, even dates. Some Norwegians see it as offensive to them if you don’t allow them to go halves. The staff will be ready and waiting to work out your individual bill, seeing two separate payments, whether card or cash.
What to do:
- Go to the Sculpture park: I so wasn’t into this idea but Hannah kept going on about it and i’m actually really glad we went because we had a laugh. It’s massive and full of loads of random naked sculptures, some rather questionable. The views pretty nice too and i’m sure you’ll find the main park sculpture quite instagrammable. Cost: The whole park is free!
See as much as you can: We booked ourselves in a space on this Fjord Sightseeing boat cruise. It was fun, if not a little chilly (okay a lot!) after an hour and a half sitting right at the front of the boat! It was lovely to see the city from a different angle, and the guide was very informative. The little houses off the coast are so cute too! It’s a relaxed, reasonably priced activity. Cost: £20 depending on currency rate
Visit the Palace: While it ain’t no Buckingham, the palace looks nice and has some gardens for you to stroll through! It’s also a great viewpoint to see the city. And to also take silly photographs at. Cost: Free to see but if you want a tour inside there is a fee.
Take selfies: “Selfies are so narcissistic!” you may say, but i think there just a really fun way to make memories! We had such a laugh posing with random sculptures, objects and general Oslo things. Cost: Free, obviously.
Check out the opera house: This is such a bloody fantastic building, both inside and out and you can even walk on the roof! The design is stunning, and like most other activities i’ve suggested, it’s another fantastic way to view the city. It’s such an iconic part of the skyline and is a must visit. We didn’t catch a show but had a little wonder inside too. Be sure to look up. Cost: Free to go onto and in the building, the only cost is the shows.
The Nobel Peace Museum: At the time we went there was an exhibition on my favourite person ever, Malala. I was happy to have paid to enter, but i was a bit disappointed at how small the particular exhibit was. There’s other interesting peace prize stuff there too, so if that’s what your into i’d check it out. Cost: £9.
- If you’ve got a student ID, show it, there is a good chance you may get discount even if you’re not in the UK. I got discount on the bus ride back to the airport without even having a card, but by just saying that I was a student!
- Picking up one of these Maps is a total must. It’s literally the only reason I know all these Norwegian facts and it’s so useful for guiding yourself around the city and its culture.
- In other countries, I quite easily stand out as a tourist, but in Norway, not so much. This means people will automatically speak to you in Norwegian, so make it known to them if necessary that you don’t speak the language. Everyone is really well versed in English and it makes things so much simpler when it comes to ordering and asking questions.
- Use Visit Oslo as your point of reference. It’s a really amazing official guide to everything you need to know.