Trip budget: Bergen and the Norwegian fjords
Think of Norway and you probably picture sailing through the deep blue waters of the fjords, hiking through the mountains or watching the Northern Lights from a husky sled in the Arctic. Or maybe the cosmopolitan cities, with their sleek architecture and great nightlife, are more your thing. Either way Norway is overflowing with riches – but there’s one big problem, and that’s that you need your own riches to pay for it. Yes you can’t mention visiting Norway without the issue of price coming up. The country has a reputation for being one of the most expensive in the world, and those horror stories of £12 beers are enough to scare people off from visiting. But how expensive is it to visit Norway really? Here I share my trip budget for five nights spent exploring Bergen and the Norwegian fjords (prices as at May 2014).
I cashed in a stash of British Airways Avios points to pay for our London–Bergen flights, so just paid a £50 redemption fee for a Business Class return ticket (yes we were back on the free Champagne and lounge access again – I’m definitely getting a taste for the Business Class life!). Flights from the UK are pretty reasonable though, starting from £78 for a return with BA or Norwegian. We took the Flybussen shuttle bus to and from the airport, which cost 160 NOK/£16 return. To get to the fjords we travelled by train from Bergen to Mydral for 286 NOK each way (£57 return). If you plan to use the Norwegian trains, it’s worth booking online in advance as they have a limited number of reduced price ‘Minipris’ tickets available. The Flåmsbana scenic train between Mydral and Flåm cost 300 NOK/£30 each way – this is run privately so the only discount available is 30% off if you have a Interail/Eurail rail pass.
Total transport cost: 1332 NOK/£133 per person (about £27 a day), plus flights, so £183 each in total.
Hotels and food are two of the biggest expenses in Norway, but one way to save on both is by renting an apartment. As we were spending three nights in Bergen at the start of the trip we rented a place via AirBnB for £291 (£97 a night or £48.50 per person per night). We ended up getting moved to a bigger two-bed house with open-plan kitchen/living room, an easy ten-minute walk to the harbour. Out in the fjords, Flåm’s a small place so there wasn’t much choice of accommodation, so we chose the historic Fretheim Hotel at £105 (£52.50 per person). Back in Bergen for our last night we had an early start for the flight home so stayed at the Radisson Blu, right next to the Flybussen stop, for £132 (£66 per person).
Total accommodation cost: £528 or £264 per person – an average of £53 a night each.
So many of the things to do and see in Norway revolve around the outdoors, so you can easily get away with not spending much on activities. In Bergen we wandered around the harbour and historic Bryggen district for free. We spent 43 NOK/£4.50 on a ticket for the funicular railway up to the top of Mount Fløyen, but then walked back down. You need to get out on the water to see the fjords properly, so we spent 365 NOK/£36.50 on a boat trip through the Nærøyfjord to Gudvangen, which also included a transfer back to Flåm by bus. The scenic train between Bergen and Flåm is covered under transport, but would also count as an activity too – and even the regular Bergen–Myrdal train passed by some amazing scenery.
Total activities cost: 408 NOK/£41 per person – an average of £8 a day each.
Food and drink
Our apartment in Bergen had a fully equipped kitchen so we did a big grocery shop on the first day, spending 329 NOK (£16.50 each), which covered three days’ worth of breakfasts and two dinners. We also spent around 116 NOK/£12 each on various drinks and snacks while we were out and about. The last two nights we had breakfast included at our hotels and ate out for dinner. In Flåm there were only a couple of options, so we ate at a brewery where two mains, a dessert and two glasses of wine set us back 860 NOK/£86. In Bergen there was more choice so we only paid 525 NOK/£52.50. Alcohol is pricey in Norway, with a small glass of wine costing around £9. We had a couple of drinks out, and bought some wine for when we were self-catering. You can only buy alcohol from the state-run Vinmonopolet shops which have limited opening hours, where a couple of bottles of (practically their cheapest) wine cost 225 NOK/£22.
Total food and drink cost: 2233 NOK/£224 or £112 per person – an average of £23 a day each.
The grand total
So the overall cost for our five days in the Norwegian fjords came in at £600 per person, including flights. This works out at about £120 a night each. So it’s not exactly a budget destination but it’s also not scarily expensive, and to me it was totally worth it – it’s a fascinating and beautiful place to visit.
Lower budget? The easiest way to save would be to steer clear of wine! There are also hostels in Bergen and Flåm where you could save a bit by staying in a dorm (but private rooms are as much as hotels).
Higher budget? With more money to spend you could stay in hotels the whole time and eat out more – Bergen has some great high-end restaurants. There are also other boat trips and tours you can take to see more of the fjords, or could hire a car and explore independently.