Inevitably, accommodation is one of the major expenses you will incur on a trip to Norway – indeed, if you’re after a degree of comfort, it’s going to be the costliest item by far. There are, however, budget alternatives, principally guesthouses (pensjonater), rooms in private houses (broadly this is bed and breakfast, often arranged via the local tourist office), campsites and cabins, and last but certainly not least, an abundance of HI-registered hostels. Also bear in mind that many hotels offer myriad special deals as well as substantial weekend discounts of 25–40 percent.
Almost everywhere, you can reserve ahead easily enough as English is nearly always spoken. Most tourist offices also operate an on-the-spot service for same-night accommodation for free or at minimal charge.
Almost universally, Norwegian hotels are of a high standard: neat, clean and efficient. Special bargains and impromptu weekend deals also make many of them, by European standards at least, comparatively economical. Another plus is that the price of a hotel room always includes a buffet breakfast – in mid- to top-range hotels especially, these can be sumptuous banquets. The only negatives are the size of the rooms in the larger cities, especially Oslo, where they tend to be small, and their sameness: Norway abounds in mundanely modern, concrete-and-glass, sky-rise chain hotels. though thankfully most of the country’s more distinctive hotels are gathered together under the De Historiske Hoteller banner. For a comprehensive list of hotels – along with special bargains and a booking online facility – consult the tourist board’s principal website,
Predictably, prices are very sensitive to demand – a double room that costs 1000kr when a hotel is slack, soon hits the 2000kr mark if there’s a rush on. Generally speaking, however, 1500kr should cover the cost of two people in a double room at most hotels most of the time, nearer to 1200kr at the weekend, slightly more in Oslo. The stated price will include breakfast unless stated otherwise.
Hotel and guesthouse passes
One way to cut costs is to join one of Norway’s hotel discount and pass schemes, though this may well put paid to any idea you might have of a flexible itinerary as advance booking can be a prerequisite. Most Norwegian hotels are members of one discount/pass scheme or another – there are half a dozen to choose from – and you can usually join the scheme at any one of them or in advance on the internet. The majority of schemes are tied to a particular hotel chain, which obviously affects the variety of your accommodation. Among the hotel chains, Rica (
rica-hotels.com) has a particularly varied portfolio of around seventy hotels, making their loyalty programme more appealing than most, though it’s hardly bountiful: after joining the scheme, you earn 500 bonus points for every night you stay at a Rica – and with 5000 points you get one night free; you also get the best rate available on weekday nights at any of their hotels. With only ten properties in Norway, Scandic Hotels (
scandichotels.com) cannot offer the range of accommodation provided by some of their rivals, but their hotels are often especially good and they do have a “Frequent Guest Programme” in which points received for staying with them are exchanged for discounts and/or free nights.
Much more enticing, however, is the Fjord Pass (
815 68 222,
fjord-pass.com), which offers discounts of around 20 percent at 150 hotels, guesthouses, cottages and apartments all over Norway with a particular concentration in the western fjords. The Fjord Pass card costs just 140kr and is valid for two adults and children under the age of fifteen for the whole year in which it is purchased. Under the scheme, you can either book online with the place you want to stay at or leave it to the booking service of the company who run the scheme, the exemplary Fjord Tours. The discount card itself can be bought direct from Fjord Tours or at the sales outlets detailed on the website.
For something a little less anonymous than the average hotel, pensions (pensjonater) are your best bet – small, sometimes intimate guesthouses, which can usually be found in the larger cities and more touristy towns. Rooms go for 650–750kr single, 700–800kr double, and breakfast is generally extra. Broadly comparable in price and character is a gjestgiveri or gjestehus, a guesthouse or inn, though some of these offer superb lodgings in historic premises with prices to match. Facilities in all of these establishments are usually adequate and homely without being overwhelmingly comfortable; at the least expensive places you’ll share a bathroom with others. Some pensions and guesthouses also have kitchens available for the use of guests, which means you’re very likely to meet other residents – a real boon (perhaps) if you’re travelling alone.
For many budget travellers, as well as hikers, climbers and skiers, the country’s HI hostels, run by Norwegian hostelling association, Norske Vandrerhjem (
23 12 45 10,
hihostels.no), are the accommodation mainstay. There are around seventy in total, with handy concentrations in the western fjords, the central hiking and skiing regions and in Oslo. Oslo-based Norske Vandrerhjem maintains an excellent website, which details hostel locations, opening dates, prices, facilities and telephone numbers; hostel bookings can be made online too. The hostels themselves are almost invariably excellent – the only quibble, at the risk of being churlish, is that those occupying schools (during the summer holidays) tend to be rather drab and institutional.
Prices for a single dorm bed per night range from 250kr to 400kr, which almost always includes breakfast, often a lavish buffet at the more expensive hostels. Almost all hostels have at least a few regular double and family rooms, too: at 500–900kr a double including breakfast, these are among the least expensive rooms you’ll find in Norway. There’s usually a choice of en-suite or shared facilities for both rooms and dorms with the en suite costing 70kr–100kr more per person. Bed-sheet rental will rush you a further 50kr, towels 20kr.
If you’re not a member of Hostelling International (HI) you can still use the hostels, though there’s a surcharge of around 15 percent – so, considering the low cost of annual membership, it’s better to join up either before you go to Norway or at the first hostel you stay at. It cannot be stressed too strongly that reserving a hostel bed will save you lots of unnecessary legwork. Many hostels are only open from mid-June to mid-August and many close between 11am and 4pm. There’s sometimes an 11pm or midnight curfew, though this isn’t a huge drawback in a country where carousing is so expensive.
Many hostels serve a hot evening meal at around 110–140kr. Hostel meals are nearly always excellent value, though of variable quality, ranging from the bland and filling to the delicious. Most, though not all, hostels have small kitchens, but often no pots, pans, cutlery or crockery, so self-caterers should take their own. Inexpensive packed lunches are often available as well, which can be particularly useful if you are heading off into the great outdoors.
Tourist offices in the larger towns and the more touristy settlements can often fix you up with a private room in someone’s house, possibly including kitchen facilities. Prices are competitive – from 350 to 400kr per single, 400 to 600kr per double – though there’s usually a small reservation fee on top, and the rooms themselves are frequently some way out of the centre. Nonetheless, they’re often the best bargain available and, in certain instances, an improvement on the local hostel. Where this is the case, we’ve said so in the Guide. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, check the room comes with bedding – not all of them do; and if you’re cooking for yourself, a few basic utensils may not go amiss.
Camping is a popular pastime in Norway, and there are literally hundreds of sites to choose from – anything from a field with a few tent pitches to extensive complexes with all mod cons. The Norwegian tourist authorities detail several hundred campsites online at
camping.no, classifying them on a one- to five-star grading depending on the facilities offered (and not on the aesthetics and/or the location). Most sites are situated with the motorist (rather than the cyclist or walker) in mind, and a good few occupy key locations beside the main roads, though in summer these prime sites can be inundated by seasonal workers. The vast majority of campsites have at least a few cabins or chalets, called hytter.
Most campsites are two- and three-star establishments, where charges are usually per tent, plus a small fee per person and then for vehicles; on average expect to pay around 200–350kr for two people using a tent and with a car, though four- and five-star sites average around twenty percent more. During peak season it can be a good idea to reserve ahead if you have a car and a large tent or trailer; contact details are listed online and, in some cases, in this guide. The Camping Key Europe Card (
www.campingkeyeurope.com) brings faster registration at many Norwegian campsites and often entitles the bearer to special/discounted camping rates. It is valid for one year, costs 120kr and can be purchased from participating campsites or online.
The Norwegian countryside is dotted with thousands of timber cabins/chalets (called hytter), ranging from simple wooden huts through to comfortable lodges. They are usually two- or four-bedded affairs, with full kitchen facilities and often a bathroom, even TV, but not necessarily bed linen. Some hostels have them on their grounds, there are nearly always at least a handful at every campsite, and in the Lofoten islands they are the most popular form of accommodation, occupying refurbished fishermen’s huts called rorbuer (or their modern replicas). Costs vary enormously, depending on location, size and amenities, and there are significant seasonal variations, too. However, a four-bed hytter will rarely cost more than 850kr per night – a more usual average would be about 650kr. If you’re travelling in a group, they are easily the cheapest way to see the countryside – and in some comfort. Hundreds of hytter are also rented out as holiday cottages by the week.
One great option for hikers is the mountain hut (again called hytter). These are strategically positioned on every major hiking route and although some are privately run, the majority are operated by Den Norske Turistforening (DNT;
www.dnt.no) and its affiliated regional organizations. There are three types of mountain hut/lodge – staffed, self-service and unstaffed. Staffed mountain lodges, found mostly in the southern part of the country, provide meals and lodging and are often quite large, accommodating a hundred guests or more. They are characteristically clean, friendly and well run, usually by DNT staff. Self-service huts, with twenty to forty beds, are also concentrated in the mountains of southern Norway and offer lodging with bedding, a shop selling groceries and a well-equipped kitchen. Unstaffed huts, often with fewer than twenty beds, are mostly in the north. They provide bedding, stoves for heating and cooking and all kitchen equipment, but you must bring and prepare your own food. Reservations are accepted at staffed lodges for stays of more than two nights, though the lodges are primarily for guests in transit. Otherwise, beds are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. During high season, lodges occasionally get full. If beds are not available, you are given a mattress and blankets for sleeping in a common area. DNT members over 50 years of age are always guaranteed a bed. No one is ever turned away.
You don’t have to be a DNT member to use these huts, but annual membership only costs 550kr (less with concessions) and you’ll soon recoup your outlay through reduced hut charges. For members staying in staffed huts, a bunk in a dormitory costs 135kr (non-members 195kr), a family or double room 240kr per person (315kr); meals start at 100kr (130kr) for breakfast, 260kr (290kr) for a three-course dinner. At unstaffed huts, where you leave the money for your stay in a box provided, an overnight stay costs 195kr (300kr).
The Norsk Fyrhistorisk Forening (Norwegian Lighthouse Association;
lighthouses.no) is an umbrella organization that has taken the lead in preserving and conserving the country’s lighthouses. Norway’s coastal waters are notoriously treacherous and in the second half of the nineteenth century scores of lighthouses were built from one end of the country to the other. Initially, they were manned, but became mechanized from the 1950s onwards and the old lighthousemen’s quarters risked falling into decay. The Norsk Fyrhistorisk Forening is keen for new uses to be found for these quarters and already around sixty are open to the public for overnight stays or day-trips – and more will follow. Some of these sixty lighthouses can be reached by road, but others can only be reached by boat and, with one or two lavish exceptions, the accommodation on offer – where it is on offer – is fairly frugal and inexpensive, with doubles averaging around 600kr. The reward is the scenery – almost by definition these lighthouses occupy some of the wildest locations imaginable.
In Norway, rural tourism is coordinated by Norsk Bygdeturisme og Gardsmat (
norsk-bygdeturisme.no), whose assorted members, spread from one end of the country to the other, offer accommodation, local food, hunting and fishing. NBG’s compendious website details everything that’s on offer and costs do vary enormously, but for a night’s bed and breakfast on a farm you can expect to pay around 450kr per person.
Most of Norway’s hotels may be modern, but a goodly number of old ones have survived, many of them distinguished by their charming, late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century wooden architecture, all high, pointed gables and fancy scrollwork. Forty-two of these vintage hotels have banded together as De Historiske Hoteller, a membership organization which publishes all sorts of promotional material and coordinates special deals and offers. Great stuff.
Camping rough in Norway is a tradition enshrined in law. You can camp anywhere in open areas as long as you are at least 150m away from any houses or cabins, though certain restrictions apply in a limited number of circumstances – for example in sea-bird sanctuaries. As a common courtesy, you are also expected to ask the landowner/farmer for permission to use their land if feasible – and it is rarely refused. Fires are not permitted in woodland areas or in fields between April 15 and September 15, and camper vans are not allowed (ever) to overnight in lay-bys. A good sleeping bag is essential, since even in summer it can get very cold, and, in the north at least, mosquito repellent is absolutely vital.