Europe, Nordic, Norway, Oslo, save money on travel

Oslo, Norway without breaking the bank

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A view of the fjord from Akershus Castle by Elana Nichols

If you’re headed to Oslo, you’ve probably heard that it is extremely expensive. I mean, we’re talking one of the most expensive places in the whole world! Whoever told you this is not wrong. While it is true that it is expensive in Norway, Oslo included, you can still have an amazing time there without spending any more than you would anywhere else. Really!

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A view from the window leaving Oslo on our Lufthansa flight. By Elana Nichols

Let’s start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start!) First, you’ll need to get there. No need to rent a reindeer, there are plenty of great flight deals in and out of Oslo. We chose the German Lufthansa airline, but we did not have to pay a big price. In fact, our flight back home to San Francisco only set us back a couple hundred bucks. You can often find good deals on the SAS Airlines and budget airlines as well. My best tip is to set a price alert for flights in and out of Oslo. Remember, you can always fly to a different European city (oh darn, seeing more of Europe, am I right?) and travel from there. My go-to is my cocktail of flight websites (new ones are always popping up as well!).

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Inside the Akershus courtyard by Elana Nichols

Once you have your flight booked, you need a place to rest thy head. Citybox was a cheap option that still gave you a toilet where we had our reservation at first. However, we stayed in the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo, and it was great! Not only was the location super convenient to pretty much everything in the city, it was nice, clean, comfortable, and had some stellar staff. In fact, we even had some high tech extras in our room like mood lighting on our bed! And the bed was the softest, most-cloud-like bed I have ever slept on. Ever tried weightless slumber? That hotel only costs around $70 per night in low season. So, it just pays to shop around. Try Booking.com, they usually have some great deals.

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Pastel de Nata was a great breakfast stop. By Elana Nichols

So, let’s talk what usually cleans out people’s pockets: food. Yeah, I was scared too when I read about people actually dumpster diving for food while they were there (yikes!). I even heard other bloggers mention bringing granola and snacks to avoid hurting your money flow…but I am here to tell you, it is possible to eat, my friend! If you do a quick search on Tripadvisor, you will see that the number of “one-dollar-sign” options are very sparse. It may surprise you, but my recommendations are not even McDonald’s and Burger King! (Although, I won’t lie, an Egg McMuffin overseas does taste better than it does in the ole U S of A) No. I am talking real food from real and (mostly) local places! Foodies rejoice! So, want in on some of my recommendations? Okay, sure. I mean, this is Abroadwithabrain after all, we are out to save you money while still experiencing all the fun!

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Try a local beer! If you want to try one on the cheap, visit a local store like Joker. By Elana Nichols

So, first, I’ll mention an option I did not partake in. There is the Oslo City Pass which is a great deal at under $60 (US) per person. It includes all of your transportation (including boats, yay!), museums, and some food discounts (think 20% off at select restaurants). Now, why didn’t I partake in such an amazing deal? Well, I’ll tell you! I am simply not a museum person. I have nothing against them, but since I was not visiting the museums this trip, it was cheaper for me to just purchase the transportation I needed. However, I do think this is an amazing deal, and many others rave about it. So there’s that. And I will say, it includes a self-guided tour of Akershus Castle as well as the Viking Museum, both of which thoroughly enticed me to enter, but sadly I just did not have the time with all of my plans.

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Lattes are served in a bowl! By Elana Nichols

Now that my confession of a lack of interest in museums is over (please don’t boo me if you love them!), I can move forward with the good food recommendations. So, for breakfast there are some really cool and cute little coffee houses, with amazing coffee and treats. The first is actually a Portuguese bakery called Pastel De Nata. If you have never tried these amazing little egg pastries, please do! They have a special deal for coffee and any pastry (including a rather generous slice of banana bread) for around $6. And. It. Is. Good. Another gorgeous breakfast recommendation I have is Kaffe Brenneriet. The coolest part of this place, besides its affordability, is that if you order a latte, not only is it delicious, but it is served in a bowl! Instagrammers rejoice. I got a large cappuccino and a pastry for around $10. Not as cheap as the first place, but still doable, and a cool experience makes it more worth it. I recommend the cinnamon roll. Another option, if you feel so American, is McDonald’s. I won’t lie, we were running late one morning and grabbed it on the go. It was quite tasty, in my opinion it tasted better than the golden arches in USA.

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Try Norwegian Salmon at a reasonable price! By Elana Nichols

For lunch, try Pink Fish. They boast fresh, Norwegian salmon starting at $11. This is your chance to try some local salmon without paying an arm and a leg. It is a walk-up counter service, but the food is high-quality and fresh and is served to you at your table. The place has a very Scandinavian vibe with a lot of sustainable environmental messages, so it is an enjoyable place to sit. You can get anything from a poke bowl to a salmon “burger.” I went for the Asian Bowl, and I was not disappointed. Another hot lunch spot moves around. There is a nomadic pop-up sauna called Salt. Not only can you pop in for a beer and a nice sauna session, but you can even get a pretty awesome waffle sandwich. Now, the bar we went to was pretty pricey, but good prices for Norwegian standards. A half liter of beer set us back $10. However, we got to try beer from the northernmost brewery in Norway! There are always kebab and pizza places as well. I did not get a chance to try it, but I hear Pepe’s pizza is both reasonable and good. You can find them sprinkled around Oslo.

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Salt had some good beer and great waffle sandwiches. By Elana Nichols

For dinner, we semi-splurged. We love to try beer from different breweries around the world, so we decided on the Amundsen Brewery. Dinner costed $40 total for the two of us. We split a meal (plenty of food for two!) and each had a local draft beer. I realize that splitting is not for everyone, but if you are okay with splitting, you can try good, local cuisine without breaking the bank. We decided to split the lamb burger, and wow, it was amazing. It was layered with eggplant, aoli, and local cheese and came with fries. The beer was excellent as well. I recommend both of their IPAs. For other dinner options, again, I did not have time to try it, but I hear Illegal Burger is good as well as Restaurant Schroder and there are always the shops like United Bakeries and the plethora of small food shops offering a diverse palate from around the world. If you fancy a drink, honestly, the best option is to grab a beer from a store like Joker– but beware, they do not sell alcohol in stores after 8 p.m. on weekdays, 6 p.m. on Saturdays, or at all on Sundays, so you may want to plan ahead.

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Wandering around town was free, and so fun! By Elana Nichols

Now, we were only in Oslo for two full days. Our first day, we explored mostly on foot. We saw Akershus Castle (the outside and courtyard area), Frogner Park, the Opera, waterfront, the royal palace, and other sites for free. It is honestly fun just marking sites you are interested in and wandering around to see what you feel like seeing and/or doing. We took public transport to Frogner Park, and it is around $6 per person each way. However, please keep in mind that the Ruter app or kiosks do not accept American payment. In fact, the only way we were able to get any local transport tickets was with cold, hard cash. So, plan ahead! Frogner park is worth a visit, as the sculptures are pretty unforgettable from the artist Vigeland.

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Vigeland has some incredible statues to observe in Frogner Park. By Elana Nichols

Our second day in Oslo was dedicated to The Well Spa. This place was by far the poshest, cleanest, and most interesting spa/sauna I have ever visited in Europe. Now, this is again a bit of a splurge, but I still think it is a good price for an entire day. The entire day costs around $50. It comes with a robe, towels, and slippers as well. The swimming areas are clothing optional, but if you want to wear a suit, you will have to buy theirs for around $20, but you do get to keep it. A peshtamel costs an extra $5 as well, but is a great way to keep covered in the saunas. Each area is themed very well to the last detail. For example, they have a “Japanese Bath” area that is beautiful and relaxing with Japanese decor. They also offer aufguss sessions. If you are not familiar with this practice, it involves pouring essential oils on the rocks and a trained professional moving the hot air around the sauna with a towel. You are completely relaxed as scents like eucalyptus and menthol fill the hot air. We ended our trip on this note, and I would not suggest doing it any other way. It is a relaxing, unique experience that will leave you feeling relaxed for days to come.

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The Opera is free! You can walk on the roof too! By Elana Nichols

Oslo beckons me to return as it really made an impression on me. The people were so nice and there was so much to offer that I did not get to experience with my short two days there. Oslo, I’ll be back for you and all of your unique wonders soon! And I feel so great knowing I can experience all the wonders without the worries of expense.

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