The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Oslo on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Oslo on a Budget

Welcome to the ultimate Oslo Budget Travel Guide—your key to unlocking the treasures of Norway’s capital without hugging financial instability. Known for its fjords and urban greenery, Oslo is a sanctuary for outdoor lovers and cultural buffs alike.

Despite its status as one of the world’s most expensive cities, we’ll show you how Oslo can surprise you with a wealth of experiences that defy its pricey reputation.

This guide is perfect if you’re on a mission to backpack Oslo on a budget. 


Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown to help you plan your trip in Euros:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low: 50-80€
  • Mid-range: 100-150€
  • High: 200€+

Detailed Costs: Oslo Travel Guide

Accommodation:

  • Low: Hostels or guesthouses (20-30€)
  • Mid-range: Hotels or B&Bs (75-120€)
  • High: Luxury hotels or apartments (200€+)

Read: best hostels in Oslo.

Public Transportation:

  • Metro ticket: 3€
  • Day Pass: 11€
  • 3-Day Tourist Pass: 38€

Entrance Fees:

  • Low (Mostly Free Activities): Vigeland Park, harbor area, Akershus Fortress, free walking tour
  • Mid-range: Viking Ships Museum: 12€, National Gallery: Free admission on Wednesdays
  • High: Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art: 15€, Oslo Opera House: Tour prices vary

Restaurants:

  • Low: Kebab or pizza: 5-8€
  • Mid-range: Local restaurants: 15-20€
  • High: Fine dining restaurants: 30€+

Popular Food Staples: Fish and Seafood

  • Low: Fish cakes (Fiskekaker): 4-5€
  • Mid-range: Salmon dishes: 15-20€
  • High: Seafood platter: 30€+

Coffee:

  • Low: Takeaway coffee: 2-3€
  • Mid-range: Cafe latte: 4-5€
  • High: Specialty coffee shops: 5€+

Beer & Wine:

  • Low: Local beer at a pub: 6-8€
  • Mid-range: Craft beer or glass of wine in a restaurant: 10-15€
  • High: Specialty beers or vintage wines: 15€+

Exploring Oslo: Things to See & Do

Get ready to dive into Viking sagas, stunning fjords, and a city vibe that’s both chic and down-to-earth. Buckle up and explore!

Must Do in Oslo

  1. Viking Voyage: Explore the Viking Ship Museum and marvel at real Viking vessels, some dating back to the 9th century!
  2. Park Life: Oslo is a green city. Soak up the sun at Vigeland Park, a massive sculpture park with unique statues, or stroll through the serene Royal Palace Gardens.
  3. Akershus Fortress: This medieval castle offers stunning harbor views and a peek into Oslo’s rich past. Don’t miss the changing of the guard ceremony!
  4. Holmenkollen Ski Jump: Even if you’re not a skier, take the elevator to the top of the jump for breathtaking panoramic views of the city and fjord. There’s also a ski museum showcasing Norway’s winter sports history.
  5. Karl Johans Gate: Stroll down Oslo’s main street, lined with shops, cafes, and historical buildings like the Parliament House and the National Theatre.
  6. The Oslo Opera House: This architectural marvel features a sloping white roof open to the public, offering stunning city and waterfront views.
  7. Grünerløkka: Explore this trendy neighborhood known for its vintage shops, independent cafes, and buzzing nightlife.
  8. Bygdøy Peninsula: A treasure trove of museums! Visit the Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum chronicling Thor Heyerdahl’s epic expeditions, or the Fram Museum dedicated to polar exploration.
  9. Oslo Harbor: Take a boat tour or kayak along the scenic Oslofjord, a must for water enthusiasts.
  10. Flea Market: Hunt for unique souvenirs and local treasures at the Vestkanttorvet flea market, held every Saturday.

Free things to do in Oslo

  1. Park Paradise: Oslo has numerous parks perfect for picnicking, relaxing, or people-watching. Explore the vibrant greenery of Frogner Park, discover the hidden gem of Tøyen Park, or visit the botanical gardens.
  2. Free Museum Days: Several museums offer free admission on specific days. Check out the National Gallery’s impressive collection on Wednesdays or explore contemporary art at the Astrup Fearnley Museum on Thursdays (until 6 pm).
  3. Akershus Fortress Grounds: While the castle itself requires an entrance fee, the surrounding grounds are free to explore. Enjoy the harbor views, historical sites, and occasional open-air events.
  4. Walking Tours: Join a free walking tour and discover the city’s cool areas like Aker Brygge,  historical landmarks, and local stories.
  5. Festivals: Oslo comes alive with numerous festivals throughout the year. Catch the Oslo Jazz Festival, the Norwegian Independence Day celebrations, or the Vinterfest (Winter Festival) for a taste of local culture.

Top Museums in Oslo

  1. National Gallery: Immerse yourself in Norwegian and international art, from the Middle Ages to modern times. 
  2. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art: See a collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring works by Munch, Picasso, and other renowned artists. 
  3. The Munch Museum: Dedicated solely to the works of Edvard Munch, the famous expressionist painter behind “The Scream.”
  4. National Museum: Norway’s largest museum complex, housing extensive collections on cultural history, decorative arts, and archaeology.
  5. Holmenkollen Ski Museum: Learn about Norway’s rich winter sports heritage and get a glimpse of the iconic ski jump from the museum tower.

Tip: The Oslo Pass provides free entry to over 30 museums, free public transportation, and discounts on other activities. Consider purchasing one if you plan on visiting multiple museums and attractions.

Oslo in winter

Oslo in Summer

Where to Stay on a Budget

Oslo’s a looker of a city, but those fjord-facing views can come with a hefty price tag, especially when it comes to accommodation. Here are character-filled neighborhoods that won’t break the bank.

Central: Central Oslo (around Karl Johans Gate) is where all the action is, with tourist attractions, shops, and fancy hotels. It’s super convenient but be prepared to loosen your purse strings for a bed.

Read: best hostels in Oslo.

Budget Areas: Backpacking Oslo 

Grünerløkka: This trendy neighborhood is a haven for hipsters and budget travelers alike. Think vintage shops, independent cafes serving up delicious brunches, and a buzzing nightlife scene. 

Grünerløkka’s Edgier Cousin: Torshov. This up-and-coming area boasts a more alternative vibe, with quirky bars, art galleries, and a strong sense of community. It’s a great choice for those seeking a unique Oslo experience.

Young and Restless in St. Hanshaugen: If you’re on a budget and crave a youthful atmosphere, St. Hanshaugen is your jam. Home to Oslo’s student population, this area offers affordable guesthouses, lively bars, and a park perfect for people-watching (and picnicking on the cheap).

Across the Bridge in Eiker: Eiker sits on the other side of the Akerselva River and offers a more relaxed pace compared to the city center. Here you’ll find charming old wooden houses, vintage shops, and cozy cafes – all minus the tourist crowds. It’s perfect for those seeking a more local experience.

Eating and Drinking

Oslo might be known for its stunning scenery, but let’s be honest, even the most breathtaking fjord view gets dull on an empty stomach. Here’s how to keep your tummy happy without maxing out your credit card.

Water: Oslo’s tap water is crystal clear and perfectly safe to drink. 

Oslo Travel Guide Itinerary: Food

  • Ethnic food: Oslo is a multicultural city, reflected in its diverse culinary scene. Explore areas like Grønland for delicious and affordable Turkish kebabs. Look for signs saying “Döner Kebab” – these are typically large portions of succulent meat wrapped in warm flatbread with fresh veggies and creamy sauces, all for under 100 NOK. Venture a bit deeper into the neighborhood to find hidden gems like “Damas Kafeteria” known for their authentic Syrian mezze platters with hummus, falafel, and other delights, perfect for sharing for around 150 NOK per person.
  • Pro Tip: Avoid tourist hotspots like Karl Johans Gate, where food prices tend to be inflated. Venture a little further and discover the tastier, cheaper side of Oslo.

Markets

  • Mathallen Oslo: This upscale market offers a variety of food stalls serving everything from fresh seafood to gourmet cheeses. While not exactly budget-busting, you can grab a delicious and unique bite without breaking the bank. Try the “fiskekaker” (fish cakes) from “Fiskekroken” stall for around 50 NOK – a true Norwegian comfort food.
  • Torggata Matmarked: This lively market is a great spot to sample traditional Norwegian fare like smoked salmon and cured meats. Head to “Trøndelagsbua” and grab a “smørbrød” (open-faced sandwich) piled high with their famous cured meats and cheeses for around 80-100 NOK.
  • Vippa Food Hall: Housed in a converted ferry terminal, Vippa offers a trendy atmosphere with a wide variety of international food stalls. Perfect for a fun and social dining experience. For a taste of Asia, try “Bun Bao” where you can create your own delicious and affordable bao buns for around 70-100 NOK depending on your fillings.

Affordable Options:

  • Bakeries: Norwegian bakeries, or “bakeri,” are a budget traveler’s best friend. Pick up a fresh “kanelbolle” (cinnamon roll) for around 25-30 NOK or a hearty “rundstykke” (bread roll) for around 15-20 NOK for a cheap and satisfying breakfast or snack. Look for bakeries with “brødutsalg” (bread sale) signs in the afternoons for discounted pastries.
  • Supermarket Snacks: Stock up on groceries like pre-made sandwiches, salads, and yogurts from budget-friendly supermarkets like Rema 1000 or Kiwi. Picnics in Oslo’s many parks are a delightful and affordable way to enjoy a meal. Head to the pre-made salad section and create your own masterpiece for around 50-70 NOK, or grab a pre-made sandwich for a similar price.
  • Pølser (Hot Dogs): Considered a national treasure, Norwegian hot dogs, or “pølser,” are a delicious and affordable street food option. They come loaded with various toppings, making for a surprisingly satisfying meal. Find hot dog stands scattered throughout the city, usually for around 30-40 NOK. Don’t miss the chance to try a “lompe” (potato flatbread) instead of a regular hot dog bun for a truly Norwegian experience.

Grocery Gems: 

  • Rema 1000: A Norwegian discount grocery chain known for its affordable prices and good quality own-brand products. Stock up on essentials like bread, cheese, and yogurt for significantly less than tourist-oriented shops.
  • Kiwi: Another popular discount grocer offering a wide range of products at competitive prices. Look for their “Extra” line for budget-friendly staples.
  • Coop: A large Norwegian cooperative chain with a good selection of organic and local products, often at slightly higher prices than discount stores. 
Oslo by Night

Oslo Hiking

How to Get Around

Oslo’s a breeze to navigate, and its public transportation system is clean, and efficient, and won’t leave you feeling like you just handed over your firstborn for a ride. Here’s the lowdown on getting around Oslo like a local, minus the dent in your wallet:

Understanding Oslo’s Public Transportation

T-bane (Metro): Oslo’s metro system is made out of speedy trains, transporting you across the city in minutes. Tickets can be purchased at stations or with the Ruter app. Here’s the ticket breakdown to navigate the pricing jungle:

  • Single Ticket: Good for a single journey within one zone (most central Oslo is Zone 1). Price: 36 NOK (around €4.10). While convenient for occasional rides, it can add up quickly.
  • Day Pass: Ideal for a day of exploration. Valid for 24 hours within zones you specify upon purchase. Price: 110 NOK (around €12.50) for Zone 1.
  • Multi-Day Pass: Conquer Oslo for a longer stay! Valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours within chosen zones. Prices start at 230 NOK (around €26.30) for a 24-hour Zone 1 pass.

Buss (Buses): Oslo’s extensive bus network tackles areas the metro doesn’t. Sure, they might get caught in traffic sometimes, but hey, that just gives you more time to people-watch (and maybe spot a hidden gem or two!). Tickets work the same way as the metro.

Trikk (Tram): For a dose of vintage charm, hop on a tram. These go to central Oslo, offering a unique perspective of the city. Think red carriages and nostalgic vibes. Ticketing is the same system as the metro and buses.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Oslo

Oslo has one main airport: Oslo Airport Gardermoen (OSL). Here’s how to get from the airport to the city center without denting your travel budget:

  • Flytoget (Airport Express Train): The speed demon of options, the Flytoget rockets you straight to Oslo Central Station in about 20 minutes. It’s undeniably convenient, but also the priciest choice. Think 200 NOK (around €23) for a one-way trip. If you’re short on time and crave lightning speed, this might be your best bet.
  • Ruter Airport Express Bus: This comfy coach takes about 45 minutes to reach Oslo city center and is a much more budget-friendly hero compared to the Flytoget. At 100 NOK (around €11.50) for a one-way trip, it’s a steal for the service. While not the most luxurious ride, it gets the job done without feeling like a highway robbery.

Extra Savvy Strategies:

  • Walking: Oslo is a pedestrian-friendly paradise. Many central sights are within walking distance, allowing you to explore at your own pace and soak up the city’s atmosphere. Bonus: it’s completely free!
  • City Bike: Oslo has a city bike program called “Oslo Bysykkel.” Rent bikes for short trips at docking stations scattered around the city. It’s a fantastic way to explore like a local and get some exercise while you’re at it. Prices are very reasonable, especially compared to taxis. Single rides start at 30 NOK (around €3.40), and day passes are even more affordable.
  • Zone Out and Save: Oslo’s public transport system is divided into zones. If you’re staying and exploring central Oslo (Zone 1), you likely won’t need to venture into outer zones. By sticking to Zone 1 tickets or passes, you can save money on fares.

Best Time to Visit Oslo

Oslo’s charm varies depending on the season. Here’s a breakdown to help you pick the perfect time for your adventure:

  • High Season (June – August):

Pros: Long, sunny days, vibrant outdoor scene, abundance of festivals and events.
Cons: Peak tourist crowds, higher accommodation prices.

  • Shoulder Season (April – May & September – October):

Pros: Pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, shoulder-season discounts on travel and accommodation.
Cons: More unpredictable weather compared to summer, some outdoor activities might have limited hours.

  • Low Season (November – March):

Pros: Rock-bottom travel deals, fewer crowds, magical winter wonderland atmosphere (if snow falls).
Cons: Short daylight hours, some attractions may have reduced hours and freezing temperatures.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals

  • Holmenkollen Ski Festival (Mid-March): The world’s oldest ski jumping competition. Expect large crowds and festive vibes.
  • Norwegian Constitution Day (May 17th): A national celebration with parades and festivities. Prepare for crowds and inflated prices.
  • Oslo Street Food Festival (May): A celebration of global flavors with over 200 food stalls. Expect delicious treats and lively crowds.
  • National Midsummer Eve (Midsummer – between June 19th and 25th): A cherished tradition with bonfires, traditional food, and celebrations of the summer solstice. Accommodation books up quickly around this time.
  • Oslo Pride (Late June – Early July): A vibrant celebration of LGBTQ+ culture with a parade, parties, and events. Expect a festive atmosphere and increased demand for accommodation.
  • Christmas and New Year’s: The city transforms into a winter wonderland, but be prepared for peak season prices and potential attraction closures.
  • Øyafestivalen (August): Oslo’s largest music festival featuring international and Norwegian artists. Book accommodation well in advance as hotels fill up quickly.
  • Oslo Jazz Festival (August): A celebration of all things jazz, attracting music lovers from around the globe. Expect lively venues and potentially higher accommodation rates.
  • Food & Wine Festival (August): A paradise for gourmands featuring culinary delights from Norway and around the world. Be prepared for crowds and potentially higher accommodation costs.
  • Vinterfest (Winter Festival) (February): A celebration of all things winter with ice sculptures, concerts, and family-friendly activities. Expect a charming winter atmosphere and a slight increase in tourist numbers.

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

Oslo is an amazing city to explore on a budget, but even the most seasoned backpacker needs a battle plan. Here’s your essential guide to conquering Oslo without getting caught off guard:

Oslo Safety Tips

  • Hide Your valuables: Oslo is generally very safe, but petty theft can happen anywhere. Keep your valuables close, especially in crowded areas like public transportation.
  • Darkness Doesn’t Bite (Usually): Oslo is a well-lit city, even at night. However, if you’re venturing out after dark, stick to well-lit areas and main streets. There’s no need to befriend shadowy alleyways.

Common Scams

  • Fake Fortune Tellers: While they might seem harmless, these fortune tellers often target tourists and pressure them to pay exorbitant prices for “readings.” A polite “Nei takk” (No thanks) and a brisk walk away is your best defense.
  • The “Accidental Bump”: This age-old trick involves someone “accidentally” bumping into you, causing a distraction while an accomplice picks your pockets. Stay aware of your surroundings and trust your gut if something feels off.

Things Not to Do

  • Public Place Picnics (Unless Planned): Oslo encourages outdoor living, but public intoxication is a no-no. Stick to designated picnic areas or enjoy your drinks and snacks at a bar or restaurant.
  • Metro Manners: Public transportation is a shared space. Avoid loud phone calls, blocking doorways, and spreading out with your backpack like you own the entire carriage. Be mindful of your fellow passengers.
  • Jumper Beware: Oslo winters can be icy, and some Norwegians take a “polar bear plunge” approach to dressing. Don’t be fooled by their seemingly casual winter wear. Pack thermals – trust us, you’ll thank yourself later.
  • Right of Way Respect: Norway has a strong culture of respecting personal space. Don’t crowd people in line or on the sidewalk. Patience is a virtue, especially during rush hour.

Oslo Passes:

  • Oslo Pass: Your golden ticket to sightseeing and savings! This pass grants free entry to over 30 museums, free public transportation within your chosen zones, and discounts on other activities. Ideal if you’re packing in the museum visits.
  • Ruter Travelcard: Conquer Oslo’s public transportation system with this handy pass. Available in different durations (24, 48, or 72 hours) and zones, it lets you explore the city at your own pace without breaking the bank.

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