Budget Travel in Scandinavia: Tips for Saving Money in Sweden and Norway

Here are some tips I learned for saving money while traveling two of the most expensive countries in the world.

Norway Fjords in Lofoten
Lofoten Islands off the Coast of Norway

For over two weeks in December of 2021 and January of 2022, I had the amazing privilege of visiting Sweden and Norway, almost entirely in the Arctic Circle. While everyone knows that these countries are some of the most naturally beautiful and thrilling places, they also carry the reputation of being extremely expensive. Both are thought of as destinations that will put a hole in your wallet and Norway especially, is often considered to be the most expensive country to visit (along with Switzerland).

While traveling there certainly wasn't the cheapest, I was able to find ways to save a lot of money while being able to enjoy places thought of as unreachable by budget travelers. With these tips and more, I was able to visit the Arctic Circle (plus a night in Uppsala) for over two weeks for under $1000.

Buses and Trains are the Name of the Game

Although (especially in the Arctic) having a car is much more convenient, rentals will cost you hundreds per day and that’s not even mentioning the immense fuel prices. In Sweden, I used SJ Biljeter and Eurail. Purchasing a multiple day pass with Eurail cost about $180 in total. This allows for unlimited trains within any three days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) within a month. Usually, if seat reservations are required you would book them through the Eurail website. Seat reservations are for longer trains and with a pass only cost around $3-$5. However, Sweden's train system is not integrated with Eurail and you will have to go onto the SJ website in order to reserve a seat. When you enter your pass on their website, you will again have the very low prices for your seat reservations.

Aurora Borealis in Arctic Circle Sweden
Night Show in Abisko, Sweden

The advantage is, the Eurail system is not notified that a seat reservation has taken place and it doesn’t count towards one of your days with your pass. Given this current system, it would be entirely possible for someone to book a 2 or 3 day pass and use trains as much as you want within the month. If you are wanting to explore a lot of Sweden in a longer period of time, this could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your trip.

In Lofoten Islands, it is best to get a car. However, with gas and rental prices in Norway, that was not an option for me. The bus system isn’t the most efficient in the archipelago and if you try to book a ticket, it will be expensive. However, after the first day I realized and was later informed, that the bus drivers are aware of this and don't approve of the pricing. So, in theory (not saying I did it) you can ride the buses in Lofoten as much as you want without ever paying a single krona.

Cook for Yourself

This is a tip for traveling anywhere, or life in general, but cooking for yourself will always save you a ton of money. For some people, food in Sweden and Norway is (in some places) expensive enough to be the main expense of the trip. Groceries in Abisko, Sweden weren’t very expensive although given it is a small town inland in the Arctic, there wasn't a ton of selection. In Lofoten, Norway; the grocery had a lot of options but was significantly more expensive. In addition, Lofoten is so stretched out and remote that it was a 20 minute drive to the closest supermarket and since that was closed, it was another 20 minutes afterwards. While my week of groceries in Norway was about 90 euros, that would likely have been the total for three meals eaten at restaurants. So again, significant money saved.

Be in Nature

Northern Lights in Lofoten, Norway
Aurora Borealis over Fjords

This should be pretty self explanatory but nature is free and in Norway and Sweden, it’s freer than most places. With "Right to Roam" laws, people are allowed to trek anywhere in these countries, even on private property as long as you’re respectful and keep an appropriate distance from houses. Nature in Norway and Sweden is vast, beautiful, and at times can be extreme. I was in the Arctic Circle of these countries in December and January and spent the majority of my time outside. While it was intense and at times dangerous, nature was the reason I traveled there and I was going to take full advantage of it. There are certain things that you would have to book tours for such as snowmobiling and ice climbing. While you could also book aurora tours, there is no such thing as guaranteed Northern Lights. As long as you’re in a place with little to no light pollution and the sky is clear, chances are all you'll have to do is look up.

Overall Budget Travel in Scandinavia

Like I said earlier, Scandinavia is not cheap. But with these tips, flexibility, and willingness; you can save a ton of money while visiting some of the most beautiful places on Earth. For a final analysis, the average daily cost of visiting Sweden for travelers is around $90 per day. The average cost of visiting Norway for travelers is approximately $115 per day. I spent 10 nights in Sweden and 6 nights in Norway, which given these daily average prices, should have cost a total of $1590 not including transportation. I was able to visit these two countries for 16 days for a total price (including transportation & flights to Stockholm from Estonia) for a total of approximately $990. So while it may still cost a decent amount to visit, don't think that these locations are off limits due to your budget.