How to travel Norway in a van without breaking the bank
When most people think about visiting Norway, they imagine that it’s going to cost a lot. Ranked as the second most expensive country in the world in 2020 after Switzerland, it’s true it's definitely not a cheap place to visit!
But, travelling in a van is one of the most affordable ways to see Norway and it doesn't have to cost you loads. After spending a month driving around this stunning country in our van we’ve come up with some top tips for #vanlife in Norway on a budget.
Getting there - book your route in advance
There are multiple routes from mainland Europe into Norway. One of the most cost effective routes is to take the ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Kristiansand in the south of Norway. If you book this in advance, prices can be as low as £100 for a campervan, but prices rise steeply closer to the departure date!
Register for Autopass for a discount on ferries and tolls
Most ferries and toll roads in Norway use an automatic payment system called ‘autopass’ which uses number plate recognition to invoice you directly. We soon realised that there are a lot of fjords in Norway and as you are driving along the coast, the road often ends and is replaced with a ferry. The price of each ferry is around £15-30 and so costs can soon add up.
*There is a way to get a 50% discount on ferry crossings by applying for a tag that is sent to you by post before you set off. It can take 1-2 weeks for this to arrive so it pays to be organised! *
Foreigners driving in Norway should also register with Euro Parking Collection (EPC) to receive invoices. If you forget to register they will still be able to invoice you but it may take longer. More details on the ferry and toll road process can be found here: https://www.autopass.no/en/visitors-payment
Keep your van under 6m and 3.5 tonnes
It may be too late to change the size of your van, but if you are hiring a van for your trip or are yet to buy one, consider the size! In Norway vehicle tolls are charged in price brackets according to size and weight. The price of ferries and tolls is almost double for vans over 3.5 tonnes or 6m, adding a significant cost to your trip.
Stock up on groceries before you cross the border
If you are travelling through mainland Europe on route to Norway you should definitely buy as much food and alcohol as you need before you get there. We stocked up on wine in France and groceries in German Aldi. We used every spare storage space in the van for food and drink! Alcohol higher than 4.75% in Norway can only be bought from government shops called Vinmonopolet (the wine monopoly) and it’s very heavily taxed.
Make sure you check the import quotas to be sure that you don’t get caught trying to bring too much cheap alcohol into the country!
Norway is an absolute dream for van lifers and wild campers. Like most Nordic countries, the ancient ‘right to roam’ law means that you can spend the night anywhere as long as you are 150m away from the nearest house. Unfortunately we did find that there have been a lot of no camping signs erected in the touristy south that overrule this law. Despite this, we always managed to find somewhere free to park for every night of our trip, saving us the cost of campsites.
Campsites in Norway cost around £25-35 per night. If, like us, you can be self sufficient in your van and don’t need any facilities, then wild camping is the perfect solution to save money. Many of the free spots we camped at in Norway had toilets, picnic benches and rubbish bins. There were also plenty of places on the road to fill our fresh water and empty our grey water, so avoiding campsites is completely possible.
We usually used the park4night app to find our camp spots, selecting ones with the best ratings, reviews or pictures. Google maps ariel view is also super useful for finding parking spots and getting an idea of how big they are. On rainy days we opted for parking spots that were flat and easy to access, with free wifi if possible. When the weather was good we always tried to find those dreamy back door views. If you want to see where we camped, check out our map of every single park up spot we stayed at on our trip!
Keep and eye on fuel prices
Fuel prices change quickly in Norway so be on the lookout for low prices and consider topping up even if you don’t have an empty tank. We often found the cheapest fuel on a Saturday, but we also heard that Monday usually has low prices, so who knows if there’s any logic to it!
Avoid main tourist hikes and get off the beaten track
Before our trip to Norway we had a bucket list of places to go based on epic pictures we had seen on Instagram. Once we started to research the practicalities of hiking to some of these places we realised that there were often big costs involved.
Norway is a huge country full of incredible scenery everywhere you look. You can pull up at the side of the road almost anywhere and find free hiking trails where you will get to explore stunning landscapes all to yourselves. Below are some of the ‘famous’ Norway trails and the costs involved in hiking them:
Preikestolen [Pulpit Rock] - Parking fee 250NOK (£21)
For an alternative hike and amazing free parking spot we recommend heading to Parking Skrøylå and hiking to Sollifjell. We didn't pass a single person on our hike and had amazing views over Lysefjord all to ourselves!
Trolltunga - Parking fee 600NOK (£50!!)
Kjerag - Parking fee 200NOK (£17)
Romsdalseggen Ridge - 200 NOK (£17) bus ticket to trail head, or toll - no other way to get to the start
For a (steep) alternative hike you can park at the FREE campsite at Trollstigen resort and climb the 900m ascent to Norafjellet. From the top you have 360 degree views next to the famous ridge!
These hikes are famous and busy for a reason of course and they are undoubtedly stunning. We discovered there’s much more to Norway than Instagram tells you! Consider hiking another route in the same area. You will see the same landscape from a different angle and probably have it all to yourself...
Forage for berries
Fresh fruit and vegetables are especially expensive in Norway as they are mostly imported. The great news is that in the summertime you can get loads of delicious berries for free! On our trip we picked hundreds of raspberries, tiny strawberries and arctic blueberries. In the north we even managed to find the sought after cloudberries! If you are heading out on a hike it’s always a good idea to bring a container in case you come across some berries along the way.
Cook your own meals and avoid eating out
An easy and obvious way to save money is to avoid the high cost of Norway’s restaurants. Make packed lunches before you head out for the day and cook dinner in the van when you get back. There are so many amazing places to park up and eat your dinner that it will beat the view from any restaurant anyway!
Bake your own bread
Bread in Norwegian supermarkets is expensive and often not that fresh. We picked up some packets of bread mix in Germany for 50c which came in handy. Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked warm bread in your van!
Visits cities after 3pm sat or on Sundays for free parking
Parking in Norwegian cities can be expensive and difficult. At the weekends however, parking charges are often dropped and you can drive right into the center and park for free. We found the best time to arrive in a city was at 3pm on Saturday. This meant that we could park for free and still have a few hours to explore before everything closed. Most shops in Norway are closed on Sundays so this is a good day explore cafes, parks and museums.
We hope these tips will help you save money on your own Norway van life adventures. It really is possible to enjoy one of the most expensive and beautiful countries in the road without breaking the bank!