Oseburg Ship at Vikingskipshuset (the Viking Ship Museum)
Norway did I think I’d ever get the Opportunity to visit Oslo and Lillehammer! However, through a wonderful combination of a RyanAir deal, great timing, and fate, my friend Emilie and I were able to go to Norway for five days at the end of June. We were so excited when we were buying the 41 euro round-trip tickets that we completely forgot that Scandinavia is very expensive. We just jumped on the deal and didn’t look back until everyone started asking us how we were able to afford going there as students.
Doing “the Sound of Music Spin” in Lillehammer
Though I probably did spend more money there than I had spent on my other vacations while I’ve been doing my program abroad, I am here to say that it is possible to visit one of the more “expensive” places. You just have to do a lot of planning. Here are a few tips for cutting corners so that you can go on your dream holiday as a poor student without having to break into your life savings.
Church in Lillehammer
1. Skip on the Checked Bag
If you’re traveling in the summertime, chances are that you are bringing lighter clothing items. These clothes take up less room when folded than winter clothes, so you might be able to make the trip on just your carry-on and personal item. Right from the start, you’re saving money. Depending on the time of year and weight of your luggage, you might be saving anywhere from 15 to 45 euro per flight by avoiding a checked bag. Another tip: if you’re barely able to zip up your carry-on bag, why not try rolling your clothes? This takes up less room than folding them.
Stave Church in Oslo
Nope, I don’t mean Bring Your Own Bottle. One way to save a bit more cash is to Bring Your Own Breakfast! Before I went to Norway, I bought a bag of apples, a package of peanuts, and some breakfast bars at a cheap grocery story here in Limerick. I was set for the entire trip and didn’t have to worry about 1/3 of my meals.
Oslo all decked out for EuroPride
3. Go Grocery Shopping
One thing that Emilie and I did was to go to a local grocery store when we got to Norway. I bought the essentials for wraps and some vegetables to munch on. This eliminated the need for me to buy two expensive meals a day. Now, breakfast and lunch were taken care of. It was also really fun trying to figure out what we were buying from the store. We had the best time figuring out which sweets we would enjoy. Neither of us can read Norwegian, so it was a guess-and-check which is surprisingly fun. I felt like it also gave us a better feel for what it is like to live in Norway – rubbing elbows with the locals and perusing through aisles of cheese.
Oslo at Midnight
4. Be fit and sightsee at the same time
If you’re a runner, I’d highly recommend taking your workout on holiday with you. Instead of spending extra money on public transportation, you can see some of the sights while on your morning jog. If you want to go back and spend time at a particular place, you also now know where it is and will spend less time getting lost trying to find the place! Side note: If you want a good cardio workout and are visiting Oslo, make sure you do some repeats up the Oslo Opera house. Those stairs are killer!
Oslo Opera House – Designed to look like an Iceberg
5. Get a Day Pass
If you do want to use public transportation, schedule your outings that are farther away on the same day. You can then hop from bus to train to tram and get all of those sights in on that one day. This is great if you have a bad sense of direction as you don’t have to beat yourself up if you get on the train going the opposite direction several times. I wouldn’t know anything about that, though… 🙂
Being a stand-in guard at the Akershus Fortress
6. Use the Locals
If you are tired of staying just in the main city but cannot afford a nine-hour train ride to a part of the country that the internet reviews have told you is great, why don’t you ask where you should go next? Emilie and I went to church on Sunday and asked different church members which towns would be worth visiting. Everyone highly recommended seeing Lillehammer, so twenty hours later, we were on a train heading north to that beautiful Olympic city. It was much less touristy than Oslo and we had a wonderful time being one with nature. We did some hiking, put our feet in a mountain spring, and even saw a little old woman walking down a country lane with a basket full of jam and crackers.
The way to the top of the Lillehammer Olympic ski slopes (Emilie’s first time on a ski lift – she screamed a lot)
7. Be Spontaneous
You might have a set plan before you leave for your holiday, but if you get to your hostel and see that there’s a “Free to Visit” section in the city guidebook or if you’re walking to visit the Palace and are stopped by a man telling you about the Ice Bar that is extremely cheap to visit, make sure not to write these experiences off. Maybe you would have the best time taking photos of an ice sculpture of Munch’s Scream and drinking Coke while wearing a parka. You can still visit the Palace later on that afternoon. Even if you are lucky and don’t have to worry about traveling on a budget, I’d say to take this step to heart. You never know what you’re going to stumble upon when you’re visiting another country. It is great to visit the classic places, but make sure to leave some room for being spontaneous. It will make your trip so much more worthwhile.
Make sure to photobomb your friends’ selfies as much as possible – even while taking a boat cruise in the Oslofjord and especially while trying to do your own selfie at the same time