Scandinavia is a fantastic region of the world. We’d been wanting to spend time there for a while, but didn’t manage to get there until earlier this year. Mostly, we’d been put off by prices – we’d heard that everything was expensive in the north of Europe, especially accommodation, transport and alcohol, and this had been proven correct during our brief time in Finland in 2007.
Getting there and getting around in Scandinavia
Getting to Scandinavia doesn’t need to be expensive. Many budget carriers fly to the capitals and smaller cities as well, and you can often grab a bargain. Use toandfromtheairport.com to check out prices for getting from the airport to your accommodation though, or you might end up spending more on that than you spent on your flight.
You can also arrive by bus or train, train being the more comfortable option. You could buy point-to-point tickets in person or online (although it’s difficult to buy tickets between countries online in Sweden and Norway), or use a Eurail pass.
We found our pass (courtesy of Eurail.com) invaluable in Scandinavia, especially for the longer journeys. Sometimes it didn’t save us as much as we would have expected, but just being able to show up and jump on a train was awesome. And in Sweden you get free coffee if you travel in first class (Norwegian trains didn’t seem to have first class, oddly).
Yes, accommodation in Scandinavia is expensive. Hostels cost at least twenty euros a night, and hotels are often booked out and therefore what is available is even more expensive. Booking.com can help a lot, as can booking your hostel in advance through hostelbookers, but the best thing to do is to couchsurf.
You can stay free of charge with locals through couchsurfing, the idea being that they get to meet cool travellers like you, and you get to interact with locals – a cultural exchange. We met some awesome people through couchsurfing – Mona, Therese and Ola, Benny, Morten, Magdalena and Nahikari. Most of these guys are locals and most spent time with us, introducing us to their town and their cuisine. It was awesome, and I wouldn’t swap the experience for the best hotel.
Food and booze in Scandinavia
A trip to the supermarket is likely to cost you more than back home, but you can save a little by going to cheaper supermarkets like Aldi.
Drinking out is expensive, buy booze at the shops and drink at home. Strangely, in Sweden there’s a government monopoly and you can only buy alcohol from the special shops. Well, you can buy low-alcohol beer and cider from the supermarket, but that’s all.
Wine is costly, but it seems that the tax that racks up the price is a per-bottle one, so cheaper wines seem expensive but mid-range ones aren’t too bad. Just don’t compare prices with super-cheap Spain and Germany — you’ll just get sad. Wine is most expensive in Norway, Sweden is a little better, and Denmark is cheapest – but buy in Germany before you arrive if you can. If you’re crossing from Estonia to Finland, definitely buy alcohol before you go, it’s so much cheaper.