Norway, Europe’s Most Expensive Country

Haugesund Norway

‘That’s an outrage’ I said, clutching my receipt like bad news from a doctor. ‘I don’t know why I don’t just pin money to my jacket and let you people pick it off me!'” -Bill Bryson – ‘Neither Here Nor There’

Although I have an ambition to visit all of the countries of Europe the quest has slowed down a little in the last eighteen months with limited opportunities to see new places due to several return visits to different regions of Spain, an annual holiday to the Greek islands of course and repeat visits to Poland, Germany and France.  So by early 2011 and without a visit to a new European country since Estonia in December 2009, it was surely time to put this right.

One part of Europe that we have so far missed out is Scandinavia so with January Ryanair weekend flight bargains to Norway, Sweden and Denmark this was the perfect opportunity.  There were a lot of destinations to pick from and after comparing all the options we finally choose Norway.  We could have flown to the capital Oslo but it turned out that the airport is almost seventy kilometres from the city, which would have meant a lot of travelling in a short space of time, so we decided upon Haugesund instead, a city on the North Sea coast in between the two better known destinations of Bergen to the north and Stavanger to the south.

Actually, as it turns out I remembered later that I had in fact been to Norway before but this was not an authentic visit because this was to Norway at the World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida, USA.


One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe but with flights at just £12 return (ok, plus the ludicrous £10 administration fee of course) we calculated that we could afford a couple of days of sky high northern European alcohol and restaurant prices without too much pocket pain.

The reason that Norway in particular is so expensive is that after World War Two, thanks to shipping, the merchant marine industry and a policy of domestic industrialisation the country experienced rapid economic growth.  Then, from the early 1970s, there was further accelerated growth as a result of exploiting large oil and natural gas deposits that had been discovered in the North Sea.

Today, as a result Norway ranks as the second wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation.  It is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of its gross domestic product. Norway has rich resources of oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power, forests, and minerals, and, after the People’s Republic of China is the second largest exporter of seafood in value.  Following the financial crisis of 2007–2010, World bankers declared the Norwegian krone to be one of the most solid and reliable currencies in the world.

EPCOT Norway

Because of this happy position Norway is one of the priciest countries to live in or visit and regularly features in the top five places where you can quickly run up an overdraft.  For residents a high proportion of income is spent on housing and the monthly groceries for example for a typical family costs roughly £1,000. For Visitors dining out is an expensive luxury and a typical three star hotel in Oslo costs a whopping £150 a night, starting at the smallest hotel room and definitely without a balcony or a view.

Alcohol, however, is the real killer (financially not medically) because the Government slaps on punitive taxes to stop people from drinking and the price of a bottle of spirits is four times that of the United Kingdom.

Norwegians can only by wine and spirits from special liquor outlets called Vinmonopolet (literally, wine monopoly) and there are normally only one or two of these in each city, depending on its size so some people living in the countryside have to travel great distances just to buy a bottle of wine or alternatively they just stay at home and brew their own.

It’s not all bad news for Norwegians however because high prices go hand in hand with the country’s high standard of living. Hourly wages are extremely high to attract workers that would get the same pay in Norway’s oil or fishing industry and consequently products in the shops and supermarkets are expensive but to Norwegians, their pricey lifestyle is just something that they have come to terms with.

Steinunn first Icelandic cSettler

With budgets in mind the search for a hotel produced the highly recommended four star Clarion Collection Hotel Amanda situated right on the waterfront and at £110 a night all inclusive including evening buffet that seemed just about perfect so we had no hesitation in booking the room.

On the day of departure and anticipating low winter temperatures we packed appropriately because Haugesund is just slightly further north than the Orkney Islands so we were expecting cold weather.  And with alcohol prices in mind we left space for a three litre carton of red wine from the duty free shop at Stansted airport!

It was a lunch time flight and with the one hour time difference we landed at Haugesund airport on the nearby island of Karmøy at half past four where due to the high northerly latitude of 59º it had already been dark for over an hour.

Vinmonopolet Norway Alcohol State

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58 responses to “Norway, Europe’s Most Expensive Country

  1. Pingback: Norway, Europe's Most Expensive Country « Have Bag, Will Travel | Today Headlines

  2. Norway is a truly beautiful country and the people are really friendly
    I hope you enjoyed your brief visit.
    yes the drink is expensive, well everything is expensive as you say. But worth the visit.


  3. Wow that sounds hectic to live there. I would love to see Norway, but I don’t think I would like the short and few hours of daylight. How about some pics?


  4. then visit in the summer, when you have loads of daylight. Some might complain that it is to much daylight


  5. With Ryanair, it is a question of knowing how to play the game. Only travel with hand luggage, ensure it is below the weight and size limit, make sure you only have the one bag. And buy a bottle of water in the airport. also insure you check in and print your boarding pass, for both legs of the flight, before you get to the airport.

    But as most of their flights are quite short then you can usually survive without needing more food and drink

    Also ear plugs, as the adverts on the tannoy are non stop and sun glasses as the yellow they use in their plane is really rather bright.

    I know of a few people who have spent more on administration costs than they have on their ticket

    but do it right and they’ll get you places incredibly cheaply


  6. And one final point, like you did, get the atlas out and check exactly where it is they land.

    Sometime it is actually good. For my trips to Norway, they fly to an airport called Rygge, which is classed as Oslo, but is an hour away by train. However, for my final destination it saves me about 90 minutes of travelling compared with Oslo’s main Airport


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  8. It is very expensive here – whenever we go on holidays we always travel abroad to save money! 🙂


  9. Beautiful country and lovely people. Not your fault that it is so expensive. (for certain tourists), but please don’t fob these complaints off and claim they are not valid.

    Norway is the most expensive country I have ever visited, by miles. Fact!!

    Hope you never have to rely on tourism for your income.

    Pass me another herring please Arne.



  10. I like this blog very much. I did not know that Norway was one of the most expensive countries to live in. That is very interesting. I guess I will have to wait to hit the lottery before going there.
    I hope you enjoyed your trip. It sounds like a beautiful place to go.


  11. There’s an excellent book you might be interested in by Tom Chessyre (Times travel writer) called How Low Can You Go? He has weekend breaks flying from Stansted on budget airlines to different cities throughout Europe that he’s never heard of. He went to Haugesund and it was his best trip – he loved the place!


  12. I’m an American who has been living in Norway for over twenty years now and can vouch for everything written above… and yet I’m still trying to figure out what makes Norway tick!


  13. You know, if you take the “Flytoget” (the airport express train) it only takes 20 minutes to Oslo Central station from the airport (Oslo Lufthavn). The price is 170 NOK.
    And there are lot of hotels and motels which aren’t overpriced, you just have to browse until you find the perfect one 🙂 Most of them are located in the heart of the town. Public transportation is available on every corner and will take you to whatever location you want for a low price. But the distances from one tourist attraction to another are short so you can walk….
    I highly recommend Oslo, beautiful city, especially in summer time.
    If you come to visit in spring time, the acommodations are a bit cheaper 🙂


  14. 🙂


  15. jackandmarilynerickson

    Great post, Andrew. We intended to spend time in Norway last summer but the press of travel around the UK and Germany didn’t allow the time. I’m half Norwegian but have never visited. Your post was very informative. I’ll refer to it when the next opportunity comes.
    BtW, have you ever heard “Prairie Home Companion?” It’s a delightful two hour NPR radio broadcast every weekend about a fictional home on the prairie in Lake Wobegon, MN. Lots of humor about Norwegians living in Minnesota. Host Garrison Keillor has also published several popular books about Lake Wobegon.


  16. Im from Haugesund, and about the prices and all that. Its all true, but You forgot the most important expensive thing about norway.. The Road expenses… You cant drive an hour without having to pay at plazas.. Its expensive for us Norwegians too..


    • Thanks for this reply. I didn’t use a car while I was in Norway so I didn’t know about the high cost of driving. Despite the cost I liked Haugesund and would love to return during the summer.


  17. Yes it is expensive but we in norway earn allot to from ouer jobb’s
    and free school hospital and other stuff


  18. I’ll be visiting Norway this winter and while the high costs are a bit of a concern, I’m sure the experience and scenery will more than make for it. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip so I’ll be saving hard for the next few months so that I can make the most of my time there. 🙂


  19. I moved to Bergen about 18 months ago. A beer in a pub will set you back about £8 for 3/4 of a pint so the thing to do is indulge in some Norwegian foreplay! Get some booze from the supermarket (beers and ciders only) and drink at home before going out for 1 or 2 in the pub. Bergen is a beautiful city surrounded by some amazing landscapes and fjords and not to be missed if you’re travelling in or to Norway. Love it here and you can live like a king anytime you go anywhere else!


  20. I’m in Norway at the moment! We’re extremely lucky because I have friends that live just outside of Oslo who are putting us up while we’re in town and even cooking for us almost every night. Despite all that, we’ve still managed to spend just as much as we did in Denmark where we were paying for everything ourselves. (And at the time I thought Denmark was expensive!) It’s scary when I convert restaurant prices back into pounds but absolutely terrifying when I convert them back into my native Australian dollars: one main meal costs as much as a whole pub dinner for two people including drinks, eeek!


  21. I still want to go, Andrew!


  22. We used to take the mini-cruise breaks from Newcastle to Norway when we lived in UK so often got an overnight stop in Bergen. We loved to take a stroll along the Bryggen with the wooden fronted shops along the waterside. But a pint of lager back in the mid to late 1990s was around £7 then. I dread to think how much it would cost now!
    In a bar one evening, we saw a young man in his early 20s take his wallet out stuffed with banknotes so we realised that salaries obviously did work in relation to the cost of living.
    I still have one of those fantastic sweaters, which I bought along the Bryggen one trip. It cost me close on £100 but I loved it, so it came home with me 🙂


  23. I went there in 1986 with a tour group…I guess that was the best way to go since my meals and hotel were included! I thought it was beautiful and found the people friendly. I have heard Switzerland is expensive…hard to believe Norway is more so!


  24. I have not had the chance to travel as much as I would like, so your blog gives me the opportunity to see what I’ve missed, thank you.


  25. Good post on my home country 🙂


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  27. Having not done any serious research on traveling to the Scandinavian countries I had no idea about the high prices. Gulp!


  28. A really interesting and informative post. Thank you.


  29. I first went to Norway in 1989 on a very low budget. Survived on coffee and biscuits and pushed boat out to half a litre of beer in Trondheim and some fish fingers for a sandwich in Narvik!


  30. Would love to go, Andrew. And have every intention of doing so as soon as I win the lottery. –Curt


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