When my friends and I were deciding which countries to visit 6 months before we went to Norway for the Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympics, I had reservations about going to other Scandinavian countries. It would be practical because of the proximity to Norway but it would also be expensive!
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are some of the most expensive countries to live in and travel to. Travel to Sweden even on a budget, for example, would cost at least $120 per day. A day in Denmark on a budget is a conservative $152.
But then we decided that the costs would outweigh the experience. Though expensive, these countries are also tagged as “must-visits” by many travelers. The 3 countries are often on top of travel bucket lists for the authentic experience they offer.
We maximized the limited time we had and decided to traverse all 3 Scandinavian countries in 5 days. After Lillehammer, we made short stops in Oslo, Gothenburg, and Copenhagen – traveling from one city to another by land.
If you’re planning to visit Scandinavia soon, here’s a quick guide on how to save time and resources going around.
My boss, before I left for Norway, told me that cash is rarely used in the country. He said it would be better for me to leave money in my debit card or bring a credit card for my expenses than to bring cash. I didn’t believe him.
I realized he was right the moment I stepped in Lillehammer. Most of the shops preferred credit cards than cash. Some didn’t even accept cash!
This experience rang through across the region. I saw that most locals don’t carry cash with them and that most restaurants prefer card transactions. The ticketing machines for the trains and trams had slots for coins and credit cards but no space for inserting cash.
These countries are moving towards cashless transactions so if you are traveling to the region in the future, it might be better to use a credit card.
Options for travel
Because of the proximity, Scandinavia (except Iceland) is accessible by land travel. Traveling by land is also the best way to see the countryside scenery.
In our experience, the cheapest way to go from one city or country to another is by bus. Oslo to Gothenburg by bus is only around $32-40. The same route by train is around $60-100 one way. Though they take longer, buses go straight from point to point while you’ll have to transfer trains if you’re using the rail. This is inconvenient if you have large luggages traveling around.
Ticket and bus reservations, however, can be done online and work like airline reservations – its cheaper if you book further from the date of travel. We booked 2 weeks before our travel so our options were limited.
Air travel is also cheap if you book it ahead of time and if you take advantage of promos. Our flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam one way is $70 with check-in luggage. Unless you’re in a rush, why fly when you can enjoy the picturesque landscape of Scandinavia?
Transportation around the cities we visited are also expensive. One train ride in Oslo could easily cost NOK 32 or $4. But this is the good thing in Scandinavia – the cities are walkable! Instead of taking trams or trains, we walked to the tourist spots we wanted to visit. This is when planning your itinerary is important so you don’t end up going around in circles.
Travelers also have the option to see the city by cycling. As I said in my earlier posts, bike lanes are accessible in all the 3 cities I visited. Bike tours are also available. In Copenhagen, these cost around $50-70 a day, depending on the season. But since my friends and I weren’t that confident of our biking skills and it was winter, we opted to just walk around.
Food options and accommodation
Scandinavia is not as popular as a gastronomic destination as Southeast Asia or India and for a good reason. Though there are must-try foods like salmon in Norway or pickled herring in Sweden or fried pork in Denmark, there’s really not much to try in the region especially for those of us who grew up with exposed tastebuds.
Food, as in everything in the region, is expensive. We also had a hard time looking for good restaurants that catered to our gastronomic needs. The beers and wines though are excellent and should accompany every meal.
If Scandinavian food doesn’t suit you, don’t worry! These cities are cultural mixing pots so there are many restaurants from other cultures available. The most common ones I saw are Italian, Vietnamese, and Thai food.
Checking in in a hotel costs around $150-200 a night for one room. If you’re traveling as a group like us, it is best to use AirBNB to get reasonable prices and amazing locations. We used AirBNB all throughout our Euro trip and we did not get disappointed with the apartments we got.
Renting an apartment is also way cheaper than getting a hotel room. For a night in Oslo, we only spent EU129 for an apartment with 3 rooms. Since there were 6 of us, we only paid around EU22 per person.
Here’s the itinerary of our trip in Scandinavia. Though we weren’t able to go to other relevant tourist sites because of our limited time, we had the time of our lives in the region!
11 AM Leave Lillehammer for Oslo
1:30 PM Arrive in Oslo
2 PM Arrive in Oslo accommodation
4 PM Late lunch at city center
4:30 PM Royal Palace Oslo
5:30 PM Vigeland Sculpture Park/ Frogner Park
Dinner and drinks at home
9 AM Breakfast
10 AM Walking tour of the center
Oslo City Hall
Nobel Peace Center
12:30 PM Check out. Head to Oslo Bus Terminal
1:15 PM Leave Oslo for Gothenburg
4:30 PM Arrive in Gothenburg
5:30 PM Check in at Gothenburg Accommodation
Avenyn (Shopping, dinner, drinks)
Night out at Järntorget
10 AM Gothenburg Museum of Art + Gotaplatsen
11 AM Haga for late breakfast
Oscar Fredrik Church
1:30 PM Slottsskogen Park
Gothenburg Natural History Museum
2:30 PM Lunch at Magsasinsgatan
3:30 PM River Boat Cruise at Lilla Bommen
7:00 PM Thai Food dinner!
6 AM Check out. Head to Gothenburg Nils E Terminal
7 AM Leave Gothenburg for Copenhagen
12 NN Arrive in Copenhagen
12:30 Check in at accommodation
2:30 PM Lunch at Tivoli Hallen
4 PM National Museum of Denmark
4:30 PM Christiansborg Palace
7 PM Dinner at Vietnamese Restaurant
1 AM Party
10 AM Breakfast
11:30 AM Amalienborg
12 NN Frederik’s Church
1 PM Rosenborg Castle/ Rosenborg Castle Gardens
2:30 PM Lunch
4 PM Gefion Fontain – The Little Mermaid
5 PM Nyhavn
5:30 AM Check out. Leave for Copenhagen Airport
6:15 AM Check in for flight to Amsterdam
8:15 AM Leave for Amsterdam
Got any tips on traveling around Scandinavia? Let me know in the comments below!