10 Ways to Explore Scandinavia on a Budget

by Emma Hackwood

Known for it’s breathtaking scenery, Scandinavia is also known to be one of the most expensive places to travel. Our Travel Consultant David Collins recently travelled there and shares his tips on how to stretch your dollar so you can enjoy this part of Europe without breaking the bank:

After being lucky enough to get three weeks to explore the northern territories of Europe, the next task at hand was to navigate this area without spending an arm and a leg. Whether its the majestic Fjords in western Norway or touring the cosmopolitan capital of Stockholm, Scandinavia has something for everyone. As much Scandinavia is known for these marvels, the area is also known to be one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. After traveling all over, I have been able to dispel some of the myths as well as find the best ways to stretch your dollar while being able to enjoy all this area has to offer.




A very popular trip done by the locals in Helsinki is to take an overnight cruise across the Baltic Sea to the medieval city of Tallinn, in Estonia. These cruises start about around $30 per direction for the cruise as well as a bed in a cabin, easily saving you the cost of one night in a hotel and enabling you to see the well preserved UNESCO heritage city at the same time. These are full-on cruise ships with multiple levels, bars, restaurants, live shows and day spas on them. As good of an opportunity this is to see a city most people wont normally get a chance to, the main reason for this cruise to the locals is to be able to purchase any type of alcohol for 40-60% less than they would back at home in Finland.



This is very popular in Norway, but also applies to Finland and Sweden where they have a very unique “Right to access” system in place. What this means is you can camp anywhere in these countries free of charge as long as you are 150 meters away from any fenced in property. Campfires are not allowed and it is very important that you leave no trace of your stay there. Overall this is a great way to save money on accommodation. Especially in the summer months where you can be right in the heart of the great wilderness that these lands have to offer. Imagine waking up the bottom of a fjord valley surrounded by peaks and waterfalls with no one around for miles, all for free!

norway 2


Short Distance Flights

With airlines such as Norweigen, Scandinavian Air, Ryan air and Easy Jet, it is cheaper than ever to cover large distances within Scandinavia for under $100. Also, with the exception of Arlanda in Stockholm, most major airports in Scandinavia are fairly close to the city center compared to the rest of Europe. Even though Norway isn’t part of the EU, they have customs-free border crossings with the rest of Europe saving some valuable time in the airports as well.


Suomenlinna, Helsinki


This is a world heritage fortress set upon a collection of a few islands about a kilometer off the coast of Helsinki. This very impressive fortress which is almost completely intact that is easily reached by ferry every 15 minutes from the downtown harbor. The best part is that the ferry is included with a city pass or any daily metro ticket and the fortress itself is completely free, definitely the highlight of Helsinki!


City Cards

As in most major European cities, getting a daily or multi-day tourist pass will save you tons of money and time. These cards will give you access to all modes of transportation within the city and admission to most major attractions and museums for as little as $40 for a 24 hour period which begins as soon as you first use the card, not just for the day you use it.


Car rental

Not always a cost saving option at first glance, but if you have a group of 3 or more people traveling, the number of sites you can see in a day combined with the fact you won’t be spending hours or a decent sum of money on a day tour that you can do in 2-3 hours on your own at at your own pace, you start to make the money back quickly. This is the best definition of “Time is money”


Pre drink

Pre-drinking is literally a national pastime in Norway, which they even have a name for; “voerspiel” When a beer at the bar starts around $12 Canadian, it just makes sense to have a party with a group of friends or family before heading out on the town for a drink or two. Many hostels are a great place to start meeting people from around the world before finding the perfect place to finish the evening without going completely broke.




mountains in Norway, Europe

A slightly more comfortable solution to camping and basically how I spent 90% of my nights, is to stay at one of the many hostels and full service cabins scattered all over Scandinavia. In addition to being significantly less than regular hotel chains, they also have full service private or communal kitchens to make your own meals and avoiding the $30 and up burger and fries dinner at any basic restaurant in even the most remote of Scandinavian towns.


Rent a bike

Other than Amsterdam, Scandinavia has the highest amount of cyclists on the streets and pathways than anywhere else in Europe. With most of the main cities being very flat terrain, for about $8 per day you can rent a bicycle as the locals do and see much more of the city as well as explore many of their lovely parkland. With an excellent network of segregated bike paths including full traffic lights, you will feel safe and free to cycle away at your own pleasure.


Eat a Big Lunch

It is always good to have at least a few authentic meals in any destination. The most popular and best way to do this in Scandinavia is to save your main meal for lunch. Almost all restaurants will have their menus discounted by 30% if you eat before 4 or 5pm, allowing you to choose from anything on their full menu at a much more wallet friendly price.


Looking for more information on travelling to Scandinavia? David Collins is an International Travel Consultant at our Glebe location in Ottawa and can be reached online or my calling 1-866-991-5585