Thursday, July 29, 2021

A beautiful Scandinavia is not as expensive as you think

Scandinavia is cool, clean and beautiful – and not as expensive as you might have been led to believe.
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Travel in Scandinavia has changed a lot in recent years, and the old stories about extortionately priced hotels and £20 beers no longer hold much water.

In fact, if you plan carefully and follow a few simple rules, a trip to Denmark, Sweden or Norway – or all three – can be surprisingly affordable. Here’s why a trip to Scandinavia could be much cheaper than you think.

1. Getting there just got more affordable

Run a quick search online and you’ll notice that Scandinavian countries are consistently among the cheapest to reach from UK airports. Book a month or so ahead and whether you’re flying to Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm, fares are rarely more than £50 each way.

Flying from further afield? You’re in luck, too. Budget airline Norwegian now offers cut-price direct flights to the region from Bangkok, New York, Orlando and Los Angeles.

2. Getting around is ridiculously good value

Take the 330-mile train journey between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh and you can expect a one-way ticket to set you back at least £130, even if you book in advance. Meanwhile, a seat aboard the plush X2000 service from Stockholm to Copenhagen – a journey that’s just five miles shorter – can be yours for less than £30.

Across Scandinavia, long-distance buses and trains offer great value, making it easy to hop between distant cities without breaking the bank. As a nice little bonus, fast, free wifi is usually included with the cost of a ticket.

Even if you’re planning to stay in just one city, getting around is easy and affordable. For example, a one-day pass giving unlimited access to Stockholm’s public transport system, which includes trams, subway trains and even ferries to distant islands, costs around £11.

3. Lots of the best attractions are free

Wherever you are in Scandinavia, you’ll find plenty of free things to do. Many of the small, quirky art galleries in Oslo are completely free to visit, for example, and a handful of the big, paid-for attractions in Copenhagen offer free admission on selected days of the week.

Sweden is probably the best bet for travellers on a budget; most state-run museums are free to visit, giving you unbridled access to rune stones, Swedish design classics and hoards of Viking gold.

And of course, Scandinavia’s most mesmerising attractions – the snowy forests, the sparkling lakes, the spellbinding Northern Lights – are totally free to enjoy.

4. Free accommodation abounds

You can’t walk into a five-star hotel and stay the night without paying, but there are more free accommodation options in Scandinavia than most other parts of the world.

Thanks to a Nordic concept that translates loosely as “Everyman’s Right”, you can camp for free pretty much anywhere in Sweden and Norway (but not Denmark), and there are free, rustic cabins dotted throughout many of the region’s national parks.

There are also endless options for WWOOFING in Scandinavia, whether you want to do a bit of organic farming under the midnight sun, or take care of a team of sled dogs in the Arctic.

Because of this “right to roam” and locals’ love of the great outdoors, other fun free stuff is available to everyone in Scandinavia, from picking berries to sweating it out in cosy, wood-fired saunas.

5. Even cheap accommodation can feel luxurious

If the idea of staying in a hostel fills you with dread, you’re not alone. But some of the Scandinavian places that use the ‘h’ word in their names are about as far removed from traditional hostels as it’s possible to get, and are worth checking out if you want to keep costs down when travelling around.

Most Scandi hostels still have dorms, but many also offer splendid doubles and twins that are more like the bright, clean rooms you’d expect to find at a modern business hotel. Facilities at hostels in big cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen run from saunas and swanky bars all the way to covered boules courts. That’s not too shabby when a private double with an en-suite bathroom can cost as little as £65 a night.

6. Food is affordable – and delicious

Or at least it can be, if you know where to go. Over the past decade or so, Nordic cuisine has diversified beyond all recognition – and not just in upscale New Nordic restaurants.

You’ll find delicious, nutritious and affordable meals dotted across the region’s capital cities, with food trucks, market stalls and pop-up kitchens providing new twists on classic Scandinavian recipes. When it comes to enjoying proper sit-down meals, the best option is often to go at lunchtime, when lots of restaurants offer cracking discounts. Often, you can tuck into the same yummy dishes that sell for considerably more money once the evening diners arrive.

Alcohol is still expensive across Scandinavia but you’ll save a lot by thinking (and drinking) like a local. In Norway and Sweden, the cheapest places to buy drinks are the government-run alcohol stores, which are the only retail outlets with permission to sell full-strength drinks. It’s not unheard of for locals there to have a few drinks at home before heading out for the night.

In bars, restaurants and nightclubs, it pays to stick to local beers and house wines, which tend to be fairly palatable. And, let’s face it: when you’re paying considerably more than you would back home, that’s the least you can expect.

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