Before visiting, I knew 5 things about Norway:
The roads are really, really steep.
Everything is crazy expensive.
Vicious mosquitoes and midges attack any unprotected flesh.
The weather is stormy and unsettled all year long.
The wild camping is wonderful.
Flying past the jagged peaks of the Senja region of Northern Norway .
My ancestors had left Norway and immigrated to America several generations back. Maybe they’d had enough of the weather. More likely they were just escaping poverty. Norway hadn’t yet discovered oil and become one of the richest countries on earth. My great-great grandparents probably hailed from some ramshackle fishing village and eeked out a living catching herring.
I’d always been curious about the country. We’d grown up eating lefse for Christmas, but that was about the only link I had to my Scandinavian heritage. Finally I’d have a chance to return to my roots.
Typical Norway. This shot is from Lofoten, one of Norway's most popular tourist destinations.
Steep, yes! Impossible, no!
We’ve now spent more than a month biking in Norway. The roads are steep. But not near as steep as I expected. They’re not ‘get off and push steep.’ I might actually be faster if I pushed, but pedaling is definitely possible.
The scenery is stunning, and that takes your mind off burning calves and throbbing thighs. Norway is a popular destination and we share many roads with a steady stream of RVS piloted by retirees from throughout Europe. Most are courteous, but a few could do with an eye exam.
The far north, way above the Arctic Circle. It's often a cold, harsh environment but lovely when the sun comes out.
Hammerfest, the most northerly city in Europe.
Exquisite camping spots nearly every night.
Lots of spots to stop for sightseeing along the way
$285 Total Monthly Spending
Lots of things are crazy expensive. For obvious reasons, we’ve not been dining out. Or paying for campsites. That leaves food and ferries.
In Finland, we met an EXTREME budget cyclist. We’re pretty frugal, but this dude is hardcore. He spends around $2,500 per year bike touring in Europe. And he let us in on his secret: Dumpster Diving.
A typical find from one of our daily dumpster dives.
Some stunning infrastructure in Norway. These bridges are much more fun than the tunnels.
Tunnels in Norway are actually less scary than in most places. The longest one is a whopping 7 kilometers.
Eric and I weren’t dumpster divers. My only experience was accompanying a Warm Showers host who did dumpster diving at her local organic shop in Breckenridge, Colorado. She lived entirely off salvaged food. High-quality salvaged food. Our outing got her imported butter from New Zealand, freshly-pressed organic orange juice, vegan cheese, some fancy hummus, a few loaves of whole grain bread and some veggies which looked perfectly good to me.
That experience was a couple years back, but it still never dawned on us to give dumpster diving a try.
The high food prices in Norway were the nudge we needed. Popping open the first dumpster in Norway, we were awestruck. So much food. There was yogurt and cheese just past its expiry date, perky vegetables that were perfect for a stir-fry, vast assortments of fruits, even boxes of muesli and fancy valentines chocolates. Bags of cashews and peanuts never opened. A bottle of imported olive oil from Spain. It was a real treasure hunt with mighty rewards.
Best of all, there was no need to dive in. Simply skimming the top of the heap raked in more than enough food to pack our panniers.
Aren’t you embarrassed?
Dumpster diving is not disgusting or in any way humiliating. I’m actually sickened by all the food waste and feel pride in saving food from the bin. Apparently, there are some new projects to distribute food nearing its expiry date to people in need. Hurrah! I’m all in favor of this. I’ve never been any sort of activist. But the problem of massive food waste needs solving.
Are you broke?
We are NOT broke. We simply prefer to save money for our future by cost-cutting in the present. That’s why we began dumpster diving in Norway. Our spending is way down and we’ve never eaten better. Plus it’s fun because dumpster diving always brings surprises.
If dumpster diving’s not for you
No Worries. If you shop carefully, it’s still possible to visit Norway on a budget. Some food items are actually cheap. A jar of spaghetti sauce is just $1 and a bag of pasta as cheap as 80 cents. Items nearing their expiry date are reduced 40% and no-name store brands are significantly cheaper. I’d say food prices average out to about 50% more than in Western Europe or the United States. You can check out this information from the website Numbeo to compare food prices between countries.
Typical food prices in Norway.
Compare Food Costs Around the World
442.77 $ Norway
155.56 $ Bulgaria
317.62 $ Denmark
342.29 $ France
270.78 $ Germany
490.40 $ Iceland
309.89 $ Sweden
226.82 $ United Kingdom
289.58 $ Canada
147.68 $ Mexico
324.39 $ United States
149.75 $ Argentina
157.44 $ Peru
Asia and Oceania
282.80 $ Australia
196.13 $ China
106.77 $ India
227.70 $ Thailand
188.39 $ Vietnam
140.84 $ Iran
130.01 $ Kazakhstan
137.25 $ Turkey
242.94 $ Botswana
242.94 $ Ghana
152.79 $ Tanzania
A classic shot from our arrival at North Cape, the northernmost point on the European continent. At 71.1710° N, 25.7837° E, it's far above the Arctic Circle.
It's a long, windy slog to the top of the continent, but well worth the suffering. Views like this are what it's all about.
Mosquitoes, midges and everything not nice.
Almost everyone we spoke to about cycling in Scandinavia complained about the bugs. We came prepared with headnets, expecting the worst. Except for three or four occasions, it really wasn’t that bad.
I’m not sure if we just got off easy this year, or people were exaggerating about the annoyances of flying creatures. I’d advise you to pack some hefty repellent and a headnet, just to be safe.
Summer in northern Scandinavia can feel like winter in the rest of the world. That said, southern Norway has been basking in a heat wave for the last month. We came prepared with thick down sleeping bags (thanks Pyrenex), high-tech rain gear from Showers Pass and little extras like shoe covers, leg warmers and windproof gloves from the cold weather experts, Grip Grab. (Grip Grab’s a Danish company and they know a thing or two about harsh weather conditions. Showers Pass is based in Portland—rain capital of the USA. And Pyrenex has been around since 1859.)
One night near North Cape the winds were so strong I feared the tent might blow away into the fjord. The next night we got wise and strapped down the tent using our new WrapTies. In case you’re wondering, we’ve still got the tent.
One night near North Cape, the wind blew so hard I thought the tent would fly into a fjord. Then I remembered our WrapTies and used them to secure the tent.
Gone are the bungee cords. Now WrapTies secure that big bundle on the back of my bike.
Morning coffee with a view!
One of our less glamorous camping spots! It's somebody's shed but it kept us dry for the night.
Camping doesn’t get any better
Norway has catapulted to my new #1 wild camping destination. Just like in Finland and Sweden, Norway allows free movement and camping under their Right to Roam law.
As long as you’re 150 meters from an inhabited structure and not on cultivated land, you can pitch your tent pretty much anywhere for up to two nights.
This freedom to camp really makes life easy. I never have to worry about some grumpy person trying to kick us out of our spot. (To be fair, this hardly ever happens anywhere in the world.)
The camping spots in Norway are truly exceptional. Fabulous views everywhere you look. And with a population of just 5 million people, there’s room for everybody.
I truly love Norway. I feel at home here. The people are kind, crime is low, and everyone seems to get along. People don’t appear to be too stressed out about their jobs. They take time for their families and friends. Norway always ranks high it global happiness and quality of life.
Sometimes I think I’d like to settle here. Go back to the country from which my ancestors came. Of course, I haven’t yet experienced Norway in winter. That might change my mind.