Saving Money With the Oslo Pass and What to See While You're There
What Is Oslo like?
Oslo, the capital of Norway, is a wonderful city to visit for a short break. It is quite small for a capital city and it feels friendly and inviting. Most people speak fluent English and the place is packed with interesting things to see. There are lots of museums, art galleries, fine restaurants and a there's a smart harbour overlooking a stunning fjord. Just outside of the city is wide countryside, championship ski slopes and pretty islands dotted on the water.
How Much Do Things Cost?
Oslo is one of the most expensive cities to stay in. It's a wealthy country with low unemployment and workers are paid very well, in comparison to many countries. This means that, to tourists at least, the price of a coffee, dinner and a beer seems very high indeed. A pint will set you back £9 and expect to pay £4 for a cola from a vending machine.
Meals out in a mid-priced restaurant typically cost around £30 a head with just one drink and either a starter or dessert, but not both. A Big Mac in Oslo is infamously the most expensive in the world at £5/$8 for the burger by itself, not the meal. Public transport fares are not too bad, and car fuel is the same as in the rest of Europe, but as eating and drinking play a major part in most short-break holidays, it is best to be prepared for high dinner bills and make some other savings along the way.
Is the Oslo Pass Worth the Money?
My review of the Oslo Pass concludes that it is good value. There are three versions to pick from, a 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour version, and they start from the time you first use it - so plan well and you can maximise them to the fullest. These passes give you free entrance to around 50 attractions, and importantly, these include the most popular visitor destinations.
Free travel on buses, trams and the metro in zones 1 and 2 is also included with the Oslo Pass so it is worth the money if you want to use public transport. You can also use the pass on a list of public ferries, so island hopping is possible, and it’s part of the Oslo experience to go out on the fjord at least once during your stay. With so much to see, I’d recommend the 72-hour pass if you have this amount of available time, it is the best value and gives you time to fully explore. The Oslo City Card also gives you 20% off a handful of restaurants, and this discount is really welcome as food and drink are so expensive in Norway.
The Nobel Peace Centre
Where can you Use the Oslo Pass?
The most visited tourist attractions in Oslo include the Viking Ship museum and the Folk museum. Without the Oslo Card these would cost 100 NOK and 130 NOK for an adult. These are both out on a peninsula just outside the city, and the bus or summer ferry you need to take to get there are both free to ride with the Oslo pass. The price of a single bus ticket, bought on the bus, is 50 NOK for an adult.
The Folk museum is larger than it looks as there are extensive grounds out the back filled with traditional Norwegian buildings, farms and a church which are fascinating to look at. On the same peninsula is the Kon-Tiki museum (100 NOK), and the Polar Fram ship (100 NOK), both exhibitions are very interesting to look around and the contents are unique to this part of the world.
There is almost a full day’s worth of visits all in this one place. When you get back to the city, the ferry and bus stop are just in front of the Nobel Peace centre, which you can pop into as it isn't a large exhibition. Along the waterfront a little further is the Astrup Fearnley modern art gallery, a privately-owned museum in a spectacular building. All of these places are included in the Oslo City Pass.
You Can Go to All the Main Tourist Attractions With the Oslo Pass
Spend a day in the city centre and you can visit Akershus Castle, which is just along from the ferry terminals. Walk around inside some of the rooms and halls, and from the top there is a great view over the Fjord and city. A little further around the water’s edge there’s the spectacular Ballet and Opera house, where you can walk up and over the roof of this highly-designed place.
Hop on the Metro and work your way up to the Natural History museum, and the Munch museum opposite. The two most famous paintings, The Scream and Madonna, by Edvard Munch, are actually housed in the National Gallery, so following on from the Munch museum, hop on a bus down the hill to this gallery which is near the university.
The National Gallery has many famous works of art from artists such as Monet, Degas and Cezanne as well. Another bus ride will take you to Solli, and the Ibsen Museum. Ibsen's apartment, where he lived for 11 years, can be visited. It’s fully restored with original furniture, and there's an exhibition about his life. there too.
Back near the Nationaltheatre station, there’s a modern art gallery - Stenersenmuseet - to view while you are in this part of the city.
To get out of the city for a little while, take the metro line 1 up to Holmenskollen. This is a ski area and there’s a ski jump here which you can go to the top of. Catch the elevator from inside the ski museum, again included on the Oslo Pass. Riding to the top of the ski jump, you get out and see just how far these athletes jump, and of course the views are amazing.
In the winter, there is plenty of snow up here and it is great to sit and watch the skiers and boarders for a while. There is also a handy cafe for grabbing a hot drink and a snack. Come back down the hillside on the metro, alight at Nationaltheatre and walk across to the ferries where you can go over to an island.
There are some only 20 minutes away, but it’s great to go out on the water. In the summer, your Oslo Pass also gets you into Frogner Park open-air swimming pool, which is huge and comes with plenty of sunbathing space.
Save Money on Food Too
The Oslo Pass gives you a 20% discount on meals at the Kassitova, near Hotel Bristol. This is a modern-looking cafe where you collect your food canteen-style, on a tray, but it is tasty, heart-warming local food at very good prices. They have a small selection of local dishes, reindeer meatballs or salmon on eggs are two of the favourites.
With your money off, this is probably the cheapest meal you can get that isn't McDonalds. You can also use the pass at the Hard Rock Cafe, where you get massive, American favourites. And Cafe Christiania, near the Parliament building, has a menu of elegant dishes, some local and some international.
This is a nice restaurant with a bit of old-fashioned style, and a price range similar to the Hard Rock. As a guide - expect 2 courses, with a single beer or glass of wine, to cost $50 or £30 before the discount, per person.
Tips for a Budget Holiday in Norway
- Choose a hotel which offers a free, big breakfast to fill up on in the morning and make sure you eat well.
- Bring your favourite tipple in your suitcase from the airport shop to enjoy in your room as a night cap or pre-dinner drink.
- Add a few midday snacks to your luggage because even little packs of nuts or cookies bought from a supermarket are expensive in Norway. Use your snacks to keep you going after your big hotel breakfast, and skip paying out for lunch.
- Refill water bottles at the hotel to take out with you.
- Don't plan to go out drinking vast amounts in the evening, unless you have a bottomless wallet, as there isn't anywhere that sells reasonably priced alcohol.
- Make sure you bring those little things with you from home where it's cheaper, like batteries, toiletries, magazines, tissues, candy and chewing gum.
When to Get the Oslo Pass
The Oslo Pass is great value if you plan to visit several things in a day. If you want to visit only one attraction a day, it isn't cost affective. If an Oslo Pass isn't the right thing to get, then a day pass for public transport will save money on travel if more than three individual trips are taken in 24 hours.
Walking around the palace, visiting Vigeland Park which is full of over 200 sculptures by the artist Vigeland, and the Oslo Cathedral are all free, so plan to see these places once your pass runs out to make the best use of it. You can start your pass at any hour during the day, so work out if it’s better to start it at lunchtime on day one, so you get an extra half day at the end too.
How Much Does the Oslo Card cost?
The best value, in my opinion, is the 72-hour pass. There are enough attractions to make good use of it for three days, and with the transport and some discounts in restaurants included, we believe we saved a lot of money.
24 hours: 395 NOK
48 hours: 595 NOK
72 hours: 745 NOK