Which are the cheapest Scandinavian countries to visit?

Everyone knows that Scandinavia is expensive to visit and live in. Coming from pretty much anywhere else in the world, you’ll find most things pricier to buy in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries.

Which is the cheapest Nordic country to visit?
Pic: Barroom Universe (CC)

But, not everything costs the same in all the Scandinavian countries, and things that cost more in one may be cheaper in others. So, which country is the cheapest to visit, and which country will really blow your budget?

We’ve put together a guide to how much you can expect to pay for a selection of typical things in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

Accommodation
Transport
Food and drink
Sightseeing and entertainment
Basics

Prices in the Nordic countries: 5 things to know

  1. All five Nordic nations use different currencies
  2. Norway and Iceland are the most expensive countries to visit
  3. Sweden and Finland are more affordable, but still expensive compared with most European countries
  4. Public transport is surprisingly cheap wherever you go
  5. Denmark is usually cheapest for food and drink

Accommodation

None of the five Nordic countries are cheap for accommodation, especially if you opt to stay in hotels in the popular capital cities like Stockholm or tourist destinations like Tromsø, where demand for places to stay can exceed supply.

Iceland in particular is very pricey when it comes to accommodation, with hotel rooms in Reykjavík costing about a third more than in the other Nordic capitals.

However, most of the larger cities have a decent supply of budget-friendly hostels and Airbnb rentals that can help keep the costs down in the cities.

And, of course, once you get out into the countryside there’s no shortage of simple guesthouses, campsites and mountain refuges that are perfect for those travelling on a budget.

Accommodation prices in the Nordic countries (approx)

NorwaySwedenDenmarkFinlandIceland
Dorm in a city hostel250–400 NOK200–300 SEK150–350 DKK30 EUR2000–4000 ISK
Double room in a budget hotel700–1100 NOK600–1000 SEK500–1000 DKK45–70 EUR9000–15,000 ISK
Double room in a luxury hotel2500+ NOK2000+ SEK1500+ DKK250+ EUR40,000+ ISK
One-bed Airbnb apartment600–1500 NOK400–1500 SEK450–1200 DKK90–120 EUR10,000–20,000 ISK

Transport

Public transport is generally good in the Nordics and not that expensive, especially in the main cities.

Many Nordic bus and train services are subsided to encourage people to use them rather than cars. Our guide to getting around Scandinavia has tips on how to travel around cheaply!

Cycling is the cheapest way to get around in Scandinavia
Pic: Kristoffer Trolle (CC)

In rural areas, however, although buses and trains are reasonably priced services may not be that frequent, so you may have to resort to hiring a car and paying for pricey petrol.

Of course, the cheapest way of getting around is by bike, a popular form of transport in all the Nordic countries. Many Scandinavian cities run publicly funded bike rental schemes, so that you can rent a bike for a nominal fee (or sometimes even for free!)

SwedenNorwayDenmarkFinlandIceland
Day ticket on city transportStockholm 130 SEKOslo 108 NOKCopenhagen 150 DKKHelsinki 8 EURReykjavík 1800 ISK
Intercity trainStockholm to Gothenburg 195–1000 SEKOslo to Bergen 300–1000 NOKCopenhagen to Aarhus 100–400 DKKHelsinki to Oulu 49–56 EURReykjavík to Akureyri (bus) 10,000–18,000 ISK

Food and drink

Nordic cuisine is all the rage at the moment, but it won’t come as any surprise to find that it’s not very cheap. In fact, eating and drinking out pretty much anywhere is expensive in all five of the Nordic countries.

However, there are ways to keep the cost of food and drink down. First and foremost is to do as the locals do and buy your food at a supermarket or market and cook it at home or have a picnic, if the weather allows.

Dinner in a restaurant can be expensive in Scandinavia, but it's usually cheaper to eat at lunchtime
Pic: cyclonebill (CC)

International budget supermarkets, such as Aldi and Lidl, as well as home-grown chains, sell good quality food at reasonable prices.

And if you do want to eat out, you’ll find it much cheaper to have your main meal at lunchtime, when many restaurants, even the more upmarket ones, offer a set menu or dish of the day. It’s a good chance to try some hearty local cooking without breaking the bank.

As for alcohol, well that’s pricey wherever you go. Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway all have state-run liquor shops that have a monopoly on sales of wine, spirits and strong beer.

The exception is Denmark, where alcohol can be bought in any supermarket or kiosk and so is much cheaper.

Add to this the fact that Denmark makes one of world’s best-selling beers and you can pick up a decent can of local beer at a supermarket in Denmark for a bargain 3 DKK!

SwedenNorwayDenmarkFinlandIceland
Meal for two (mid-range restaurant)500 SEK600 NOK600 DKK50 EUR8000 ISK
Meal for two (high-end restaurant)1500 SEK1600 NOK1200 DKK120 EUR20,000 ISK
Bottle of beer in supermarket/bottle shop10 SEK40 NOK3–10 DKK2.50–5.00 EUR350–500 ISK
Bottle of wine in supermarket/bottle shopFrom 50 SEKFrom 95 NOKFrom 65 DKKFrom 14 EURFrom 1500 ISK
Draught beer in a bar40 SEK60 NOK45 DKK6 EUR1000 ISK

Sightseeing and entertainment

Well, the good news is that all five Nordic countries are known for their stunning scenery and wonderful natural attractions, which don’t cost a penny to enjoy.

Which Scandi countries are the cheapest?
Pic: Markus Beck (CC)

Hiking, wild swimming in lakes, campfires on the beach and watching out for the northern lights are just some of the free nature-related activities that are available to all in abundance in Scandinavia.

However, getting to some of the most popular dramatic outdoor attractions can be pricey, and indulging in any of the wow-factor activities such as husky-sledging or reindeer rides won’t come cheap. 

So, it pays to plan ahead and do the maths when it comes to working whether it’s cheaper to get to some of the more remote dramatic natural sights by public transport, or on one of these awesome guided tours.

Of course, when the weather’s bad you’ll need some indoor entertainment so we’ve given prices below for cinema tickets and admission fees for a top city centre museum.

SwedenNorwayDenmarkFinlandIceland
City centre walking tour (2–3hr)400 SEK220 NOK150 DKK35 EUR6700 ISK
Two cinema tickets230 SEK240–300 NOK200 DKK10–20 EUR3400 ISK
Capital city museum/attractionVasa Museum 150 SEKBygdøynes museums 320 NOKTivoli Gardens130
DKK
Suomenlinna Museum 8 EURViking Saga Museum 2200 ISK
Entrance to a nightclub100–250 SEK100 NOK0–150 DKK5–10 EURUsually free (unless there’s live music)

Basics

And, of course, whenever you go away you need to factor in those little extras that can quickly add up to one of those “How have I spent that much?” moments.

Things like phone calls, internet access, sim cards and sundries such as buying a bottle of bottle of water in a supermarket, or stopping for a coffee can quickly mount up.

The good news for EU citizens is that Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark are all covered by EU data-roaming regulations meaning that phone calls, texts and internet access on your mobile will cost no more than they do at home.

As Norway is not in the EU, mobile phone charges there will depend on your individual phone network, so check the policy of your network provider beforehand.

If you’re visiting from outside the EU, it will almost certainly be cheaper to buy a local sim card for your trip.

SwedenNorwayDenmarkFinlandIceland
Sim card45 SEK1000 NOK30–50 DKK6 EUR2500 ISK
Bottle of water20–30 SEK25 NOK9.50 DKK1.70 EUR260 ISK
Cup of coffee in a café35 SEK40 NOK36 DKK3.40 EUR550 ISK

So which is the cheapest Nordic country to visit?

Well, there’s no simple answer to this, as some things cost more in one Scandinavian country but are cheaper in others.

Norway, for example, has the reputation for being one of Europe’s most expensive countries, and it’s true that eating out, drinking out (especially alcohol) and staying in hotels will make a big hole in your budget.

The good news is that beer is cheapest in Denmark of all the Nordic countries
Pic: Håkan Dahlström (CC)

However, transport in Norway is generally reasonably-priced, especially if you can book a Minipris train ticket in advance, and staying in Norwegian hostels can also be surprisingly affordable.

Compared to Norway, Sweden is considerably cheaper, but will still seem pricey to most Europeans, for things such as accommodation and eating out. Prices in Finland are generally on a par with Sweden, or perhaps slightly cheaper.

As for Iceland, well, the bad news is that it’s currently ranked as the third most expensive country in the world to visit. And you certainly don’t want to find yourself buying a round at a bar here!

The good news is that you can find some reasonably-priced Airbnbs if you travel off-season, and entrance to night clubs is usually free!

So what about Denmark? Well on the whole, Denmark is probably the cheapest of the Nordic countries to visit. And if you want to chill out with an ice-cold beer (which, let’s face it, is one of the best things about a holiday), then Denmark wins hands down.

Not only does it have a great selection of draught beers to sample, but you can pick up a cold can of the local Carlsberg from a supermarket for around 5 DKK – yes, that’s around 50¢ or 50p. And as long as you avoid swanky New Nordic restaurants, Denmark can be a pleasantly affordably place to eat well. What’s not to like?

See also:

The cost of living in Norway

The cost of living in Sweden

The cost of living in Denmark

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