Scandinavia is a place many dreams about but never plan to visit due to the general assumption it’s too expensive. Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden regularly top polls of the most pricey places to live due to the high wages, taxes, and subsequent costs of living, goods, and services.

This is all true – but visiting Scandinavia as a tourist is doable if you know how. Consider travelling to Scandinavia off-peak times, flying into the smaller, less popular airports, going sober (the cost of alcohol is especially notorious), and even staying with a local (which is an actual big thing in Scandinavia).

Just think, you could be enjoying the Scandinavian hospitality, wandering endlessly on high plateaus, cruising along the fjords, swimming in steaming hot pools, and walking along volcanic plains. Read on for five examples of experiencing Scandinavia on a budget.

See Denmark by cycle


Out of all of Scandinavia, Denmark is the cheapest to visit – especially if you visit early February which is usually always the most cost-effective time to fly and stay. Fortunately there is plenty to do which is free or only a small fee. It’s eating out and drinking which will blow your budget so plan accordingly and you’ll hopefully stay within your budget.

Zealand is Denmark’s largest island and home to the capital, Copenhagen, home to the sublime Rosenborg Palace. To really experience Copenhagen you should navigate its streets by foot or on a hired bike. Just follow the 230 miles of cycle lanes, and you can see the inner city, Vesterbro, Nørrebro, Østerbro, Frederiksberg and even the suburbs in comfort. The city’s bike-share program Bycyklen costs just 1 DKK per minute and there are more than 130 hire points across the city.

Join a free walking tour, admire the iconic colourful houses along the Nyhavn Canal, pose with the Little Mermaid statue at the harbour or visit Christiansborg Palace Tower for epic views of the city.  Tivoli Gardens, which is especially pretty at Christmas time, is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world but be warned the rides can all add up.

The historic Nyhavn Canal in the middle of Copenhagen © Chris Greenhow/

And if you want to head out into the surrounding areas – such as Hillerød, Klampenborg, Køge or the beaches at Køge Bay – just jump on the tube. Roskilde, Humlebæk (with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art) and Helsingør can be reached by regional train. Make sure you book an orange ticket online in advance for cheaper tickets.

If it’s the west of the country that interests you most, think Jutland and the North Sea, you should get a train to Billund. There is no need for any domestic flights – the country is so small, the flight was take only 35 minutes max and you’d spend more time hanging around at airports.

Billund is home to the original Legoland, a huge amusement park (featuring Miniland, Pirateland, Adventureland, etc.) and a colorful-block-themed hotel. Also in the vicinity also is a huge indoor water park, resplendent with erratic chutes, waterfalls, wave pools and much more.

From Billund, it is not far to Esbjerg (a short car trip away), and from there by ferry to the enchanting North Sea island of Fanø. The island has endless broad beaches (navigable by car or camper), Sønderho, Demark’s most beautiful village, and a reliable wind perfect for windsurfing, blokart (beach sailing) or kite-flying.

The Rubjerg Knude Fyr lighthouse was once again made accessible to the public in spring 2016 © MaJaPa/

The infamous Rubjerg Knude Fyr lighthouse is located at the most Northerly tip of the country so you’ll need to rent a car and drive if you wish to visit. Climb to the top for impressive north sea views

Eating out in Denmark is expensive overall so grab cheap street eats or go for a buffet lunch where prices are more reasonable. Or of course you can cater for yourself if you have the facilities.

Where to stay: A hostel is the best way to keep prices low so if you’re doing a tour of the country it would be worth investing in a Hostelling International card (160 DKK). is part of this network and they have more than 60 hotels throughout the country.

KAYAK tip: Book everything in advance. Bus and train tickets are 50% lower a month ahead.

Sweden – Roam free in Stockholm and its archipelagos

Thank you, Pippi Longstocking for the unique, mischievous and whimsical image of Sweden that you have given generations all over the world. These days it seems that the Pippi Longstocking-way-of-life is still a feature of every Swedish holiday – the nonchalance, glee and a penchant for the unconventional. Generally Sweden is an expensive place to live because of its high taxes and the prices of goods and services.

But if you’re just visiting for a holiday thankfully there are ways to keep your costs to a minimum.

One great example of this is the quintessentially Swedish concept of Allemansrätten or the freedom to roam; best summed up by the phrase ”Don’t disturb – don’t destroy”. This grants every person the right to access all public and certain areas of privately owned land for recreation and exercise, this includes camping out. That’s your accommodation sorted.

Park your car, VW bus or camper for a night at the edge of the street or designated site, fluff the pillows in your vehicle or pitch a tent, set up a tea station, get that kettle brewing and relax under the Swedish skies.

If you’re not keen on the camping idea, generally hotels and hostels are cheapest during the winter months. This is usually the same for flight prices too. While it will be cold, it’s probably the most beautiful time to visit as the chances of snowfall are high.

Stockholm has lot of cultural activities where the prices can add up but thankfully it is easy to soak up the Swedish atmosphere without spending anything if you so wish. Join a free walking tour or simply wander at your own pace admiring the Old Town’s cobbled streets, colourful architectural gems, majestic squares and narrow alleyways

The Metro doubles up as an art gallery so definitely worth at least one ride. But if you’re keen on doing a lot of exploring, it’s well worth buying a city transit pass or purchasing your train or bus tickets in advance using the SJ mobile app if you’re going further afield.

Definitely avoid flying. High speed train lines link the major cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö multiple times per day – plus it’s the most environmentally friendly train system in the world! There are also links to the far north and Arctic Circle if you’re up for it.

As is the norm with Scandinavia, it’s the eating out that really adds up so be strategic and stock up at a breakfast buffet in your hotel or take advantage of daily lunch specials on offer. Even better, make a picnic or cook for yourself if you are able. Also maybe swerve alcohol on the trip – your head might thank you!

Where to stay: The Castle House Inn is in a prime position in Stockholm, so a good base to explore Gamla Stan, central Stortorget square, Djurgården or many of the city’s free museums.

KAYAK Tip: If you’re going to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, try and take a detour out to the islands of Tjörn or Orust. A Swedish summer experience is hard to find but Orust claims more sunshine per year than anywhere else in Sweden. These and the other smaller islands in the archipelago off the west coast are as idyllic in any story by Astrid Lindgren.

Enjoy fun times in Finland

What can you say about the Finns? They spend a lot of their lives sitting in the sauna, are extremely introverted (when sober at least), dance tango and organise obtuse competitions such as mobile phone throwing, wife carrying, swamp soccer or the air guitar world championships.

All stereotypes aside there is one very important thing to remember. The main aim behind these competitions is to create a celebratory atmosphere, and if you don’t know already, you’ll learn, Finns know how to party.

Oh, and they’re modest to boot. Home to 188,000 lakes, it’s nickname is rounded down to  “The Land of the Thousand Lakes”. An absolute highlight is the white nights, all thanks to the Midnight Sun, a natural phenomenon where the sun can be seen at midnight, throughout the summer months.

Although it is only visible above the polar circle, the rays banish the cloak of night across the entire country. Magical!

Sadly, however, if you want to keep the costs right down the cheapest time to stay and fly is in January when the country is largely covered in darkness. But just imagine how mysterious and different your holiday will be!

Travel to Scandinavia on a budget: Helsinki

Helsinki, the ‘White City of the North’, with its iconic domed cathedral towering above © Mika Ruusunen/

The capital, Helsinki, is home to just 600,000 inhabitants; but they are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. They (and you as their guest) enjoy a wealth of culture and design, forests and parks, almost 190 miles of coastline and an archipelago consisting of some 300 islands.

That the nights here are long, is not only due to the midnight sun. In the city centre, there are countless bars, and there is something going on every evening, especially live concerts. The Finns like to rock out.

As with all major cities, it’s worth buying a city rail pass if you’re planning on doing a lot of exploring within Helsinki itself.

Bus travel is a good option for travelling outside of the city as it connects lots of the small towns and summer festivals – and is half the price of the trains. As always make sure you book your tickets in advance for the best prices.

There are many hostels available across the country for cheap accommodation but you can also legally pitch a tent anywhere in the countryside due the everyman’s rights.

Consider having your main meal of the day at lunchtime as many restaurants offer reasonably-priced buffets where you can stock up!

Finland is also home to Lapland, the most northern region of the country, and the home of Father Christmas. Generally this is an expensive destination but it is possible to visit on a budget by flying into an airport further away midweek and catching the train or bus, staying in a self-catering chalet and opting out of expensive activities such as husky dog sledging!

Where to stay: Hostel Diana Park is centrally located in Helsinki and great for exploring free sights such as the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, scultptures of Finnish icons at Esplanadi park and Töölönlahti Bay.

KAYAK tip: You can enter Finland’s oldest theme park Linnanmäki for free – and even enjoy nine rides without paying a penny.

Versatile Norway

If you like surfing, Norway’s your destination. Provided you don’t mind the cold water. The Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway (Norway is often called “the road to the north”) are considered one of the best cold water surf spots in the world.

Norway is variation in it’s purest form. Considerably more rough and mountainous than the other northern countries, the landscape ducks and weaves around a fascinating mixture of plateaus and fjords, island chains and grasslands, ports, villages and cities. And, of course, the midnight sun accompanies you here as well. If the mood strikes you, you can start a hike at 9 pm in the summer.

Oslo, the capital of the kingdom, is one of the top places in the ranking of ‘most expensive cities in the world’, but there are ways around it, making sure you don’t enjoy the city any less. If you’re eating out be sure to steer clear of the main tourist streets and, always sound advice, go where the locals go.

There are also plenty of free events and museums, and the city, knowing what a deterrent high prices can be, offers a bunch of tips on its tourist site of how to keep costs down. Admire the street art and architectural gems or perhaps take a walk along the harbour promenade from the Opera House to the Astrup Fearnley Museum.

Urban planning has changed the city’s skyline considerably over the past few years, contemporary, modern architecture is found in the old town as well as in new urban areas. What remains ever present is how the capital is orientated – with its face always towards the water.

Where to stay: Bedwood Hostel is situated in a beautiful historic warehouse, originally built in 1756, right beside the famous Nyhavn canal in Oslo’s city centre.

KAYAK tip: Make the most of the stunning hiking routes in the mountains that surround the city. It’s free for all!

Budget travel in Norway

Yoga in the fjords? Why not © Julia Caesar/

Should you visit the harbour city of Bergen?

The answer is a resounding, yes! Norway’s second-largest city pop. 280,000, exudes small town charm with its laneways, fish market and world-famous wooden houses of Bryggen, but this gateway to the fjords buzzes with a youthful vitality; due in part to its student population.

The rugged west coast of Norway is one of a kind, and the best way is to explore it is on the water, either on a day trip with a canoe or sailboat or on a mini cruise on board one of the Hurtigruten ships. There is always an adventure to be had here.

Fabulous Iceland

Iceland has the unfortunate label of being the most expensive of all of the Scandinavian countries; but don’t let this put you off.

It’s an amazing place, perhaps the most varied Scandinavian country to visit, with most activities and sights equally as impressive in the cheaper winter months as it is in the summer.

Reykjavik is often the starting destination for tourists before they go off and explore the Golden Circle and its many unique attractions such as the Northern Lights, geysers and glaciers.

The Blue Lagoon, one if the 25 wonders of the world, has an entrance fee which is well worth the price tag (which varies according to the season) but there are even some sections that can be experienced free of charge.

The nature of Iceland

After surviving the financial crisis of 2008 and the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, Iceland’s reputation as a top place to visit was firmly cemented during the 2016 European Football Championship when this unlikely nation showed incredible fortitude and spirit while eliminating the English team.

Rather than having a negative backlash, the nation was immediately embraced by the hearts of all fans and the official tourism board starting receiving a whole lot more queries.

Iceland is an ideal country for a road trip due to the Golden Circle route so hire a camper van or simply pitch a tent and soak up the great outdoors.

The untamed landscape with volcanoes and waterfalls, bubbling thermal springs, quaint gravel roads and moss-covered hillsides are almost otherworldly in their beauty.

Legends of elves and trolls make sense here and remaining sceptical is harder than you’d think. Even today a belief in the fair folk is anchored in Icelandic society, just ask someone local about the hidden people (Huldufólk).

So, if you want to see why everyone else has fallen in love with this place, take heed and help the country out by exploring near and far and seeing as much of the country as you can. There are worse ways to be nice……

Where to stay: Oddsson at the port of Reykjavik, is a comfortable base for a couple of nights.

KAYAK tip: There are campgrounds located all over the country which cost just around £10 per night. If the weather is terrible there is usually the option for you to move into a common room inside.

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About the author

Beci WoodFormerly the Digital Showbiz Editor of The Sun Newspaper, Beci is a mum-of-three with a passion for sport, photography, desserts and Mickey Mouse! In fact Next up Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, remains top on her Bucket List. Beci's 9-5 often involves juggling work with the school run, watching (but not always enjoying) Manchester United and lifting weights at the gym. Follow Beci on Twitter or Instagram for more travel inspiration.

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