Back when I lived in Australia, visiting the Nordics was completely out of the question.
It wasn’t just that those northern European countries were a 24-hour flight away (which is enough to make anyone reassess their choice of destination). The real reason I couldn’t visit the Nordics was mainly because that part of the world was considered so damn expensive.
I’d heard the horror stories about how a bottle of water costs $10 in Norway, or a hostel dorm bed in Denmark costs more than a 5-star hotel in Prague. As a budget traveller, I thought that I would never be able to make it to the Nordics unless I won the lottery or waited until I was old and rich.
Well, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
I ended up visiting Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland at the young age of 28, and I didn’t have to acquire a large sum of money to do it. What I once thought of as unattainable became completely possible with some smart trip planning.
Of course it helped that I was now living in New York City, which meant the journey to northern Europe was much less painful than a day-long jaunt from Australia, but the costs once I got there weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be. Here’s how much it actually cost me to visit the Nordics!
Flights to the Nordic countries will vary with your departure location and destination, and whether you get a special on flights. Here’s what it cost Robert and I to buy 3 separate tickets from New York to the Nordics and return:
- New York City to Reykjavik with IcelandAir: 297.90 USD per person
- Reykjavik to Copenhagen with SAS: 144.94 USD per person
- Stockholm to New York City with Norwegian: 450 USD per person
Our flights cost a total of 892.84 USD per person return. I thought this was a fairly good deal, considering we used different airlines to get direct flights between each of our destinations (something I am absolutely willing to pay more for!).
You can definitely get cheaper deals from USA to Europe, but you might have to fly to and from the same destination, and maybe take non-direct flights.
Hostels and Hotels in the Nordics might not be as cheap as the ones you’ll find in eastern and central Europe, but with a bit of searching, you can find some decent deals.
As I was travelling with Robert, we shared a double room in most destinations. I stayed longer to do some solo travel in Sweden and Finland so I ended up staying in some single rooms as well. Here’s what we ended up paying for accommodation:
- Reykjavik – We ended up using Airbnb to rent a gorgeous apartment only 5 minutes walk from downtown, which cost 188 USD per night. Keep in mind that Iceland is definitely one of the more expensive countries for accommodation.
- Copenhagen – Again, we used Airbnb as the cost was much less expensive than a hotel. Our lovely apartment in Christianshavn cost 157 USD per night.
- Stockholm – The first hotel I stayed at was Scandic No 53 which cost 131 USD per night for a double room, and the second hotel was First Hotel Kungsbron which cost 72 USD per night for a single room.
- Uppsala – I stayed at the Akademihotellet in Uppsala, which cost 72 USD per night for a single room.
- Finland – My trip was hosted in various accommodations throughout Aland and the archipelago so it’s difficult to figure out the cost, but the average price of a budget hotel in Helsinki is around 80-120 USD per night.
On average, my accommodation costs were, 158 USD per night (for a double room) or 76 USD per night per person. This is definitely more than we normally pay for hotels (for a double room, we would probably spend 100-140 USD per night on average) but considering it was the Nordics, I was happy with what we ended up paying.
Even though the Nordic countries are generally pricier than other European countries, train travel is still inexpensive and is a fast way to get around.
As I grew up in a country that didn’t have a functional passenger rail network, these train journeys are always such a novelty for me! Robert and I travelled between Copenhagen and Stockholm via a fast train, which took only 5 hours and cost 438 SEK (about 49 USD) per person for the one-way trip.
I also took a train from Stockholm to Uppsala, which was about 40 minutes out of the city. This cost 93 SEK (about 11 USD) each way.
We rented a small car in Iceland, which cost 61 EUR (about 69 USD) per day. This was the only time that we rented a car, but the prices are similar throughout other Nordic countries.
An average meal out cost around 15-25 USD per person in most of the countries we visited, though Sweden was a little cheaper. Sweden also had more options for take away food and quick bites at bakeries and cafes, whereas the other Nordic countries were more restaurant oriented.
Grocery stores were often the cheapest option for food, but even they were a little more expensive than other countries. The grocery store food was generally very good quality, though, so you’re not paying a premium for nothing!
You can expect to pay about 7-9 USD for a beer, and wine was a little more expensive at about 9-12 USD. Spirits are generally much more expensive in the Nordics than they are in America, so it will be cheaper to stick to local drinks.
Iceland was by far the most expensive country as far as sightseeing activities go, but saying that, the activities were absolutely awesome. We paid about 35 USD to get into some thermal pools (which is about half the price of the ultra expensive Blue Lagoon!) and another 35 USD to do a puffin-watching boat tour from Reykjavik.
There are definitely some pricier activities in Iceland, such as glacier hiking or zodiac boat tours though Glacier Lagoon, but there are also cheap or free activities too. We paid only 900 ISK (about 8 USD) to go up the Hallgrímskirkja church tower, and absolutely nothing to visit all the geysers and waterfalls.
You can expect to pay entrance fees to most attractions in the other Nordic countries. In Copenhagen, we payed as little as 35 DKK (about 5 USD) to go up the tower of the Church of our Savior, and as much as 110 DKK (about 16 USD) to enter Tivoli Gardens.
In Stockholm, the entrance fees vary between 130 SEK (about 14 USD) to enter the Fotografiska museum and 250 SEK (about 28 USD) to enter the ABBA museum.