Backpacking Scandinavia Cheaply (How To Do It)

backpacking in Scandinavia

It’s no secret that backpacking in Scandinavia can be expensive so I am going to tell you how I managed to spend several weeks backpacking in Norway, Sweden, and Finland on an average of $15 a day.

Considering that beer in Oslo can cost $15 you may think I am a little crazy.

But this is a post for those who want to travel Scandinavia but are put off by the costs. It can be done.


 

backpacking Scandinavia
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Backpacking in Scandinavia

First of all a disclaimer: this is not the post for you if you’re looking for a lot of comfort on your Scandinavia travels. This is about Scandinavia on a budget.

 That being said, I did have some very comfortable living at times, and it didn’t cost a thing.

Answer this question: Why go Backpacking in Scandinavia?

Wild mountains, forests, deep fjords in Norway, beautiful seaside locations such as the Lofoten Islands.

Scandinavia can easily be considered the “New Zealand” of Europe.

That leads to the answer: visit Scandinavia for nature. And what better way to see nature? Hiking and camping of course.

That should give you an idea of where this post is going.

backpacking Scandinavia Kungsleden
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The Kungsleden hiking trail in Sweden

When I decided to pay a visit for a few months I went mainly to see nature.

Considering they have a law where you are allowed to camp anywhere, as long as you are a few hundred metres away from someone’s property, it makes things easy.

The first step towards backpacking Scandinavia on a budget is to camp everywhere. It won’t cost you anything.

Also these days you can use Couchsurfing to stay with people who offer a place in their home.

I didn’t have Couchsurfing when I did my trip, so I basically explored a city or town just for the day when passing through.

I would then camp on the outskirts somewhere in the wild.

It’s easy to do this in summer as it’s warm enough and you have 24 hours of daylight.

As far as the winter goes this advice would not really be valid, except for the Couchsurfing aspect.

Although if you have seriously good winter camping gear it can be done.

backpacking Norway
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Hiking in Norway

Getting between places you can hitch-hike. People stop no problem for hitch-hikers, especially in the north, where public transport is not as common.

These are some of the best things to do in Finland.


A Scandinavian Road Trip is the best

And with hitch-hiking comes another benefit. Sometimes the people who give you a ride will also invite you to stay with them.

Don’t count on being offered somewhere to stay, but when it happens it is great.

For example, I had a family of seven in the north of Finland pick me up at ten at night. Upon asking where I was going to stay, I replied that I would just camp by the side of the road.

They said “no way” and invited me to their big house in the countryside. We ended up taking a sauna until four in the morning.

Another time two teachers gave me a ride and offered for me to stay at the university with them. And so on.

You will meet some very hospitable people, especially in the north where it’s more remote.

backpacking Finland
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Lakes and forests are everywhere in Finland. Easy camping.

It could be a little more worrying hitch-hiking as a solo female traveller and staying with strangers. Just use your instincts and do what you feel comfortable with.

If you don’t want to hitch-hike, you can still save loads of money by camping, which is perfectly safe to do. Often you will be on popular hiking trails with others around.

You will need to rely on buses in that case if not hitch-hiking for the cheapest form of paid transport.

Hiking in the mountains of Norway, visiting the Lofoten Islands and the north of Sweden really is worth it. It’s one of the highlights of Scandinavian travel.

backpacking Norway
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Lofoten Islands in northern Norway

Eating in Scandinavia on a Budget

As for food I lived on typical hiking fare. Ramen (instant noodles), instant mash, tinned tuna, chocolate bars, and many other budget options.

These are cheap to buy and were actually my only travel expense. Sometimes I would spend as little as $5 a day. I wrote $15 a day just to average the costs out.

When invited to stay with people they would often give you food as well. Again don’t rely on being offered places to stay, but if you are lucky, it will happen.

To keep clean I would wash in the cool streams in the wilderness. And wash my clothes in those same streams. Wearing only synthetic hiking clothes meant they dried very quickly.

Just choose a sunny day to do it to speed the drying up, if you can.

backpacking Norway
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Old wooden church in Norway

Camping in Scandinavia

Now you may be saying “well this is all good and fine if you have camping gear for backpacking Scandinavia”. But what if you don’t?

If you are already backpacking in Europe without camping gear, and only planning a week or two backpacking Scandinavia, then it wouldn’t be worth it time-wise to do what I recommend anyway.

In fact, it would be very difficult.

Indeed, to see Scandinavia properly you will need at least several weeks to appreciate nature.

So if you have at least three weeks to explore then purchasing camping gear on the way to Scandinavia (say in Germany or Denmark), will actually pay for itself over that month of camping.

Then you can sell it at the end and probably get half your money back. Or keep it and use it for future camping trips.

I would say to get camping gear if you’re only going for one-two weeks only if you plan to use the same gear in the future.

This is some basic camping gear I recommend for summer use if you want to purchase gear before going.

I personally like to buy things that are a bit more pricey, as they will last in the long run, and are more effective overall.

Having said that this is a post about budget travel, so I have added some budget options as well.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Classic Backpacking Tent

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: This tent I have used camping many places and love it. It’s very comfortable for 1-2 persons. The downside is it can be pricey (but worth it), so if you want a cheaper tent that’s still good check out the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent
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.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat

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is my favourite sleeping mat ever! It’s so comfy and always gives a good nights sleep. It packs down small and is not that heavy. Perfect.

Hyke & Byke Down Sleeping Bag

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 is a decent budget option that will keep you warm. In the long run, like I said it’s good to invest in a good sleeping bag, but they can run up to $500! So this is a decent compromise for backpacking Scandinavia on a budget as it’s around $150.

backpacking Scandinavia
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Beautiful nature everywhere

Either way, it will be cheaper than some of the other hotel/hostel options. Don’t rely on Couchsurfing for everywhere as some places are so remote you won’t find it.

Having the camping gear for backpacking Scandinavia will also give you the freedom to hit the hiking trails, such as the Kungsleden in Sweden.

And stop whenever you want, without having to worry about finding somewhere to sleep for the night. It really is the best way to travel Scandinavia.

 


Scandinavia on a Budget

Now if you want to go out drinking and eating in bars/restaurants, take public transport everywhere, and stay in hostels/hotels, then this post is obviously not for you. You will not be able to see Scandinavia cheaply like that!

But my travels are geared towards similar minded people, looking to travel around on a budget, and still get to experience the best the countries have to offer.

At no point in this trip did I take it for granted that people would put me up in their homes and feed me.

The only things I took for granted was that I could camp almost anywhere.

And that people would give me a lift when hitch-hiking, as someone will always stop eventually.


Go Backpacking in Scandinavia

I hope this has helped some budget travellers to get an idea on how they can go backpacking Scandinavia on a budget.

And be able to explore one of the best places in Europe, if not the world.

“GOD TUR!” – Norwegian for “have a nice trip!”


Scandinavia Travel Resources

You can find and book budget hostels and hotels here.

Take travel insurance for your backpacking trip as even though you can travel Scandinavia cheaply, it will be expensive if you need medical treatment.

I use World NomadsTravel Insurance:

 

If you’re interested in cheap countries then this my list of 10 of the cheapest countries you can travel to.

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20 thoughts on “Backpacking Scandinavia Cheaply (How To Do It)”

  1. I just headed into the mountains, fjords, Lofoten Islands and general hiking trails and wilderness. I spent no time in cities but to just pass through. Budget travel I mentioned how to do in the article πŸ™‚

  2. Hey Johnny,

    Thanks for your post. I will be heading to Scandanavia on 5/30 and it’s my first trip where I’ll be doing a lot of what you did. Is there anything from home that I should bring as opposed to buying there? Any sites you saw that are a must see? I’m primarily there for the nature but would love to see the cities as well. Any other tips/caution for an expedition like this?

  3. Hey Daniel. I would say that if you’re coming straight into Scandinavia then bring all your own camping gear that you have with you, will be cheaper than getting more stuff there. As far as sites I was pretty much mostly in nature. I would say Jotunheimen National Park, the gorges, and Lofoten islands in Norway are definitely must see places. They were my favourite. I didn’t spend any time in the cities except to just pass through for a few hours so don’t know much about them, although Oslo didn’t really excite me. My biggest tip is just go for it! Nothing to worry about πŸ™‚ Safe travels!

  4. Hi, this summer I am planning on travelling from Copenhagen through up through southern/middland Sweden and Norway then ending in Bergen! Unfortunately don’t have all the time in the world so can’t go too far north which is annoying πŸ™ Really eager to get out hiking and camping- was wondering if you could recommend any good trails in those sort of areas of Sweden and Norway? And any good things to see/visit (aside from the cities)? How did you find out about the trails you walked? Thanks!

  5. Hey Anna! One trail I highly recommend that would be good for you is the Jotunheimen National Park located between Oslo and Trondheim. Really beautiful. All the other hikes I did were in the north of the countries I’m afraid so no good for you. I found out about the hikes by asking other travellers/hikers on the road and the occasional tourist info centre. If you do get north then in Sweden you have the Kungsleden Trail, Lofoten Islands in Norway. Hope that helps. Happy hiking/travel!

  6. Ah yes that’s super helpful thanks! Yes the north seems way too good to miss- definitely going to have to try to get up there!

  7. hey johny,thnx for your post..wife n me plan to do this for 60 days, june to aug2017..we must camp n cook as we can afford to do just that, we plan to hitchhike..so no railway either…we fly from india to copenhagen and return flight from helsinki to delhi…so herz the question, if you had 60 days like us, what route would you do …remember we have to be in helsinki in 60 days…
    we want to cover denamrk, sweden,norway and finland at a slow pace..
    we like to stay away from very touristy places, however, this is our first time in europe, so yes, we are pretty much interested in everything…
    your response will be extremely valuable..
    our daily budget for the both of us is 20 usd..

  8. Hey 60 days will be plenty of time to slow travel around by hitch-hiking, camping, hiking trails. Start in Denmark and then head through south Sweden past Oslo and do Southern Norway first (don’t miss Jotunheimen National Park), then hitch up the coast to north Norway (Lofoten Islands don’t miss), head into north Sweden (Kungsleden trail), then spends on you, you could head into central Sweden then back to the north before heading into north Finland, then hitch you way down to Helsinki hitting up hiking trails and other things on the way. A good loop πŸ™‚ Scandinavia is very much about nature so hiking trails are really good there. It’s easy to wild camp everywhere.

  9. Hey Jonny,
    Just wanted to let you know how important this post was for me. It truly gave me the courage to camp/hitchhike around Scandinavia and I had an absolute blast. Ended up spending four months there. Fjords, mountains, forests, coastline and the people are so friendly. One of the best travelling experiences I have ever had so thanks again for writing this blog post and inspiring me.

    All the best,
    Jordan.

  10. Hey Jordan,

    Sorry for the late reply. It’s comments like this that remind me why I love blogging… if we can all share and inspire each other to do things we want to do, life will be better πŸ™‚ You’re very welcome.

  11. Hey Jordan,

    Sorry for the late reply. It’s comments like this that remind me why I love blogging… if we can all share and inspire each other to do things we want, life will be good πŸ™‚ You’re very welcome.

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    Wow! Cannot believe that this place is so much mesmerizing. It would be quite an experience to travel here.

  13. Hi Jonny.
    I’m really thinking about going solo travelling for weeks, maybe month to Scandinavia one of these days. And your blog convinced me that it was what I wanted to do. I even have every camping gear that I would need.
    My only question is, how did you find find food/water while on the road for, let’s say, weeks ? Did you pack a lot of dried goods or something like that ?
    Thanks again.

    All the best
    Jo

  14. Hi Jordan. There are plenty of small supermarkets you can stock up on as you go. I would pick up a few days supply of instant noodle, instant mash potatoes, tinned meat, for example for a few days hiking trips for sure, and also carry same when around towns. You can find food supply points everywhere, even at start of hiking trails there is normally small shop with some basics. Drinking water I got from taps in public toilets etc when in towns, and just took from streams and rivers when out hiking. Bring water purifier to be safe if drinking from streams close to human habitation but in hiking areas I just drank pure from the source. Have a great trip!

  15. Pingback: Kungsleden Central Part (The King’s Trail) - Unusual Traveler

  16. Very cool. Thank you for sharing the details. Backpacking is a great option!
    I’d like to suggest looking into the harm of washing and directly doing laundry in lakes and streams. Soaps even if biodegradeable can still affect wildlife who live and/or drink and fellow backpackers who retrieve water for consumption. You could collect water to wash and pour into a waste hole some distance away. No, it’s not as convenient as the yesteryears.

  17. Pingback: Jotunheimen National Park Hiking In Norway - Backpackingman

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