They’re not kidding when they say Norway is one of the most expensive cities to travel in. With the recently low(er) strength of the Norwegian Krone (currently 8.65 per $1), a McDonald’s meal might not set you back $15 anymore, but it’s only just barely less than that (a breakfast consisting of a McMuffin + a latte cost me around $7).
So, when you’re set up to spend two days straight in a city where eating three meals a day is nearly as much as my plane ticket to get here ($300), I knew I had to hunker down and figure out how to “do Oslo” while keeping within my overall budget of $1,000 for my 9-day solo trip.
I started my Oslo adventure getting off the train from Bergen (Myrdal) on Saturday night at around 10:30. With the directions to that night’s Airbnb saved as an image on my phone (for when I was no longer in WiFi range), I set off to find the bed where I hoped I could catch up on some sleep.
As I walked through the streets, I noticed a significantly different vibe than the one I recognized in the daytime. As it was Saturday night, there were hordes of Norwegians surrounding the now-lively pubs and bars I didn’t even realize were there during the day. Normally, I’m not so anxious walking by nightlife activity, but since I was by myself in a neighborhood, I didn’t recognize in a city I didn’t know surrounded by a language I can’t understand, it spooked me. I kept my head down and feet moving forward as fast as possible, doing my best to avoid attention and blend in. I desperately yearned for the safety of a room where I could lock myself in and wait until the sanity of the morning.
I arrived at the Deli de la Luca, a convenience store chain, where my host promised the keys would be locked in a lockbox. I opened it with an app I downloaded in advance with no issues and headed down the street where the Airbnb was supposed to be located. I found the building and let myself in, not sure what to expect.
Now, I booked this Airbnb because I wanted a private room where I could have a little bit of my own space to rest and recharge before continuing my adventure the next day. I had my hostel experience in Bergen and, well, I was happy to put that 25-year-old-must-do-when-backpacking behind me and rest in this small comfort of mine.
While the room itself was private, nothing else about this place was. It’s essentially a small, 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment that 3 guys live in and rent out to a bunch of other travelers.
In other words, there were about 10 people sharing one bathroom and tight living quarters. I was already a bit shaken from my walk here and ready to just hit the sack. I stepped into the room, whose ceilings were just high enough to barely fit me standing straight up (I’m 5'3"), and looked for the lock on the door. There was none.
I opened my phone to find WiFi. It was locked and there were no instructions on how to find the passcode (I eventually found it by asking around). I looked for the bed linens, found them, and looked for a towel to use in the morning. There were none of those to be found.
Sighing, I decided to let it go, find a moment to wash my face in the bathroom, and head to bed. That way, I’d get an early start by waking up before everyone else and get out of here as soon as possible, showering at my next Airbnb where I’d only share it with 2 other girls.
The next morning, I woke up around 6:00, quickly washed my face and put on some makeup, and headed out the door. It was drizzling outside and the streets were dead. I headed back to the Deli de la Luca, dropped off the keys, and got a cup of coffee.
Realizing it was Sunday morning and everything was still closed, I decided to set off in a direction and try to get lost in the city — something I normally enjoy doing. This didn’t lead me much luck. Instead, I found myself wandering around the wet, frozen, and dead Botanical Gardens (which are probably gorgeous in the summer) and taking the world’s longest detour to get to Oslo’s Central Station — where I knew I could get what I wanted: warmth, dryness, food, and WiFi to plan my time in Oslo.
Oslo at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning is a ghost town. Even on major roads, there was almost no one to be found. It was a bit eerie and had me singing to myself to keep myself company. #crazysolotraveler
Eventually, I found my way to the station, bought a bagel w/ salmon and cream cheese and a flat white (which set me back about $20, ouch), and made myself comfortable drying off with my laptop.
After doing some research, I ultimately decided to get the Oslo Pass. This pass gives you essentially unlimited access to Oslo’s 30+ museums plus all public transportation in and around the city for 24, 48, or 72 hours. With the chilly rain outside, a couple of days exploring indoors sounded just the right fit, even though I’m not much of a museum person.
So I headed to the Oslo Visitor Center right outside the Central Station and bought a 48-hour pass. This cost me around $75 which was a big hit, but I figured if I visited enough museums and used enough transportation, it would save me money in the end while giving me something to do for two full days. Not a bad deal, if you think about it.
I rushed over to the bus stop and headed to Bygdøy where a good chunk of the museums, including the Viking Ship Museum (the one museum I genuinely looked forward to visiting while here), are located. Bygdøy is a beautiful peninsula of Oslo, with giant mansions and incredible neighborhoods surrounding a number of museums.
Each museum offered a wealth of knowledge, but the Viking Ship Museum genuinely gave me chills. As I walked around and took in the history of the Vikings I originally learned from history books when I was younger, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I had no idea why or where it came from but all I knew was this was completely awe-inspiring. It didn’t even seem real.
After that, I visited the Fram Museum where I boarded the world’s strongest polar vessel. I hadn’t heard of it before because, well, I never learned much about arctic exploration, but it was fun and interesting to walk around the ship and learn more about the adventures. I sat in an igloo, watched a quick documentary, and marveled at how those men lived on board the beautiful ship.
The best part? Food was much cheaper inside this museum. I think I spent around $10 on lunch which is actually what I’d spend in Seattle for that, so it was a win-win. I got a sandwich and decided to try another Norwegian specialty — a hotcake with brown cheese (also known as brunost) on top. It was delicious. So if you want a decently-priced lunch and have the Oslo Pass, head over to the Fram Museum. It’s very interesting (if you don’t have the pass, I think tickets are around 120 NOK for adults).
While in Bygdøy, I also headed over to the Holocaust Center. Since learning about it, I was always fascinated by the tragedy of the events. I was the only one in the museum and slowly took in whatever I could. The entire exhibit was in Norwegian, so I couldn’t read much. The receptionist gave me a tablet which had a few articles in English — kind of like reading a Wikipedia on Norway’s involvement with the Holocaust — but it wasn’t exactly the same experience.
I jumped back on the bus and headed back into Oslo to visit the Natural History Museum, my last museum stop for the day as it was already 2:00 and museums close at 4:00 in the winter. The museum was alright — just kind of like a terrible zoo — but it was fun to see and learn about Scandinavian wildlife, especially up north.
After all was said and done, I left the museum and decided to try and find my Airbnb for the last 3 days of my trip. As I walked, a wave of homesickness washed over me. It wasn’t necessarily homesickness as it was, honestly, missing Allan, my partner. Throughout the trip, I kept having thoughts like, “Allan would love this,” or “Allan would hate this,” and wishing he was there alongside me every step of this adventure. I had flashbacks of traveling through San Fransisco or in Mexico with him and felt the emotions tugging at me. I really wished he was there.
I’ve always been happy to travel by myself, yes. But traveling is always improved when you’re with someone. You can make memories together. You can be in awe together. You can joke together. When you’re by yourself, you can only take in and process all the new adventures and the new stories on your own. And after a while, that can get lonely. That’s partially why I enjoy writing these updates so much; it’s my way of sharing my memories with someone else.
Anyways, back to the story. Finding my Airbnb that night was an adventure in itself. My feet and back were sore and beyond ready to settle in for the night, but I had completely forgotten to map and screenshot the directions when I had WiFi. So the first step was to find WiFi so I could do just that.
I walked for a while, not having any luck for about 15 minutes. I had an idea of where it was at — somewhat close to the last night’s nightmare Airbnb — so I headed that way. Eventually, I found my way back to the Deli de la Luca (on accident) and used the WiFi there to map the way. Success!
I jumped on a nearby bus and took it three stops to the Airbnb. I got off the bus and approached the address before realizing she left the key in a Joker (a small grocery store chain) “around 100m from the Airbnb). Silly me, I forgot to map that as well. Sighing, I decided to pick a direction and walk, hoping to run into the Joker. I came across a small shopping center which offered free WiFi a few blocks away. So I looked it up on the map, found it (the opposite direction, of course), and headed that way.
This Joker was a grocery store essentially the size of an American walk-in closet. Those closets are huge — as closets. But as a grocery store? Well, with more than 3 people inside it can feel crowded. Try about 20.
I squeezed in and looked around the 4 aisles for the lockbox. No luck. After whispering “excuse me” to people who may or may not understand English, I finally found the lockbox up by the register. I input my code and got the key. Finally!
Now that I knew where the Airbnb was located, I headed that way. I got to the front door and opened it with the key. This led me to a courtyard with three different entrances to various parts of the building — A, B, and C. I looked up the email and realized there was no address except for the one that got me to this courtyard. I looked up the WiFi. There were no free ones.
Getting frustrated by now, I left the courtyard and headed back to the small shopping center to grab WiFi. My back was screaming in pain and I was beyond ready to climb in bed and call it a night — and it was only 4:00. I got the WiFi, looked up the information on the Airbnb app, and figured out how to get there. Hopefully.
For one last time, I walked to the Airbnb, let myself in, and found the apartment. After settling in, I went back to the Joker to pick up some snacks in lieu of dinner (I was still semi-full from lunch) and went back to my home for the night.
The next day was a little less hectic. I spent the morning in the Airbnb, sleeping in until 7:30 (I’d been waking up around 6:00 every morning before) until getting ready for the day. For the next two hours, I set up my laptop and wrote before pulling on my coat and leaving for the day.
I headed over to the Munch Museum which was located just a few blocks from the Airbnb. I got there right after 10:00 when they opened and enjoyed a relaxing morning looking at art, although I must’ve missed the famous screaming man painting as I never saw it anywhere.
I’d planned on visiting the Reptile Park and the Science & Technology Museum as well. But when I got off the bus in front of the zoo, I realized it was closed on Mondays in the winter. Upon doing some research, I realized the Science & Technology one was as well.
I made a quick decision to use my Oslo Pass to get me to Drøbak, a town just under an hour outside of Oslo. The pass gave me free transit to the town and, since I love visiting small towns, I decided to use my last hours on that. I got on the bus and enjoyed a scenic view of what looks very similar to the Puget Sound. In town, I walked around for a bit. There were almost no people walking around — after all, it was the middle of a cold and rainy Monday — and I felt as if I had the whole town to myself.
I eventually found my way to a bakery where I ordered a shrimp sandwich. This cost me about 100 NOK or around $12. Then, since I’m in Norway, I walked to another bakery and ordered a bun I kept seeing everywhere and wanted to try. I later found out it was a Norwegian Cardamom Wheat Bun and oh…my…goodness...was it delicious. It was perfectly fluffy and round and sweet without being too sweet. I’m obsessed.
I got back on the bus and headed back to Oslo. There, I walked around the mall for a bit before heading back to the Airbnb for the night to catch up on some work and writing.
Oh, and I also bought a bus ticket for a round-trip day trip to Gothenburg, Sweden for my last full day in Scandinavia. So, we’ll see what adventures I get up to there.
Until next time.