Norway is expensive. This statement is a norm and you hear it from many. But to understand the real situation you have to come and visit, the most expensive country in Europe, where what strikes you the most is not what exactly you have to pay but the lack of choices. After you visit for a while you understand that the real issue in the country is not the business climate but the Socialist government that taxes everybody so high that businesses run obviously at a very low margin. Finding a hotel to accommodate 3-4 people is possible but the cost incurred can be high. First, if you want to book over Internet not too many hotels have listed a room a 3-4 people. Then when you get one you realize that beside the regular price, very high already, they might add NK250 per person so the least expensive rooms goes for around NK1000-1200 or $200 for a basic room in a basic hotel. Sometimes for this you get breakfast but not all sheets and towels that are charged extra. A top hotel like Raddison charges in a city like Bergen NK1600 same price as similar ones in any small town/resort.
This taxation system compresses the price scale towards the higher prices leaving almost no room for low and medium priced hotels. The American version of cheap motel does not exist. Even if it might look like a motel, inside it is clean looking brand new with impeccable sheets. But this system scales down the offer, in any resort being only 2-3 hotels, all are extremely clean and well maintained. The food is a worse problem if you do not plan in advance. The restaurants outside of the main cities close relatively early and their prices are steep. Like in the Oslo’s restaurants any dish is around $50 and in some of them you may get a fixed menu for this price or higher. The result is that in most of them you may see old families eating out and with such a high tag even in Akker Brigge in Oslo the number of occupied tables is limited and only once a night.
The youth are in the bar across the street and in most of the restaurant’s terraces in Oslo, that are absolutely packed that you could not find a chair, everybody has just a beer on the table and ABSOLUTELY no food. In small towns in the fjords the food options might be limited to only one pizza parlor and one hotel with restaurant that closes the kitchen at 8-9pm, so if you missed your 7pm dinner the Arab’s pizza parlor is the only option. Any soft drink is about NK25 and a beer is around NK50. Banks exists in some towns but you have to investigate thoroughly to be able to find it and when you find it the exchange rate is taxed that you get 10-15% less than the expected rate. Because of lack of available banks we ran out of NK many times and we had to negotiate a rate, surprisingly slightly better than in a bank, to pay for food or even the hotel in US$.
The roads are free but occasionally it comes up a toll road where the toll is so high like the one toward Fraeling where for 34km you have to pay NK180, coming to $1/km Anything you visit is around NK50-70/person. For families kids pay half so it comes to NK160-180. And this is for absolutely any place you have to see inside, be a museum, a church, etc. But after you pay this entry you get interesting extra fees. You go to museum OUTSIDE of the city and after you pay NK160 the entry fee you find out that the parking should be paid also, NK10/hour and sometimes is a fee for the museum toilet.
Transportation is highly expensive with any ferry crossing being around NK120, $20 and you need a number of crossings.The tickets prices for buses and trains, as we heard from other travelers, are very high also but surprisingly the plane tickets are reasonable. The Flam train is NK340 RT and the bus ticket for inner city in Bergen is NK25. The gas is slightly more than $2/liter. The parking is expensive in large cities that is expected but at rate of $10/hour on street parking in Oslo it comes to be more expensive than NYC. The prices are as they are. You pay and you forget but what shocks you the most is that these are fees and prices that the locals are paying on a regular basis and they have to deal with the lack of options similar in a way with a way of life that was happening 20 years ago in Eastern Europe. Knowing that the government is a coalition of parties with the Socialists in the middle is no surprise. People are quite unhappy as we found out.
The life was affordable till about 1985 when the prices started to skyrocket and it became really unaffordable after 2000. The Socialist government policies makes unemployment compensation higher than the pensions and elderly people suffers of neglect and lack of care. With the higher taxes and steep local costs I just mentioned, you really wonder how much these people have to earn in order to afford living in this country. As I just found out last night all the people working in the hotel are paid flat NK125/hour ($20/hour). Businesses do not make a good profit but just get by. Of course we assumed that everything else is taken care of like medicine, but a retired person mentioned that they have to pay NK2800 from their own pocket in order to qualify for medicine to be paid from government programs.