Our column this week features a question submitted by @AlperElci via Twitter:
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Why is accommodation in Oslo expensive? Do you have any cost-saving suggestionS for a family with kids?
Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so it shouldn't be surprising to find that hotels are not cheap. But by the same token, you shouldn't have to bankrupt your family to enjoy a visit there.
Hotels are not as expensive as one might think. You'll find a lot of options for under $300, many options for under $200, and even a few under $150. For a major European city, that's really not bad. Granted, these are not luxury hotels for $300; rather, they are quite serviceable, upscale hotels that are nice but not extravagant, though some of them might even be called elegant. Indeed, prices in Oslo may not be any worse (and in some way may be considerably better) than in New York City. Also consider that many, if not most, hotels in Oslo throw in a free buffet breakfast for that price, and it looks even better. But $300 is still a lot of money, so how can you do better?
Oslo has a modern, new hostel (the Oslo Central Hostel), and it has family rooms with a private bath for around $200 including breakfast. While this isn't cheap, the hostel gives you access to shared kitchen space, where you can prepare some simple meals (or at least eat some take-out), plus the property offers access to free Wi-Fi, not to mention a group of international, like-minded budget travelers who you can use as resources.
But let's say you'd prefer a bit more privacy. You can also rent an apartment in Oslo for about the same price. At $200 you'll have choices, for $300 many choices. Check out sites like AirBnB, and look for apartments you don't have to share with others. Having an apartment in the city gives you a more residential (and authentic) experience.
You'll find that Oslo is expensive in myriad other ways that go beyond the cost of hotel rooms. Some find food to be the most outrageously priced thing in the city. Don't be surprised if a tuna melt at a diner-style restaurants costs Nkr. 139 ($22.50). Dinner at the Gamle Raadhus, a very good but not phenomenally expensive restaurant, begins at $95 (for a 3-course meal). Dinner at one of the more expensive (and well-regarded restaurants in the city), Restaurant Bagatelle starts at Nkr. 1400 ($226). A combo meal at McDonald's costs Nkr. 95 ($16).
The Munch Museum, by contrast, costs just Nkr. 95 ($15), so if you want to see The Scream, you might be able to afford a cup of expensive Oslo coffee. And you can enjoy the city's many outdoor spaces and parks for free. If you are visiting during the summer and enjoy walking and being outside, you can limit your visits to expensive tourist attractions and still have a great time.
An Oslo pass, which includes free entry to many museums and attractions as well as all public transit in Oslo, costs Nkr. 535 ($86) for 72 hours, half of that for kids; it's an excellent value and even gives you discounts in restaurants and other attractions. Combined with a few picnics and eat-in meals, this may be the best way to enjoy Oslo on a budget. And the folks at Visit Oslo know their city is expensive and have a lot of useful budget-travel tips (not to mention family travel tips) on their website.