The Cost of Living

Did we ever pick the wrong week to arrive in Trondheim. There is a fishing convention in town and just about every hotel room is booked. We were looking forward to a night in the city but it was not to be. We did find some availability at a Comfort Inn for $450, for a quad, or $350 for a double. Triple the rack rate! Instead, after securing train tickets, we cycled, in the pissing rain, 11 KM west to the nearest campsite.

In a previous post I talked about the cost of food in Iceland, which seems like a bargain now, compared to Norway. The cost of everything here is quite high, likely corresponding to the high standard of living and high wages. One woman told us minimum wage is about $20 per hour. Here is some reading on the subject:

Gérard packing groceries outside the Coop Store in Kolvereid.
Gérard packing groceries outside the Coop Store in Kolvereid.

Gasoline is about 15 NOK per litre, or $2.68. And yet people leave their cars running outside stores when they run in to get something. A haircut (I desperately need one) is 300 NOK, or $50. Camping has cost us anywhere from 120 NOK to 245 NOK, or $21.50 to $43. This usually includes access to a basic kitchen and a dining area, but not always. Sometimes showers are included, but more often than not the cost of a 4 minute shower is 10 NOK, or $1.80, sometimes 20 NOK, or $3.60. We’ve paid 80 NOK to do one load of laundry, wash and dry. That’s almost $15.

Campsites costs anywhere from 120 to 245 NOK.
Campsites costs anywhere from 120 to 245 NOK.

For a coffee drinker, Norway is very expensive. The going rate for a small coffee is 25 NOK, or $4.50. Many places offer free refills, although sometimes a refill costs 10 NOK. For a beer drinker, I suggest a different hobby, or go to Germany. In the grocery store, a 500 mL can of beer is between 25 and 35 NOK, or $4.50 to $6.25. In a restaurant or pub, easily twice that. Liquor is unaffordable. A bottle of whiskey that costs $25 in Canada will cost about $80 here.

And then there is the problem of actually getting your hands on booze. Beer can be had in the grocery store, but only until 8 PM on weekdays, 6 PM on Saturdays and never on Sundays. Even though it’s sitting on the shelf, you can’t buy the stuff after those hours. Every Norwegian we’ve met thinks this is a ridiculous law, yet the madness continues. To the store attendant, who shall remain anonymous, at a camp site who did sell us beer on a Sunday: THANK YOU!

Wine and liquor can only be purchased from the Vin Monopolet (Wine Monopoly). The time the Booze Monopoly is open for business seems to be fairly restricted. On weekdays they close at 4 or 5 PM and on a Saturday at 3 PM. Sunday? Forget about it. And then they’re only in the larger towns and cities. We’ve never seen one in a small town. The cost of a bottle of wine is reasonable enough, and comparable to Canadian prices for some, but almost impossible to get because of the limited number of stores and their limited hours.

Dinner in a restaurant can cost dearly, depending on the quality of the restaurant and what you want to eat. Today, in Trondheim, the four of us had lunch for 915 NOK ($163) without any booze. Jan had a fish burger, Alba and I had Bacalao and Gérard had fish soup and a crab salad, with two coffees and two teas. The buffet at a Thai restaurant in Namsos (see previous post) was one of the best value meals we’ve had at 99 NOK per person, and that was an all-you-can-eat affair, which we did. The average hamburger and fries will run you about $20-$25. A large pizza: $45!

Yes, one pizza for 259 NOK ($46). We did not have one.
Yes, one pizza for 259 NOK ($46). We did not have one.

Some stuff I just can’t figure out. A kilo of muesli costs 12 NOK ($2.14); 900 g potato salad: 14.50 NOK ($2.59). Both very cheap. But a head of lettuce is 31.50 NOK ($5.62) or 150 g of salami or ham: 33.60 NOK ($6); a cucumber is 17.90 NOK ($3.20). Very expensive, especially considering that the lettuce and cucumbers are often grown right in Norway.

We’ve bought some seafood as well, all locally harvested. Frozen shrimp, 500 g: 55.90 NOK ($9.98); scallops, 500 g: 115 NOK ($20.53). Reasonable for the shrimp, but a little pricey for the scallops. Salmon, all of it farmed, is very expensive, costing around 225 NOK ($40) per kilo.

Our dinner of Scampi with vegetables in coconut curry.
Our dinner of Scampi with vegetables in coconut curry.

All food is taxed 15% and some items such as hair care products are taxed 25%. These consumption taxes, or VAT, are included in the price so there isn’t the shock of the tax bill like we have at home, where prices don’t include the 12% tax we pay in Vancouver.

We’ve been here for almost six weeks and our expenditure has been quite a bit higher than in Iceland. Camping has been expensive, even though we’ve wild-camped on a few occasions, which automatically saves us about $25 per day. We’ve spent a good amount of money on ferries, although some of them did not charge us, even though they were supposed to.

All that said, we’re eating well – lots of fresh veggies and fruit but hardly any meat as that’s too expensive. And we are enjoying Norway and all that it has to offer. It is obviously a prosperous nation. All of the infrastructure connecting communities are just one example of its prosperity.

The train, for example, can be a bargain. As I write this, we are on the train to Oslo from Trondheim. It has wi-fi so I can file this. We will spend a short night in the capital and board another train early in the morning for Haugastøl and continue cycling between Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord, eventually ending up in Bergen. Our tickets were 449 NOK ($80) The bicycle charge was 183 NOK ($33). Not bad, considering the journey will take 10 hours.

We’re looking forward to a change of scenery as the big fjords near Bergen will present dramatically different vistas than what we’ve seen so far. Until next time.

5 thoughts on “The Cost of Living

  1. You ARE going to visit Telemark, aren’t you?
    Aren’t you???

    I’ll have a beer for you this evening!
    Ride on!
    – Phil

  2. Really looking forward to your comments on the journey between Hardangerfjord and Bergen as this is where we want to ride next year – but by the sounds of things we had better start saving now!

  3. It is far from a surprise that this Viking area is quite expensive. Have a nice cold beer and enjoy the big fjords. Never mind this fishy convention; yours is much more interesting! I’ll drink a beer to y’ all. A la salute!

  4. It is such a treat to hear about your trip and see some pictures!! Thank you. Robert is now an avid biker (going to whistler for the grand fondo) and I am even starting so maybe one day I’ll join you. Nancy

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