Tromso is one of the most spectacular Arctic cities in the world. Tromso is located far in the north of Norway, deep into the Arctic Circle, and it’s a destination that’s surrounded by fjords and mountains and steeped in culture and history.
This is quintessential Norway, where in summer, the midnight sun never sets, while in winter, the landscapes are layered in snow, ice and an ethereal darkness that’s only brightened by the Northern Lights.
But is Tromso expensive? Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. This is Norway, don’t forget, and this is not a cheap country by any standards, even Scandinavian. Accommodation is expensive, while food and drink in this remote part of Norway is pricey even in comparison to cities such as Oslo or Bergen. But while you’ll never be able to experience Tromso on the same backpacker budget that you might take to Southeast Asia, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you to save money.
To help you to experience the best of northern Norway for less, here’s our budget travel guide to Tromso.
This guide is perfect for those who are travelling to Tromso on a budget. We will show you what to do in Tromso, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Tromso or a long term stay.
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The best time to visit Tromso
If there’s one thing that you need to appreciate about Tromso, it’s that the weather here goes from one extreme to the next, quickly, depending on the time of the year. The best time to visit Tromso Norway will depend entirely on what exactly it is that you want to do while you are in the city, and the surrounding region, as the weather dictates life this far into the Arctic Circle.
In summer, for at least two months of the year, the sun barely sets on the horizon, and June and July are the best times to experience the midnight sun and to enjoy outdoor pursuits. Summer though, is the most popular time to be here, when there are charter flights from Europe, and plenty of cruise ships calling in. That pushes prices up and makes this a more expensive time to travel. Consider travelling in Spring or Autumn, to enjoy the lovely weather and outdoor pursuits, but all at lower costs.
Winter can also be surprisingly busy because this is one of the best places in the world to be almost guaranteed a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, in as much as seeing a natural phenomenon can be guaranteed. Prices are likely to be lower than summer, but only marginally, especially as Tromso becomes more and more popular as a tourist destination, and you’ll need to find a way of seeing the Northern Lights on a budget too. Winter is cold and dark, but it’s an exceptional and unique time to experience the Arctic Circle.
How to get around Tromso on a Budget
Tromso is located on an island in the middle of the fjords, and as such, the city itself is relatively compact. For budget travellers, that’s absolutely perfect, because it means that you can effectively walk everywhere within the city centre, saving money on transport costs.
Tromso Airport is located at least 15 minutes away by bus from the city centre, and public transport is the most cost-effective way to travel from the airport to the city. Buy a return on the FlyBus Express to save money, or make use of the regular numbered city buses.
City buses connect all the suburbs of Tromso with the city centre, and from the city centre to many more villages and towns in the north. Bus travel isn’t exactly cheap, even by European standards, and one ride on the public bus is likely to set you back 5USD.
Buses to outlying areas can be infrequent, however, they will still be a cheaper option than renting a car or joining a tour. If you are feeling adventurous, then in summer, you can even look at hitchhiking if you want to see more of the wider Tromso region on a real budget. In summer you can hike around, or rent a bicycle if you’re feeling active too.
There are also ferries and boats connecting Tromso city with other parts of the region, but like the buses, these can also add up in cost if you are using them a lot.
What to expect in Tromso
Tromso is a friendly and charming city, but of course, it’s not easy to be here on a budget. It’s worth the extra effort though because you can expect to find what’s often been called the ‘Paris of the North’, a city of wonderful architecture in the Arctic Circle, where there’s a lot to experience.
In Tromso, the local language is Norwegian of course, but you can expect to be able to get by easily if you don’t speak the language because English is almost universally spoken. Signs and notifications on public transport and in museums and shops are almost always going to be translated into English, making life much easier for the budget traveller, and giving you one less thing to worry about. Of course, learning a few words of Norwegian might ingratiate you into the local culture and open more local opportunities for you too, so it’s worth learning at least a few words of the local dialect.
The local currency is the Norwegian Krone, and you can find ATMs in the city and at the airport. To save money on currency exchange rates and ATM costs, bring along an international card that gives you free withdrawals, or compare the rates of different banks within your country to get the best options, as fees can add up if you are spending a while in Norway.
Budget things to do in Tromso
One of the most iconic landmarks in Tromso is the Arctic Cathedral, a stunning work of architecture that was built in a distinctive Scandinavian style in the 1960s. The Cathedral is designed to represent the Arctic, be it traditional Norwegian wood houses or igloos and longboats. It’s a practising church and entry isn’t free but it is cheap.
The Tromso Cathedral in the centre of the city, is free to enter, on the other hand. This Lutheran Cathedral isn’t quite as unique as the Arctic Cathedral but it is still remarkably stunning, as it rises high above the surrounding buildings.
The Botanical Garden
A great place to explore, in both the sun or snow, is the Botanical Garden, which gives you a chance to easily get outdoors and to find a piece of nature right in the city. This is an Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden and it’s completely free to enter all through the year.
Northern Norway Art Museum
Tromso’s local art museum is a treasure trove of creative work, and it’s one of the best free places to visit in the city. Known as the Northern Norway Art Museum, the museum houses local works collected from the most northerly regions of Norway.
One of the best free things to do in Tromso in summer is hiking. Tromso is an outdoor paradise and the city is just a short walk away from stunning nature.
There are plenty of trails nearby, including one that leads to the summit of the nearby Storsteinen Mountain. This is where the cable car runs to, but if you are fit and want to save money – remember, this is Norway, and even the cable car will cost a comparative fortune! – then hiking is a great way to get to the top. The views from the summit are well worth the struggle as you ascend 400 metres to the viewing area for an epic panorama of Tromso, fjords and mountains.
The Midnight Sun
In summer you can also just enjoy the midnight sun, because that of course, is completely free. Stay up until midnight, walk around town in broad daylight at 2am in the morning and experience a truly Arctic phenomenon.
Where to stay in Tromso on a Budget
Tromso can be an expensive place to stay because like everywhere else in Norway, this is not a city that’s set up for backpackers.
If you are on an ultra tight budget, then visit in summer and bring your own tent, because local law means that most ground outside of the city itself is actually common ground which means that you can spend your days wild camping. Of course, this isn’t possible in winter because you’d likely freeze to death given the cold weather that is quite literally Arctic.
There are a few budget hotels for backpackers, including a Youth Hostel and the Enter Backpack Hotel. These are the cheapest budget options, although you might also be able to save money by renting an apartment or room on AirBnB and cooking all of your own food.
Budget eats in Tromso
Tromso has a fantastic culinary scene, and the city is often billed as the seafood capital of Norway, given the rich fishing grounds off the coast, within the Arctic Circle, but unfortunately, this gastronomical heaven comes with a solid price tag.
The seafood in the best restaurants is excellent value compared to other Norwegian cities – because Tromso has a huge fishing industry – but it’s still expensive if you’re on a budget. It’s worth saving up the Krone though and having at least one splurge of a meal, especially if you’re a big seafood fan.
A particularly beloved favourite is Seafood soup and Lobster, while in winter you can find the best cod in Europe in the restaurants in Tromso.
Herring is another great choice here and you can find a wide range of international restaurants too.
If you’re on a super tight budget, then you’ll want to shop at the local supermarkets where you can pick up reasonably good value produce – although be warned that prices are still higher than Oslo, because of the remote location.
If you want to eat out on a budget then the fast food restaurants are the best bet, and you can find a range of Asian takeaways and burger bars. A good tip is to go to University area and see where the students are all going to for lunch, then you’ll be sure to find the cheapest eats in Tromso!
Cheap tours to do in Tromso on a budget
Tours can be the biggest expense when you visit Tromso, so make sure to shop around for the best deal. You can get steals in the shoulder seasons too.
Northern Lights Tour
If there’s one tour you do in Tromso, it has to be a Northern Lights Tour. These aren’t always the cheapest of course but there are ways to get a good deal.
First of all, you can start to see the lights from September onwards although your chances are best in winter. In the shoulder season though, you can see the tromso northern lights on a budget, as companies might offer discounts. You do run the risk of not seeing them though, so bear this in mind.
If you can’t afford the tour, then in winter, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights if you make your way away from the city and the artificial light here, but be careful heading into the Arctic on your own though. From the city it’s unlikely you’ll see them but it’s possible on the outskirts, if they are particularly vibrant and bright that night.
Self Guided Walking Tour
If you want to learn more about the city then there are plenty of apps which provide great value audio tours of Tromso. Stroll around at your own pace and in your own and listen to the history of the city from your smartphone, as you discover all that Tromso has to offer.
A great tour to do in Tromso is a tour of the fjords, where you can encounter whales and be immersed in spectacular scenery. Boat cruises can be expensive, but to save on costs you can rent a kayak or canoe or join a tour. You need to be fit and prepared for the cold but it’s a beautiful way to enjoy the outdoors in Tromso.
Recommended Budget tours in Tromso
- Small Group Northern Lights Chase Tour
- Fjord Cruise with Arctic Wildlife Sightings from Tromso
- Reindeer Feeding, Sami Culture, and Short Reindeer Sledding Tour from Tromso
- Essential Tromso Historical City Walk
- Electric Bike Rental in Tromso – 1 to 8 Day Rental
- Tromso Beer Safari
- Visit a Husky Home in Tromso
- Guided Snowshoe Walk on Tromsoya Island in Tromso
- Tromsø Ice Domes Day Visit
- Snowshoe trip with a campfire in Tromso
- Cross-Country Ski Lesson for Beginners in Tromso