The cost of living in Norway is high, but there is some consolation for expats in that high salaries offset some of these costs, as do the public services offered by Norway’s welfare state.

Oslo, Norway’s capital city, was ranked 52nd out of 226 cities in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2024. But while many things are expensive in Norway, the social benefits such as education and healthcare make up for it.

In Norway’s egalitarian social system, the margin between low and high salaries is fairly narrow. Executive-level expats may find that, due to the tax structure, they won’t have much more disposable income than someone working in a trade. As a result, some expats will find that they'll need two incomes to comfortably enjoy the high quality of life on offer in Norway.

Cost of groceries in Norway 

There is very little that is considered ‘cheap’ in Norway when compared to other European prices. When comparing prices to their home country, expats from countries with a low cost of living may be overwhelmed at first. On an expat stint, it’s often best to compare prices against one’s earnings rather than against costs elsewhere.

Fresh seafood is generally reasonably priced, but most food is imported, and there is a high VAT charge on food items. That is why many Norwegians drive over the border to Sweden on a ‘harrytur’, which is basically a shopping trip to stock up on food staples at a much lower cost. In fact, this cross-border industry is so big that several shopping centres have been built just over the border to accommodate Norwegian consumers.

Cost of accommodation in Norway

Housing is expensive in Norway but gets cheaper the further one travels from the larger cities, and accommodation is undoubtedly more affordable outside the capital. In cities such as Bergen and Fredrikstad, for example, rent is much cheaper than in Oslo. Over and above the monthly rental fee, expats will need to pay at least a month’s rent as a security deposit, but this can get to three months’ rent.

Expats must also budget for monthly utility bills, which can be exceptionally high during the winter months. Owning a home provides several tax benefits, so if someone can afford it and plans to stay in Norway for the long term, this is the way to go.

Cost of transport in Norway

Cars are expensive as well, as is local public transport. However, it can be cheap to fly out of Norway on budget airlines and charter trips, which is often the most popular way to travel around the country. Norwegians frequently take advantage of this opportunity and can often be found at sunny and warm destinations in the world, especially during the cold months from October through April.

The cost of car ownership in Norway is steep. In addition to the initial vehicle purchase price, expats will need to account for fuel, insurance and service and maintenance fees. There are also annual road and greenhouse taxes. 

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Norway

As is the case with most things in Norway, eating out in the country is expensive, and it is often a luxury. That said, expats can usually find a wide range of cuisines on offer in the major cities, and in more rural areas, the cost of eating out will be slightly lower. 

Much of Norway's entertainment and leisure activities centre around nightlife and outdoor activities. The latter is much more affordable, while visiting Norway’s clubs, bars and cafés can cost a pretty penny. Most locals often offset this cost by doing pre-drinks at home.

Norway’s government charges excise duty on alcohol depending on the alcohol percentage, which means that beverages with a high alcohol volume will cost more than those with a lower volume. Spirit-based beverages are currently charged at NOK 8.45 per percent of alcohol volume, while beers will be the most affordable, as they have a lower alcohol volume. 

Cost of healthcare in Norway

Norway boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and legal residents in the country are entitled to heavily subsidised public care. Expats will need to pay a small fee following GP visits, but this amount cannot exceed a government-mandated annual limit of about NOK 2,280, after which patients will receive an exemption card. 

Some expats may choose to purchase private health insurance to avoid long waiting times and choose their healthcare practitioners. While the cost of these policies varies according to lifestyle habits, age and coverage level, they are generally pricey in Norway. 

Cost of education in Norway

Like healthcare, public education and schools are free for all legal Norwegian residents and citizens. Schools in Norway offer exceptional teaching standards and facilities, but most expats with older children enrol them in private or international schools, as the primary language of instruction is Norwegian in public schools. Those with younger children can easily send them to public schools, as they will likely learn the language and assimilate into the local culture faster. 

International schools are limited in Norway, meaning parents will contend with limited placements and high costs. Once they overcome these challenges, they will find international schools' teaching standards, curricula and extracurricular activities excellent. 

Cost of living in Norway chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Oslo for September 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreNOK 14,150
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreNOK 12,000
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreNOK 22,400
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreNOK 17,800
Eggs (dozen)NOK 41.80
Milk (1 litre)NOK 21.92
Rice (1kg)NOK 31.20
Loaf of white breadNOK 36
Chicken breasts (1kg)NOK 141
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)NOK 150
Eating out
Big Mac MealNOK 125
Coca-Cola (330ml)NOK 31
Cappuccino NOK 44
Local beer (500ml)NOK 100
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant NOK 1,100
Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and dataNOK 426
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) NOK 465
Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)NOK 2,231
Taxi rate (per kilometre)NOK 15
Bus/train fare in the city centre NOK 40
Petrol (per litre)NOK 22.45

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