Oslo. You are simply breathtaking. As if being the happiest country in the world, having a trillion dollarsurplus, and possessing the cleanest and simplest-to-navigate public transportation system in the world wasn't enough, you're situated on a freaking fjord, where breathtaking views that grab you throughout your journey thrust you into this happy place, as the beauty of nature overtakes you and you realize the deep truth that humanity and nature can be one… and it can be fucking beautiful.
So, thanks, Norway, for the shock back to reality when I looked at my Simple bank statement to see that the fish and chips I had just had for dinner came in at $40. What.
Which is why it's important to be aware that while being beautiful and amazing, especially for its citizens, it is an expensive city - if you're not quite sure how to navigate the costs.
Allow me to elucidate:
1) Eat in. No, really. Stay in a place that has a kitchen so you can cook. This will save you. I'm a health freak with a strong traveler's lenience of "when in Rome" - the trip to the grocery store to get Turkish (not Greek) yogurt, Brie cheese (it's my name, duh), four cartons of açaí/pomegranate/gogi/berry juice mix, organic cracker things they're obsessed with here, blueberries, beer (local, had to sample), organic lemons, a cantaloupe, pasta, garlic, one onion, and two cans of tomato sauce was $90. This is a week's worth of dinner, lunch, morning detox (lemons), and breakfast. That's pretty damn good, if you're okay with not having the buffet of the world as your diet and you're drinking plenty of water to compensate for any pangs of stress eating you will encounter as a traveler in a foreign country. Okay, not a full week's worth in that case (which will ultimately be the case): five day's worth of food. Eat out and enjoy, but maybe just avoid the fish and chips…
2) Get your metro pass. Ruter pass. Whatever you want to call it. There's no catchy name for the pass like there is in Boston with our beloved CharlieCard, but damn, they for sure have us beat in general usability of the public transportation system. You may notice it's cleaner, the vehicles and trains are quieter, if it snowed, you can still use it (zing!), and you might feel like you've just paid $30 to be on the MegaBus but guess what - it's all included in your pass! You can get a single-ride ticket for around $5 depending on the zone, and these you can buy ONLY on the buses. Do not try to buy passes on the tram or subway/metro/T. I repeat, DO NOT try to buy passes anywhere but the stations (and from a ticket machine, which is cheaper than from actual people), unless you approach the driver on a BUS and ask to purchase a ticket (everyone speaks English, just be polite).
Find out current prices here: https://ruter.no/en/buying-tickets/tickets-and-fares/
And find out more about how to dor åpen here: https://ruter.no/en/getting-help/travelling-on-public-transport/
3) Get cash. I know, ATM fees, blah blah blah, shut up and get cash. For my Simple Visa card, in addition to Norway's 15% value added tax (VAT) (for food, at least), there is a 1% fee on international transactions. Why use your debit/credit card when you can just use cash and pay the one-time ATM fee ($2 for Simple + whatever the banks' fee is)? Use cash (unless you're aware of some baller point system with your credit card). More info here: http://www.uio.no/english/for-employees/employment/international-researchers/pre-arrival/taxes/
Now that you know how to save money and not blow your wad on a single fillet of surely-local fish, let's move away from practicality and into adventurality (totally a word):
4) Go everywhere. Without thinking or planning too much, just get off at a stop that intrigues you (but don't forget to push the "stop" button). I have yet to encounter a neighborhood in Oslo that feels like a "bad" neighborhood. You know why? Because everyone is so freaking happy. Why murder or rape or pillage when you can take paternity leave and have free healthcare? Sure, there are homeless people, especially around Oslo Central Station (Oslo S), but there's really no crime or desperate vibe to be found in Oslo.
5) Visit Grünerløkka. Just get on the 12 towards Kjelsås and DO IT. It's a magical place of vintage clothing stores, all-too-endearing coffeshops, a surprising amount of colors, and apparently gold-battered fish. The Akerselva river and accompanying path runs through the district and boy, is it a beautiful walk on a summer evening. Highly recommended. No, mandated. You must experience this beauty and then take a selfie on the river banks for all to see (ahem).
6) The sun sets late. If at all. You probably already know this by Oslo's nickname, "the land of the midnight sun," but when you're up at 1:18 am writing and you hear those Northerners all party-hardy outside your window discoteching to "YMCA," you can't help but want to run downstairs and add your own lame dance moves to the mix. After all, you can still see everything outside. Axiom: bring an eyeshade.
7) The people here are friendly if you're friendly. This is different from the United States (East Coast, at least #midwestisbest), where even if you're lathering them in happiness and sunshine, they won't move that Zygomaticus major an inch. Just be nice, endearingly clueless and American if need be, and honestly they'll drop whatever they're doing to help you out.
Just as a side note:
8) People here are good-looking. And none of them are fat. Seriously, no one here is packing on the pounds. Considering McDonald's and Burger King can ring in around $10-$15 depending on your appetite, I think that they've just found fast food not even worth it, especially with such an abundance of fresh fish and other farm foods (especially this strangely addictive burnt goat milk cheese). If you must indulge your fast food craving, perhaps it would be in your best interest to just apply for a job at the "restaurant," as workers at Burger King and McDonald's can make between $15-$25 an hour.
Oslo is an amazing city. An expensive, but amazing city. Summary:
1) Buy groceries, eat in.
2) Get a public transportation pass that recharges.
3) Cash. Use it instead of your card. (Unless your Visa gives you yacht for a thousand points or something.)
4) Oslo's pretty damn safe. Explore, why don't ya?
5) One word: Grünerløkka
6) Bring an eye shade/eye mask so you can actually sleep.
7) Just communicate openly and with good intentions. People here are especially responsive if you're friendly and will most likely go out of their way to help you.
8) They're all hot. Just get over it.
Opinions? Think I got anything right/wrong? Suggestions? Tell me, I'm easy!