According to Numbeo’s annual Cost of Living Survey, Norway is the fourth most expensive country in the world. Rents, food and alcohol are particularly pricey and it is not unheard of to pay up to NOK 17,200 (£1,600) per month for a studio apartment in Oslo. However, newcomers can take comfort from the fact that the typical worker earns a higher salary (average NOK 33,500/£3,101 per month) in Norway than in any other country in the world, which helps to mitigate the high living costs. The most expensive areas to live are Oslo, Bærem, Stavanger and Bergen with living costs being lower in rural areas. Tourist areas near Norway’s fjords in the west of the country are very expensive and should be avoided long term.
The majority of Norwegians own their homes so the rental market is fairly limited, with most lettings agents catering to tourists and short-term lets. Consequently, suitable rental properties can be difficult to find in places like Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger. Prospective expats are advised to search for property online at sites such as at Finn or through newspaper classifieds before re-locating to Norway. Despite the soaring costs of property in Norway, purchasing a home can sometimes work out cheaper than renting long term. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Norway and house purchase depends on mortgage eligibility.
A deposit of up to six month’s rent is required at the beginning of your tenancy agreement. The landlord is required to put the deposit into an interest-bearing account until the tenant leaves the property.
Property taxes are imposed by each municipality and are calculated according to the value of the property. Tax rates range from 0.2% to 0.7%, depending on the municipality. Local taxes for refuse removal and maintenance - the equivalent of ‘council tax’ in the UK – are generally included in your monthly rent.
Norwegians use electricity rather than gas to heat their homes and there is a broad range of companies to choose from. Usage is at its peak during the harsh winter months, and, depending on the size of the property, new expats should be prepared for an eye-wateringly large bill at the end of the winter period. Water costs are kept low and tap water is safe to drink in Norway. Fast and reliable broadband is available in even the remotest areas and companies such as state-owned Telenor offer combined mobile and broadband packages.
The basic cost of utilities (gas, water, electricity, refuse) for an 85m² city centre apartment is around NOK 1,623 (£150) per month. Broadband, phone and TV packages start at around NOK 330 (£30) per month.
A mandatory TV licence fee of NOK 2,729 (£252) is imposed on any household with one or more televisions. The fee is used to fund the state-owned Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (Norsk rikskringkasting - NRK).
Healthcare and medical costs
Norway’s healthcare system is ranked 11th in the world by the World Health Organisation. Although health provision is heavily subsidised by the state, all residents over 16 must contribute through a graded national insurance scheme, whereby patients pay for healthcare through taxation and extra fees for visits to the doctor and other treatment up to a capped limit each year. When the limit has been reached all healthcare is free of charge for the rest of that calendar year. Expats of any nationality are required to pay into the national insurance scheme after being employed in Norway for more than one year.
Norway offers a wide range of shopping options, from high end department and homewares stores selling trendy Scandinavian furniture to smaller artisanal shops offering anything from jewellery to reindeer skins. However, everything comes at a price in Norway and a shopping trip can be prohibitively expensive. In terms of supermarkets, the biggest chains include Coop and Centra and budget outlets such as KIWI (German discounters Aldi and Lidl have yet to gain ground in Norway). Alcohol is especially expensive and anything stronger than beer can only be purchased from the state-owned alcohol retailer Vinmonopolet.
A sales tax (VAT) of 25% is added to most goods and services in Norway. A reduced VAT rate applies to food, transport and a range of other items.
- Rent 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – NOK 9,651.92 (£893.20)
- Rent 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – NOK 7,473.08 (£691.57)
- Price of apartment per square metre in city centre – NOK 48,195.00 (£4,460.01)
- Price of apartment per square metre outside city centre – NOK 35,223.75 (£3,259.64)
- Loaf of bread – NOK 23.21 (£2.15)
- Milk (1 litre) – NOK 16.01 (£1.48)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – NOK 19.23 (£1.78)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – NOK 28.21 (£2.61)
- Packet of cigarettes – NOK 104.00 (£9.62)
- Petrol (1 litre) – NOK 14.18 (£1.31)
- Cinema ticket – NOK 120.00 (£11.10)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed September 2016)
Budgeting and saving
Norway is an expensive country where a mid-range restaurant meal with wine can set you back NOK 800 (£75) per head. It’s therefore a good idea to cook and entertain at home, buying groceries from inexpensive supermarkets such as Rema 1000 or KIWI. Another great way to save money is to follow the lead of 99% of Norwegians and take your own packed lunch (matpakke) to work, as buying sandwiches from shops and kiosks can cost at least NOK162 (£15) per day.