Canoeing in the Swedish Lake District
A nature trip that’s easier to reach from London than some UK beauty spots, Sweden’s Dalsland region – in the country’s Lake District – offers the right blend of wilderness and accessibility. We did a four-day long weekend of canoeing and camping and managed around 120km, starting from Ed on the Lake Stora Le. We drank directly from the lake it was so clean (although caution is advised), and although you can camp anywhere, there are maintained campsites with sawdust toilets and basic shelters at scenic points in the surrounding Tresticklans national park – we had a private island every night! Nearest airports are Gothenberg and Rygge both of which have a 1.5-hour train link to Ed costing from £17. Canoe rental is around £20 a day from Canondal, and all food can be bought from the supermarket and taken with you. The entire trip is doable from around £200pp (perhaps less if you grab a particularly cheap flight).
Winning tip: Sea lido near Stockholm, Sweden
You’ll find this 1920s Swedish bathhouse and open sea lido a half hour’s train ride from Stockholm city centre. Saltisbadet is run by a group of volunteers, who restored it after decades of neglect. The main building, three-tiered and entirely made of wood, juts into the sea and is flanked by a little beach and sailing boats. A restaurant on the deck serves simple, delicious Swedish food. There is no better place to let a day drift by. Have a sauna, go for a swim, snooze in a deckchair, and jump off the roof (more pirate ship plank than diving board) into the sea – if you’re feeling brave enough.
• Admission £6, saltisbadet.se
Late summer bargains, Sweden
Holiday rentals are very cheap in Scandinavia in the last two weeks of August and early September when UK schools are still off – we’ve found it cheaper than the UK. For example, we’ve stayed in an idyllic three-bedroom house five metres from the shoreline on a small island off southern Sweden for £400 for a week in August through Novasol.
Cheaper drinking in Iceland
For those who like to enjoy a local beer on holiday, Iceland might seem a pretty expensive place to go. However, there are two tricks which can cut the cost of your tipple. At Keflavík airport there’s a duty-free shop in arrivals where you can pick up tax-free alcohol, including many local brands (personal favourites: Einstök beer and Reyka vodka). Many Icelanders do the same thing when they arrive in the country, to take advantage of the vastly reduced prices. Indeed, locals tend to head out later in the evening once they’re well lubricated with their own stock. Another money-saving aid is the Reykjavík Appy Hour app. It’ll tell you exactly where to go to find two-for-one deals, and when they operate.
Legoland vouchers, Denmark
Legoland Billund in Denmark is the birthplace of fantastic plastic and offers a more authentic alternative to its British cousin in Windsor. At the end of August (when the Scandinavian children are back at school), the theme park is empty, apart from the UK families who all had the same clever idea as you. To further cut costs, a quick look on German ebay will find 2-for-1 vouchers for only one euro (search for “Legoland gutschein”), meaning that the children get in free! British Airways and Ryanair both fly direct to Billund.
Take a free guided tour, Scandinavian capitals
Capital cities are notoriously expensive in Scandinavia but going on a free guided tour allows you to orientate and decide which of the sights you want to explore in more detail. Your local guide will be keen to earn a tip and will give insider information on cheap local places to eat and drink and things to see.
Cheaper thermal baths in Reykjavik, Iceland
The blue lagoon may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but at almost £50 a ticket and a fair distance outside Reykjavik, some travellers might prefer a closer, cheaper alternative such as the warm and wonderful Laugardalslaug baths, a huge outdoor swimming pool complex in the heart of the city next to the botanical gardens. They are best explored late at night, when steam rises from the water and the northern lights may be flickering above. There’s a 50-metre indoor pool and outdoor pools, thermal pools, hot tubs, a steam bath, waterslides and a saltwater pool. It’s an affordable and truly Icelandic experience which you can attend every day of your visit if you fancy.
• Adult £5, child £1, open until 10pm daily, swimminginiceland.com
Rent an E-car, Norway
If you rent an all-electric car in Norway you are, for now, exempt from parking fees and toll payments (including ferries – very useful in the Stavanger area) and can use bus lanes. Charging points are free and plentiful. However, we opted for a hybrid car for our trip starting in Stavanger. We were sceptical when the man at the rental office told us we wouldn’t have to top up the tank despite planning to drive over 500km around the mountains and fjords of Rogaland. But he was right (we used just over quarter of a tank) and left the country happy that our visitor eco-footprint had been tiny. We chose the hybrid as we planned a few longer drives, but if you’re planning on staying in the city an even more economic option would be to go totally electric, charging points are free and plentiful.
• VW Polo hybrid for five days from £300 with Europcar
Gotland is finally getting the recognition it deserves, with people now coming from as far away as Australia and Brazil. Take a tour around the Hanseatic medieval city of Visby, a world heritage site, with Free Tours Visby. Enjoy great local ales at the Black Sheep Arms – a pub with North Yorkshire roots that serves fish and chips from £14; the servings are so large you can easily share. Visitors can stay at Visby Prison Hostel by the harbour for as little as £25 off season or £75 for two in summer. Fly here from London from about £210 with SAS.
Pub in Oslo’s east side, Norway
Stargate is one of Oslo’s cheapest beers – £4 for a half-litre – compared with £9 at quayside restaurants. The east side of multicultural Grønland also features good-quality and reasonable Asian restaurants.
Stay on a classic ship, Stockholm, Sweden
Af Chapman is a hostel on a 19th-century ship moored by the tranquil island of Skeppsholmen just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Stockholm and directly opposite the Royal Castle. It’s an excellent, affordable alternative to expensive hotels and increasingly pricey Airbnb apartments in the city. The rooms have been carefully restored – wooden interiors and a clean Scandinavian aesthetic – while the terrace provides great views across the Old Town. The onboard cafe offers breakfast and light meals.
• Dormitory bed from £34, doubles from £74, boka.stfturist.se