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Why a trip south might be cheaper than a cabin getaway in Norway this autumn

The Autumn holidays in Norway are upon us, but there are good reasons why many might avoid heading to cabins this year and instead look to the south.

Cabin interior
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Many Norwegians have opted to spend their Autumn holidays in warmer regions this year.

The ongoing electricity crisis has, without a doubt, contributed to many hotels and other accommodation providers in countries such as Spain reporting above-the-average booking figures for the holiday period.

In a recent press release, Gry Monica Hellevik of Falck Global Assistance said that their Spain office reported that all hotels and rental providers are fully booked during the Autumn holiday weeks.

A number of Norwegians are obviously making the most out of their first real Autumn holidays – free of COVID-19 travel restrictions – in years.

A trip to the south might be cheaper than staying at the cabin

Traditionally, many Norwegians spend their Autumn holidays at the cabin. However, the electricity price crisis has made something as simple as enjoying your time in an electrified cabin a luxury.

“A trip to the south can quickly become cheaper than a week at the cabin in the mountains, where the Autumn weather has already set in,” Hellevik says.

Furthermore, the fact that electricity subsidies in Norway only cover households, not holiday properties, can easily lead to an explosion in expenses.

In August, General Secretary of the national cabin association Norsk Hyttelag Audun Bringsvor told the newspaper Nationen that many people had changed their address from the city to various cabin municipalities in Norway – presumably to secure electricity subsidies coverage in the home in which they spend most of the year.

Norwegians dropping Autumn and Winter holidays at the cabin?

Many cabin owners are unsatisfied with the current situation. They want the government to expand its definition of households to cabins. Others are considering skipping trips to the cabin this Autumn and Winter.

Several plumbers told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and the newspaper VG that they have been contacted by cabin owners who want to see if they can temporarily shut off water and electricity in the cabin to minimize expenses.

The plumbing company Løken VVS in the cabin municipality of Trysil has also received several such inquiries.

Master plumber Lars Erik Støbak in Løken VVS told VG that people need to be careful if they opt for such a measure.

“All pipes and everything connected to water in the cabin must be emptied completely so that it does not freeze and break into pieces,” Støbak says.

Some cabin municipalities fear losing a substantial part of their income if the cabin owners don’t show up in the following months.

In order to attract people to opt for cabin holidays, several municipalities are even considering a fixed price for electricity.

Government set on prioritizing households

In an e-mail to VG, Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland (AP) writes that the government prioritizes household consumption within its electricity subsidy framework.

“Although many people have access to a cabin, we believe that household consumption must be prioritized as this is a necessity,” Aasland says.

The Støre government is expected to put forward a review of the
electricity subsidy scheme in its new national budget proposal, which will be presented on Thursday, October 6.

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Why cross-country flights are more popular than trains in Norway 

Figures have revealed that routes between Oslo and Bergen and the capital and Trondheim are among the most flown in Europe, with around 20 departures a day in each direction. So why are Norwegians opting for flights over the train? 

Why cross-country flights are more popular than trains in Norway 

Flights between Oslo and Bergen and Trondheim and Oslo were the fourth and fifth busiest air routes in Europe last year, according to European data agency Eurostat. 

Around 44 daily flights between Oslo and Trondheim and 38 between Bergen and the capital took off last year, contributing to some 222,622 domestic flights in total in 2022. 

Research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) found that Norwegians’ flying habits contributed to twice as many C02 emissions as Swedish, German or French air passengers.

Flights between Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim account for around 20 percent of emissions caused by domestic flights within Norway, public broadcaster NRK reports.

So why are Norwegians choosing to fly between cities rather than taking the train or other means of transport? 

Climate researcher Helene Muri from NTNU said that several factors explain why domestic flights are far more popular than trains. 

First of all, she told NRK that the cost of taking a long-distance train between cities in Europe is cheaper and faster than it is in Norway. 

“The average Norwegian often has enough to travel with to be able to take a weekend trip and take these perhaps unnecessary flights. Trains in Norway are quite expensive, so when flying is cheaper and faster, you understand that people choose it,” she told NRK. 

For example, a flight between Oslo and Bergen can be completed in under an hour, while the train between Bergen and Oslo can take six to eight hours to complete. Trains to Trondheim from the capital take a similar time too. 

In some cases, such as when travelling to Tromsø from further south in Norway, a flight may be the most practical option due to Norway’s geography. 

“For example, Oslo-Tromsø is a stretch where it is not easy to find alternative means of transport,” Muri explained. 

Another reason why planes may be more attractive than trains is due to the sheer number of flights compared to trains. Recently the number of trains between Oslo and Bergen has been cut due to a lack of demand, with there typically being around four departures per day. 

In comparison, there are flight departures just over once an hour between the two biggest cities in Norway, meaning finding a flight to fit around one’s plans and itinerary is much easier. 

The popularity of flying between cities in Norway comes despite train travel contributing 12.2 grams of C02 per passenger per kilometre to the 236 grams of C02 emitted by planes per traveller and kilometre

Muri said that to entice more travellers onto trains, journey speeds and onboard amenities would need to be improved. 

“The time it takes to take a train between cities in Norway has actually increased. It takes longer now than it did before. It’s a bit remarkable and takes things in a bit of a wrong direction,” she said. 

“Increased capacity, increased speed and the availability of stable broadband in the trains are measures that can help shift traffic from the air onto the railway network,” she added.