Norwegian prices still shock visitors

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It’s official: Prices in Norway are 40 percent higher on average than in other EU countries, meaning they’re even higher compared to prices in the Americas and Asia, where they’re generally lower than in the EU. A new survey confirms why visitors can still be shocked after visiting a Norwegian restaurant, grocery store and especially when buying alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

Cruiseship passengers can quickly learn to eat on board instead of venturing into Norwegian restaurants, where prices can still be shocking. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Prices for alcohol and tobacco products in Norway are 123 percent higher than the EU average, according to the new survey by Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics service. Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Eurostat’s survey results Wednesday that also show both food prices and restaurant prices as being 61 percent higher than the EU average.

Aftenposten noted how Norwegian residents can generally tolerate Norway’s high prices because average salaries and household income are also higher in Norway than in the EU. The prices are much harder to swallow, literally, for newcomers and visitors, who can still choke over what it costs to buy a beer or eat a pizza despite the weak Norwegian krone of the past few years. Aftenposten related the tale of a British couple who arrived in Norway on a cruiseship and went ashore where they shared a pizza and drank a few beers. The bill came to the equivalent of nearly 80 pounds sterling. They decided to eat and drink on the ship for the rest of the cruise, and shared their “shocking” experience with many others on board. They concluded Norway was simply too expensive.

That’s long been the conclusion of many visitors, but tourism has been booming the past two years, a trend often tied to how Norway’s weaker krone has made prices less onerous. Eurostat’s new figures nonetheless confirm that Norway’s reputation for high prices is valid, and the krone has been strengthening lately. The country ranks as also having the most expensive dairy products, for example, and is second only to Switzerland in overall prices for food. Iceland ranked third.

Most expensive milk, cheese and eggs
None of the three most expensive countries in Europe is a member of the EU, and all protect their agriculture sectors with subsidies and high tariffs that drive up prices. Norway and Iceland also impose punitive taxes on alcohol and tobacco to discourage consumption.

Norway emerged as the country with the highest prices in Europe for milk, cheese and eggs, all 77 percent higher on average than in EU countries. The price difference is even greater in countries with large agricultural sectors and relatively low food prices like Spain, Turkey and Poland. In Poland, for example, food prices are 40 percent lower than the EU average, meaning that the prices people from Poland face in Norway are roughly three times as high as what they pay back home.

Aftenposten noted that of the 37 countries Eurostat tallied, Bulgaria emerged as having the lowest overall prices at 52 percent under the EU average. That means Bulgarians who come to Norway also face price levels that can be triple the level they’re used to, or more.

Only one category was cheaper in Norway
The survey from Eurostat, which is based in Luxembourg and tied to the EU Commission, reveals relatively small differences in the price of clothing and shoes (31 percent higher), household appliances (25 percent higher) and electronics (12 percent higher), mostly because the majority of such items are imported and face relatively low customs duty. The prices for going out to cultural or sporting events in Norway were 52 percent higher than the EU average while cars were 36 percent more expensive. Public transport (including airlines, bus, trains and trams) costs 34 percent more on average.

The only category in which prices in Norway were lower than the EU average was that for electricity and heating, mostly because of Norway’s waterfalls that provide lots of hydroelectric power. Electricity and heating bills in Norway lie 19 percent under average rates in the EU, a decided advantage in a country known for its winter weather.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund