Living in Norway : Guide to finding an apartment and living on a budget in Stavanger

I arrived in Stavanger on January 15th 2018. So far, most of my time and energy has been spent on settling in and learning Norwegian. The goal of this page is to explain how we have settled-in our new city and to provide some insights that would be useful for any person arriving in Stavanger! Stavanger is the third largest city and administrative centre of the county of Rogaland. The municipality is the fourth most populous in Norway.

Renting an apartment or a house

Our arrival experience was smoothen thank to the help from a relocation agency. A person from the renting agency took me around town in order to get a feel for the different neighbourhoods. I think this is very useful ! Consider visiting Stavanger before choosing the area where you will be living !

Types of accommodation

They are many types of buildings and style of accomodation in Stavanger in which you can choose to live. Most people will leave in an apartment (en leilighet) or in a single-family detached house (en enebolig).

En enebolig – a single family house

En hybel – a student apartment

En tomannsbolig / rekkehus – a semi detached/terrace house

En leilighet – an apartment

In terms of buildings, there are mainly two types of construction. The first one consists of a wooden structure and cladding, with a gabled roof with tiles. The second type consists of more recent concrete buildings  (three or more storey high)  – what I would call the apartment block building style. It’s up to you to choose which style of building you prefer, but note that the heating system in the older construction can be pretty basic !

 

 Main living areas in Stavanger

Again, the area where you will live depends on what you are looking for. But I would say Stavanger has a place for everyone, from the quiet streets of strictly residentials areas (Vaulen, Våland …) to more modern (Egeland) and hipster parts (Stavanger Øst) ! Note that this list is not exhaustive at all, and presents my impression about some neighborhoods that I have visited myself by foot or by car (with the relocation agency).

Before moving here, I was trying to look online for the names of the different neighborhoods in Stavanger. I was looking for apartments to rents of finn.no and was having difficulty identifying the different parts of the city. According to wikipedia, there are 7 official boroughs : Eiganes & Våland,  Hillevåg, Hinna, Hundvåg, Madla, Storhaug, Tasta. Hundvåg & Tasta corresponds to the islands lying north of the city center. When looking for apartments to rent on finn.no, different areas’ names were used, and I got a bit confused. Hopefully, this will help you better understand what are the different parts of the city and what type of housing/vibe you can find there !

Closer to the center of the city

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Gamle Stavanger

Literally the old Stavanger. A few streets located close to the harbour of Stavanger, where woden fishermans houses have been rehabilitated. It’s a charming part of the city, but I have heard that during the summer it can get really crowded with tourists, who do not hesitate to look at the windows. In the winter months, you should make sure you have the appropriate heating system !

Stavanger Sentrum & Storhaug & Nylund

The center of the city (Semtrum) are where most of the activities are concentrated: museums, restaurants, bars, shops. The center is also located close to the harbour where many of the tourists boats arrive in the summer, as well as where many of the ferries depart to the nearby islands all year long. Many of the streets are for pedestrians only, which makes in nice to walk around there. There are many shopping streets with all types of stores. One of the most famous street is the “The colourful street” (Øvre Holmegate) because of the painted facades of very joyful colours ! It’s a nice place to hangout at one of the many terraces. Note that it is likely you will live in an apartment (en leilighet) if you choose to live in the center.

Storhaug & Nylund are more residential areas, from which one can easily reach the center by foot. Accomodation types are varied: from single-family houses, to semi detached/terrace house, to apartments… I like to run in the street of those neighborhoods and find them quite peaceful.

Egeland

It is an industrial area that has been converted to a more residential area with a lot of new buildings overlooking the fjords. It’s a bit further away from the harbour and center – I would recommend having a car if you live there. There are a mix of traditional buildings on the coast, and new built mid-rises in an old industrial area.

Eiganes & Våland

Those are two very residential areas with a lot of wooden houses (with parking) and parks. It is very quiet; I think it’s where a lot of families choose to live. I am unsure of there are a lot of options for renting in those upper-class neighborhood – where you see primarily single family houses.

A bit further away from city center

 

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Gausel, Hinna, Forus & Vaulen

I did not have the chance to explore those areas since those are not accessible by foot from the center of the city. You can take the bus/train but I have not done it yet ! I believe those are mostly residential areas. One would really need to own a car to live there to have access to all the services.

Finding the right apartment, a good landlord and signing your lease !

Renting through an agent

Based on the advice from the relocation services company, we decided to get help from real estate agencies to secure a new apartment. The advantage is that there is no cost for using this service for the lessee and you are assured to get a good landlord with whom the real estate agency have been working with for some time. The two agencies I have visited are the following:

1) EiendomsMegler 1 – we went with the office “Boligutleie” for renting houses in Stavanger

2) Utleiemegleren in Stavanger

My impression from the two offices was that they were really professional and I felt at ease as soon as I entered. It was very easy to explain what we were looking for since everyone spoke English ! The offices had very different options so I think it’s good to visit more than one rental agency. EiendomsMegler 1 had several newly renovated apartments slightly above our budget in the city center, while Utleiemegleren had several new built apartments away from the city center within our budget.

Signing a lease

Signing a lease was not difficult in our case since we uses the services of the real estate agency (which helped because we did not have a bank account yet) and because Eric, my partner had a signed contract with a local company for more than 6 months. I think that if you arrive both unemployed, it will be much more difficult to convince a landlord to sign !

document-agreement-documents-sign-48195.jpegThe Norwegian law ( Landlord and Tenant Act) is very clear when it comes to renting apartments and always protects the lessee. The contract has to be written both in Norwegian and English which makes it easy to understand all the rights/obligations of both parties. A few things to know:

  • Fixed costs (local taxes, sewage taxes, water, etc) are usually included in the rent
  • Variable costs (TV, internet and energy) are usually paid by the tenant, except if stated otherwise in the written contract
  • A broadcasting license fees must be paid by your household if you own a TV. It’s about 3000 NOK/year – make sure it’s included in your signed contract
  • In Norway, it is common and considered important to have home content insurance and 3rd party liability insurance.
  • Usually the landlord will require a 2-3 months deposit payment
  • When advertised as furnished, the apartments are usually well furnished from towels, pots and pans, and paintings on the walls !

After taking a tour of those different areas, and considering that we did not have a need for parking, we decided to live in the center of the city. It is very nice to be located only 3 minutes from the library and cinema, and 30 seconds to the most vibrant part of the city ! Of course, there is some noise on Friday and Saturday evenings but it is a choice we made, and so far we have been quite happy about it !

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Searching online databases can also be an option. The most famous platform is Finn.no, on which you can find/propose anything from furniture, to an apartment and even job postings ! I did not test this option !

Buying food on a budget

Norway is famous to be a very expensive country, and I think so far what as stroked me the most are the prices at the grocery stores (even compared to Switzerland) ! The most expensive products are fruits, vegetables, as well as meat. The main grocery stores are (from low-cost, to more gourmet style): REMA1000, Kiwi, Extra, Coop Mega, Coop Prix and Meny.

The main strategies to save money on groceries are:

  1. Look at the weekly special offers which you can get in your mailbox or that you an access on apps such as ShopGun)
  2. Sign-up for the loyalty programs (from which you get discounts and cash-back) of the grocery store you visit the most, for example become a Coop member ! NB: you need a D-number or national identity number + a bank account to access this service.

The trick then is to buy food that is not too expensive but to make responsible choices too (buy local food even if it’s more expensive), while staying on budget ! For buying meat and seafood, I recommend the following:

  1. Go to the waterfront, close to the oil museum to buy shrimps, crab and fish. Make sure to ask about the origin of the products !
  2. Go to the fabulous butcher A. idsoe which is more than 175 years old in the city center to buy delicious cuts of meat and cheese !
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Buying seafood straight from the boats in Stavanger

Transportation

Car, ferry and train

Something I have heard a 1000 times was the importance of having a car in Norway to move around more easily and be able to access remote areas for outdoor activities.  Well, guess what, we do not have a car and intend to postpone owing one for a long time for personnel/ financial reasons The train and ferries are also options but I have yet to try them out !

For renting a car, I think we might try using this sharing service in the future. I am unsure how the entire process work but will keep you posted if I try it !

Public Buses

The buses in the Stavanger area are operated by the company Kolumbus. Unless you are super lucky and already have a D-number or national identity number upon arrival, you are likely to not have access to online purchasing apps such as Vipps. If you have a credit card, I believe you can purchase your tickets directly using Kolumbus app – note that I have not tried yet since I try not to use my credit card while living abroad. More on the topic of getting a D-number and banking in a future post.

You can simply go to the Kolumbus main desk, located at byterminalen. There you will be able to get a contact card and recharge it with the offer that suits you best ! Here you can get a kolumbus card for free. On this card on can then purchase:

  •  Single tickets for 35 NOK: ask the bus driver for an adult single ticket “voksen billett” or purchase on the website of  Kolumbus. 
  • Monthly pass → for 720 NOK (one zone), one adult can travel for 30 days all day, as well as two adults with up to 3 childrens during the weekends and after 5PM  → this is a super useful information that was not passed on to us, but you could save quite a bit !

Do not try to buy tickets directly in the bus as you will get charged an extra 20 NOK! 

Airport Bus

In Stavanger and Sandnes, to go from and to the airport, there is a shuttle bus called FlyBussen. I think it is also available in other cities. It is very convenient and the journey takes about 30 minute.  The bus will pick you up right outside the terminal in Stavanger. In my experience all drivers speak english. You can simply put your suitcase in the storage compartment. In any case, if you are travelling often from the airport, I recommend getting a return ticket, it is much cheaper. There are 3 options for purchasing tickets. All prices are as of March 2018 for an adult:

  1. In the bus, you can pay cash (change available) or with credit card : 130 NOK one way/ 200 NOK return
  2. On the website : 117 NOK one way / 180 NOK return → I have yet to try buying using this option.
  3. Using Vipps: 108/170 NOK (one way/return) → Again, if you have just arrived, it is likely you will be enable to use service as it requires the user to have a D-number/national identity number and a norwegian bank account

Phone subscription

They are several phone companies which you can decide to go with, and again, it depends on what you need !  But if you are like me, who does not have a D-number, neither a bank account, you will not be able to have a phone subscription ! Therefore, to get a local phone number, you have to use a prepaid plan. Some service providers include Teleanor ,  Telia and MyCall

I decided to obtain a phone number from MyCall because it could be easily purchase from convenience stores in the city center. You just have to fill a form with you name, address and main contact info, and you can get a SIM card for 45 NOK. In addition, it has fairly interesting deals for calling abroad – including a 300 NOK plan for 200 mins abroad/unlimited calls in norway/unlimited SMS in norway and abroad and 1GB of data.

→ If you are interested to learn more about all those topics, and get more details for Oslo, I invite you to read this blog post from A frog in the fjord, a fantastic blog written by Lorelou Desjardins ! I really recommend it, it’s funny and full of very useful info 🙂

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