Oslo is world’s most expensive city: survey

In a finding that will come as no surprise to anybody who has ever visited or lived in Oslo, the Norwegian capital has emerged as the most expensive shopping city in the world.

Oslo comes out so far on top in a study of 32 countries worldwide that second-placed São Paulo seems almost ludicrously cheap by contrast in a survey carried out by price comparison service PriceRunner.

The results are based on a comparison of the prices of 25 different products, including coffee, petrol, books and mobile phones.

“The products that are more expensive in Oslo than in a lot of other major cities are milk, Coca-Cola, bus tickets and Big Macs,” PriceRunner’s Martin Andersen told news agency NTB.

For example, the study shows that a 33cl can of Coca-Cola, costing 4 kroner ($0.66) in Bombay, will set the Oslo shopper back a cool 38 kroner ($6.40).

Oslo is a budget-wrecking 40 percent more expensive than the average in the multi-city survey. São Paulo, by contrast, is 20 percent pricier than Dublin, the city marking the average level.

Swedish capital Stockholm takes third place, followed by Sydney and Copenhagen.

“We think it’s important for travellers to know more than just the cost of a hotel room. The price of everyday items is also important,” said Andersen.

Consumers looking for good deals are best advised to hit the streets of Mumbai, which was 30 percent cheaper than the average. Bangkok also offers a wallet-friendly alternative and is 25 percent less expensive than the average.

For price-conscious travellers in Europe, Warsaw looks to be the ideal destination, with the Polish capital offering prices 20 below the average.

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‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing? 

The pandemic cut-off Norway from its neighbours, putting a temporary end to border shopping. Now ‘harryhandel’ trips are allowed again businesses in the country fear they will lose out as shoppers look abroad for cheaper groceries. 

Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge.
Will the return of border shopping have a negative affect on the country? Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten/AFP.

In eastern Norway, particularly along the border with Sweden, cross-border shopping has long been common for residents looking for cheaper groceries and a better selection of products. 

Norway’s Covid-19 rules effectively put a stop to that until this summer. The closed border meant a record year for food and beverage sales in Norway. 

“Due to the fact that there was little action and that people did not travel, we noticed that our sales increased greatly during the entire period,” Øyvind Berg, production manager at Norwegian dairy firm Synnøve Finden, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Now producers and supermarkets fear the impact of cross-border shopping being up and running again. 

“Our challenge is that we see that more than half of the food and beverage producers, i.e. the industrial companies, fear that they will lose market share because cross-border trade will return in full,” Petter Brubakk, director of food and beverage at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), informed NRK. 

The majority of those who go shopping across borders in Norway will do so in Sweden. However, in the north, some will also venture into Finland or Russia.

Further south people will also travel to Germany or Denmark. 

Why do people go to other countries for shopping? 

Overall the main appeal of cross-border shopping is that its much better for consumers than shopping domestically. 

Norway’s EEA agreement with the EU means that most foods, drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and other agricultural products are more expensive than they are within the EU as custom duties are required to import them into Norwegian supermarkets. 

Not just that, but there is a much wider selection of products than in Norway due to laws that protect Norwegian products. For example, cheeses such as Cheddar are more readily available, cheaper and generally of better quality in other countries than those found in Norway. 

READ MORE: What is ‘harryhandel’, and why do Norwegians love it so much?

Is border shopping a bad thing for Norway?

Norwegian businesses argue that crossing the border to shop affects the whole value chain, negatively impacting everyone from Norwegian farms and producers to supermarket employees, not just companies profit margins. 

“My advice is to encourage Norwegians to buy Norwegian food, and help secure Norwegian jobs throughout the value chain,” food and agriculture minister Sandra Borch told NRK. 

In addition, shopping domestically means more tax revenue for the Norwegian system to use to fund its generous welfare state. 

While shopping domestically protects domestic jobs, shopping abroad protects jobs there, which rely on people hopping the border to get their groceries. 

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions left a black hole in some of these economies reliant on shoppers from the Norwegian side of the border. For example, in Strömstad, a Swedish town close to the border where many travel to shop, unemployment rose by around 75 percent after Norway closed its borders with Sweden.