Living it up on the cheap in Denmark

Posted by Pelle April 15th, 2008 30 comments edit

As I’m currently in Denmark for a while I’ve had to with even worse prices of groceries than normal due to the apparent sickness of my good old US$. I thought I might as well write a little guide for how you can save a krone or two if you are staying in Denmark for an extended time.

Copenhagen is normally rated ad one of the 3 most expensive cities in the world, but you can get buy reasonable if you know how.

My Bootstrappers guide for Denmark has become very popular with foreigners trying to grasp the red tape involved with running a business here, so hopefully this might be a fun little guide, whether you’re coming for a week or staying on permanently.

Groceries

If you’re used to large nice supermarkets like you have in most countries you are in for a surprise here. Laws limit the sizes of supermarkets and department stores, but even more important the neighborhood discount stores are now the most popular place to do grocery shopping.

Discount Supermarkets

Netto

The five chains I know of in Denmark are Netto, Fakta, Aldi, Lidl and Rema 1000.

Of these Netto and Fakta are Danish although you might have seen Netto in amongst other countries England. Rema 1000 is Norwegian (Thanks Trond). The rest are German chains. Netto and Aldi are the most common and just about every neighborhood has one. After that Aldi. Lidl and Rema 1000 are not very common in Copenhagen, but I believe they are very common in Jutland.

Aldi are by the way the owners of Trader Joes in the US.

Anyway the Danish tabloid Extra Bladet have compared prices for a bunch of different groceries as of April 2008 here:

discountpriser danmark

Discount stores are great for your basic daily shopping as well as their special offers. The standard grocery assortment is quite small compared to a US supermarket. However their weekly offers “Tilbud” are what make them kind of fun. Go to each of their web sites above and view their weekly catalog containing special offers. The offers range from Oreo Cookies to cheap laptops.

Important note regarding international Credit Cards

One important note when going to the Danish discount stores. They do not accept international credit cards. You will need either cash or the Danish debit card Dankort. I’ve seen many a foreigner being turned away at the cash register for this reason.

You buy the bag and bag yourself

Other important note for at least Americans is that you have to buy your bags and bag your groceries yourself. After having been abroad for 14 years my first time in Netto ended up as a stare down between me and the woman behind the cash register. I was waiting for her to bag my groceries and she was waiting for me to do so with the bag I hadn’t bought.

Meat and where to buy it

The discount stores have a few choices that you might use, however they aren’t normally very good.

Better yet would be to check the more upscale supermarkets Føtex, Irma and SuperBrugsen. They normally have good quality meats available. You will notice their normal prices are quite expensive, however they almost always have good offers going on.

Føtex and SuperBrugsen often have a pick 3 packs of meat for 100kr deals. Irma normally have will have one or two offers on beef that is worth while. As in California TriTip steaks are great deals and are known as Cullotte or Cuvette steg.

Another option that is very popular with many foreigners but often less so with Danes are the Hallal butchers. Most areas with large muslim populations such as Vesterbro and Nørrebro in Copenhagen have good ones. They are normally best for buying mutton and veal. It’s normally good quality and cheaper than the supermarkets.

Vegetables

The discount supermarkets have the basics and are normally fairly cheap. The larger supermarkets such as Føtex have a good selection of vegetables and fruits but are often 50% or more expensive.

Again you might want to go into Vesterbro and Nørrebro for your favorite Turkish green grocer. They normally have a good collection of fruits and vegetables for good prices. Pick up some Olives or Hummus from the deli conter as well. I love these places.

Ethnic foods

As mentioned earlier Vesterbro and Nørrebro have lots of Turkish butchers and green grocers.

Vesterbro in the part closest to the central train station have several great Thai and Chinese shops. None of them are too expensive.

On Peter Hvitfeldts Straede in central Copenhagen you will find a small American grocery store next to a English shop that also carries Aussie and South African groceries.

A neat place I discovered are the Polish grocery stores. I think there is one on Nørregade close to Nørreport station. They have great cheap Polish beer, interesting soups, sausages etc.

Booze and where to buy it

Generally speaking the supermarkets have a good selection of wines at suprisingly affordable prices. Even with the current dollar rate it’s cheaper to buy good wine in Denmark than in the US. There are lots of great wines in the 30-50kr range.

The normal beer brands like Tuborg and Carlsberg are available everywhere. The discount supermarkets have their own Danish brewed beers that are pretty cheap at around 2kr. Some of them aren’t bad. They are cheap enough to try them all. If you are close to Lidl, they have great German beers available for 4-6kr.

You can often fine drinkable vodka and gin at most of the discount supermarkets for around 70kr. Look out for special offers on premium brands. In particular Føtex and Irma have occasional great offers.

Bottle deposits

Bottle deposits in Denmark has been a part of life for years. It’s 1kr for a beer bottle or can and 3kr for a large soda bottle. In Denmark there is no need to feel embarrassed when standing in line in front of the bottle deposit machine with the career winos, students and basically everyone.

Bottle return machine

Every supermarket has one of these machines. You basically fill it with your cans and bottles one at the time (bottom first). When you’re done press the button and it prints a receipt that you can exchange for cash or use to pay for more beer.

Transport

Public Transport

The public transport system is great and consists in Copenhagen of busses, trains and the metro system. All of them use the same tickets.

I recommend that you never buy a single ticket unless you of course only need a single ticket. A single 2 zone ticket costs 20kr. So it’s much better to buy a 10 clip multi ticket know as a klippekort. A standard 2 zone one costs 125kr in Denmark. You can buy these in many news stands

If you’re here for more than a week it’s almost always worthwhile getting a 1 month pass, which costs 310kr for 2 zones which allows unlimited travel for 30 days within the 2 zones that you pick. You need to bring a passport photo with you and buy these at train stations.

Cars

At nearly 200% tax buying a car is ridiculously expensive. Renting them as well. However if you’re in Denmark for less than a year there are good options. If you are a foreigner want to buy a car or bring your own with you have the option to register it using special tags known as “grænseplader”. These allow you to cut most of the import duties. I don’t know the details myself, but you should be able to ask a car dealer about it.

Similarly most large car rental agencies have special offers for non residents. You probably need to call them up to ask for it, but it will be cheaper and comes with such luxuries as unlimited milage.

Please add your own tips in the comments.

Posted April 15th, 2008 under:
Comments
Trond Eivind Glomsrød April 15th, 2008 destroy

Rema 1000 is a Norwegian chain, not a German one.

pelle@stakeventures.com
Pelle Braendgaard April 15th, 2008 destroy

Oops. I did not know that. Thanks. I’ve corrected the article.

lindarmanuel@yahoo.com
LRM April 24th, 2008 destroy

Thanks for this post! I live in the SF Bay Area and will be relocating to Copenhagen in June, so your blog was a great find. I was excited to find the ethnic shops in the Vestebro during my last trip. One thing I will miss is my local Safeway for the one-stop shopping for my groceries, ethnic product and ingredients and, of course, the deals on wine!

Stores like Target or Kohls for frugal shopping just don’t seem to exist in Denmark.

med.bottlewash@gmail.com
Sergi Barres April 29th, 2008 destroy

Dear Sir,

After read your text I believe that it is necessary to recycling bottles, that’s what my company is doing actually.

My question it’s to know if you know any company dedicated to that business in Copenhagen or even in Denmark.

Thanks in advance, expecting your comments.

Med Venlig Hilsen
Sergi Barres
Med Bottlewash S.L.
Valencia – Spain.
[email protected]

Henriette (Danish citizen) May 12th, 2008 destroy

Just wanted to update your note about the international credit card.
The Danish supermarket chain COOP Denmark has just recently changed their policy about the international credit card.
I work in one of the stores and from May 2, all COOP Denmarks stores (Kvickly, SuperBrugsen, Dagli’ Brugsen etc.) are accepting international credit cards, though with a small fee to pay.

Henriette

bertel@berteltorp.dk
Bertel May 15th, 2008 destroy

Great post :)
@Sergi
The danish refund system : http://www.danskretursystem.dk/content/us

Most machines are produced by the norwegian company Tomra.

sfirongirl@yahoo.com
Cindi August 25th, 2008 destroy

Anybody know if you can buy the 30-day transit card at the DSB ticket office in Terminal 3 at Copenhagen airport (assuming you arrive with passport photos in hand)?

pelleb@gmail.com
Pelle Braendgaard August 26th, 2008 destroy

Cindi,
That shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a full service ticket office. You might want to make sure that they are open though when your flight arrives. I’m not sure how late they stay open.

P

fordmartin70@yahoo.com
Ford Martin September 16th, 2008 destroy

Would like to speak to you in depth about business in Copenhagen. Please email me and give me some insight.

vanantwerp@gmail.com
Tom October 21st, 2008 destroy

I’ve been living in Copenhagen for over two months now, and most of your advice seems right on target. I was wondering though if you had advice on where to buy cheap/secondhand clothing? I absolutely couldn’t care less about Scandinavian fashion trends; I just want something from the equivalent of a clearance rack at Kohl’s.

Also, do you know any relaxed bars in Copenhagen? Seems like everywhere I end up is really just a dance club with blaring music and obnoxious lighting. I’d love to be able to enjoy a drink in peace, being able to hear my own thoughts.

alex November 10th, 2008 destroy

For Tom, there are a handful of pubs I’ve found without a significant amount of music. The Moose is very cheap for Copenhagen (20 Kr. for a pint of Carlsburg/Tuborg I think), and doesn’t have any music. The Globe is standard stroget style pricing of about 50 kr for a pint of Guiness, 47 for a Carlsburg, and also doesn’t have music, but will have sports on the TV’s with light sound.

Actually a lot of the pubs on stroget are fairly traditional (Irish Rover, Victoria’s, Dubliner…) especially during the afternoon.

In Norrebro are some good, cheaper, silent pubs. Just go a few blocks north of the lakes on Norrebrograde and start to walk west a little and you’ll find them.

Hope that was helpful

Emil March 22nd, 2009 destroy

For Tom:

You should definitely try going out in Vesterbro:
Riesen – in Oehlenschlægergade
Simpelt V – in Istedgade
Bang og Jensen – also in Istedgade

Good luck.

dab@jafnet.dk
Douglas November 20th, 2009 destroy

Do you know where you can but a tin of cranberry jelly. or a box of stuffing mix (as in Thanksgiving) in Denmark
DAB

pradip December 17th, 2009 destroy

Thank for your useful information. Really its very very useful

Bjossi June 22nd, 2010 destroy

Thank you for this article, exactly what i needed

simon September 15th, 2010 destroy

By the way, the American grocery on Peter Hvitfeldts Straede is closed now, the owner unfortunately passed away.

riesling42@web.de
Monika September 28th, 2010 destroy

HI -
have any tips as for great seafood and fish to buy and cook in our rented weekend apartment or
a good restaurant – bit better than a fish and chips place but not somewhere where we leave a months rent at the end of the meal?
Any fish “shacks” or fresh from the catch purchasing?
Thanks

kymberly@lynge.ws
kymberly lynge November 4th, 2010 destroy

I was wondering if you have any info on the housing/apartments over there cause I plan on living there in the future. Also,where is a good place to live if you just got out of college?

albert_kelani@msn.com
albert kelani February 2nd, 2011 destroy

guys if you want to buy american or english food visit
www.foodfromhome.dk
good luck

deimante@xsystem.lt
DEL May 11th, 2011 destroy

For the housing i suggest to use http://www.boligportal.dk/en/ It is better to register and pay a small fee, and call as soon as new advert is comming. I found very nice eapartment this way.

I’ve just move in to Copenhagen and i find out all topic issues by myself. Anyway, prices here are really high… and taxes are incredible (just arrived fromSKAT office).

Welcome to Copenhagen :)

beach_ormond@yahoo.com
Mark McGraw July 4th, 2011 destroy

Great site! I’m a bicyclist, heading to CPH @ end of August. Can’t wait to ride around town…

jenickey@flash.net
Janie Nickey July 20th, 2011 destroy

Where can I buy a couple of used bicycles? I just moved to the Orestads area (near Field’s Store). Tak!

johnnywhitelock@hotmail.com
john whitelock August 2nd, 2011 destroy

hi all and well done on a great blog thing its very true what you all say i have moved here from new zealand where i met my girlfriend hanne i am looking for building work if anyone needs a carpenter let me know 71527003 i have a trial tomorrow so fingers crossed that goes well as it seems like bad times to be looking for work in contruction i am willing to do anything to stay here though and i am loving copenhagen so far and the danish people are great too.
another little tip if you are from overseas and want a mobile here have a look at lycamobile thye sim card is only 50k and comes with 50k worth of credit they have some amazing call rates to overseas numbers as low as 6 ere per min to landline check out there web site http://www.lycamobile.dk/offers.aspx?lang=EN

roksanka@yahoo.com
Roxanne August 31st, 2011 destroy

For Janie Nickey:

hello Janie,

if you’re still looking for a used bicycle I have one for sale (I’ve used it maybe 6 times or so so it’s brand new) Ladies classic 3 gears red bicycle in great condition. The price includes large front basket, 2 locks, attachable lights. I have all the paperwork & receipts from the store.
You can see it in white color: http://www.cykelbanditten.dk/klassiske-cykler/123-arhus.html

price: 1700 Dkk ( I paid 2100 for bike & 400 for locks…you save 800 Dkk)
you can reach me at [email protected]

:)

dedlcrosby@msn.com
Denice September 20th, 2011 destroy

Hiya!

This afternoon I was pricing a leg of lamb with a Scottish friend, and we were shocked at the price in a local butcher’s for the equivalent of over £60 in comparison to Newbury’s (England) market price of £10 and Waitrose’s (England supermarket) price of £20 for the same weight! Can you recommend a good leg of lamb somewhere here in Copenhagen where we can buy for a less expensive price?

Thanks!

Cheers,
Denice

nardiabooshand@yahoo.com
Nardia October 6th, 2011 destroy

Hi
I have a friend whose just moved into Copenhagen with a new job. She’s working crazy hours and never has time to do her grocery shopping. Do any of the stores have order online and deliver to your home like Waitrose, Tesco etc in London?
Cheers
Nardia

ril146@yahoo.com
Roxanne February 25th, 2012 destroy

Hello Pelle

Could you please delete my post about bicycle for sale? I haven’t gotten any response besides the spam one….I’d appreciate if you could delete it. Thank you so much.

In regards to my below post:

Roxanne August 31st, 2011
For Janie Nickey:

hello Janie,

if you’re still looking for a used bicycle I have one for sale (I’ve used it maybe 6 times or so so it’s brand new) Ladies classic 3 gears red bicycle in great condition. The price includes large front basket, 2 locks, attachable lights. I have all the paperwork & receipts from the store.
You can see it in white color: http://www.cykelbanditten.dk/klassiske-cykler/123-arhus.html

price: 1700 Dkk ( I paid 2100 for bike & 400 for locks…you save 800 Dkk)
you can reach me at [email protected]
:)

rumni32@gmail.com
Sash March 30th, 2012 destroy

Hi,
We will be moving shortly to Roskilde, is anyone aware of a apartment renting website for Roskilde? I will really appreciate it :)
Thanks a bunch,
Sash

samanthaej@gmail.com
Samantha April 23rd, 2012 destroy

for cheap clothing the Bilka supermarket offer sale clothes from 20kr upwards if you go during their january and and july sales, good buys to be had.

for free bargains there is www.freecycle.dk you register with them and other people in the area also registered state different things they no longer want anymore for you to collect if interested.

for cheap meat please check out the prices in the local butcher shops first as they normaly are always cheaper than a supermarket if you are buying bulk for the freezer etc.

people looking for places to live and rent, each town has its own website with all the options of houses to apartments that are rented in the town and outskirts, will give you full listing of the companies that rent homes, and one hint is if you want cheap rent then try looking a little out of the town that you want as the smaller villages with good buses to the main town are normaly always cheaper than the main town , you could save quite a bit.

renting a car.. some of the big car dealerships affer a leasing program which works out cheaper than a car hire company for instance : fiat500 is just 1500kr a month with insurance to lease with a minum of 1 year leasing, always check the dealerships before carhire as they will pretty much bend over backwards to make things at a price you can afford here in denmark.

if you are staying in jutland you can take a trip to the german border as they have very cheap shops and its what all danes do , you will find food, drinks, clothing at less than half the price you find in shops, a worth while trip that will bag you great bargains and save you loads of money.

buzigie@live.com
Eddy May 8th, 2012 destroy

Dear Pele
I will be joining Copenhagen University for my masters degree programme. Kindly let me know about cheaper outskirts where i can rent with easy access to the Copenhagen school of life sciences faculty. Please also let me know shops that have durable but significantly cheaper.
Thank you
Eddy from Uganda