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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.