Iceland on a budget: 15 tips to help you explore Iceland for less Iceland

Iceland is known for two things: its dramatic volcanic landscape and for a being one of the most expensive countries in the world.  I have been wanting to visit Iceland since I spotted it from a plane window back in 2009. I was embarking on my first solo trip to New Zealand and was immediately smitten with the rugged terrain.

Iceland Landscape

When I started researching the average cost of activities, accommodation and meals out in Iceland I was wondering: is it possible to do Iceland on budget? I do enjoy a challenge and convinced myself that there must be a way to experience this beautiful country without blowing a whole in my wallet.

The good news is, there really are ways to do Iceland on a budget and I’m going to show you how. I managed to keep my total expenditure to 320€. This included absolutely everything from a rental car and accommodation to food for four days on the island. Ready? Here are 15 tips & tricks to help you explore Iceland for less.

Flights

1.) Stopover

The easiest way for you to safe on your airfare to Iceland is to visit the island on a stopover. Airlines such as Icelandair or WOW air offer the option to add a stopover to your itinerary for free. Just keep in mind that your stopover with Icelandair cannot be longer than 7 nights.

2.) Deals

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Keep your eyes peeled for flight sales, deals and error fares to Iceland. Newsletters can help to keep you up to date with sales and offers. If you only sign up to one newsletter then make it the Secret Flying one. Checking their offers is highly addictive but can safe you a lot of money. Thanks to Secret Flying I managed to go to Iceland, Toronto & New York for the bargain price of 300€. (Yes, that’s return & including luggage)

Accommodation

3.) Camping

Seljalandsfoss Campsite Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Campsite Iceland

If you’re visiting Iceland during the summer months, camping is a great way to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and keep your costs down.  You can find affordable campsites all over Iceland. Most places I stayed at charged 11€ per night per person. The majority of campgrounds will charge 2€ extra for showers, which means you can expect to pay an average of 13€ per night. Sleeping in a tent gives you a great deal of freedom to travel without plans and you can choose from a great range of picturesque spots. Ever slept by a waterfall?

Wild camping is also permitted in Iceland so long as you don’t pitch your tent in a National Park or on somebody else’s private land.

Bring your own camping equipment or rent it from a local provider in Iceland.

4.) Hostels

Even though the hostels in Iceland cost considerably more than in other places in Europe, it is still a budget option compared to hotels, which cost a whopping couple of hundred Euros a night. Most hostels are located in Reykjavik, but you will be able to find hostels all over the island. Hosteling International have a pretty good network of hostel all along the ring road. Prices for HI hostels start from 30€ per night in a mixed dorm if you’re a member. Non-members pay an additional fee between 5€ – 10€ per night. So it might be worth to purchase a membership if you’re a frequent traveler.

5.) CouchSurfing

Iceland currently has 149 CouchSurfing hosts offering travelers a place to sleep for free. Always make sure you read the reviews carefully and spend some time getting to know your host before the visit to avoid nasty surprises upon arrival.

6.) Airbnb

AirbnB is another option that might be worth exploring to save some money. There are hundreds of rooms, apartments and houses listed all over Iceland. The prices vary from 40€ per night for a room up to 400€ for a 16 guest private house.

7.) Pick the right season

The prices during the main season in the summer months tend to be a little higher. It might be worth looking at travelling to Iceland during off-season when hotels and guest houses are less busy.

Food & Drinks

8.) Shop at supermarkets

Shop at local supermarkets and prepare your own meals instead of eating out. Buying local ingredients will still give you the opportunity to taste Icelandic cuisine and produce. If you’re driving into Reykjavik upon arrival, make sure to pick up your groceries there as you will find that there are few supermarkets along certain sections of the ring road and some shops further out charge considerably more.

I got all my groceries at BONUS, a low cost supermarket with a decent choice.  One food shop with all the necessities for 4 days only cost me 20€, which is less than you would pay for a main meal in many Icelandic restaurants.

9.) Prepare food for days out

You may be tempted to have lunch at a tourist attraction or petrol station if you’re exploring on an empty stomach. Avoid spending 10€ on a sandwich by buying plenty of snacks to keep you going and preparing your lunches before you set off.

10.) Buy your coffee at petrol stations or carry a thermos

Well the best way to safe on coffee is not to drink any. But if you’re like me, that is not an option. Make sure to pack a thermos bottle and fill it up in the morning before setting off on your next adventure. Unfortunately I didn’t have that idea until I got there so I had to make do with getting my coffee from petrol stations along the road. Avoid getting coffee near tourist attractions as they will almost charge double. If you’re feeling extra sleepy get a re-fill as most petrol stations in Iceland offer those free of charge.

11.) Hot Dogs are a super cheap & delicious snack

The cheapest and most delicious snack you can get in Iceland is without a doubt a hot dog. This tasty treat is even called Iceland’s national dish by some. They are sold just about anywhere on the island. The flavour of the Icelandic hot dogs is slightly different to American or other European versions of the dish as they contain a mix of lamb, pork and beef.

Transport

12.) Hitchhiking

While I have not personally tried to hitchhike in Iceland, it does seem to be a very common way of getting around the island.

13.) Car pooling

If you’re tavelling solo car pooling might be a good way for you to save money and meet people. Platforms like CouchSurfing or the Loney Planet forum might be a good place for you to look for potential car buddies. Alternatively try asking in Facebook groups like the GirlsvsGlobe group whether someone else might have similar travel plans and would be interested in sharing a car with you.

14.) Rent a car and explore

Iceland Road Trip

Renting a car might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about travelling on a budget, but in a place like Iceland where the public transport system is limited it is definitely the easiest way to get around. A rental car means that you’re free to explore the island at your own speed and it safes you money on day tours to the Golden Circle or other popular tourist attractions.

Activities

15.) Exploring the great outdoors is completely FREE

Iceland Coast

Let’s be honest. Most people come to Iceland because of it’s captivating contrast of fire and ice, the magnificent landscape and natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and all of those things are absolutely free. You can admire the beauty of Icelandic horses, wander along the glacier lagoon or watch the sunset over the rugged coastline and not pay a single penny.

Keep your eyes peeled for more Iceland travel advice here on Global Brunch. Can’t wait? Then check out some of my favourite snaps from the island on Instagram.

Have you got any tips on how to save money in Iceland? Comment below and share your experience.

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Iceland on a budget

 


Comments

  1. Awesome article, Iceland is a place I have always wanted to see in person. It is at the top of my list now!

  2. Great tips, especially the one on how to save money by planning a layover! We’ll keep it in mind!

  3. Excellent tips – thank you so much! I had never heard of Secret Flying before. Definitely going to look into them 🙂

    • globalbrunch Says: July 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! They are great. The site literally just collects ridiculously cheap flight deals and delivers them to you once a day in a newsletter. You have to be quite flexible in terms of dates and where you’re flying from, but it’s a great way to grab a bargain 🙂

  4. These are great tips Maria! I like the idea of camping in Iceland and making your own food instead of eating out is the perfect chance to try Icelandic produce as you said 🙂

  5. Iceland is a dream destination for us and when we do get there, your tips would come in quite handy. As you mentioned we want to get to Iceland for the ICE and the phenomenal outdoors.

  6. I can’t wait to visit this beautiful island! I am going to save your tips, I’m sure they will be very useful for our trip.

  7. I was worried about visiting Iceland due to cost, so these tips are great to save the pennies, thank you!!

    • globalbrunch Says: July 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      It does seem quite daunting when you see the cost, I had the very same feeling. I hope these tips will help you to make your visit happen!

  8. Really nice article. Thanks for the information on layovers. I fly to Canada in September, and I will likely include a stopover now. I am missing this country from my list of strange and exotic places! Your photos are beautiful!

    • globalbrunch Says: July 29, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind feedback. It’s great to hear that the post has inspired you to look into a lay over. A great way to see Iceland without breaking the bank 🙂

  9. Wow that’s really cheap! I had no idea – always had this mind block of Europe being waaaaay too expensive.
    Your photos are beautiful btw!

  10. Oh, such a helpful post! I scored a good flight deal to Iceland for this October and I booked it without thinking how expensive the actual trip might be. Ha! I’ve been considering renting a camper van for a couple of days – kind of combining housing and exploration car rental together but I’m not sure yet. I’ll be hopping over to your Insta for sure and keeping an eye out for more Iceland posts!

    Any hostel or AirBnB recommendations?

  11. This comes in very handy, as I am going to Iceland in September. I am planning on renting a camper van and also staying at hostels/hotels/airbnb for a night or two. Thanks for sharing the great info. Will definitely bring my thermos, as I am a coffee addict 🙂

    • globalbrunch Says: July 29, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      So glad I could help! The thermos will definitely come in handy 🙂 Really looking forward to see the pictures from your trip!

  12. Beautiful photos! Iceland is high on my bucket list, but for some reason, I haven’t made it there. I’m checking out secret flying right now, thanks for the tip!

  13. Great suggestions and although Iceland is expensive, you show that the truly unique landscape and nature in Iceland is priceless! My good friend just came back from Iceland and she camped and loved it. I know many places rent equipment for pretty cheap. She also picked up some very interested, yet kind, hitch hiker!

    Thank you for the suggestions!

  14. I am so excited to visit Iceland and appreciate your money-saving advice. Thank you!

  15. I love the idea of staying for free on a stopover! Great tips 😀

  16. Iceland is on our list for this year, so many thanks for this great compilation of tips! We will definitely be renting a car as per your suggestion!

  17. Great article!
    I am hoping to visit Iceland this year and, as always, will definitely be on a budget so this is really helpful!

    Emma x

  18. Awesome tips, Iceland has been on my list for quite a while but I always put it off because I think it’s expensive… With your advice I will reschedule it again! 🙂

  19. These are some great tips! I really want to visit Iceland, but I’ve been put off for a while now by how expensive it is. When I go in the future, I will bear these tips in mind! Thanks!

  20. […] For more suggestions on things to see and do when travelling Iceland on a budget, check out Global Brunch’s article 15 Tips to Help You Explore Iceland For Less! […]

  21. That Secret Flying signup is a great idea! You should link to it from this post!
    This is really making me want to go even more! Totally didn’t even think about camping or hitchhiking here! I’d want to rent a VW bus but if I couldn’t afford it these are great alternatives!

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  23. […] For more suggestions on things to see and do when travelling Iceland on a budget, check out Global Brunch’s article 15 Tips to Help You Explore Iceland For Less! […]

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