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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
15.) Exploring the great outdoors is completely FREE
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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