Travel in Iceland seems to be at the top of everyone’s bucket list at the moment and for very good reasons. The country is unlike any other on almost every level. But it’s one downside – being cut off from mainland Europe – means things can get expensive very pretty fast. But like most places there are always tips and tricks you can apply to keep the cost down when you travel. So here’s my personal instalment on how to travel Iceland on a budget without breaking the bank…
Iceland is expensive, but there are always ways to stay on budget
I’m not going to tell you any different, Iceland is not cheap. But it’s totally budget friendly if you’re really dedicated to make it that way.
There are always ways to save money and Iceland is no different from that. Being frugal and budgeting isn’t for the weak hearted when you’re exploring somewhere new. The desire to eat at every restaurant and succumb to every guided trip almost killed me. But with a little restraint you could save so much.
What do you want from your trip to Iceland?
Depending on what you’re coming to Iceland for, will completely depict how much money you’re looking at spedning whilst you there. Most of the time, tourists come to Iceland for it’s natural beauty; like the volcano’s, waterfalls and geysirs. But Iceland has so much more to offer than just what you can find on the Golden Circle.
The trick to saving the most money, is to know what you need and want to see or do. Chances are you’re going to leave Iceland after your first visit knowing that you want to go back many, many times after. Even with a reasonable budget, you’ll never see and experience everything the country has to offer in one visit.
So when you start planning your first trip, go in with the mindset that you’re going to come back. Figuring out a list on un-missables will help you prioritise what needs to happen not and what could happen next time.
This or that?
If your dream is to eat your way through Iceland’s best restaurants, then you’re not going to need to venture much further than the Golden Circle. Arguable I know, but if you’re on a budget, then going all the way to Akureyri for the countries best hot dog is a little ridiculous. If you’re here for the food then there are some incredible eateries within the city which will satisfy your senses completely.
On the other hand however, if you’re all about the sightseeing and the roads less travelled, then I’d get out of the city as fast as you can. Reykjavik is beautiful but 24 hours there is plenty to see the sights and hopefully not get too distracted by the impressibly smelling restaurants.
Saving money travelling when you have hit list
I’m going to keep going back to those two scenario’s, you either:
A) Want to visit Iceland for the city life and food.
B) Want to see the sights. Because let’s face it, Iceland has nothing on Scandenavia and you’re most certainly not visiting for the weather.
Once you figure out what category you’re in, and honestly I can’t say this enough, if you’re on a budget it’s not going to be easy if you pick both.
All about the food:
Reykjavik has a plethora of restaurants on offer (I recommend Svarta Kaffid. Seriously, check it out) and chances are, you’ll be enticed by them all. Which also lends a good chance that you’re going to be spending a bit of $$$. A single course dinner with tap water is going to set you back upwards of 2300KR (£17) per person. So, if you’re there for 4 days and eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’re looking at spending a minimum £200 on food.
Do your research, figure out what eateries or delicacies are on offer. What have the best reviews and which ones you can’t miss. The Icelandic Hot Dog which they top with cheese and garlic mayo is a national dish.
Doing you’ll research will help you to understand whether eating out for every meal is feasible or if you’d be better suited once a day. Staying in a Hostel or AirBnB is great because you often have access to a kitchen. You’ll be able to hit a local grocery store and try some different foods that you might not find at home. Like freeze-dried fish.
TOP TIP: ‘Bonus’ is a super affordable grocery store for smaller budgets. Look out for the products with the EuroSave logo on them.
All about the natural beauty:
Ok, so you want to walk the roads less travelled. As long as you don’t go too far, for example staying on the ring road and not venturing too far North, then you’ve got quite a good chance at doing this on a budget.
George and I travelled the southern coastline in a Camper Van, which meant what we paid covered our transport and accommodation expenses in one. It also meant that we could be really flexible about where we were going in the daytime and where we could end up each night. We had no hostel reservations to abide by like you would if you hire a car. And no pre-booked tours to restrict our time to. We were truly free birds, going where we wanted and when we wanted.
This is a great option for Iceland as often your itinerary can be depicted by the weather. Tours are often cancelled at last minute because the weather is totally unpredictable.
When do you want to go?
Summer is peak season in Iceland because the weather is slightly more predictable (although only by a fraction) and the sunlight lingers in the sky a little longer. So you can expect to be spending more than premium prices to travel Iceland in at this time of year.
In winter however, the prices are drop slightly. Still quite steep, this is Iceland remember, but Iceland is more accessible on a smaller budget. The weather however is more unpredictable and the temperatures can be below freezing in winter too. However, if you’re dreaming of seeing the Northern lights whilst you’re there, you’ve got a good chance in the colder seasons. George and I travelled in the last week of March and only paid to park our camper and stay overnight in a campsite once. Wild camping in Iceland is illegal all year round however campsites are often open 365days of the year and were flexible about charging in low season.
I’m not going to pretend that Iceland was a breeze and super cheap, because it wasn’t. We spent roughly £1100 total (approx. £650 per person) on our 6 day trip. Including flights, an Ice Cave Tour and camper hire (George and I went with Camp Easy for our Van which were phenomenal by the way, I would 100% recommend). Not to mention insurance and all that nonsense you need when you travel.
If you’re interested, I’ve been Instagramming like crazy throughout my trip so if you need some Iceland inspo or generally just fancy getting some wanderlust jealousy. I mean, who doesn’t spend half their day scrolling through insane travel accounts? Because I most certainly.