Once you visit Iceland for the first time, you’ll be addicted. The problem is that addiction can be expensive – Iceland is not the cheapest country to visit. However, there’s plenty of ways to get around that, so don’t let that discourage you. Here’s how to visit Iceland on a budget.
Rent a Car
If you’re traveling alone, this might not be the most cost efficient. However, if you’re with a group, staying for multiple days, and plan on seeing some of the sites, I recommend it. I rented a car in the winter and had no problems with the road at all. As much as I love Reykjavik, most of the sites you want to see are at least 45 minutes away.
You can easily sign up for bus transfers to/from the airport to Reykjavik, but that’ll cost you about $40 each way. Busses can also take you to the Blue Lagoon or some of the waterfalls, but you’re looking at a minimum of $100 with the transportation fee and cost of the tour.
Buy Alcohol at the Airport
I got this piece of advice from a flight attendant on Icelandair as I was landing in Iceland for the first time. At first, I had no idea why she was telling me that, but I realized alcohol is VERY expensive in Iceland. If you plan on drinking at all, buy it from the duty-free store as you exit the airport. You’ll save so much money this way. When I landed on New Year’s Eve, the duty-free store was even packed with pilots and locals stocking up for the big evening!
Stay in Hostels
I was surprised to see that Iceland had hostels when I was looking for a cheap way to stay. There are several in downtown Reykjavik that are centrally located. It ran me about $50 USD a night for a four-bed dorm room compared to well over $100 for staying in a hotel. It was very clean, and they were even able to watch my bags for me while I explored before my check-in.
Rent an Air B&B
As tourism is increasing, more and more locals are starting to put their apartments up for rent. Many of them are just renting a room, but I did find some places you could get the whole place to yourself. If you’re traveling alone, it probably won’t save you much money. When traveling with another person, I’d recommend this route. You might have access to a washer and dryer, and you’ll have a kitchen to cook in. Which brings me to my next point…
Cook Some of Your Meals
I’m not going to tell you to eat all your meals in because that wouldn’t be fun. You also need to experience some of the local specialties, such as their fresh seafood or lamb soup. Everything is expensive in Iceland though, so head to one of the local grocery stores to pick up some food. I did this with most of my breakfasts because buying a bagel and coffee at a local cafe will run you almost $15 USD.
Take Advantage of the Free Activities
There’s plenty to do in Iceland that’s free. Here are a few places to check out downtown that are free of charge:
- Hallgrímskirkja Church – a beautiful church to walk around in Reykjavik
- Volcano House – learn about Iceland’s past eruptions and even touch ash from some of them
- Walk along the waterfront
- Drive to the waterfalls yourself – they’re free to visit, after all!
Splurge a Little
All that said, save room in your budget for some fun things. I loved visiting the Blue Lagoon and while I probably wouldn’t go again, I recommend it if it’s your first time. There are some fun bars to visit in Reykjavik, such as the Lebowski Bar (White Russians, anyone?). Save money where you can so you can still have a good time without going over your budget!
What’s your favorite tip for saving money?
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