Iceland is an amazing country – and since it’s often a stopover destination for other flights – you can fly there pretty inexpensively. But once you get on the ground, you’re in for a quick realization: Shit’s expensive here.
Most people who come to Iceland have something to say about the cost – and while some things are unavoidable, we found that there are a decent amount of things you can do to save money while in Iceland.
1. Don’t Eat Out
We only ate at a restaurant once in Iceland – we just got a pizza – and it still ended up being $30. We went grocery shopping on our first day and got snacks and sandwich stuff so that we wouldnt’ have to worry about getting food every day. If you need to grab a quick bite, one of our favourite things were pylsur – Icelandic hot dogs. They’re made from a combination of lamb and pork, and they are the best hot dogs you’ll ever try in your life. We went to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur and Reykjavik Street Dog while in the city.
2. Bonus is your friend
Not all Icelandic grocery shops are created equal – Bonus is the cheapest to visit. We got most of our food for the three days we were there at a Reykjavik Bonus for a decent price. Some foods, like fruits, will be more expensive, especially if they aren’t in season.
3. Airbnb is a great option
I really am a big fan of Airbnb – I’ve had wonderful experiences with it so far. Our Airbnb in Iceland was no exception – We stayed at a Scout Station close to Þingvellir national park and paid around $100 a night for two people. We had our own room and access to a shared kitchen and living space. It was right on a lake and you could go out and explore the landscape around it whenever. It was a really reasonable accommodation for Iceland, and it put us pretty close to all the things we wanted to see. We saved some money by not staying in the city, as hostels and other accommodations remain on the pricy side there.
4. Renting a car vs. a camper van
If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving all around Iceland, it might make financial sense for you to rent a camper van – which is essentially a large van with room to sleep in. We were only there for a few days and weren’t traveling very far so it made more sense for us to just rent a car – but depending on your itinerary, it might be cheaper for you!
5. If you’re renting a car, get a hybrid
We made sure to rent a hybrid car – since we weren’t going on any beat up roads and we ended up driving a decent amount to all our spots. We only had to get gas once – twice technically to return it to the rental car place. That being said, make sure you go with a good rental car place and book ahead to avoid long waits and fees.
6. Create an itinerary instead of doing tours
You’ll see lots of advertisements for tours when you’re coming to Iceland. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard some of them are very cool – but they can be pricy, and touristy. We picked all the spots we wanted on google maps and planned a little route for both of our full days. We enjoyed it, because we could take as much time as we wanted in places, and we could make stops at scenic overlooks and to pet friendly horses.
7. Research the activities you want to do
Again, there are lots of cool looking things to do and see, but some of them are very touristy and expensive. I’ll give you the blue lagoon as an example: It looks really cool, but it’s super expensive when there are lots of smaller spas and natural hot springs around. We went to the Reykjadalur thermal river – which is all natural and a beautiful hike, and to Laugarvatn Fontana – which is a spa with hot pools and a sauna. There’s even a lake you can take a cold dip in if you’re brave. I feel like Iceland has so many free natural attractions, there’s not much of a reason to blow money on touristy activities.
8. Tis the Season
Check what season you’re going in – High vs low – as this can impact prices. The high season is mid June to August – when temperatures are warmest. We went at the end of August/early September – so at the end of high season, because it aligned with our traveling, but if you’re considering an Iceland trip, it might be something to consider.
9. Save on Souvenirs
Souvenirs in Iceland can be fairly expensive, especially when you find them near popular attractions, so I suggest keeping things small if you buy there. The one thing I splurged on was a wool headband – which still cost me $30. Another good option is to shop at thrift stores for unique finds – sometimes you can find Icelandic sweaters for a lower price.
10. Go with friends
Maybe you’re more of a solo trip person, but you can save some cash if you go with other people and split the cost.
11. When you find a free bathroom – use it!
This one is oddly specific – but a fair warning. Some popular attractions don’t have free bathrooms, so use when you find a free one!
I hope these tips help you save on your Iceland trip – and feel free to share your own if you have any!