Have you been drawn in by the allure of Iceland but worried about the cost? Here are a few ways to help you save money on your trip:
1. Travel in a group – things are always cheaper when you can split the cost; travel, food, accommodation. This is especially true of Iceland and particularly for those in the UK and EU who have seen a dramatic decrease in value of their currency against the Icelandic Krone. If you are thinking of travelling to Iceland then invite your friends and turn it into a group adventure, it won’t be difficult to sway them once they have seen a few photographs. If you are a solo traveller then once you arrive in Iceland why not ask someone or a few people who are also travelling alone if they’d like to combine funds to hire a car for a day or cook an evening meal together.
2. Cook your own food – this is something that is common among travellers as a rule. If you are on a budget then this is a country where you don’t want to be caught out without a packed lunch and snacks to keep you going. As Iceland has to import the majority of its goods, most supermarket items will be double the price of what you are used to paying and restaurants/cafes more again. For example, in budget supermarkets a packet of four chicken breasts will cost around £20 and a block of cheese £15. Buy in bulk and use everything! Top tip – always carry a bottle of water which you can refill during the day.
3. Drink local beer – not only is it tasty, it is A LOT cheaper than any imported beers and spirits. If you fancy a tipple whilst you are away, then stick to local produce. If you can, buy before you fly! Pick up alcohol in duty free at the airport.
4. Hire a car – Iceland has a ring road which follows the coast around the country and allows easy access to most of its sights. The road is wide, in very good condition and often with little other traffic. So if you are not used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, then it is a great place to start. When planning your trip you will notice that there are gatherings of popular spots which means that during the course of a day you can visit a fair few sights. For example, if you hire a car from Reykjavik you can visit Kerid Crater, Thingvallir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir, Selfoss waterfall and everything in between within a few hours. The cost of hiring a car is around £100 a day including full insurance cover. If you are a solo traveller then this is still cheaper than the cost of many tour group day trips covering the Golden Circle sights and if you can buddy up or are travelling in a group then it is definitely worthwhile. If you are travelling in the winter then be sure to check what sights are accessible by car before you book.
5. Hitchhike – I saw many hitchhikers in Iceland. This is unsurprising given the vastness of the country and how safe it is considered to be. Of course, the usual caution applies but if you find yourself stranded or lost then hitchhiking is a viable option.
6. Plan ahead – this is often something that travellers don’t like to do. Making solid plans about where you will go each day doesn’t fit with the flow and free-ness of travel. However, if you want to save cash then you need to plan ahead. Research the main attractions and decide where you want to visit, use google maps so you can get a rough idea of the travel times between locations, make the most of an area so you are not doubling back, go on free walking tours, stay outside of the city so you are closer to the wilderness and have more time to explore. These are simple things that are often overlooked but can all add up to make a real difference on your pocket.
7. Discount cards – the Reykjavik Welcome card gives free admission to all of Reykjavik’s thermal pools, free admission to several museums and attractions, unlimited travel on the Reykjavik bus system, discounts at certain shops, restaurants and tours, and free internet access. The card can be bought at the Reykjavik Tourist Information Centre (Adalstaeti 2) and a few other places centrally. The card varies in price whether you use it for 24/48/72 hours so its best to have an idea of where you want to visit before you buy.
There is also the Reykjavik City card which also offers free entry to a selection of museums and galleries and free unlimited travel by bus within the Reykjavik Capital area. In addition, the card also gives you a free ferry trip to Videy island and discounts on various tours, in shops and on services. You can buy this card online before you travel or pick it up when you arrive from many establishments. The Reykjavik City card is a bit pricier than the Reykjavik Welcome card but does appear to cover a bit more.
You can also pick up free discount cards which can save you 10% on fuel at certain petrol stations and get free coffees. Mmm free coffee.
There is an Icelandic coupon book which may be worthwhile investing in if you are staying in Iceland over a longer period of time. You can find details of the coupon book here.
8. Airbnb – the prices of hotels and hostels will make your eyes water. Airbnb has changed the game for travellers worldwide. You can find some interesting places to stay all over Iceland at a decent price on Airbnb.
See my home page to get discount on your Airbnb stay.
9. Public transport (but not in winter) – From June to roughly the second week of September regular scheduled buses run to most places on the ring road, into the popular hiking areas of the southwest, and to larger towns in the Westfjords and Eastfjords and on the Reykjanes and Snaefellsnes Peninsulas. The rest of the year, services range from daily, to a few weekly, to non-existent.
Bus services can be used as day tours: buses spend a few hours at the final destination before returning to the departure point, and may stop for a half-hour at various tourist destinations en route. The main bus companies operating in Iceland are Reykjavik Excursions, Straeto, Sterna and SBA-Nordurleid.
‘Bus passports’ are available every summer with the aim of making public transport around the island as easy as possible. However, it is worth doing some research before you buy a passport as it may work out more expensive than a tour or hiring a car depending on where you want to go.
10. Travel off-season – Iceland’s busiest months are July, August, November, December and January. If you aren’t restricted by when you can travel then head to Iceland in the shoulder months of June and September. You will find better deals on airfares and accommodation during this time with the added bonus of not having so many tourists to try and crop out of your photographs!