Iceland is a stunning country. Waterfalls, geysers, snowy landscapes, wild horses, and so much more. I took a 6 night, 7 day trip through this amazing country in March 2017. The only thing I really knew about the country before going was how expensive it was, but the trip ended up being one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
It's true, Iceland is an expensive country, but there are so many ways to cut costs. I spent a mere $1,200 on a roundtrip flight, accommodations, food, rental car, gas, and activities. While this number may seem quite high compared to traveling in cheaper countries, considering Iceland's high costs, it was not as hard as I thought it would be to stay within my budget.
The following ten tips will help you save money, get around Iceland easier, and make your trip more enjoyable. Enjoy!
1. Yes, it is expensive—but totally worth it. While researching Iceland, I found many blog posts that talked about how expensive the country is. I didn’t grasp the full scope of just how expensive until I arrived. $10 hummus, $80 tanks of gas, and $100 meals. It wasn’t cheap but I learned a few money saving tips along the way. I suggest trying to save money when it comes to food. Gas and accommodation prices are pretty standard throughout the country and tough to skimp on.
2. Bring food with you. Iceland isn’t known for their delicious cuisine, and the food is expensive. While we did have a wonderful piece of fresh fish overlooking the waters it was caught in, it set us back about $120 for two people. To save money I recommend bringing food and snacks with you from home. Oatmeal, granola bars, trail mix, crackers, tea, coffee etc. will save you big bucks while in Iceland. Every hotel or hostel we stayed in had free hot water which we used to make oatmeal, tea, and coffee for breakfast each morning. We usually enjoyed our granola bars, trail mix, and crackers while driving or having a picnic lunch (more on this below).
3. Grocery shop. Most of our meals (especially lunch) were purchased from a grocery store and included deli meat, brie cheese, fresh bread, carrots, and hummus. While this lunch usually cost $20, it was still so much cheaper than eating out at a restaurant.
4. Bring a reusable water bottle. The quality of Icelandic tap water is far superior to most other countries. Do not purchase bottled water when you can have the same stuff right out of the tap.
5. Sharing is caring. Hostels, room and house shares can save you a lot of money. I know this option is not for everyone but Icelandic people were some of the most kind, generous people I have ever met. Not to mention, Iceland is by far the safest place I’ve ever been (see tip #9). If you have never stayed in a dorm room hostel, Iceland is a great place to try it. Plus, house shares and hostels often offer free breakfast, which is one less meal you have to pay for. But beware, some charge upwards of $20-$30 USD for breakfast so make sure to ask before booking.
6. Skip the tours. When I travel I prefer to explore places on my own and skip guided tours. I probably do not get as much out of certain experiences but the amount of money I’m saving is worth it to me. I did not take one tour while in Iceland and did not regret it for a second. The exception to this tip would be if you are not planning on renting a car and only staying in Reykjavik while you are in Iceland. I highly recommend renting a car, but I realize not everyone feels comfortable doing this. In that case, I recommend booking a tour or two so you can get outside the city and see the beautiful landscapes Iceland has to offer.
7. Budget Airlines are legit—I flew WOW Air from Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI) to Reykjavik (KEF). I had a wonderful experience with WOW. The airplane was very nice, my seat had more leg room than most other flights, and the flight attendants were kind. I paid $330 for a round-trip flight and $80 in baggage fees. Read their luggage policies and make sure you stay within the guidelines, pay for the baggage in advance, and you will have a pleasurable experience. Water, soda, and snacks all cost money on the flight so plan to bring those items with you on the plane.
8. Iceland is small—“Hotels” may be family homes and “Roads” may be driveways. Just keep this in mind when traveling to your accommodations. It adds to the charm of Iceland.
9. Iceland is so safe-- like maybe the safest place I've ever been. I read one statistic that around 100 people are in jail in the entire country. It is a safe place to travel, especially for solo travelers.
10. Credit cards are accepted almost anywhere. I did not have to take out cash at any point in my trip. Restaurants, gas stations, small wool shops, etc. all accepted major credit cards. While I don't recommend this tactic per se, you can get by without cash in Iceland. It might not be a bad idea to keep a little cash on hand, just in case. As always, make sure the credit card you are using has no international transaction fees.
Stay tuned for our Iceland travel guide, coming next week!