Iceland’s incredibly unique, spectacular, beautiful, mesmerizing and expensive. Unfortunately, many travelers avoid it due to the high prices, even though the Land of Ice and Fire has been their dream for years. Yes, it’s not exactly a low-cost destination, but it doesn’t mean one can’t travel Iceland on a budget! If you are smart, stick to some rules and avoid tourist traps, you can see much of the country without spending a fortune. Here’s a list of tips for all the adventurous travelers who might not have loads of money, but have dreams and courage instead. If you make use out of these tips for traveling Iceland on a budget, your trip to Iceland can be affordable.
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Find cheap flights
If you’re flying between North America and Europe, you can organize a stopover in Iceland. Icelandair has good connections from Canada and the U.S. to Europe and, most importantly, they offer free stopovers in Iceland. This way you don’t need a ticket to Iceland at all. It’s a perfect option for those who are planning a Eurotrip anyway.
There are many flights to various European cities and Reykjavik, but most of them are rather costly. Luckily, several low-budget airlines have connections too. In case you want to begin the trip to Iceland in Europe, check WOW Air, EasyJet and Wizzair. WowAir connects Reykjavik with 14 different cities. EasyJet also flies from various cities, but the best place to depart from is usually London. As for WizzAir, they have recently started flying from Gdańsk in Poland to Reykjavik. The fares vary a lot depending on dates, available sales, etc., but often get as low as 70 Euros both ways.
Hitch-hike or rent a car
Buses in Iceland are costly and getting from one city to another can sometimes be more expensive than taking a domestic flight. Besides, many beautiful places in Iceland are hard to reach by bus, so renting a car is a better alternative. It’s not going to be very cheap anyway, but if you travel as a group, splitting the cost will make a huge difference. Are you a solo traveler? Just ask around and search for someone who’ll join you. Look through travel forums and talk with people in a hostel you’re staying. It shouldn’t be difficult to find company since so many backpackers try to limit their expenses while traveling in Iceland. Nevertheless, nothing is going to be cheaper than hitch-hiking. Iceland’s one of the best European countries for hitch-hikers, traveling by thumb is familiar and safe. Icelanders willingly pick up hitch-hikers, they’re friendly and love to chat. The only inconvenience is little traffic, especially in the interior and in the off-season. Keep it in mind and don’t expect to move around fast.
Forget about restaurants
Eating out in Iceland is insanely expensive. A bowl of soup can cost as much as $20, same for a piece of cake. It’s nearly impossible to have a dinner for less than $40 and for this price you might not even get a drink with your meal. Only fast-foods are relatively affordable, so travelers mostly feed on hotdogs. To try some Icelandic dishes, check out cafés, they often serve meals for prices lower than restaurants. Hostels and campsites have kitchens, so you can just cook. Fresh products are high-priced, but buying pasta, eggs, cereals, etc. won’t cost you much. It doesn’t sound very healthy, but a few days of such a diet surely won’t kill you. One more thing to remember: take a reusable water bottle. Instead of buying overpriced water in supermarkets, you can simply get it from the tap; it’s drinkable and perfectly safe.
Consider skipping the peak season
It’s a bit harder in Iceland than warmer countries, but still possible. July and August are the busiest months, but the whole high season lasts from May to September. March and October are still good months to travel and everything’s way cheaper. Iceland’s magical in the winter as well, but many attractions aren’t open or reachable then. If you’re willing to accept it and enjoy Icelandic coldness, it’s a good solution.
Partying in Reykjavik is amazing and incredibly expensive. The Icelandic capital is world-famous for its vibrant night-life, but your wallet would appreciate if you entirely skipped it. In case you can’t resist partying, at least do it wisely (hard to say partying can be wise in general, but yes, this time it’ll have to be). Because of the high taxes (50 %!), prices of alcohol are ridiculously high. A pint of beer in a bar usually costs about $7 in a pub and $3,5 in a liquor store. Before you order something, check how much it costs. Some of the bars are slightly cheaper or offer happy hours – that’s what you should look for. A common thing to do in Iceland has a few drinks at home before going out. You can get some supplies in a duty-free shop at the airport.
If you stay in hotels, you’ll spend a fortune. The same applies to guest-houses and other comfy accommodations with more privacy. Even rural farmhouses can’t be called affordable. Across the whole country, you may find lots of hostels and campsites, and those are one of the best options. Hostels tend to charge extra for sheets, so bring a sleeping bag. If you camp, it’s better to have your tent. Wild camping in Iceland is legal and common, so if you’re an adventurer, you don’t even need to pay for campsites. For groups of friends traveling together using a vacation rental is an excellent way to save up some money. Not only you’ll pay less for the accommodation itself, but you’ll also have a kitchen so that cooking will be easy. Another alternative is hospitality exchange. Take a look at Couchsurfing.com; many people are willing to host guests all around Iceland. If you’re planning a longer stay in the icy country, what about volunteering? On Helpx.net and Workaway.com you can find many farms, cafés, and hostels where volunteers work a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation.
Avoid pricey attractions
Like each country, Iceland has overrated tourist attractions. Many things can be considered fun, but not enough to pay such a high price. Blue Lagoon is one example. It’s a lovely place, but Iceland has many beautiful places, and not all of them have an entrance fee of $40 (about $50 during the summer).
…And enjoy the free ones instead!
Luckily, even though some of the attractions are costly, most of them are free. Icelandic nature is incredible, and wherever you look, you’re going to see something beautiful. Scenic walks, bike tours, watching waterfalls and geysers, visiting old churches, seeing glaciers, volcanoes and craters – it’s all free. Don’t worry that visiting Iceland on a budget makes no sense because you’ll skip too many highlights. It’s better to travel there without much money than to do not do it at all. And since the country’s so stunning, your trip will surely be eventful, no matter how thin your wallet is.
If you have some other tips for traveling Iceland on a budget, let us know! And share this article; your friends should be aware one doesn’t have to be rich to visit Iceland. Who knows, perhaps they’ll plan their trip right away.