It is been a well-known fact that Iceland is one of the most expensive destinations in the World. You cannot simply dismiss this knowledge with the usual: “Oh, I’ll just eat out of the grocery shops then, I don’t really mind eating sandwiches for a week”. However, there are some tricks to keep those costs under control, and within a reasonable budget.
The truth is, Iceland does not have that many grocery shops, and those that are within a somewhat ‘reasonable’ price range are all located in Reykjavik, its capital city. When driving deeper into the countryside of Iceland, you will quickly discover that your options for a decent (i.e. affordable) meal are even fewer. So what should you do then, if you are not prepared to shed a thousand dollars for a week worth of average food?
Let’s start with the easiest option:
1. Bring some food with you in a check-in luggage.
Although there are some laws against importing food from foreign destinations, chances are no one will stop you, unless you pack your entire grandmother’s garden with you. Here are some ideas of what you could pack for your Icelandic journey: some canned food (tuna, chicken, sardines, baked beens, etc.); a few packets of pasta or rice, a small can of peanut butter, a zipper bag with some salt, sugar and coffee, etc.
If you are traveling to Iceland in the Summer, you won’t find too many affordable hotels. Or even hostels for that matter. So if you have never tried Airbnb before, you might as well do so now. Another option is to… camp out in a tent. But since the weather in Iceland can be rather unpredictable and at times quite dangerous, we wouldn’t recommend that option (unless you are an experienced Boy/Girl Scout, then you can try the tent as well, of course).
3. Prepare your meals at “home”.
If you are staying in an Airbnb apartment, chances are the local host would allow you to use their kitchen, which is a fantastic deal for you since you can save a ton of money by preparing your meals at home. Cooking your own food is not only a cheaper option but also a healthier one too. You can also pre-cook your meals in advance, and pack them with you on a tour. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating from a container, lot’s of people do it.
4. Bring your warmest clothes.
The last thing you want to do is go clothes shopping in Iceland. The cheapest (and the crappiest) pair of gloves can easily cost $30-40 USD. With that said, the weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable, and it can get very cold, very quickly, even in the Summer. So what should you pack then? A winter hat, a pair of your warmest gloves, a scarf, several sweaters, a light winter jacket, a good, warm pair of shoes… regardless of the season. Yep, that goes even for the “warmest” months of the year (i.e. July and August).
5. Go to “Happy Hours”.
When staying in Reykjavik, you shouldn’t pass on going out just because the prices are ridiculous. Almost every bar and restaurant in Reykjavik offers happy hour deals for drinks and some appetizers. You can find the places on a google map, or just by walking around – all of them will have the happy hour signs with the actual hours listed.
6. Don’t take any taxis.
The taxis alone can be one of your biggest expenses. Instead you can easily book a bus ticket to and from the airport (Grayline offers a great service delivering you right to your door, click here for more info), or even rent a car. If you are traveling alone, it might be best to take a bus, since the car rental is pricey and it’s a great option if you can share the costs with others.
However, you can still rent a car, even if traveling alone, as it will save you a ton of money on the tours. You can research the car rental companies, as well as the bus routes online or upon arrival to Reykjavik (you will find a ton of brochures and advertising everywhere in the city center, the airport, your hotel, grocery shops, or the tourist information center).
Another great benefit of renting a car is that you can travel to more far-away places in Iceland that are not on the usual tourist radar. And, you can travel longer. Think about it: you can easily go on a roadtrip around Iceland for 12 days or more, and still stay on a budget!
7. Travel off-season.
Finally, if you don’t mind the cold, and the wind, and the snow, and the long dark hours, when the sun is out anywhere from 6 to 1 hours a day, then you should definitely consider coming in the ‘off-season’ – which means any month from mid-September until May. Iceland is very beautiful under any conditions, and in any season, believe it or not.
Although, if you do come during the darkest months, you will have an incredible opportunity to witness the famous Northern lights. And that alone should be enough to entice you, regardless of the fact that everything will be cheaper from the flights to the accommodations, and to even the car rentals (excluding the food and drinks, of course).
If you would like to find some more tips on Iceland, check out this article: 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To Iceland.
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So have you been to Iceland yet? How much did you spend?