Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and one of the most expensive to visit. Flight prices are cheap, the expense comes into play once you arrive, especially with eating and drinking. Accommodation costs are similar to destinations in Europe, like France and England. The difference is that there are limited options, so prices rise fast. There are also very few budget-friendly options. I have included some ways to minimize your costs and ensure you still have a great trip to Iceland!
Grocery shop at Bonus
Bonus supermarket is famous for being the cheap grocery store in Iceland. There are a few locations around the country and at least 3 in Reykjavik. Bonus has good pricing, not dissimilar to Australia or England. We visited Bonus the day after we arrived and stocked up on wraps for lunch, breakfast granola, snacks and easy dinner foods, like pasta.
Top Tip: Bring your own tea, coffee, nuts, and power bars!
Rent apartments or cabins with kitchens
The three of us booked two-bedroom apartments and cabins, all with kitchens. We cooked hearty breakfasts and made packable lunches. We weren’t slowed down by stopping for lunch, not to mention the cost savings. We ate out for most dinners, which wasn’t cheap, but we found the food to be one of the highlights. We didn’t have a bad meal. In fact, Icelandic food is some of the best I have experienced! Especially if you love seafood. Don’t miss the langoustine soup, which is often the cheapest thing on the menu, and one of the tastiest!
Top Tip: Have a hearty breakfast and pack lunch each day! Wraps work really well!
Take advantage of happy hour & duty-free alcohol
There is a duty-free store on arrival for passengers flying into Reyjavik. We bought a couple of bottles of wine when we arrived. We also took full advantage of the excellent happy hour specials. The best happy hours are in Rekjavik and Akureyri. Happy hour generally runs from 4-6 pm but varies per establishment.
Favourite happy hours in Rekjavik: KEX hostel, Big Lebowski, Bar Ananas, and Boston.
Favourite happy hours in Akureyri: Mulaberg, R5, Cafe Amour, Aurora Bar
Rent a motorhome
The benefit of booking a motorhome is that your transport and accommodation are taken care of! It also means you have more flexibility in your travels. In Iceland you don’t have to book sites, you can park anywhere! Although, space is limited and you get to use the facilities at a campsite. The main downside is that you will be confined to the main roads, as the campers won’t make it on some of the smaller mountain roads.
Do a tour that includes more
Booking a tour can be a great way to keep costs down, especially if you’re traveling solo. The benefit of a group tour is that it includes your transport, accommodation, guide, some activities, and some meals. Small group adventure companies such as Intrepid Travel offer alternatives to large bus tours. Their group size is limited to a maximum of 12 people.
Top Tip: There are free walking tours in Rekjavik. What a great way to orient yourself. At the end of the tour, tip what you feel the guide deserves!
Travel outside peak season
The peak season in Iceland is during the summer from June to September. This is when prices are at their highest and sites are at their busiest. Travel outside this time period to avoid the crowds and also save yourself some money on accommodation costs.
Top Tip: Travel in May or October. Visit during the winter for snowy activities. March is a great month to visit for Aurora Borealis.
Book accommodation early
Iceland is a small country with only 340,000 residents. There are limited accommodation options, especially in remote areas like Myvatn. It’s essential to book early no matter what time of year you are visiting, although this becomes more apparent between June and September when everything books out well in advance.
Top Tip: Book at least 6 months in advance for the best prices.
Enjoy all the free sights outside
One of the coolest things about visiting Iceland is that most of what you come for is free to see. We spent our days hiking in the mountains, chasing waterfalls and visiting volcanoes. Not to mention the other big draw – the northern lights, who don’t charge for their magical displays!
Top Tip: Plan to spend your days outside! Enjoy the true beauty of Iceland for nothing.
Iceland is one of my favourite countries. We had an incredible trip and it was worth every penny. When asked if it’s expensive I usually respond that eating out is costly but everything you do all day is mostly free, so it all equalizes. I found that by enjoying happy hours and only eating out for dinner, we cut down costs but still got to experience the incredible cuisine in Iceland. The food is a true highlight! That being said, you just can’t beat the scenery of endless waterfalls, volcanoes, and beaches. All of which are free to enjoy!