Iceland is a hikers paradise, a photographers muse, and an explorers dream!
It is true that Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to travel to – but it is worth it! Iceland has one of the most beautiful, rugged landscapes in the world, sometimes making it feel like you are on a whole different planet. It is one of the few places where you can be completely alone in nature – perfect for the outdoor enthusiasts! Prepare to be amazed with countless hiking trails, mountains, lagoons, and biodiversity!
Although it is expensive, there are a few ways to cut costs! Firstly, I highly recommend staying more than just a couple weeks if you plan to explore the whole country. I backpacked the country for a few weeks and still need to go back to finish the rest! Through my experience, I have compiled my top tips on how to travel Iceland on a budget!
Buy Flights Early
Flights can go ridiculously cheap if you buy early! There are many discount airlines to use (my favorite is WowAir). Don’t go through an all-inclusive travel company, as you will be spending a lot more than needed. Buy your ticket and plan your trip yourself for more freedom!
Remember to also purchase luggage reservations ahead of time as it will cost more if you get it at the airport!
Travel During Low Season
The number of tourists in Iceland has grown tremendously over the years – the number now being over 2,000,000 per year! There are two seasons that draw in the most tourists: winter for the northern lights and summer for the warmer weather and midnight sun.
I travelled during May which was a month before the tourism starts to pick up. This was the perfect time to go because the weather was great, everything was blooming, and best of all – little to no tourists around! I felt I was able to have a true Icelandic experience and take in the landscape without crowds of tourists taking away from that.
Airport to Reykjavik
It will be very expensive to get from the airport to Reykjavik unless you book transportation in advance or if you have your rental waiting for you at the airport. If not, I would suggest travelling with FlyBus – cost is around $30.00 and it takes approximately an hour to get from the airport to the city. At the same time, you can book your ticket back to the airport for the lowest cost.
Rent a Campervan
Camping is a great way to cut costs and also allows for more freedom to explore the country – but remember to only camp in the designated campgrounds as it is illegal to set up camp elsewhere. Campervans cost anywhere $150.00 – $350.00 per night, depending on the time of year. Since I went during low season, the price of my rental was 50% off! I highly recommend renting with the small family owned rental company called Snail, they provide everything you need including sleeping bags, cookware, dishes…etc.!
This also allows you to get out of the main tourist cities, especially Reykjavik, and out into nature! Imagine falling asleep next to a flowing river or waking up to the sound of the birds chirping in the forest! The campervans are very cozy and the campsites are set up with everything you need!
Cook Your Own Food
Eating out is a sure way to spend the most money! Instead, opt for buying groceries and making your own food – not to mention, you’ll also end up with the most incredible views! For a little more perspective – a small cup of coffee is around $8.00, dinner at a restaurant is around $30.00, and a traditional Icelandic hotdog is around $7.00.
There are two great discount grocery stores to shop at: Bonus & Kronan. There are other stores near tourist spots that are quite expensive but the locals shop at these two, so you know you’re getting the best price!
Reusable Water Bottle
Iceland is one of the countries with the cleanest water in the world, you can literally drink fresh water from the waterfall (you can also drink the tap water anywhere)! Why would you buy expensive water bottles from the store, when you can drink it for free (and help the environment by not using plastic)!
Explore for Free
Although sometimes you will get caught paying a fee, especially around the Golden Circle where the tourists tend to migrate (*cough – Blue Lagoon – cough*), most of the time you can find absolutely breathtaking spots that are completely free! Just head off the main routes, get a little lost, and you will find the best hidden spots! All of my favorite spots were found by chance & by not by following a map!
There are a variety of museums in the towns that you can stop at but be warned that they charge a pretty penny! For me, the best way to experience Iceland was not through the museums but by hiking to the summits, chatting with the locals, and getting lost in nature!
A lot of people tend to stay in one city and do day tours out of the city. This is by far the most expensive way to travel and also the least authentic! You are packed in a huge bus with a crowd of other tourists and driven from place to place with nothing more than a 20 minute stop at each location. You also don’t really get to experience the stop with your fellow tour group asking for their photo every other minute!
Stay tuned for my blog on top sites around Iceland!
Check out my Photo Series on Iceland here!