Are you travelling on a budget and want to visit Iceland? Here are 10 helpful travel tips for your adventure tour to Iceland.
When it comes to delivering news, we’re big fans of the sandwich method; that is, layering the bad news between a couple slices of good. Luckily (and this is your first taste of good news), on the menu today is a hefty hoagie, piled high with enough good to overpower the bad.
The bad news is that travelling in Iceland can be expensive. Depending on what city you call ‘home’, you may feel downright faint at the sight of the prices for food, drink, and souvenirs in our little corner of the North Atlantic.
But, fear not, intrepid budget traveller. We’re about to stack your sandwich high with some tasty tips for exploring this island without going broke.
Travel to Iceland in the Off-Season
Summer in Iceland is stunning. Long, bright nights; mild temperatures; lush, green moss. But do you know what else is beautiful? Icelandic autumn, winter, and spring.
Iceland is a all year-round destination. Not only will travelling in the shoulder season mean you’ll avoid the biggest crowds at Iceland’s must-see sites, you’ll also save your krónur by scoring off-season prices on your rental cars, tours and accommodation. What’s more, is that autumn in Iceland sees the expansive mossy fields take on glorious shades of orange and yellow, and the long, dark nights (from mid-October through early April) give you a chance to spot the magical northern lights—maybe on one of those off-season priced tours we mentioned.
Book Your Accommodation in Advance
The early bird catches the worm, and the early booker scores the deals. If you’re looking to make your money go further, get a jump on booking your accommodation in Iceland. Booking in advance will also ensure that you have a cosy, eco-friendly place where you can rest your head and feel good about it.
Hop on the Bus
While you’re pre-planning your accommodation, be sure to check out Iceland’s extensive bus system. Of course, the greater Reykjavík area is a cinch to navigate by foot and via public transit, but so is much of the country.
Strætó services the capital region and runs long-distance buses to and between a number of Iceland’s other towns, big and small… or, more accurately, small and smaller. Buy a bus passport and circumnavigate the entire country in comfort.
A number of private bus companies also operate buses along the South Coast, from Reykjavík to such popular hiking spots as Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk. If you’re not too enchanted by the stunning Icelandic landscapes, you could even catch a few winks so you can hit the ground running once you reach your destination.
Rent a Car
If you’re on a tighter schedule or simply crave the freedom of driving where you want, whenever you want, then renting a car could be the smart choice. Renting in the off-season will get you a lower daily rate, and making friends at your comfortable and friendly HI hostel could score you a buddy to hold the map, play road-trip DJ or, at the very least, pitch in for the cost of the rental and gas. If you do rent a car, be sure to follow the rules of the road, the regulation of the rental company and to respect Iceland’s delicate nature—off-road driving is a huge no-no!
This brings us to our next trusty money-saving tip…
Travel Around Iceland Without a Car
We’re not saying you should walk around Iceland—though many have hoofed the 1,332 km Ring Road — but, if your schedule is a little more relaxed, you can easily travel around Iceland without your own car. As proponents of all things green, HI encourages car sharing and can even help you connect with a fellow-traveller with a spare seat or two.
Taking advantage of the bus routes throughout the country—don’t forget that bus passport! —is another way to keep your carbon footprint low while seeing Iceland without a personal vehicle. And if you do feel like getting that heart rate up, you could always see Iceland on two wheels.
Whip up Some Grub
You can easily empty your wallet sampling the local fare, but you can save big by eating in for a meal or two each day. Stock up on the basics at the grocery store and play chef at your HI hostel kitchen. Even if you just BYOB (that’s “bring your own breakfast”), you’ll save.
After a long day of car-pooling from point A to B, you and your new HI friends can even go Dutch on the ingredients for a group meal to cook together while reminiscing about all the stunning waterfalls, mountains and glaciers you saw that day.
Grocery Shop on a Budget
Even if you’re cooking all your meals for yourself—though, we recommend treating yourself to some of the local delicacies to get a real taste of Iceland—you could end up paying a hefty amount. Particularly when you get into more remote areas of the country, the cost of produce can soar. Make your money go further by stocking up in Iceland’s more budget-friendly chains (Bónus, Krónan and Nettó are all similarly priced), or stopping by farmers’ roadside stalls to buy greenhouse-fresh veggies right from the source.
Pro tip: If your grocery list includes alcohol or copious amounts of candy, shop duty-free on your way into the country for the best deals.
Put Down that Plastic Bottle!
Do not buy bottled water in Iceland! We repeat do not buy the bottled water! Get your daily dose of H2O without the environmental impact by bringing along a re-useable water bottle and filling it up with cold Icelandic spring water straight from the faucet.
That’s right, the stuff coming out of the tap is just as good as what you’ll buy in the store, only it comes without the plastic. You can even get a jump on your souvenir shopping and pick up a handsome stainless-steel Iceland-branded water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout your travels and show off to friends and family back home.
Find Free Things to Do
As mentioned earlier, Reykjavík is easy to navigate by foot. And do you know how much it costs to walk through the city? Exactly 0 ISK. What a deal!
What else is free? You can join free walking tours, take a hike, soak in a natural hot spring, check out the local music scene (bars rarely charge entrance fees, but be prepared to pay for the drinks), hit up Reykjavík’s geothermal beach, or check out the public art and murals that are to be found in many towns and villages around the country.
Your friendly HI hostel staff can likely point you in an enjoyable and economical direction, too. And here are couple of tips on free things to do in Reykjavik.
Do Your Research
Fortune favours the prepared and, conversely, being well-prepared could save you a fortune. Just as booking your accommodation in advance could save you some krónur, so could simply doing your research.
Make a list of what you absolutely must see and do during your time in Iceland and budget how much that is going to cost. If you have even a loose plan for your Icelandic adventure, you’re less likely to impulse buy while winging it.
This includes planning ahead for the weather conditions you’re likely to encounter during your travels. If you pack the right clothing and gear, you won’t have to shell out for expensive outerwear to keep you warm and dry.
There you have it: a good news sandwich so tasty, you’ve probably already forgotten what the bad news was.