Iceland on a Budget

 

Gulfoss Waterfall
Gulfoss Waterfall

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, you’ve probably already heard that it’s expensive. While this is true, it is possible to travel to Iceland on a relatively small budget with a few concessions. If you’re less budget conscious, you can still use these tips to prioritize your spending. Here are some tips for saving money from the start of your trip until the finish.


Plane tickets

Wow Air

Wow Air has incredible deals on airfare to Iceland, starting as low as $99 depending on your timing and departure airport. My husband and I flew directly from Chicago to Reykjavik for $350 apiece, leaving on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday. As usual, checking prices mid-week and clearing the cookies on your browser can help keep your costs low.

One thing to keep in mind: Wow Air is a super-budget airline and little extras will add to your total ticket price. For example, it’s about $8 to select your seat, $25 to bring a carry on bag, and even water or coffee on the flight has a price tag. Make sure to factor these costs in when you’re booking. Also, make sure to pay for carry on and checked baggage ahead of time, either when you book or a few days before you fly. The prices increase dramatically at the counter.


Airport transportation via FlyBus

The Reykjavik airport is about a half hour from the city center. If you’re not renting a car, taking the FlyBus is probably your best bet, as taxis are very expensive and they don’t have Uber or Lyft. If you’re heading to the Blue Lagoon as part of your trip, the FlyBus can also take you there and then drop you off at the bus stop of your choice afterwards. It’s $5 to store a large bag at the Blue Lagoon, and smaller items can be stored in the locker that’s included with your visit.


Accommodations

Window View from our AirBnb
Window view from our AirBnb

For solo travelers, Kex Hostel is a hip and relatively inexpensive option. For couples or groups, an AirBnb may be even more affordable. After price comparing a single room at a hostel vs. an AirBnb, the AirBnb won out. It’s also great to have a kitchen if you plan on buying groceries (see below).


Thermal pools

Sundholl in Reykjavik
Sundholl in Reykjavik

The thermal pool experience of choice is of course the Blue Lagoon. We went at a price of $81 apiece plus transportation and to us, it was a highlight of the trip and felt worth it. At the same time, we enjoyed public pools like Laugardalslaug and Sundholl almost as much. For $10 a person including lockers, you can swim in heated pools, lounge in one of many hot tubs, and sit in saunas for as long as you’d like. Plus, the public pools feel like a much more authentic experience, with most of the patrons being locals. Did you know that 90% of Icelanders go to the pools at least 3 times each week? There’s no better way to soak in the culture. Pun intended.


Food

Beyond finding affordable airfare and accommodations, the #1 way to stay within budget is to buy groceries rather than going out to eat. Though I love a good meal out as much as the next person, the average entree for one person in Iceland is at least $20. Even quick takeaway items from cafes or convenience stores are quite pricey (think $15 for a sandwich and beverage). The solution? Go to Bonus, an inexpensive and popular Icelandic grocery store. To my surprise, groceries were very affordable and there was a wide selection. For vegetarian travelers, look for several kinds of faux sausage in the freezer area – a veg take on a local favorite.

Snacks from Bonus
Snacks from Bonus

Also, keep in mind that if you have tours scheduled, they are likely to stop at a restaurant or cafe for lunch. To save some cash, bring lunch and snacks with you instead. As a side note, some tour busses will let you eat on the bus and others will not.


Drinks

One of our first nights in town my husband and I went out and each ordered one local beer. The tab was over $30 – whoops! I’d read but hadn’t fully processed just how expensive alcohol is in Iceland. If you want to go out for drinks, it’s worth spending a little time looking for nearby happy hours; most bars have them.

In the grocery stores you’ll only find alcohol under 2.25%, though these “near-beers” are less than $1. For anything else, you’ll need to head to a government-owned liquor store called Vinbudin. Decent local beers run $2-5 and a pack of six of these little Brennivins runs about $30.

Brennivin

Yet another option is to purchase alcohol at the duty free store at your home airport and bring it with you. The people in front of us at the Blue Lagoon were checking their bags, complete with a case of beer and box of wine. At the time I thought that seemed like a hassle, but later I realized how smart this was, especially for travelers on a budget who still want to be able to imbibe a glass of wine some nights.


Take Advantage of What’s Free

Inside the Harpa Concert Hall
Inside the Harpa Concert Hall

One great thing about Iceland is that the best things are free. I loved walking up and down the oceanfront, photographing the outdoor piece of art, Sun Voyager, with the mountains in the background, and exploring the gorgeous Harpa Concert Hall. For an added bonus, check out the Harpa schedule to see a free, open rehearsal of the Iceland Symphony.

Me with the Sun Voyager
Me with the Sun Voyager

What tips or tricks do you use to save money during your travels? Post in the comments below! Like this post? Do me a huge favor and pin the image below.

Like the idea of using Airbnb but have never tried it before? Click here for a $40 credit on your first stay. Full disclosure: my husband and I also receive a credit for the referral, at no additional cost to you.

Iceland on a Budget Blog Post

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