Iceland – the land of ice and fire – is mysterious, beautiful and breathtaking in many respects. But it is a costly experience – usually. I would like to share some ideas with you to make your next Iceland journey as budget-friendly as possible. Iceland is worth a visit and can be visited with a small and big purse.
So I took a chance this October to visit this marvelous island in the North Atlantic. October is one of the best month to see the aurora borealis. I wasn’t lucky this time and I am sure I will go back again with a bigger budget to chase northern lights again.
Okay, so let’s get started with my one-week Iceland tour. My itinerary can be found here on Google Maps.
First of all, figure out what you want to see and how remote these places are. Make sure you choose the right transport for the season and places you travel (private car, hitchhiking, public transport…). Iceland can be harsh due to the atlantic weather influence and weather changes quickly from sunshine to rain within 30 minutes. I have travelled the “classical route” from Reykjavik via the Golden Circle to the South Coast in Vik and finally the Skaftafell National Park.
I would like to introduce to you travelling by public busses since it is the cheapest option for a single Iceland explorer. If you have the opportunity to share costs for a car, this might be recommended. Check out the website of straeto, Iceland’s public transport inside and outside of Reykjavik. There are seasonal changes in the schedule, but usually you can get far easily from big places such as from the capital to other cities.
Another good idea might be carpooling. There is this popular website called samferda, where you can request a ride or search for other passengers to share costs. I had submitted a request, but wasn’t lucky. Usually people would request for a specific date or time, so you have to have big luck to match someone else’s calendar.
Once the question about the transport is sorted, ask yourself where to stay in Iceland. Icelandic hotels and Airbnb are far more expensive and comparable to prices in other Scandinavian countries. I stayed in hostels in shared rooms with up to 16 bunk beds (such as in Bus Hostel in Reykjavik). But Reykjavik city has a bunch of couchsurfers who offer their couches and beds for travellers for free or just want to meet up with other people from around the world.
Make friends with locals and dive into Icelandic culture! Sometimes you are lucky and you will be taken on an authentic sightseeing tour – for free.
One more important budget-saving advice is shopping in supermarkets and cook yourself in the hostel kitchen. Since restaurant prices are exorbitant high, you can treat yourself with a coffee and cake from one of the local small coffee shops, too. Make a visit to a cafe a special visit and enjoy it! Still, it should be an enjoyable holiday for you, too.
Summary of my tips to Iceland:
- public transport for single travellers / shared car casts or carpooling for those with travel mates
- staying in hostels in shared rooms or try out couchsurfing (takes some time to find a place though, there are not many couchsurfers outside of the capital)
- cook in hostels and eat from supermarkets (e.g. Krónan and Bonus) instead of restaurants
- Do what locals do: e.g. visit public thermal pools (such as Vesturbaejarlaug in Reykjavik for approx. 7€ / 1.000 iKr) instead of the more touristic and crowdy Blue Lagoon (from 50 € / 7.000 iKr upwards).
- most important: make friends with locals! Not easy, but they are very helpful with getting around Iceland once the ice is broken 🙂
Checklist to consider in Iceland for a small budget:
- How to travel? Transport: car, bus, hitchhiking…
- Where to stay? Accomodation: Hostels, hotels, Couchsurfing, Airbnb…
- What to see? Sightseeing: National Parks (remote areas), cities (easy to reach)…
- What and where to eat? Basic surviving: Supermarkets, restaurants, other spendings etc.
- Always keep some extra budget for unexpected expenses.
Check out my rough budget plan on travelling Iceland:
For those who want to be more independent on a road trip: A small passenger car is usually available at around 300 € / week upwards. But during winter season 4×4 wheel drive is recommended.