Iceland is an incredible destination to explore, but it can also get quite costly. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to visiting Iceland on a budget.
While there’s no doubt you could hit the credit card hard here, there are also ways and means to minimise your spending. Here comes our ultimate ‘Iceland on a budget’ travel guide.
How to travel to Iceland on a budget
First things first, shop around for your flight. Keep an eye on offers and seasonal price drops and take advantage of them if you can. If you are flexible on when you travel and you’re not tied to school holidays, then you’ll find some much cheaper options.
Consider traveling in the low season
The summer high season (June-August) is the most popular time to travel to Iceland by far. At this time of year, flight prices will be higher, as will tourism services within the country.
Everything from car hire to accommodation and tours will be pricier, which is why visiting out of season is our top tip for how to travel Iceland on a budget.
The months either side of the summer are a far more budget-friendly time to travel. Everything will be a little quieter and more affordable in April/May and September/October. For an overview of the various costs to consider on a trip to Iceland, visit our article How Expensive is Iceland for Travellers?
Shorter does not mean cheaper
Some people also advise minimizing your time in Iceland to save money. While this might make sense on the surface, we tend to disagree. One of the biggest expenses when you travel to Iceland is the flight cost. Once you’ve shelled out money for that you don’t want to rush around trying to cram too much into a short space of time.
Rushing will almost certainly mean that you end up spending unnecessarily. Instead, we suggest slowing down. Choose a shorter itinerary but take more time to check off the items on your list.
Stay longer in places and get into a rhythm of making more budget-friendly travel choices. There is plenty you can do to cut costs if you do some research and take your time.
Getting around Iceland on a budget
Your best bet for exploring Iceland on a budget is to rent a car in Reykjavik and take a road trip. Joining an organized tour will be pricier and more limiting. Not to mention traveling by public transport in Iceland is tricky. Having your own car allows you to be independent and explore where and when you want to.
One exception to the rule is if you are spending time in Reykjavík. In the capital, it is quite easy to explore on foot, and public transport in the city is very much affordable. If you’re spending a few days in the capital then consider picking up a Reykjavík City Card which offers discounts on travel and leisure.
There are several other Iceland discount cards to be aware of too, from gas station discount cards to the Iceland camping card which helps visitors save at many campsites across the country.
Affordable Places to stay in Iceland
There’s no getting around it, accommodation will be one of your biggest expenses in Iceland. If you would like to save money, we do have a few suggestions, though.
Choosing to stay in hostels and rural farm stays over hotels will usually be cheaper. Shop around for budget options and consider staying longer in these pocket-friendly places once you’ve found some.
Since Iceland is a country well set up for camping with numerous sites to choose from, another budget accommodation option is to hire a car and go tent camping in Iceland. This is a very affordable means of traveling and you can hire camping kit in the gear shops in Reykjavik at a reasonable price.
Things to do in Iceland on a budget
One of the wonderful things about travelling in Iceland is that there is so much to do for free. Iceland is all about being outside and seeing the country’s many natural wonders.
And the vast majority are completely free. From visiting Iceland’s national parks to hiking and sightseeing, picturesque plans like these won’t cost you a penny.
If you love the great outdoors then it really is simple and easy to travel Iceland on a budget. You just need to pack your all-weather gear and hit the road. From rushing waterfalls to black sand beaches, glaciers and volcanoes, Iceland offers sight after incredible sight. You can even take free dips in the island nation’s wild hot springs.
If there are other paid experiences you’d like to enjoy then choose wisely. Do you need to go on a boat trip to see whales and puffins? Perhaps not if you can spot them from the shore! Just remember to save your hard-earned cash for the experiences that are closest to your heart.
Options for Low-priced food & drinks in Iceland
Restaurants in Iceland are very likely going to be more expensive than you are used to. But eating in Iceland on a budget is possible.
In the capital try heading to one of Reykjavik’s street food hubs or opt for take away lunches from bakeries and supermarkets. Also look out for stands selling hot dogs: the cheap and cheerful on-the-go snack for many Icelanders.
For saving money on meals, try to stay in self-catered accommodation when possible. That way you can do a big supermarket shop and cook for yourselves.
If you are going the camping route, hire a cooking stove and whip up some one-pot wonders for your travel crew. Alternatively, make use of the campsite BBQ for alfresco dining.
Stocking up on snacks like fruit, granola bars and biscuits is a great idea, too. That way you won’t get caught out getting too hungry and spending unnecessary cash. And make sure that you bring a refillable water bottle so that you can top up from the tap. Iceland’s drinking water is some of the purest in the world, so get sipping.
Cut down on alcohol
When it comes to drinking alcohol in Iceland, this is where you’ll likely get the biggest shock. The price of a beer can be quite high, so a night on the town really adds up.
Or, instead of buying any alcohol at all, you could consider going dry for the duration of your trip. But if that doesn’t appeal then look out for happy hours when out and about. There’s even an Iceland App for that!
What most travelers do is buy a few bottles of their favorite drink in the Keflavik Airport duty-free shop. Then you can have a couple of drinks at your accommodation or campsite. From there head out for a couple and enjoy the atmosphere of a local bar.
Do Iceland on a budget!
A good way to approach trip planning is to do a budget breakdown with approximate costs. That way you’ll have a ballpark figure to work with and you can keep tabs on spend as you go. Breaking down the different Iceland costs will give you a clearer picture of what you can and can’t do ahead of your trip.
Finally, when you are ready to set off make sure that you pack carefully. Taking everything that you need with you means that you won’t need to buy anything extra once you’ve arrived.
As well as all your clothes and gear, you could fill out your case with things like snack bars, chocolate or coffee. Anything that will help you save a little here and there in Iceland will help!