The Beginner's Guide to Visiting Iceland Without Going Broke
Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited and quite a study in contrasts. Whether you're looking for the cosmopolitan European travel experience, rugged, outdoor adventure travel, or a destination where you can immerse yourself in history and culture - Iceland has it all. For those of us who must be mindful of our coins, Iceland is expensive! Here are a few tips that I promise will take the pressure off your pockets and won't destroy your budget.
WOW Airlines is Iceland's newest, low-fare carrier. They fly to Reykjavík from 13 US cities. Basic prices range from $119.99 - $269.99 depending upon your departure city and when you're traveling. Like Spirit Airlines, WOW's ticket prices increase with selected add-ons. I haven't flown WOW yet, I flew United on this trip, so I can't speak personally about the WOW experience. I haven't heard any complaints from friends who have traveled with them so do consider them.
I highly recommend booking with Airbnb. This is key to saving money while in Iceland. You'll find a range of prices from as little as $35 per night to $182+ per night. You can choose to book a shared room, private room, or an entire house/apartment. I know you can book a hostel even cheaper in some cases but with Airbnb if you choose a shared or private room you'll be sharing the kitchen and bathroom with considerably fewer people than you would in a hostel. During my trip, we booked a spacious studio apartment in Hamravik which was a 15-minute drive from downtown Reykjavík and 5-10 minutes from supermarkets, a movie theatre, sports bar, bowling alley, and fitness center. The cost was about $115 per night once the cleaning fee and service fee were added to the base price. You can check out the listing here.
Reykjavík is a very walkable city. If you're staying in or near downtown you could probably get by without renting a car. I suggest you rent one because it makes getting to and from the airport much easier (Keflavik International Airport is a 45 - 60-minute drive from Reykjavík).. I booked our rental online and we paid roughly $30 per day as well as a flat fee of $130 for their insurance. If you choose not to go with the rental company's insurance they will place up to a $3000 hold on your credit card. The hold is released a few days after you return the rental.
Listen up my loves. Eating in Iceland can break you. For example, a 12-inch sub, curly fries and a soda will cost you $26. In a restaurant or café, you’ll spend $18 for soup, $14 for a salad, and almost $5 for a cup of coffee. Now imagine eating, at minimum, two meals a day in a restaurant or café - get thine ass to the supermarket immediately!
There were two supermarkets with several locations in and around Reykjavík - Bonus and Hagkaup. Bonus is the budget supermarket. Prices are the cheapest at Bonus. Hagkaup is like Super Wal-Mart because they sell clothing and housewares too. Their prices are the Icelandic equivalent of Whole Foods, however.
When you're on vacation, of course, you want to eat out. You must try the local foods and besides who wants to cook every day? We struck a nice balance by cooking and eating at least one meal a day at our Airbnb. There are a couple of good restaurants in downtown Reykjavík that have great food and won't bankrupt you. Restaurant Reykjavík has a lunch buffet for $20 per person and a brunch buffet for $30 per person. Icelandic Street Food is a small restaurant that serves authentic Icelandic fare. The menu is limited but the food is good. They give you decent portions and best of all unlimited refills!!
If you're a drinker, pay attention. Drinks are hella expensive!! On average, two drinks will set you back $40!! That is total madness!! I can buy four drinks in Philly for $40!! Anyway, I digress. Here's the workaround for the drink situation. When you land at Keflavik International Airport pop into the duty-free shop and pick up a couple of bottles of your liquor of choice.
Iceland has a rich and interesting history and culture. There are several museums, historical monuments, and sites located right in Reykjavík. The cost of admission to the museums is on par with what you would find in the U.S. There are even things you can see and do for free! As far as must-dos, you can't go to Iceland without visiting The Blue Lagoon or taking The Golden Circle tour.
The Blue Lagoon is a favorite among travelers. Over one million people visited it in 2017. It's expensive, but it is worth every dime! As you wade out into the beautiful iridescent blue waters of the lagoon you can't help but be awed by the lava rocks that surround it. The waters are mineral rich and naturally heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The second must-do is the Golden Circle tour which is a full-day (8 hours) guided tour around Iceland. It was amazing! It is easy to see why it is one of the most popular day trips you can take from Reykjavík. We stopped at Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall, the Geysir, Faxi waterfall, and Skalholt Cathedral. The cost for two people was around $130.
As you can see, Iceland deserves a spot on your bucket list. It is a beautiful country with one of a kind experiences. It can be expensive though. Hopefully, this blog post will help you keep travel expenses manageable, so you can enjoy what Iceland has to offer. If you want to see more photos of this one-of-a-kind country follow me on Instagram: @journey_with_jae. As always, sharing is caring so feel free to share this post.