There’s no getting away from it: Iceland is an expensive place to travel. I don’t think I’ve ever visited anywhere that’s noticeably more expensive than where I currently live. I’m not suggesting you should penny-pinch the entire time on your trip, but if you’re travelling on a budget its worth being well-informed about how you can make some easy savings.
I’ve tried to give an indication of prices throughout – these were correct a the time of writing – but beware that exchange rates may fluctuate.
Restaurant food is very expensive in Iceland so you can save a lot by cooking for yourself as much as possible. Bonus supermarket is the cheapest supermarket in Iceland. It’s a good idea shop at one of the slightly bigger, out of town, ones before you embark on your road trip as they have the biggest selection and are more likely to have the more affordable ranges. We managed to shop for the two of us for eight days for 16000 ISK (€125). See here for some examples.
If you stay in a hotel try to get one with breakfast buffet included. Some days we ate a massive breakfast at 10:30 and didn’t need another meal until dinner.
Having said that, value for money does increase massively at the higher end – a basic burger and chips will cost at least 2500 ISK (€20), whereas a taster menu at one of Iceland’s best restaurants is around 10,000 ISK (€80) – so you might be able to treat yourself with something fancy once or twice with the money you’ve saved.
If you’re self catering try to predict what things – salt and pepper, olive oil, washing powder – you can take with you to save buying from the supermarket. We brought our dehydrated ‘Adventure food’ pouches with us for the walk, but I really wished I’d taken a thermos flask too (to have a mug of tea whilst out on the road) as the cheapest ones we could find were about 5000 ISK (€40).
There is an Uber equivalent in Iceland called ‘Taxi Hreyfill’, but Taxis are insanely expensive, even by Iceland standards. Much better to download the Streato bus app (single tickets are 440 ISK (€3.50)) or walk wherever possible.
If you’re hiring a vehicle find out whether they can pick you up before and after your rental. Lagoon Car Hire did this for us and it saved us a lot of money in taxi fares. The Flybus Plus ticket from Keflavik airport direct to (and from) your Reykjavik hotel is also really good value.
Alcohol is taxed heavily in Iceland, and is very expensive as a result so you can save a lot by buying alcohol at the duty-free shop in your departure airport or even inside Keflavik airport.
Use the ‘Appy Hour’ app to find the cheapest drinking spots at any particular moment in Reykjavik. Most places offer half price beer (still 700-800 ISK (€6)), but some reduce the price of wine or cocktails too. Be warned, a small beer (half pint) is usually the same price as a large.
Iceland has some beautiful geothermal spas, such as the Blue Lagoon and Laugarvatn Fontana, but entry prices are usually between 4000 (€30) and 6000 ISK (€45), and may not even include a towel.
I much preferred the natural hotpots, which are much more secluded and completely free. The Hotpot Iceland website is very useful for finding these.
Geothermal swimming pools are also much cheaper than spas (750 ISK (€5.5)) – though not as glamorous – and usually have hotpots, steam rooms, and saunas too.
The local area brochures have pretty decent road maps on them. Pick these up for free from The Icelandic Travel Market tourist information centre at the bottom of the Bankastræti in the centre of town. Iceland has such good mobile data reception that you can safely navigate using your smart phone or GPS in combination with these maps.
We made the mistake of buying the Laugevauger map for the hike, it was very expensive and the 1:100,000 scale was useless for navigation purposes. A GPS is much more useful but be certain you know how to use it, and always take an extra set of brand new batteries.
Be sure to download the ‘112 Iceland’ app to your smartphone. Whenever you check in it sends a record of your position to the safety authorities and sends back any relevant weather/volcano warnings for your location.
These are the screw fitting type. They cost about 1000 ISK (€8) from camping shops and petrol stations, but most larger campsites have a place where people can leave unwanted food and gas canisters. Reykjavik campsite is a good place to pick up some of these items if you’re staying in Reykjavik the night before embarking on a trip (includes walking or driving then). You can easily check how full a canister is by placing it in a bowl of water.