Let’s face it- Iceland is one of the most expensive countries you can visit (besides Norway apparently). It’s also one of the most beautiful and amazing countries you can visit and is therefore highly recommended by myself.
We all know the basic and obvious ways to save money while traveling like staying in hostels and cooking your own meals in your hostel or hotel. But, there are a few tips specific to saving money while traveling in Iceland that I thought I would share here.
Pack a sleeping bag and tent.
Tenting in Iceland is by far the cheapest accommodation option. The general rule seems to be “if there is no fence, you can camp there” meaning that most of the country is fair game to camp on for free. Just make sure you take all your garbage with you! There is also the option of staying at the numerous camp sites throughout the country. Every little town seems to have it’s own campsite, with working toilets and sometimes showers (check out www.ttjalda.is for more info on sites in each region of Iceland). There is even a campsite in Reykjavik (www.reykjavikcampsite.is). In general, camping costs around 1,000 ISK or $10 CAD per night.
If you don’t feel up for camping, definitely still take a sleeping bag with you. Many hostels and guest houses in Iceland offer “sleeping bag accommodation” for a significantly cheaper rate than regular accommodation, meaning that you can simply use your sleeping bag rather than the linen provided by the hostel. For example, I stayed one night in a guest house in the West Fjords, and at this guest house the cheapest room for one night in regular accommodation was $110 CAD while the sleeping bag accommodation started at $40.
Hitchhiking is one of the best ways to travel the country, not only because you get to see more of the countryside, but you also get to meet all kinds of interesting people. In my experience, Icelanders will go out of their way to provide you with interesting information about their country and make sure you arrive right at your destination. Unlike in North America, hitchhiking is not frowned upon but actually seen as a completely normal and safe way to travel in Iceland.
Shop at thrift stores.
Shopping in Iceland is expensive. Especially souvenir shopping. And of course, one of the typical souvenirs people look for in Iceland are the Icelandic sweaters, or lopapeysa. But at the equivalent of $220 (22,000 ISK) in most stores, they’re not exactly an affordable souvenir. However, prices for second hand sweaters start around $90-$100 (9,000 – 10,000 ISK). There are several thrift stores located along Laugavegar St. in Reykjavik that are easy to find. Or, if you’re an avid knitter like myself, there is always the option of buying yarn (one of the things that happen to be rather cheap in Iceland) and knitting your own.
Buy Brennivin at the airport.
By far the cheapest thing I bought during my stay was a 500ml bottle of Brennivin (Icelandic schnapps) at the duty free shop at Keflavik Airport. It cost only approximately 1,000 ISK ($10). Compared to the prices of liquor in Canada, it seemed like quite a good deal to me.
Pack snacks for the plane.
Unlike most other airlines I’ve flown with, Iceland Air did not provide any meals on my flight to and from Reykjavik. Instead, they give you a menu that you can order off of at any time you like (which is kind of nice, because then you don’t run into the whole being forced to eat whatever food they give you whenever they give it to you situation). However, the options are quite pricey as my friend and I discovered on the flight to Iceland. So, on the flight home we were prepared, and stocked our carry on bags with chocolate, cookies, and sandwiches to last us the 7 hour flight home.
Probably the biggest money saver for me during my trip to Iceland was the volunteering I did at the Arctic Fox Center in the West Fjords (http://www.melrakki.is). While volunteering at the center, I got to camp for free in the local campsite, and all of my meals were provided by the center. This meant that I essentially stayed in Iceland for 2 weeks for free! They are always looking for volunteers to help out both at the center, and doing monitoring on the nearby nature reserve.