How We Saved Money As We Travelled Around Iceland.
Iceland is definitely one of the more expensive places we have visited, especially when it comes to eating out and drinking alcohol. Of course, our assertion that Iceland is “expensive” is relative and for anyone their idea of somewhere or something being expensive (or not) is always affected by a number of other factors, such as where they are from, the cost of living in their home country, their income, their budget, the duration of their trip and so on. For us, €14 for a glass of wine or small bottle of beer is expensive and that was what we were faced with in Iceland. Don’t worry though, as always, we had researched our trip to Iceland as we do with every trip so the prices were not a surprise to us, we had been well warned!
If we were only visiting Iceland for a short break we probably have done things differently (i.e stayed in a hotel, taken guided tours and eaten out more) but as we had two weeks we decided to take a somewhat economical approach. While renting a car for two weeks was not cheap, it meant we didn’t have to do any guided tours and could stay wherever we wanted, often choosing to stay outside towns which did result in cheaper accommodation. Here are some of the other ways that we reduced our “living” costs while we explored Iceland.
1. Visit During Shoulder/Low Season.
The time of year that you visit Iceland (or any destination) will always have an impact the cost of the trip. Flights, accommodation and car rental are just a few things that are often cheaper in off/low season and more expensive in peak season. However, you must way up the benefits of saving money by going in low season with the reality of what the place you are visiting will be like at this time - i.e. What will the weather be like? Will all the attractions that you want to visit be open? Will tours still be operating? and so on.
We definitely saved money on our flights and accommodation by visiting in October and I am fairly certain the car rental was also cheaper than it would have been in peak season.
2. Stay in Self-Catering Accommodation & Cook For Yourself!
Staying in self-catering accommodation such as private apartments or in guest houses with shared kitchens (Iceland has lots of these!) are a great way to save money. Hostels will be even cheaper if you don’t mind sharing a room with others. You can cook dinner in the evenings and have breakfast before you leave in the mornings. If you are very organised you can even make packed lunches and snacks to bring with you for your day of exploring. This worked really well for us and it is actually something we tend to do no matter where in the world we go. We keep the dinners quick and simple so they are easy to prepare and cook in a shared (sometimes busy) kitchen. One item we always buy are frozen vegetables. They are just so handy in these instances and are a lot cheaper than buying fresh vegetables in Iceland.
3. Bring Some Staple Food Items From Home.
We brought some non-perishable food items with us from Ireland. We brought what we regard as staple items, food items that we eat daily and knew we would want in Iceland but might find it hard to get and/or had read online were very expensive in Iceland. For example, we brought bags of nuts and cereal bars. We also brought oats, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds as we always add these to our oats at breakfast (and we knew we would be self-catering). Again, this is something that we always do when we are travelling.
4. Purchase Alcohol in Keflavik Airport Duty Free.
When it comes to alcohol, the prices in bars and restaurants were mad, €10-14 euro for a small bottle of beer or a glass of wine. So, with this in mind and after reading about this before we flew to Iceland, we visited the “duty-free” shop in Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport when we landed (it was so busy everyone had the same idea). We bought 3 bottles of wine (€12/bottle which wasn’t far off Irish prices) and 8 cans of beer for our two week holiday. This worked out great for us, especially as we self-catered for the majority of our trip. When we did eat in restaurants we chose not to drink any alcohol. No alcohol wasn’t an issue as we were always exhausted from our long days of sightseeing and driving so we just wanted some food and to go to bed.
5. Take Advantage of Large Chain Supermarkets & Gas Stations!
If you, like us, are going to drive around Iceland starting in Reykjavík, there are big supermarkets and gas stations near Keflavik airport which are the ideal place to stock up before you start your road trip. They are certainly cheaper then the local grocery stores you will encounter in the smaller towns and villages that you pass through. Pasta, pasta sauce, tinned beans, tinned tuna, rice cakes, cereal/oats and peanut butter are some of the things we bought initially to prepare simple dinners, breakfasts, snacks and packed lunches. You can then purchase fresh fruit/perishables in the local shops as required. Larger towns/cities will have these big supermarkets so be sure to take advantage of one when you find one. When it comes to refuelling your rental car, of course you are going to pay more for gas in remote areas so be wise and refuel whenever you can in the larger towns/cities.
6. Use the Mobile App “Appy Hour” in Reykjavík.
One great mobile app that we used in Reykjavík is called “Appy Hour”. This mobile app provides you with an up to date list of daily happy hours in Reykjavík so you can save yourself a few Króna and pay an almost normal price for the alcoholic tipple of your choice. We used this a few times and noticed a lot of other visitors doing the same!
From reading information online before we went to Iceland I was actually expecting it to be more expensive than it was so do not be put off! Yes, certain items are expensive but overall it really wasn’t too bad and once you are prepared then it isn’t even an issue.