If Iceland isn’t already on your list of places you have to travel to, then you need to put it on there ASAP! We visited a couple of weeks ago and I ticked three things off my bucket list; experiencing the northern lights, visiting a geothermal spa-namely the Blue Lagoon and snorkelling (and walking) in between tectonic plates. It is most definitely a place I would recommend to anyone, despite not being the typical sunny holiday destination. It’s absolutely freezing cold but when you’re well prepared with layers upon layers you won’t even notice (except for when you’re four layers in and you have an itch..), the only downside is the cost. If it happens to be on your ‘must visit’ list (or you’re thinking about it) but the cost is putting you off then you’re in the right place to find out exactly how to explore Iceland on a budget.
As mentioned, Iceland being an island is extremely expensive, worse than central London (yes that is possible). Think £7 for a small latte, £25 for a single course in a restaurant and £10 for a pint. Not to mention the ‘day tours’ and ‘experience packages’. However, I actually came home with spare money (FYI that was also after buying all the chocolate in the airport).
Reykjavik city centre
So here’s my tips for getting the most out of your trip to Iceland whilst sticking to a budget.
- Firstly, 5 days is plenty. Everyone we met was there for a similar amount of time -4-5 days. As Iceland isn’t a place for a casual stroll along the beach (it’s -2 degrees – a quick march to the closest bar is more like it) you can pack a lot into a short amount of time. This saves on dinner bills, hotel costs etc.
- If you’re after a boozy holiday full of late nights and lazy mornings, Iceland isn’t the place. The drink is crazy expensive and in my opinion there are so many better experiences to spend your money on, most of which, start early. However. If you do fancy a few, hit up the happy hours. There plenty of bars in Reykjavik with varying happy hours, ranging between around 3pm and 8pm with 2 for 1 on beers.
- Book before you go. I would advise you to plan all of the tours you want to do and book prior to leaving. We found that we paid a lot less than some of the people we met on the trips and it meant you don’t have to waste time while you’re there worrying about booking things, when and fitting it all in. Even the transfers to and from the airport and blue lagoon are cheaper to book online before you go.
- Try to find package deals. If you can be bothered, mix and match deals from different online agents to get the cheapest price. Bustravel.is is a lot cheaper than most of the other companies and wowair do some package deals which are worth checking out.
- Food- There are plenty of mini supermarkets dotted around Reykjavik city centre called 10/11. These are very expensive and aimed at tourists. If you walk up the main hill in Reykjavik to the top, there is another supermarket on the left called Bonus- this is half the price and is used by the locals.
- Get a hotel with breakfast included. We had a buffet breakfast so it meant we could skip lunch and just buy dinner. A single course is around £16-£30…
- The portion sizes are large, I know what you’re thinking, who goes out for dinner and only gets one course?! I thought the same but trust me, if your self control is strong enough, it’s plenty.
- Take snacks on the tours, although as aforementioned, find the cheaper supermarkets. Anywhere your tour guide stops for food will be doubly expensive.
Don’t get taxis! If you aren’t a fan of walking then make sure you get a hotel in central Reykjavik – a 5 minute taxi will set you back around £17.
ThingVellir National Park
Geysir Geothermal Area
Which tours to go on and which companies to use?
Northern Lights tour. Make sure you book this for the beginning of your holiday as if you aren’t lucky enough to catch the lights, the tour guides will take you out again the next night for free.
Blue Lagoon – Entrance fee and the transfer are sold separately so make sure you purchase both. If you can avoid the temptation and internet hype then there are plenty of other geothermal pools which are cheaper or free! However if you do go to the Blue Lagoon it’s worth visiting on your way to the airport as it is only 20 minutes away (luggage storage is available). This saves you on transfer fees as your return transfer from the Blue lagoon also offers to drop you at the airport instead!
Silfra- Snorkelling in between tectonic plates. Definitely not for everyone but a pretty amazing experience if it’s your thing! The water is some of the clearest and purest in the world. Iceland Adventure tours were the cheapest company we found for this.
Golden circle. A round circle trip well worth the money as you visit the Gullfoss waterfalls, Geysirs and Thingvellir national park – whilst the countryside is fairly barren it’s pretty impressive in the snow.
The bottom line – In total I’d say a trip to Iceland can be done for around £600 all in and in my opinion, it’s completely worth it!
Geysir Geothermal area
Snorkelling in Silfra