I love Iceland. It’s one of those places you could visit one hundred times and still be awestruck.
It’s a country full of truly wonderful and personable people with a laidback culture to boot. Moreover, the land itself is marked by roaring waterfalls, expansive ice blue glaciers, black sand beaches, and jagged volcanos. On the right night, this is all framed against the backdrop of a glowing and dancing sky.
If that sounds appealing, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, then here’s some advice I’ve learnt from my trips to the Nordic Isle which will hopefully help you keep your trip in your budget.
1. When to go:
Go to Iceland in the ‘off season’. My recommendation would be around January time but anywhere between late September and mid-March will work. Almost everything is cheaper, from flights to excursions. Companies lower the prices in a desperate search for business and you shouldn’t feel bad about taking advantage! Moreover, the allure of the wintry landscape and the added increased likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in these months arguably makes the off-season more desirable than the on!
2. Travel cheap:
Instead of going straight onto your favourite or usual airline’s website, why don’t you hop across to Skyscanner or KAYAK and use their services to sort through the prices for you? They take flights, both direct and indirect, and sort through them to find you the best possible prices for your journey. Looking right now there is a £200 differential between the most expensive and least expensive flight. Even travelling one day earlier or later than you had originally intended can save you hundreds of pounds so don’t make a stupid error!
3. Eat cheaper:
In a country where I’ve heard horror stories about people paying £50 for a burger and a drink, be smart. Eating one or two meals out at restaurants to try local dishes and experience Icelandic culture might fit within the budget but use Bonus where you can. Bonus is my favourite Icelandic supermarket. It’s affordable by British standards and, at the very least, not horrifically expensive by most other standards. As a point for reference, bread will only set you back around £2 and milk only around £1. These are prices that you shouldn’t turn your nose up at.
Moreover, there are Bonus stores all over Reykjavik so stock up whilst you’re in town. This is especially relevant if you’re camping because grocers across the rest of Iceland are few and far between! Using Bonus was the way I afforded to eat the second time I visited Iceland. Admittedly, the first time I came back home to England a little hungry and you really don’t want to go hungry in Iceland’s often inhospitable climate.
If possible, try and camp! If you plan on renting a car to get around, then this might be a little more convenient. Prices vary depending on when you book, how far in advance you book, and what type of vehicle you want; however, you can get good value on a rental. Just make sure you look for one well before you go. You can try sleeping in the back of your car or bring a tent over with you and pop it up at a campsite. Just bear in mind that Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable and having a backup plan if camping becomes undesirable, or virtually impossible, is a must.
Legislation on wild camping in Iceland is regularly updated so keep an eye on it. It is possible to hike to areas out of towns and then pitch up. Just beware that this isn’t allowed everywhere. For my two cents on the issue, I’d rather shell out for a cheap camping pitch or sleep in the car than risk wild camping most of the time. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it here and there though, particularly if you want to see the northern lights!
Check out www.rent.is for details on where to find campsites and a little more detailed advice on camping. I’ve used it in the past and wouldn’t put it here if it wasn’t useful.
5. Do the free stuff:
If you have rented a car then this is really easy. Go out into the wilderness and find great waterfalls like Gullfoss and Skogafoss, see the waves crashing down on the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach, or visit Glaciers and Lagoons like those at Jokulsarlon for an incredibly dramatic landscape! Moreover, on your travels into nature you might just get the added glimpse of the Northern Lights that every visitor to Iceland craves.
If you’re spending time in Reykjavik then you can’t miss the geothermal pools. Travelling to Blue Lagoon could set you back a pretty penny but the geothermal pools in the city are free and iconic. Enjoy an activity that the locals love and don’t spend a thing.
Also try signing up for Citywalk Reykjavik. It’s a free tour around the city with rave reviews and will get you more advice than I can possibly give on where to go. Book it for your first day and build yourself a plan of everything you want to experience. Then get cracking!
6. Travel together:
You can split just about any costs with friends or loved ones. From travel expenses to food from the shops, split the cost with your mates and share your experience. Just be careful though. People who won’t pay their share or who aren’t just as excited as you about the things you want to see, and do, might kill your buzz!