Saving money can be a challenge in Iceland as the country has high prices all year long. Depending on your desired activities, you can travel to Iceland on a budget. We want to give you a clear idea of the average costs you can expect so you can start planing right now. Here are 10 hacks to save money while planning and during your stay in Iceland.
1. Set a budget and get on planning
It is essential to set an amount of money you plan to spend and get a clear picture of your Iceland vacation. Generally, prices are less high between October and March, which is considered offseason. In the summertime, you will encounter higher prices, at least for accommodation.
Need to get an idea of costs for your trip? Check out our free budget printables.
2. Visit during Off-Season
Prices increase significantly during the summer season in Iceland when most visitors travel the island. If you want to save money, visit Iceland between the end of September and the beginning of May.
Not only will you encounter fewer tourists joining you on the road and at popular visitor destinations, but you can also save on car rentals, accommodation, see Northern Lights, and visit a number of ice caves that only form in the wintertime.
However, you might encounter more closed roads and travel restrictions. You will not be able to visit the highlands in winter, and camping outside is not recommended. The limited daylight gives you only a few hours to see popular destinations.
To make up for this, your chances of seeing Northern Lights increase, and winter can be romantic, in its own way.
If you choose to visit around April and May or September and October, you get the best of both seasons. Northern Lights start to show and the daylight hours are still long enough.
Check dohop.is for low-cost flight connections.
3. Use these apps: Save around 300 USD/ 250 EUR
Initially launched as a book that you can buy during your Iceland vacation, Icelandic Coupons now offers all discounts in one app. Not only for travelers but also locals use the deals for food and drinks. You also save a lot of time by not scrolling endlessly through Google reviews and Tripadvisor to find the best and cheapest places.
For 9,99 USD you can access all coupons and get ready to save money.
Lets look at a average day you spend in Reykjavík: (Example)
Visit Whales of Iceland and see life-size models of the various whale species found in Icelandic waters.
Price: 2.900 ISK – Save 2.900 ISK with the 2/1 offer
You are getting hungry, so you have the famous lamb sandwich at Sæta Svínið Gastropub. The offer is valid from 11:30 – 17:00 every day.
Price: 2.990 ISK – Save 2.990 ISK with the 2/1 offer
Now time travel back into the 80’s to fancy yourself a cocktail in Miami Bar. You go for Mojito. The offer is valid Sun-Wed.
Price: 2.400 ISK – Save 2.400 ISK with the 2/1 offer
After all day sightseeing, you want to relax at Laugarspa. Offer valid every day.
Price: 6.200 ISK – Save 6.200 ISK with the 2/1 offer
Now you are longing for a fancy dinner at Kol restaurant. The 2 for 1 offer is valid for their Gourmet small course menu, Sun – Thu.
Price: 8.490 ISK – Save 8.490 ISK with the 2/1 offer
In total, you saved 22.980 ISK (165 USD, 140 EUR) and spent 11.490 ISK p.P. (82 USD, 70 EUR) for a museum, lunch, cocktail, spa, and dinner. Not bad, is it?
This section was last updated on August 26th, 2020.
Another useful app to save money is APPY HOUR from the Grapevine. It shows you all the places that offer Happy Hour and the prices for wine and beer. While you’re downloading this one, consider getting APPENING as well to find out about every single event happening in the greater-Reykjavík area.
4. Shop for Groceries at Bónus
The store with the happy pig logo is unbeatable in prices. Honestly, they don’t always have the best quality when it comes to fruits and vegetables. However, for your trip around the island, it is perfect for saving a few krónas. Also, you will get tired, real quickly, of eating gas station sandwiches.
Stock up on Flatkökkur, toppings (shrimp salad, mustard, hummus, jam, etc.), cereals, milk, pasta & sauce (easy classic while camping or in hostels), Skyr, Smoothies, Juice, and snack bars – you are ready for a road trip.
Avoid buying lunch & snacks at popular tourist destinations
We all have done this: Eating sandwiches from gas stations during the road trip and buying snacks at tourist destinations. Because all the traveling makes you hungry, but all the money spent on road snacks adds up fast, especially in Iceland, where you might pay 10 USD for a mediocre sandwich packed in plastic.
If you get hungry for a snack, be prepared by buying: apples, peanut butter (because apple with peanut butter is great for hunger), banana, skyr, power bars).
If you want to super safe on lunch, prepare sandwiches before your trip: Sandwich bread, cheese, sauce, some salad, and toppings will cost you around 2.500 kr. / 18 USD/ 15 EUR in Bónus – see number 6. Equipped with this, you will get around 6 – 8 sandwiches.
Some rental car companies will hand you a saving card for specific gas stations. In most cases, you will have free filter coffee included. So bring your reusable coffee mug! Normally, coffee will cost around 500 – 650 ISK.
5. Get the Reykjavik City Card
The Reykjavík City Card offers free entry to many museums, all swimming pools in Reykjavík, and free unlimited travel by bus (Strætó) within the Reykjavik Capital Area.
In addition, the card also gives you a free ferry trip to Viðey island and discounts on various tours, in shops, and on services. If you want to explore Reykjavík on one day, doing as many activities as possible, this card is for you!
Consider getting the 24h Card for ISK 4.000 kr. or the 48h card for 5.600 kr. Check our other blog post to find out more about how much you can save.
6. Rent a Camper Van
If you are brave enough and don’t seek a lot of comforts, booking a camper can save you plenty of money even if you don’t sleep in it every night. Let’s say you book a camper van for 800 USD, 680 EUR (average) for 7 days for two people.
Breaking this price down means you pay 57 US, 48 EUR each day per person to sleep, drive around, and use cooking equipment. You have to add the price for camping sites, which is about 11 USD, 9 EUR per person per night. This adds shower and cooking facilities.
However, if you rent a car in Iceland and pay accommodation on top, you will end up with around 300 – 500 USD more for a 7-day trip, depending on the season. Although in my Accommodation Budget Planner, you can see the Camper Van is ranked as second most expensive, keep in mind that you otherwise have to rent a car on top of the costs for Hotel and Hostels.
Why I don’t mention Airbnb and similar services in my Budget Planners:
Often but not always, services like Airbnb make it impossible for young people to find decent-priced apartments to rent, especially in the city center. Landlords see the quick money they can make from tourists and don’t care to rent to inhabitants. I don’t judge you for seeking cheap accommodation; I, however, do not want to promote these services on my website.
7. Buy your alcohol at the airport after arrival
As we describe in our other blog post, there is only one place to buy alcoholic beverages in a store: Vínbúðin. However, when you arrive at Keflavík airport, you’ll get a head start. Like the ad says: Do it like the locals and buy alcohol at the duty-free shop. It is true: this is how to save money if you like to sip on a beer or two on our trip.
8. Bring your refillable bottle/ water is free
Instead of buying water in plastic bottles during your trip, you can fill up cold, delicious, and wonderfully clean Icelandic water. Fill it up on any tab or ask café, restaurant, or gas station staff to fill it for you.
9. Use Happy Hour (in Reykjavík)
We could say, don’t drink any alcohol while you are traveling in Iceland. But we highly recommend trying Icelandic brew at least once while you are here.
Mainly in the capital area, you can save money by checking for Happy Hours in bars and restaurants. While you can usually save around 500 kr. (3 USD) on beer and wine, you can find 2 for 1 offer’s as well.
Please check our post: The ultimate guide to Vínbúðin and Happy Hour in Reykjavík.
10. Use Síminn’s Prepaid Service
Get a sim card while staying in Iceland. This option is most useful for travelers from outside the European Union. It helps you navigate with google maps when you are on the road and give you the option to make calls if you find yourself in an emergency. On top of that, you stay in touch with your friends and family.
While you use your Icelandic sim, you might want to use their 2/1 offer, which gives you great discounts.