Seeing as I’m on a roll with these Iceland posts, I figured I may as well wrap it up with a few tips for any Iceland wanderlusters out there.
If you took any hints from my last 3 posts, Iceland is a very expensive place to travel to. While this was a big disappointment to find out when we arrived, and evidently became a huge hindrance over the 4 days we had, nothing would make me think twice about travelling there again. Iceland has a beauty of it’s own, and I seriously recommend the country to anyone who loves nature and beautiful scenery.
My experiences in Iceland led me to believe that travelling here on a budget can be very limiting and difficult, but it can be done. The following are a few money saving tips that will hopefully save you some precious dollars when visiting this beautiful island.
Hire a car
Before arriving in Iceland, I knew that most money conscious travellers hired a car for the duration of their trip in Iceland as it worked out to be a lot cheaper than other options. Public transport in Iceland is limited to busses that, more or less, only run in the city. A very limited amount of busses do run along the ring road, however these cost a ghastly amount of Kronas and only stop in certain towns along the way. We took a bus from the main terminal in Reykjavik to Sellfoss, a town about an hour south of the city, and were charged 53,000 kronas (AUD $55) for the single trip! Within the city, tickets only cost 4,000 kronas (AUD $5) and last for 2 hours. If you don’t have a car, this is your second cheapest and easiest option besides walking. (Note: The cheap ticket busses are yellow and look like normal city busses. The long distance busses look more like coaches and are light blue and yellow. These are the expensive ones.) However, I strongly recommend renting a small car for the time you are there. We met a few travellers who had joined forces on Couchsurfing and split the cost of rental and petrol. They hired a small Hyundai for 7 days costing them 300 euros. Split that in half and you’ve got your transport for a week sorted for 150 euros (AUD $220).
If hiring a car for a few days isn’t an option for you (our problem was we were too young – minimum age to rent a car in Iceland is 20), your thumb can work wonders in Iceland. There is one main highway that encompasses the whole island, the ring-road, and all of Iceland’s main attractions are situated somewhere along this road. Many travellers go to Iceland with the idea of travelling around the whole island. It can be done in a week if you pace it, and is definitely something I would return to do. This being said, the fact that the traffic is only going in two opposite directions around the island, all you need to do is work out which way you want to travel and stick your thumb out on the corresponding side of the road. Hitchhiking in Iceland is an extremely accepted form of travel, and locals going to and from work, or travellers with their own cars, more than often will stop to pick you up on their way. We hitchhiked along the south of Iceland to Skogafoss, about an hour and a half away from Sellfos, with a guy who was returning to his work after running errands back to the city. If I can add, this was at midnight. In summer there is no shortage of traffic even in the early hours of the morning as the sun never sets and people, especially travellers, continue travelling long into the night. We stood curb-side for 5 minutes before being picked up. Hitchhiking in Iceland is accepted, safe, very affordable (free) and always great fun. Don’t forget to offer petrol money!
Hotels, hostels, guesthouses – any form of indoor accommodation – will certainly set you back more than a few organs and limbs in Iceland. We paid AUD $70 for a night in a 12 bed dorm, and this was the cheapest we could find for the time we were there. Camping, however, is also very common in Iceland and extremely affordable. Wild camping (camping in the true wild away from reserves and private property) is completely free and legal across the whole country, but for no more than 15,000 kronas (AUD $15) you can set up your tent in a campsite with amenities such as shared flushing toilets, hot water and sometimes indoor eating facilities and Wi-Fi. We set up our tent right in front of a waterfall and camped out for a night. The view alone was worth way more than the 6,000 kronas we spent, and we got hot water, toilets and free Wi-Fi in the information centre close by. (If you get the chance to, Skogafoss campsite is a great place to sleep for a night or 2, but this should be high on your list of places to visit anyways.)
Buy food from a grocery store
After walking around the city for hours in search of a cheap lunch we resorted to $7 hotdogs and water. Cheap food in Iceland is non-existent – a sandwich can cost anywhere from 9,000 kronas (the cheapest) to 20,000. There is, however, an angel disguised as a grocery store. Her name is Bonus, and you can find her all over the city and in several small towns around Iceland. Bonus is Iceland’s $2 grocery store, and while nothing is quite as cheap as $2, you can certainly score a bargain on food there. Take it camping or cook it in your hostel and save yourself A LOT.
Finally, you’ll find so many different tour companies offering generally the same things for prices so high I don’t see why even money loaded tourists would bother. All these things (apart from the obvious helicopter tours) can be done without paying for a tour. Do all your research and plan a schedule before you leave though, because you don’t want to be wasting your money and time trying to organise things when you get there. Living costs!
Hopefully I’ve helped at least a few Iceland wanderlusters out with these tips. Iceland is a seriously beautiful country, so unique to anything else I’ve seen and so completely worth all the dollars I spent in my time there. Happy exploring!