Iceland Money Saving and Travel Tips
Just a random jaw dropping beach in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Getting there: it’s actually quite affordable to get to Iceland, the problem is how expensive it is when you get there. Wow air has round trip flights from $99-$199 but I really can’t recommend them in good conscience as they weren’t the greatest airline to fly with and I can’t speak for Iceland air as I’ve never used them before. If you’re on a really tight budget, you may want to look into their layover program though, I highly recommend dedicating an entire trip to see this beautiful country. If you are there for a layover and don’t have a ton of time, I suggest exploring the Snaefellsjoekull National Park aka “Iceland in Miniature” and some hot springs/pots.
Make sure you refill your reusable bottles before boarding. It was $3 for each bottle of water on Wow with no distribution of any snacks or drink during the approximate 6 hour flight. Once you get to Iceland, fresh water is everywhere. Going from our island where we have to wait in line to refill several 5 gallon jugs every week to an abundance of fresh, pure glacial water at every turn was just glorious and probably one of my favorite parts about our trip.
Pack snacks. I was told over and over again that food was exorbitantly priced so just to be safe, I packed a few essentials for us. Honestly though, I didn’t find the prices to vary much from what I’m already used to on St. Croix (which can be pricey depending on how you shop). However, fresh fruit was very expensive. J pretty much lived on their exclusive brand of yogurt, Skyr. I also special made him his own batch of local senepol jerky and vacuum sealed some coffee for him to use in the french press that Solstice provided (more on that below). I also packed a ton of green powder from my friends at MacroLife, oatmeal, tea bags, dried fruit/nuts, and granola bars. Just having these few items allowed us quick and easy breakfasts and snacks for the entire trip, not only saving us money but time. Just a heads up, a cup of drip coffee averaged $4. Since lemons were about $2-3 a piece, the green powder came in especially handy since it alkalized while replacing my daily green smoothie as best as it could since I definitely did not get to consume as much fresh produce as I usually do.
On the plane, we were offered discounted transfers in the form of Flybus tickets that saved about $8 for a round trip. If purchasing at the counter once you land, you can save money there by purchasing round trip tickets versus one way. Sit in the very back so you get a view of both sides during this 45 minute ride.
If food is expensive, alcohol is through the roof here. The best place to purchase it is when you land at the airport’s duty free shop. J enjoyed some local craft beer for about $9 a glass with happy hour prices only shaving off a couple bucks. There’s an “appy hour” app you can download to view and compare specials.
This was the first trip we’ve ever taken where local currency never passed through our hands. Cards were used for everything and the exchange rate was much better than anything else we found.
Through extensive research, I realized that employing a camper van would be the best, most ideal way to see the whole of Iceland. We drove our Solstice Campervan around the entire ring road in 7 days plus explored the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the remote Westfjords (and I had been told that just to do the ring road, we needed a full week or better yet, two). The camper allowed us the freedom to do things at our own pace and doubled as transportation and accommodations. It also gave us the ability to cook when we felt like it since it came equipped with a mini stove and complete mess kit. This really helped whittle down costs. I found even airbnb’s to be an average of $100/night and hotels to be much more than that. Further more, Solstice was one of the most all-inclusive and affordable services. Other companies I spoke with charged for every little thing (even bedding!) Any time me or J had any questions, they were kind and prompt in their responses and even when we were off the beaten path in this foreign land, we never felt alone with all of their support.
Our campervan had a wifi option and it was so essential at times when our phones didn’t work in the more remote parts of the country. To save money, we opted for an international plan that we use every time we travel.
Solstice also included things like extra blankets and towels but if yours doesn’t, you could head over to Ikea for a cheap snack and towels because you’re going to need that towel and places like the blue lagoon can charge you for things like that.
When getting gas, avoid the “fill up” option as they put a large hold on your account and reimburse you in a week for what you didn’t use. It can be annoying or tricky, depending on what your budget is. When we went, a gallon cost about $7-8 and after 7 days of driving the entire countryside, our total came to about $400. If you’re traveling the island counterclockwise, make sure you fill up as much as possible after Höfn then when you’re in Akureyri as everything gets more scarce as you travel into the west coast.
There is a $10 toll between Snaefellsnes and Reykjavík.
Though dining out can get really expensive (expect a “cheap meal” to run you about $15), there are some more affordable options. There are tons of cafes or bakeries that offer unlimited soup and bread. Sometimes it also comes with salad, coffee/tea and dessert too (like at Iceland Street Food which cost about $15/pp with a voucher for their beer next door). Most often, we would just make sandwiches for lunch. There were tons of pre-made sandwiches (with vegan options) for less than $10 or you could cut the costs even more by grabbing a loaf of bread and pb&j. Bonus was my favorite out of the trio of budget grocery chains (which included netto and kronan). It was there I found a dairy free chocolate hazelnut spread that I enjoyed way too much and where J could enjoy some of their complimentary coffee. Lunch for J was often made with their ready made shrimp and lox sandwich filling for about $4 which made several sandwiches.
On our very last night, we drove to Ölfus or Gata which offered a free campsite. Camping Hamrar in Akureyri was one of our favorite sites but cost $30. Their hot water was plentiful and their facilities were new but since they had an actual kitchen (which was rare), the lines were long and the dining room was full. We didn’t have high expectations for the free campsite but it actually wasn’t bad. There are hot showers for about $4, heated restrooms and a shed type area where you can make your meals with a larder full of provisions to take and give. In the morning, we ambled on over to the onsite cafe and the sweetest little lady had her own duck eggs for sale with a variety of waffles and hot drinks on her menu. Her smile and hospitality alone warmed my soul.
3 free hot springs that are better than the blue lagoon, in my opinion. Better because well, they’re completely free, not man made, nestled out in nature, and if you’re lucky, you can have them all to yourself or enjoy them with the locals.
It’s most likely going to be cold and very windy (very windy in that you actually have to be careful about opening car doors). Wool thermals (and dressing in layers), a rain jacket and waterproof boots were how I managed to wade into ravines or slosh into Gljúfrabúi. Several locals told us that just a week prior, it had been raining non stop. Thankfully, we only got a bit of rain and just a few overnight storms but it’s known to rain a lot and waterproof shoes are an absolute must, even if it’s to step along soggy or muddy terrain to get to your destination. Along your travels, you’re also likely to run into Icelandic horses that are completely unique to Iceland and utterly sweet and charming with their throwback bouffant hairstyle and rockstar-blow-in-the-wind manes.
Most importantly, Iceland is meant to be savored. It’s a most special and magical experience so go slow and take it all in. We went at our pace and even lingered at some of our favorite places and still, in just a weeks time managed to see most of the ring road and make time for the Westfjords and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with plenty of unexpected gems along the way.
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