Without any doubt, we can say that Iceland is the most beautiful country on earth so far. This place has truly amazed us from the first day until the last one of our journey.
Beyond all the great things you know about it, I’m sure you’ve already heard how expensive it is. And guess what? All the rumors are definitely true. So, it was a real challenge to figure out how to visit Iceland on a budget.
But in the end, we managed to explore this stunning country without breaking the bank too badly. The total cost for one week was around 900 EUR per person.
So, let’s see some tips and tricks to help you plan your next trip to Iceland.
When and how to get there
We chose to visit Iceland at the beginning of October because we wanted to increase our chances to see the Northern Lights. The temperatures were between 2-8°C and the days were long enough to see a lot of attractions.
There are no direct flights from Romania to Iceland. So, the cheapest way to get there was to make a 7 hours stop in Luton (London). Poland and the United Kingdom usually have the best prices for Reykjavik.
We made some research with almost 5 months before and the best option for us was to buy 2 separate tickets (Bucharest – Luton & Luton – Reykjavik) and keep our fingers crossed for no delays or flight cancellations.
Cost: Bucharest – Luton – Reykjavik and return, without any checked-in bags: 210 EUR per person
Where to stay
During the summer, camping might be the best and cheapest option to travel to Iceland on a budget. But in October, the temperatures won’t let you fully enjoy a night under the clear sky. So, we made a detailed plan for every day of our journey in order to book in advance all the accommodations.
What I recommend:
- Selfoss Hostel – twin room with shared bathroom
- Hella Hotel – a big studio for 4 people with breakfast included
- Mid Hvoll Cottage – a lovely cozy cottage close to Vik, right in the middle of nature. It can be a good option for 2 or 4 people because it has a bedroom and a living room with a sofa. All fully equipped.
- Hofn Hostel – a twin room with shared bathroom
- Snæbýli Cottage – a great accommodation found on Airbnb. A small house in the middle of the mountains, fully equipped, with two bedrooms. It has one huge wall made out of glass, so if you are lucky you can see Aurora Borealis right from your living room. Totally worth the price. Click here to get 40 EUR off for your first stay with Airbnb.
In Reykjavik we booked a “Cosy 2 bedroom apartment with great view”. It was cozy, but clearly it hadn’t been cleaned for a long time, so you might want to consider other options.
Cost: 270 Euros per person.
*Some of the total prices for accommodation were split to 4 people. We went with two friends on this trip.
Iceland is all about iconic views: canyons, mountains, waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers and much more. The landscape is changing in the blink of an eye, so the most effective and efficient way to get around this island is by car.
If you want to stay away from the crowded bus tours and to save some money, I recommend renting a car. The most important rental companies have offices right next to the airport. There is a free shuttle that takes you there.
We chose a 4×4 Dacia Duster from a local company with good reviews – Blue Car Rentals.
- if you want to drive only on the Ring Road, then you can rent a 2WD car. But in order to explore the Icelandic highlands, you’ll need a bigger car. You are not allowed to drive on the “F” roads if you don’t have a 4×4.
- the Ring Road is in very good condition, but parking lots have a lot of potholes, so be careful especially if you have a small car.
- the gas is quite expensive too, but 1.65 euros per liter won’t stop you to visit as much as you can. Most of the gas stations are self-service and do not accept cash. Anyhow, you don’t need cash at all. Iceland is the most card-friendly country I know.
Car: 600 EUR for 8 days with full insurance – 150 EUR per person.
Gas: 180 EUR – 45 EUR each
Parking: 50 EUR – 13 EUR each
- Grocery items
Even if we talk about shopping in a supermarket, the food is expensive, but it’s still the cheapest way to eat.
We heard that Bonus supermarket is the best one if you are traveling to Iceland on a budget. But unfortunately, they were closing at 7 PM, too soon for our schedule. That’s why almost every time we chose Kronan as they are open until around 9 PM.
- Eating out
To avoid breaking the bank, this time we decided to stay away from restaurants as much as we could. It wasn’t too hard to put this in practice because there were not so many options. Actually, sometimes the gas stations were also shopping stores, restaurants and supermarkets – all mixed together.
But eating sandwiches and yogurts for more than 3 consecutive days makes you want a change in your menu. Curious about the prices of eating out? One large pizza from Domino’s: 25 EUR, one Burger and one beer at Strondin Pub in Vik: 30 EUR, a bucket for two at KFC: 25 EUR.
I have two tips here:
– Buy alcohol at the airport, from the duty-free shops because you won’t find anything over 2.25% alcohol at the supermarkets. And it’s also cheaper.
– Drink tap water. Iceland has one of the purest tap water on earth. You just have to buy some bottled water on the first day of your trip and then refill them. Just make sure the tap is turned to cold water because the hot one is usually high in sulfur. You’ll know it from its nasty smell.
Cost: 200 EUR per person for groceries, eating out, drinks, coffee.
Fortunately, Iceland has loads of free things to do. There are a lot of natural attractions with no entrance fee. I think we had to buy tickets only for two of them: Kerid Crater (4 EUR each) and Stokksnes (6 EUR each). Sometimes you have to pay the parking lot or the toilet entrance, but it’s a reasonable cost.
Let’s see some tips for exploring Iceland on a budget:
- skip one of the most famous hot springs from the entire country: Blue Lagoon.
The entrance fee is around 80 EUR per person due to its celebrity.
Well, there are lots of geothermal water where you can relax for free. At almost 40 km from Reykjavik, you’ll find Reykjadalur, a stunning valley with hot springs. It is less crowded because you have to hike the mountains for 40 minutes till you get to this natural gem. But enjoying the hot water in a natural river, in the middle of the mountains with only a few people around is priceless.
- before hitting the road, make sure you do a small research about what is the day’s plan. For some of the tourist attractions, you’ll need to let the car in the parking lot and hike or walk for more than an hour.
- Aurora Borealis is one of the most stunning natural phenomenons, probably on every travelers’ bucket list, and Iceland is a great place to see it. Also, this is the most elusive and unpredictable attraction this country has. You have to wait for the darkest hours in the night, for a clear sky with no clouds and for strong solar activity. We were lucky to see it on our first night in Iceland, but usually, you need to put a little bit of effort into finding it.
Here are some tips to help you with this: Vedur.is (local website for weather and Aurora forecast), Aurora (app for Aurora forecast), Live Aurora Network (app with live webcams streaming from different places) and also Facebook groups where people are sharing updates.
Cost: 10 EUR each of us
The weather in Iceland can change very quickly, no matter the time of the year. So packing your stuff properly for a trip here is one of the most important things to do.
- make sure you bring layers because you can experience four seasons in one day
- “waterproof” and “wind stopper” should describe your jackets and shoes
- don’t forget about a towel and a swimsuit, even in the dead of winter – there are lots of hot springs
- you don’t have to worry about the temperatures from inside the houses. Icelandic people use the geothermal water to heat them and it’s really warm inside
- if you plan to experience a walk on water at Stokksnes (see below), you might bring with you a pair of rubber boots.
Even Iceland is a small country, this is a truly amazing place to visit and I believe that it will worth every penny. Actually, to imagine how small it is, almost two-thirds of the population live in Reykjavik. As a fun fact, in the end, the Icelandic people developed an app to prevent “accidental incests” because everyone can be a distant relative. 🙂
Have you been to Iceland? Don’t hesitate to share any tips and tricks I may have missed.