“Travel because money returns; time doesn’t.”-Anonymous
One of the most common things I heard when planning my first trip to Iceland was how expensive the country is. While this may be true, there are ways to save money when traveling in Iceland!
Iceland is, of course, an island. They have plenty of sheep and volcanic rock, but there are quite a few things they do not have in abundance. Many goods, like food, are imported to Iceland from surrounding countries. This causes items to be a bit more expensive than in other places in the world.
Coming from NYC, the idea that we’d be paying $10 for a beer was not particularly daunting, but still not preferable! So we carefully planned and took measures to not spend an arm and a leg on our first trip to Iceland.
Iceland is such an amazing place to visit, and its prices shouldn’t deter you from visiting.
Among the things we learned on our first trip to Iceland, we found several ways to save a few dollars. If you, too, are traveling to Iceland on a budget, here are the top five ways we found to save money in Iceland!
Five Ways to Save Money in Iceland
Visit in the Fall Shoulder Season
While I would argue that there isn’t a bad or best time to visit the Land of Fire and Ice, we were definitely able to save money in Iceland by visiting in October. Fall is one of Iceland’s shoulder seasons, meaning it is between the peak tourist seasons.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Iceland, since it has the best weather and the hours of the midnight sun. During the summer you don’t have to worry (as much) that roads will be iced over; and most campsites, tours, and restaurants are all operating.
However, winter is still a popular time of year to visit Iceland. You have a higher chance to see the Northern Lights, safely go inside ice caves, or climb glaciers.
By visiting Iceland in October, we were able to have the best of both worlds! Many campsites were still open, we were able to visit every spot on our bucket list, and we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights! Plus, not too many places were crowded, though they were still busy.
The only drawback to visiting Iceland in the fall is the weather. Iceland temperatures in October usually range from 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where you are (and the windspeeds that day).
While that isn’t a deal-breaker for anyone used to colder temperatures, October also happens to be one of the rainiest months in Iceland. It rained at least a little bit almost every day we were in Iceland, even if it was just a passing shower. We were still able to catch the sun sometimes, though!
Rent a Campervan
I’d highly recommend renting a vehicle of any kind while in Iceland, as it’s one of the best ways to see the country. However, one way to save money in Iceland is to rent a campervan specifically. A campervan serves as both a rental car and a hotel room!
Renting a campervan meant that we were able to stay at campsites throughout Iceland for an average of $30 USD a night compared to about $75 for a hotel room or $100 for an Airbnb. For an almost two-week road trip, this saved us hundreds of dollars!
Check out my itinerary here: 12-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary
We affectionately named our rental “Van Diesel,” and he served as a faithful companion throughout our trip.
Yes, we did have to pay for diesel fuel, which is more expensive than regular gas. However, our rental van company gave us fuel discount cards for all of the major gas stations in Iceland…plus free coffee vouchers!
It was also useful to simply have a little home on wheels. If the weather got bad, if we wanted to enjoy a meal at a picnic spot, or if we wanted to change clothes, we had everything we needed right there with us.
Plus, our van had wifi, so we didn’t need to pay for a mobile hotspot or data usage while overseas.
Cook Your Own Food
One of the biggest ways to save money if you’re traveling to Iceland on a budget is to cook your own food. As I said above, many things have to be imported to Iceland, thus making goods more expensive. This is especially true of food.
Our campervan came with a single-burner propane stove, and we put it to good use. By planning meals and shopping in Icelandic grocery stores, we were able to skip going to restaurants most nights.
Some of our favorite (i.e. quick and easy) meals to cook in the van included soup and pasta. I became particularly fond of Kjötsúpa, a traditional lamb soup.
Even when we stayed in an Airbnb for the night, we still took advantage of the kitchen and cooked our own meals.
My fellow Americans will be happy to know that Icelandic grocery stores feel much like those at home. Bonus and Kronan are two of the biggest grocery stores in Iceland, where we were able to find everything we needed. We also stopped at the chain, Netto, pretty often if we needed just an item or two.
Our van also had a small refrigerator in which we could keep snacks and makings for sandwiches. It was so convenient to just make up a sandwich before heading out on a stunning waterfall hike!
(That said, the few times we ate out at restaurants in Iceland were delicious, and it was a fun way to treat ourselves.)
Ask About Discount Combos
One way that we didn’t necessarily plan to save money in Iceland was by combining discounts offered by tours and sites. If you are spending time in one town or area, by purchasing a tour you may be eligible for a discount at places in the same area.
Our best example of this was in Húsavík (yes, the town of Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga fame). Húsavík is Iceland’s whale-watching capital; so, of course, we had to go on a whale-watching tour. We went with Salka Whale Watching due to their commitment to eco-friendly whale viewing.
By booking our Salka tour (during which we saw three humpback whales), we received ticket discounts at both the Húsavík Whale Museum and the GeoSea Geothermal Baths! Both places were absolutely worth visiting, but we were happy to save about $40 for the day.
We were aware of these discounts thanks to Salka’s website. However, the kind employee at the Whale Museum also asked if we had whale-watching tickets so that she was able to give us a discount.
If you book a tour of any kind, it’s worth asking if there are any discount perks that go with it!
Buy Duty-Free Alcohol
When we arrived at the Keflavik airport in (what felt like) the wee hours of the morning, we were not in the headspace to be purchasing booze. However, we had been told to buy alcohol from the duty-free shop at the airport since alcohol can get expensive in Iceland.
If you plan on drinking in Iceland, one way to save money is indeed to shop duty-free. Iceland makes this very easy for you, putting the duty-free shop right near the arrival gates. You can find anything from wine and beer to spirits from around the world. You can also find snacks and confections here as well!
(Since we were a bit jet-lagged, we opted to just get some small bottles to sample until we knew what we wanted.)
You can purchase alcohol elsewhere in Iceland, particularly at a chain of stores called Vinbudin. (Vinbudin is owned by the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland.) Be aware that you won’t be able to pick up a six-pack of beer at a regular grocery store, unless the beer is 2.5% alcohol or under.
While Iceland can be expensive, if you plan well, there are plenty of ways to save some money without sacrificing awesome adventures. We went in knowing that things would be pricey, which helped us budget for certain things. Plus, we felt that almost everything we paid for in Iceland was well worth it!
I hope this post helps you save money in Iceland and allows you to put it toward an amazing Icelandic experience instead!
Are you planning a trip to Iceland on a budget? Save this post for later!