Iceland Tips for the Thrifty Traveler
Today’s guest post is from reader Abbey Chanda. If you’d like to contribute your own Thrifty Tips, make sure to shoot us a message via email or social media!
While a trip to Iceland may sound like an adventure of a lifetime with glaciers, whales, and gorgeous waterfalls around every corner, it can also strike fear into the heart of many a Thrifty Traveler. Limited resources and sky high prices make Iceland a difficult country to visit on a budget, but don’t banish it from your travel list just yet! Here are some quick tips to help you save cash during your time in Iceland whether it is a 2 week long road trip or a quick stopover in Reykjavik.
1. Shop at Grocery Stores
Grocery stores in Iceland aren’t actually that expensive and are a much cheaper alternative than going out to eat. If you’re looking for the cheapest supermarket then head over to Bonus. It follows the no-frills format of limited hours, simple shelves and having a giant fridge instead of chiller cabinets. There are 32 stores around the island, which should make them easy to find.
2. Costco in Reykjavik
Although I have not visited yet, there is a Costco in Reykjavik, which just opened on May 23, 2017. If you’re a Costco member in the United States, your membership will also work in Iceland. The good news is they take all major credit cards as well.
Thrifty Tip: Check out the Costco gas station to save on expensive fuel.
3. Investigate your accommodation options
For groups of 2 or more, Airbnb may prove to be cheaper than Icelandic hostels. If you are traveling solo or enjoy the hostel environment, don’t forget to bring a sleeping bag since hostels charge up to 10 USD for sheets. To save even more, camping on the island is easy, inexpensive, and beautiful- but be sure to check the weather first.
Thrifty Tip: You may also be willing to volunteer in exchange for accommodation and food. This a great way to save money, learn a new skill, and give back to the community all while saving a pretty penny. Helpx lists 74 different hosts in Iceland.
4. Rent a camp stove
Iceland Camping Equipment rents camp stoves, which offer a great way to have hot meals on the road. Pack snacks and instant foods from home, or keep your eyes peeled for low cost Bonus supermarkets in Iceland.
For a breakfast of champions I recommend oatmeal and instant coffee… mixed together for efficiency!
5. Experience Icelandic food strategically
Traveling cheap doesn’t mean missing out on all the local food. Lunch discounts and affordable restaurants are available in larger towns. In our quest to sample the famous langoustine in Höfn, the lobster capital of Iceland, we stumbled across the no-frills Hafnarbudin where we enjoyed a tasty langoustine sandwich for half the price of neighboring restaurants.
If you’re looking for food on the go in downtown Reykjavik you’ll see food can be quite expensive. I opted for a cheap sandwich and banana from the 10-11. Vendors also sell big bags of french fries for a good price.
If you can, experience Icelandic cuisine with the locals. When you volunteer for room & board, you’ll get free home-cooked authentic meals. When TT intern Emily visited she was able to eat amazing foods for free from her hosts. If your Airbnb host is friendly and hands-on, ask if you can join them for a meal.
Thrifty Tip: Hot dogs in Iceland are cheap everywhere (~4USD) and are deceptively delicious.
6. Pack some cheap drinks
Alcohol can be obscenely expensive in Iceland. While many people buy their alcohol in duty-free upon arriving in Reykjavik, we chose to bring boxed and canned wine from our local Icelandic store. Many come in single serving sizes which are more convenient than glass bottles. What can I say – we’re classy! If you’re looking for something cheap and Icelandic, try a bottle of Brennivin or Icelandic Moss Schnapps!
7. Download Appy Hour. Right now.
Going out in Reykjavik can be very expensive. The Appy Hour smartphone app lists the time and description of every happy hour in Reykjavik. From sports bars to cocktail lounges, happy hours range from noon to midnight, often featuring half off or 2-for-1 drink specials. The walkability of Reykjavik paired with the never ending parade of discount liquor makes bar hopping a distinct possibility. I recommend Kaldi Bar for deals on beer, bubbly, and olives.
8. Don’t forget the hot springs
While the milky blue water of the Blue Lagoon attracts many travelers to Iceland, a visit can be costly. If you don’t mind a little algae, a beautifully scenic (and totally free!) option exists between Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. It’s a “secret” for now, but I’ll bet you can find it. An essential key to finding these lesser-known spots is to use the map view and GPS coordinates on HotPot. It lists hot springs, swimming pools, and even gas stations all around the Iceland which comes in super handy!
9. Use points to stay at the Hilton Canopy Reykjavik
Mr. TT stayed at the Hilton Canopy in Reykjavik last summer. The cost is 70,000 Hilton Honors points a night, but the central location and stellar free breakfast make it worth every point. Snag one of the American Express Hilton cards to help build up your points.
10. Don’t buy bottled water
The water in Iceland is delicious and perfectly safe to drink. Save yourself the cost of expensive bottled water and hit the tap first. Your wallet (and mother earth) will thank you.
11. Check out the discount stores
If you want some cheap souvenirs, funky Icelandic goods, or simply forgot something you need- don’t panic! There are several cool and unique cheap places to shop around the island. There are several thrift stores located in Reykjavik. I recommend going to the Red Cross thrift store if you’re looking for the best deals.
The Kolaportid Flea Market is only open weekends and is a must see. It has something for everyone, from old concert posters to fermented shark.
For the cheapest souvenirs, snacks, and everything else you can find in a dollar store- don’t miss the Flying Tiger. It is a cool Danish dollar store with a location in Reykjavik and their prices are significantly cheaper than other stores!