Having gained a strong sense of wanderlust for the land of fire and ice back in 2015, I was absolutely determined to travel to Iceland after returning home from Australia. There was just one thing standing in my way; its fearsome reputation as an expensive travel destination! Thankfully, I’m always up for a challenge when it comes to budget travel, because no matter what anyone tells you, there are always ways that you can cut your costs!
The total cost for my road trip was £641 (a daily average of £64). Below you can find a complete break down of my spending, and tips to help you for planning your own road trip!
Please note: All of the information in this post is based on my 10 day road trip around Iceland in May 2017. I was travelling with family, so the entire price of the trip was split between five people. Therefore, these prices are likely to be cheaper than if travelling with fewer people due to this division of costs.
If you’re planning on sticking to Reykjavik and the ring road then a 2WD will more than likely suffice for your road trip. However, we decided to explore Iceland in a 4WD which was a little more expensive, as we occasionally ventured away from the ring road along gravel roads, and also travelled up into the westfjords.
Fill up all the seats in your hire car – Find a car that has enough space and fill up all the seats! When we visited, petrol cost around £1.70/per litre, so it’s definitely worth filling the seats and being able to split the costs.
Don’t pay extra for GPS – Iceland’s roads are very easy to navigate. In fact, it’s essentially made up of one long ring road (Route 1) which showcases most of the diversity you can see in the country. You really don’t need to buy a GPS. Instead, grab yourself a paper map and download the free app maps.me which offers offline maps.
Be wind wary – This was mentioned in the in-flight magazine and by our car rental company; the wind in Iceland can be very strong – strong enough to cause damage to your car if you don’t hold onto the doors when exiting the vehicle! It’s such a frequent problem that insurance policies don’t cover this sort of damage. We came across many cars that had experienced this, so it’s definitely worth being aware of.
During our time in Iceland we stayed in a mixture of hotels, guesthouses and cottages. They all have positives and negatives; it’s about choosing what type of accommodation is right for you and your budget!
Book ahead – Planning is essential to ensure your trip to Iceland is as cheap as it can be! Away from Reykjavik, there isn’t an extensive list of accommodation, so I would definitely recommend booking ahead of time, especially if you’re travelling in the busiest period. It’s worth noting that sites like booking.com offer free cancellation.
Check the facilities – When it comes to deciding where to stay, you should look at the cooking facilities. We stayed in hotels three nights and got caught out – whilst they offered free breakfast, they didn’t have any facilities, meaning we were forced to eat out for dinner. Most guesthouses, hostels and cottages have shared or private cooking facilities.
I had to check and recheck this total as it seemed so low, but it just goes to show that Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive! It all depends on how savvy you are with your money.
Take food items with you – if you have any spare room in your bag you might as well fill it with food to save spending in Iceland! The items we took with us included tins of tuna, chocolate bars, cereal and cereal bars and cous cous.
Shop at discount stores – The main discount stores in Iceland are Bónus, Krónan and Nettó. Whilst many food items can be expensive (cheese, meat etc.) there are many things that aren’t (bread, pasta, rice, tuna). If you’re able to overlook any healthy eating habits, pasta and rice dishes are usually the cheapest things to cook. Stock up when you can as the smaller supermarkets can be more expensive, and note that many close quite early. Our average daily food shop cost £16.
Cook your own food – Eating out in Iceland is a quick and easy way to blow your money. Thankfully, you don’t travel to Iceland to have meals at fancy restaurants, you travel there to see and experience its incredible nature, so cooking your own meals and making pack lunch is a great way to save money! If you do find yourself with no cooking facilities, many of the petrol stations in Iceland have fast food restaurants attached. It might not seem very glamorous, but its a great way to eat out cheaply, with burger and chip meals costing around £10.
Bring a reusable water bottle – Iceland has some of the purest water in the world, so you can save money by bringing a water bottle to fill up. Water can be drank straight from the tap and believe me, its ice cold and delicious!
Don’t drink alcohol – Another way to save money in Iceland! Alcohol is very expensive and my recommendation would be to just avoid it in general.
The great thing about Iceland is that most of its natural attractions are absolutely free to access. The only activities we spent money on whilst in Iceland was the Blue Lagoon and entrance to Kerið. Of course, there are other things available that you might want to pay for, such as whale watching and glacier hiking, so your spending could end up being a lot more than this.
Book ahead for the Blue Lagoon – You’ve probably already heard that the Blue Lagoon is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Look online for the cheapest price, which is usually at quieter times of the day. We went at 8pm and it was significantly cheaper.
Consider cheaper alternatives – If you’re willing to experience cheaper alternatives then you’ll definitely save some money! For example, the Secret Lagoon is a cheaper alternative to the Blue Lagoon, or you could always try some of the free hot spring spots around the country! And when it comes to booking tours always shop around to ensure you get the best price.
Anything else to think about?
Credit card fees – It’s worth finding out if you can get a credit card that doesn’t charge for international payments, as this can easily add up. We used the Santander 123 Current Account.
Flights – I haven’t included this in the road trip price, but our return flights were £127 from Birmingham, booked four months in advance. A good flight comparison site to use is Skyscanner.
Overall, I think we did really well with our budgeting in Iceland. In a country where it’s so easy to over-spend, there are plenty of ways that you can save! If you travel in the shoulder season and make a few sacrifices, then your road trip really doesn’t have to break the bank!
I hope this has helped with planning your own road trip around Iceland! If you’ve enjoyed this post or have any questions, please share or comment in the section below!
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