How to Visit Iceland on a Budget – Best Money Saving Tips
If you mention that you’re planning a visit to Iceland, more often than not you’ll be met with wide eyes of admiration. What comes next is the usual comment, “wow, but isn’t it really expensive there?” Iceland isn’t known as a cheap destination, but after spending a week here, it’s really not that expensive either.
If you know a few tricks to help you keep costs to a minimum, without missing out on the highlights, you can definitely put Iceland on your bucket list too. Here’s all the information you need to know to visit Iceland on a budget.
Let’s do this! Iceland On A Budget, our Best Money Saving Tips
The best time to visit Iceland is during Summer. This is when you can see the midnight sun and experience warmer temperatures. If you’re keen to see the Northern Lights, the months of February, March, September and October are the best months to plan your visit. We visited September in 2019 and we had perfect weather, with only one day of rain.
Do you require a Visa?
Unless you need a Schengen visa, you will be allowed a stay of up to 90 days in Iceland and the Schengen area (which includes 26 other countries in Europe).
Icelandic krona (ISK). At the time of writing, 1 USD = 124.51 ISK
How to get to Iceland on a budget
Depending on where you are travelling from, the cheapest flights to Iceland can easily be booked online. We use Skyscanner as it always comes up with the best prices. There are some very affordable flights from Europe and you can find great connections from the USA. Search on Skyscanner to find great deals on flights from anywhere in the world.
Rent a campervan
Iceland is one of those destinations where it’s best to hire a car or even better, a campervan to self-drive around the island.
If you want to keep costs down and experience the best of Iceland on a budget, then renting a campervan is highly recommended. There are many different rental companies offering campervans in Iceland, however, we chose to hire from Cheap Campervans and we were very happy with everything.
After researching all the rental companies before our arrival (and there are many of them), these guys had the most competitive rates. In addition to that, their vehicles were new, they had great customer reviews and to hire any extras such as sleeping bags or inverters to charge things in the van, the prices were reasonable.
Our campervan rental worked out at around 62 euros per day.
Our campervan for our self-drive trip around Iceland on a budget
Rent a car and stay in hotels along the way.
Don’t want to rent a campervan, but still want to self-drive around Iceland? This is another great option and will still allow you to visit Iceland on a budget. We recommend Europcar to book the best car hire rates in Iceland.
How to get around in Iceland if you don’t rent a vehicle.
Iceland doesn’t really have a local transport network. Everybody here drives. If you’re not interested in renting a car/campervan then the next best option is to book an organised tour in Iceland.
We recommend you check out G Adventures to find the perfect small-group tour.
Coffee is good and affordable here
After giving us an orientation of our campervan, the guys gave us the keys and also a bunch of coupons for free coffee at service stations. How did he know that we love coffee! The filtered coffee is really good in Iceland. Even if you have to buy it, the price is fair – around 250-380 krona (USD 2-3).
If you do rent a campervan from Cheap Campervans, you’ll receive a key tag on the set of keys that they give to you. This tag entitles you to get a discount on petrol at certain service stations. This was a nice touch I thought – as the price of petrol in Iceland is something you can’t really avoid. At the time of our visit (September 2019), petrol was 230 ISK per litre ($1.85).
Reasons why renting a campervan will keep costs to a minimum?
Accommodation/bed is included. Everybody knows that accommodation is one of the major daily costs when travelling, so when it’s included with your transport, this is ideal.
Transport costs are low. You’ve got your own wheels, so you can go wherever you choose, well almost. (NOTE: in Iceland, some roads are off-limits, but check this with your rental company) The reason for this is because the condition of the road is unsafe or too rough. If you’re visiting Iceland to get well off the beaten track, consider hiring a larger car/van that can take you off-road. Enquire with your rental company about which vehicle is best suited to your requirements.
As I mentioned above, you need to pay for fuel, but that’s unavoidable. At the time we visited, fuel was around 230 krona per litre ($1.85 USD per litre). Use the key tag provided by Cheap Campervans to save a few krona per litre
Self-cater and save cash
Cater for yourself on the road and save loads of cash by avoiding having to eat at expensive restaurants and cafes. Depending on what sized campervan you choose to rent, they all come equipped with cooking facilities so you can make hot food or tea/coffee on the go.
Our cooking setup from the back of our campervan. So easy to cater for ourselves on the road. Iceland on a budget wasn’t hard to do.
Do a big shop at a large supermarket in Keflavik or Reykjavik
Once you’ve picked up your campervan in Keflavik, I’d recommend the first thing you do is drive 5 minutes to a large supermarket to stock up on food. There are two big supermarkets to choose from, BONUS & Kronan. Either one is fine. To keep costs at a minimum, you’ll need to have a few ideas for cheap and easy meals to prepare on the road. Quick recipes or ‘one-pot wonders’ that you can make using only one gas burner are best.
We stocked up on things such as canned tomatoes, eggs, fresh bread, wraps, salami, natural yoghurt, muesli, butter, pasta, rice and pulses such as chickpeas and kidney beans. These are all very affordable items at the supermarket.
Make sure to get a couple of large bottles of water, as you’ll need it to cook with as well as drink. Iceland has delicious tap water and you’ll soon discover that you can fill up these empty plastic bottles in campgrounds and even at some tourist sites.
It’s easy to see Iceland on a budget when you know the helpful tips before you arrive.
Iceland on a budget with views like this! Skogafoss Waterfall – Our favourite one of them all!
Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat is expensive in Iceland
You’ll quickly discover that fresh food, vegetables and meat is expensive in Iceland, so if you’re trying to visit Iceland on a budget, perhaps plan a more vegetarian-based diet for your time here.
A few easy recipe ideas
I like to enjoy tasty food on the road that is affordable, filling and reasonably healthy. Below I’ve included a few simple meals I cooked during our road trip to Iceland. I also wrote a post about my 7 Cheap and Easy Recipes for Travellers.
Marty enjoyed lunch cooked from the back of our campervan with a view. Just because we’re doing Iceland on a budget, doesn’t mean we have to eat badly. In fact, we ate very well on this trip.
Shakshuka– All you need is one saucepan to create this dish. Pour 2 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes into the pan, and add some sliced salami for flavour if you like. Once this is bubbling and hot, add 3-4 eggs to the pan, and some salt and pepper. Cover the eggs with the tomato sauce mix. Turn it to low and cover for 5-10 minutes until eggs are cooked through. Take off the heat and enjoy with some fresh crusty bread.
Spaghetti/Penne with simple Napoli sauce – You can add some simple chopped vegetables such as carrots or any cheap green vegetable to this. You can buy pre-made jars of different pasta sauces in the supermarkets to make it much easier to add to the cooked pasta and just reheat.
Iceland on a budget with easy ‘one pot wonders’ like this are the best the cook. A simple pasta with napoli sauce. We cooked this one at a campsite in the sun.
Toasted sandwiches or fresh baguettes– Always a quick and easy option. We had butter, sliced cheese and salami on hand with some fresh baguettes we bought from the supermarket.
Omelette or scrambled eggs– Super easy to cook and a filling option. Enjoy with fresh bread or put inside a wrap with some salad, tomatoes, black-eyed beans and cheese.
Rice and vegetarian curry – Cook some plain rice and put to the side. Then add a pot and heat a jar of Indian curry such as korma or tikka masala (or make one if you have tinned tomatoes, some spices on hand and natural/greek yoghurt or cream). Add to this some jarred pulses and beans such as chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed beans or kidney beans.
These can all be found in the large supermarkets in Iceland. Once cooked, add a big spoon of yoghurt and eat it with some rice and a wrap to scoop up the sauce.
How much does food cost in Iceland?
Prices below in USD, based on buying from a large supermarket
1.5L bottle of water $1.16
1L milk $1.30
1 kg bananas $2.00
Canned tomatoes 0.65 cents
1kg fresh tomatoes $4.50
Fresh baguette or cob loaf of bread $1.50
12 eggs $4.50
1 x small bottle beer $4.00
500g bag spaghetti/penne 0.60 cents
1kg potatoes $1.50
250g packet salami $2.00
Jar of good brand pasta sauce $3.00
Bottle of wine – mid-range $20.00
Cooking in the outdoors
Where can you shower?
There are campsites dotted around the country for your convenience. You can use these to shower and refresh along the way.
Visit some local pools
During our time exploring the Southern part of Iceland, we stopped at a few local pools to soak in the hot outdoor pools, and use the sauna and shower. One of our favourite places to do this on our trip was in the small city of Vik. The price to use all three amenities above was 900 krona each ($7.00).
Bring Baby Wipes
We always travel with baby wipes, they come in handy for so many things we do each day.
Find free hot springs to take a dip
Sure, you can visit the very popular Blue Lagoon, but it’ll cost ya! Expect to pay around $100 per person. You can pre-book and buy your admission ticket here to save a few dollars. We stopped by here on our visit to Iceland, but we were super lucky to also be visiting a friend, Tinna who lives in Iceland and she managed to get us complimentary tickets to enter.
Soaking in the blue lagoon – face masks and all!
Not interested in forking out this kind of cash to bathe in the Blue Lagoon? No problem, there are free hot springs in Iceland too! A few options are listed below.
Reykjadalur – Hot Spring River. So this is a little bit trickier to get to because you do have to hike to get to it. And so this hike is going to take you around an hour to get to, but once you’re there, the hot spring river is amazing.
Seljavallalaug – A hot spring set at the base of Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland. In order to get here, you do have to drive a little bit off of the beaten road, then walk in which takes about 20 mins. No changing rooms here and nobody maintains this place so it can get a bit filthy in the areas around the springs from careless tourists.
Grjótagjá – Grjótagjá is a lava cave near Lake Myvatn and inside a cave, you can find this hot spring. Note: During summer, the water temperature can get way too hot, so it’s not recommended to take a dip then. During Winter, however, this is perfect for a dip.
Buy alcohol before you arrive (at duty-free)
Yup, it can be quite expensive to drink in Iceland. The best option is to buy some duty-free alcohol and bring it with you.
To sum up, Iceland on a budget is quite easy to achieve if you stick to these tips. The incredible beauty of this country will amaze you every day and you’ll be planning your return in no time…I know that I am.
Make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing, depending on the type of traveller you are.
I hope you enjoyed this post about how to visit Iceland on a budget. Seriously, this was one of our favourite ever trips. Do you have any great tips I could add to this list?
🚌 Transportation: To book trains,Trainline is the best and cheapest website. To book transport in Europe, USA & Canada, we useOmio & FlixbusUS. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go.For all other countries, we use BookaWay to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or train tickets to get around.
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.