Travel tips

Iceland: a money-saving guide

By Tasha Kleeman |

What do you think of when you hear the world Iceland? Hot springs? Glaciers? The Northern Lights? The Blue Lagoon? You’re probably also thinking: expensive.

As the world’s second-most expensive country to live in, Iceland is never going to be your cheapest holiday option. However, if you’ve always wanted to visit, now could be the perfect time. The Pound has been increasing in strength against the Icelandic Krona over the last few years: right now, you’ll get 157 Icelandic Krona for your Pound, whereas this time last year you would have only got 140, and two years ago, only 125.

With an average meal in Rekyjavik coming to around £16, it’s still an expensive destination. However, there are plenty of things you can do to cut down costs. Here are our top tips for saving money while exploring the Nordic island.

1. Explore the country's natural attractions (for free!) 

Plenty of Iceland’s most popular attractions will charge you a hefty fee for entry – but the country also has a fantastic array of natural wonders that won’t cost you a thing to explore. Go and watch the natural water eruptions of the geyser, or explore the Asjka Caldera volcano. Iceland is full of natural waterfalls, glaciers and beaches, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch the northern lights.

2. Skip the organised tours

Most sites will give you the option of organised tours. These tend to be expensive and often aren’t necessary. Organised tours can be a great option if you want to get up close and personal with Iceland’s natural attractions (e.g. to explore an iceberg up close in a boat or walk on a glacier) but if you’re happy to admire from afar, skip the tour and explore alone for free.

3. Visit alternative spas

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction. However, with tickets starting from around £70 per person, exploring it doesn’t come cheap. There are plenty of alternative natural geothermal springs which are much cheaper and less crowded. The Secret Lagoon in Fludir, The Grotta Hot Pool and Myvatn Nature Baths are all excellent, more cost-effective alternatives.

4. Have your main meal at lunch time 

Dining out in Iceland is very expensive, but if you can get yourself into the dinner mind-set at lunch time you’ll save yourself some cash.  Most restaurants offer the same main dishes for much cheaper prices at lunch time. Alternatively, if you’re after something quick and inexpensive lunch, try one of Iceland’s famous hotdogs, which you can pick up from a street-food stand for around £3.50.

5. Drink tap water

There’s no need to buy bottled water in Iceland, and doing so will immediately mark you out as a tourist. Iceland’s tap water is incredibly pure and high quality, and will probably taste much better than anything you buy in a bottle.

6. Camp 

Camping is a memorable and cost-effective option for exploring Iceland (although only advisable in the summer months, as Icelandic winters can be brutal). Campsites usually cost around 1,000 to 2,000 ISK per person a night (between £6 and £15) with a small overnight tax of around 333 ISK – much cheaper than staying in a hotel.

7. Buy your alcohol at duty free

Alcohol is incredibly expensive in Iceland, and can also be difficult to get hold of (it can’t be bought in supermarkets, only in expensively-priced, government-owned Vinbudin stores). You can take 6 units of alcohol into the country with you, so if you’re planning on drinking it’s a good idea to buy some at duty free before you fly. With bars in Iceland notoriously expensive, you should also take advantage of happy hours and download the ‘Appy Hour’ app, which will help you find drink deals in Rekyjavik.

8. Avoid 10-11

These luminous green grocery stores are the most expensive in Iceland. Avoid buying your food there if possible – you’ll find the same goods at much cheaper prices at Bonus, Netto or Kronan.

9. Don't worry about tipping

While it’s always appreciated, tipping isn’t obligatory in Iceland, where hospitality staff are generally well paid.

10. Use public wifi 

Minimise roaming costs by using the free wifi available in most public places throughout the country.

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