Traveling to Iceland on the Cheap

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated April 8, 2018

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Money Saving Tips
March 1, 2017

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and it is starting to become a popular destination for adventurous travelers. But you don’t have to have a sense of adventure to enjoy the beauty and culture of Iceland. Since the country is still new to the tourism game, you can get some great deals on travel expenses. Here are some tips on how to save on a trip to Iceland.

Since the country is embracing tourism, its two major airlines, WOW and IcelandicAir, are constantly offering great deals on trips to Iceland, for as low as $200 round-trip from the east coast. Neither airline is a luxury experience, but the planes are well-equipped and the flights from the east coast are generally shorter than they are to the rest of Europe, making it an easy vacation spot.

An added bonus: Both airlines offer extended layovers in Iceland when you buy a ticket to many other cities in Europe, from London to Munich to Paris. The extended layover means that you can extend your layover in Iceland from one up to five days at no extra charge (meaning it’s the same price if you continue straight on to your destination or spend five days in Iceland), which encourages people to extend their trip and experience Iceland as part of it.

Iceland can be very expensive. The exchange rate makes everything from food to cabs to tours more expensive than it is in the U.S. That’s why it’s important to save some money where you can, especially on airfare and lodging. Since tourism is still a newish concept in Iceland, most of the hotels are not what we would consider “luxury,” which also means they tend to be on the cheaper end per night.

Even the highest-rated hotel in Reykjavik on TripAdvisor, the Reykjavik Residence Hotel, is only about $200 a night, depending on the room. This hotel is extremely homey, and each room is set up like an apartment — some equipped with full kitchens. If you stay, order the breakfast basket, just for the locally baked bread alone, which they cook in the hot springs.

You can also get great deals by booking with a home-sharing site like AirBnB. Iceland is known for its low crime rate and friendly people, so even if you aren’t familiar with using AirBnB overseas, you can have peace of mind that you’ll find great places with trustworthy owners. Most apartments or houses renting around Reykjavik’s city center go for reasonable rates.

While food can be pretty expensive in Iceland, you can save money by taking advantage of some of Iceland’s local street food. Iceland is actually famous for its hotdogs, and you can find street hotdog vendors throughout the city, especially downtown. The hotdog is traditionally topped with a sweet mustard to compliment its savory flavor.

If you are a little more adventurous and don’t mind spending a little more money, you can try any one of Iceland’s traditional food options, which include whale, puffin and a fermented shark, which settlers used to ferment in order to drain the shark’s body of its naturally-occurring anti-freeze.

Many of the most exciting things to see in Iceland are outside Reykjavik, but there is no real public transportation outside the city, so getting to these sites can be a challenge. You can rent a car, but that can be expensive and can also be dangerous during the winter when roads close because of extreme winter conditions. You can rent a tour guide and off-road vehicle to take you to the best destinations, but that also can be very expensive. Your best bet is to book a group tour. Most group tours leave from multiple locations throughout Reykjavik and most tour companies offer a range of packages so you can pick the one that best fits your needs.

Things you will want to include in your tour include the Golden Circle, which is an area just outside of Reykjavik which houses most of the main tourist attractions, including beautiful waterfalls, geysers and hot springs. It also houses the spot where the North American and European continental plates meet. If you are looking to be a little more adventurous and don’t mind spending a little money, there are also tours inside of the country’s largest glacier (yes, inside!) and into a dormant volcano just south of Reykjavik.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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