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By now you’ve probably had a friend (or twelve) shout about the joys of Iceland. We can confirm that all the fuss is warranted, from stunning nature (Waterfalls! Glaciers! Hot springs!), to fascinating culture (Björk! Sigur Rós!), Iceland really is a singular experience. And with cheap flights from WOW, or via Icelandair’s layover program (where you can book a trip to Europe and layover in Iceland for up to a week at no additional charge), getting to the Island won’t break the bank.

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But (cue record scratch) that’s the last time you’ll hear the word cheap associated with Iceland. Being a major tourist destination, you’ll be well taken care of—but you’ll pay for the honor. Still, there are a few steps you can take to assure that your Icelandic adventure won’t break the bank. From selective sipping, to purposeful plunges—here’s a few ways you can cut corners while still having the trip of a lifetime.

Pick your season carefully

Summer is peak season, which means a trip to Iceland will involve more crowds and higher fees for just about everything. Likewise, November, around the time the country hosts their annual Iceland Airwaves festival, means a busy city with more competition for hotel rooms and resources. (Then again, if you like hiking under the midnight sun, or music these might be your key seasons.) For the frugal set, aim to come in early spring or late November/early December. Bonus: Winter is Northern Lights season!

Choose your splurge

Let’s face it—somethings just cost money. If you feel like your trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without going horseback riding, or seeing the country via helicopter, then by all means, budget and make it happen. Before you get to Iceland (so you’re not motivated by FOMO or jet lag) make a list and rank every activity you’re interested in. Seeing everything written will help you determine where your heart and money lies.

Visit the drunk pig

Okay, so it’s not a drunk pig—but the mascot for Iceland’s budget grocery store BONUS definitely looks like he’s gotten into something. With multiple locations across Reykjavik and Iceland, BONUS offers your best bet for non-restaurant food, even if it just means stocking up on coffee and snacks. Just keep in mind not all grocery stores are created equal. Beware the sway of convenience store 10-11. Despite its cheery green interior and line of inviting grab-and-go treats, their markup will mean you’re paying nearly 1.5 times as much as you would elsewhere.

Eat the hot dog

This one’s for the meat eaters. But for some reason, despite their reputation as a fish community, Iceland seems inexplicably obsessed with hot dogs. Gas stations? Check. Malls? Ferries? Airports? Check. You’ll find them everywhere—usually made of 100% grass fed, free range Icelandic lamb, and usually at about $3–8 each. For the ultimate experience, visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a stand so popular it’s even endorsed by President Clinton.

Make your own happy hour

This one might hurt: Booze of any kind in Iceland, is very expensive. Taxes are high—somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of the purchase price—and is passed on to the consumer. If you’re one who enjoys an aperitif, consider buying your drink of choice duty free before leaving the airport. Otherwise, keep a look out for happy hours. Enough bars and restaurants offer them that local English-language newspaper Reykjavik Grapevine created an app to help readers keep track.

Avoid bottled water

Single-use plastic is unnecessary—doubly so in Iceland where some of the best water in the world comes directly out of the tap. Instead, bring a reusable bottle and then (as the name would imply) reuse it. You’ll be saving yourself an easy five dollars each time.

Rent a car

With tour companies charging $100 and up for day trips around the Golden Circle (where the geysers live) and a likewise steep fare to go south (where the black sand beaches and waterfalls reside), it might be worth it to rent a car—particularly if you can split the cost among multiple people. (Just make sure someone has an international driver’s license—which you can get for $20 at AAA.). Bonus: You’re no longer beholden to a large group of tourists, can take your time and skip any site you’d like.

Turn off your phone

Unless you have some kind of magical phone plan that allows you worldwide access at no additional cost (if so—please let us know!), calling, texting and hitting social media will cost you. Instead, turn off your data, or throw your phone in airplane mode, and upload your Instas using the city’s multiple free WIFI networks. If you simply must call home, make programs like iMessage, Whatsapp, and Viber your new besties.

Go for a swim

If the Blue Lagoon is your splurge of choice, great! It’s hard to argue with in-water massages and a swim up bar. But it’s also around $100, so if you’re on the fence about Iceland’s most famous spa, skip it. For those still interesting in getting into hot water (umm…literally) try Secret Lagoon, a geothermic pool located in Flúðir where you can watch the tiny geyser heat your water for a fraction of the price. For the truly adventurous, the country has a wealth of hidden, free hot pools. (Just double check with this map so you don’t accidentally broil yourself!) Finally, don’t discount the local swimming pool. Pool culture is huge in Reykjavík. Many locals treat taking a post-work dip like going to the pub, so it’s a great place to absorb the local scene.


Tagged: Cheap Tips, International, Tips & advice

Laura Studarus

Laura Studarus

Laura Studarus

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