If you want to travel to Iceland but don’t think you can afford it, have another think! I can tell you everything you need to know to make this dream a reality.
I travelled to Iceland during my first year of my master’s degree, which was one of the most difficult financial situations I have ever been in.
Planning an affordable trip to Iceland can take some time, but it is possible!
Be Flexible on when you plan your Trip
The first way to save money is to choose the dates of your trip by price. Iceland only has one international Airport, Reykjavik therefore being flexible about which airport you fly from is key.
For this I used Skyscanner. For my trip I found flying from NCL to Belfast late at night then Belfast to Reykjavik at 6am in the morning was the cheapest combination of flights by a long way. Luckily, we had a close friend living in Belfast which we could crash the night with. Both flights were WAY less crowded than I expected, on the flight to Reykjavik my boyfriend and I both had three seats to ourselves!
The flight out to Belfast was on a Thursday evening and the flight to Iceland was early on the Friday morning. This also helped as avoiding the ‘weekend vacation’ prices associated with Friday afternoon and weekend flights.
The cheapest time to visit Iceland, but not necessarily the best time to visit, is during the ‘Off Season’ Winter months. However, this will depend on where you want to fly from, how flexible you can be and what you want to do in Iceland.
Check out my separate blog post here to find my recommendations on where to stay.
The key to making a trip to Iceland cheap is to research in advance what you want to do during your trip. Iceland is vast and sights could be many km from each other meaning they can not be visited in one day.
During February Reykjavík hosts the Winter Lights Festival, which is an annual event celebrating the rise of the sun out of the long dark winter months. The festival provides both inside and outdoor activites for both locals and tourists. Outdoor activities include a lit walking path, which winds down backstreets from Hallgrímskirkja church to the harbor by Harpa. All major museums and thermal pools participate on specific nights of the festival. This is perfect if you want to see & do a lot in Reykjavik for free.
If there are any particular museums you would like to visit check the ‘Plan Your Visit’ tab section to see if they offer any discounts or free days.
What to pack
Before you go to Iceland you need to figure out what activities you are planning on doing and what clothing they will require. These decisions can be hard, especially if you do not have a set plan on what you are going to be doing. From experience packing light and not paying to take extra luggage on the plane is one of the best ways to keep travelling affordable.
When travelling to Iceland it really doesn’t matter if you chose to bring a backpack or a suitcase so just go with your preference. Be sure to check the airlines dimensions and weight of the hand luggage you are allowed and do not exceed it! We saw a couple of young girls get charged on the way back to the UK from Reykjavik and it would be a shame to ruin the last day of your holiday.
In Winter Iceland is FREEZING so make sure you pack all of your best Winter clothing. One way of making sure fit everything into your hand luggage is to layer up and wear as many of the bluky items of clothing on the plane as you can.
While packing ensure you take a good quality and size flask with you!! If you have enough luggage space also take pasta, rice, curry powder etc… But most importantly if you would like to eat meat during your trip take some chorizo! Meat is EXTREMELY expensive in Iceland and if you are on the budget train you will not be able to afford any.
Also take at least one quick drying towel if you are planning on moving between hostels, as a normal towel will just not have a chance to dry.
When packing sort all of your clothes into zip lock or plastic carrier bags. This will mean your clothes will stay dry if your bag becomes wet.
Renting a car
Renting a 4×4 car greatly reduces the cost of your trip by reducing the need to pay for excursions, like the Golden Circle. Your own car rental also gives you the freedom and opportunity to explore the top sights at your own speed, which I personally think is a huge bonus. Driving around didn’t seem like a chore at all, in fact it was the opposite. Our drives from A to B were STUNNING! The ever changing conditions painted different landscapes and skies. See this for more cheap Icelandic Activities to drive to during your trip.
The cheapest way to do this is by taking out RAC international insurance cover before you travel, and be a Costco wholesale member. Seems random? Similar to England Costco petrol/desal prices are much cheaper than normal garages.
How to save money on Food
Eating out in Iceland will take up a HUGE part of your trips budget! My advice is to pick one or two local places you would like to try eating at during your trip and then cook for yourself in the hostel/ homestay the rest.
Next to Costco there is an IKEA, again seems random? Icelandic IKEA also sells warm snack hotdogs and take away fresh pizza dough, sauce and toppings. This only cost us ~£5 in total to feed two very hungry people. Note: To make homemade pizzas you will need to have access to an oven. I have also heard dominos regularly advertises buy one get one free pizzas which are also affordable, however, I prefer to make my own.
For additional pizza toppings and food supplies I found Kronan or Bonus are the best shops to go to. Other budget stores include Netto, Super1, Hagkaup, 10-11 and Samkaup Strax. Frozen veg, spreads, bread and potatoes to make chips are all must haves. If you are desperate for protein try Icelandic skyr yoghurt.
If you are planning to drink alcohol during your trip to Iceland, make sure you buy it in duty-free, or forget about it.
and that’s it! Everything you need to know to make your trip to Iceland as cheap as possible!
You may also be interested in cheap places to stay during your trip.
About the author – Charlotte Duff
I have decided reflecting on my previous trips around the world would be a great way to spend the Corona Virus lockdown. This is something I have always wanted to do and I finally have the time to dedicate.
I am from a small costal town in the North of England called Tynemouth. In 2016 I started my undergraduate degree at Newcastle University where my passion for long haul travelling really took off. Since then I have travelled to 24 countries and have studied in three. Writing travel blogs about my experiences is something I have wanted to do since I lived in Malaysia in 2018.
My travel blog offers tips aimed at University students on how to travel cheapy and to make them aware of any overseas study programmes they might be eligible for.