Iceland is notoriously expensive, typically landing in the top 10 most expensive countries. Visitors expect to spend excessive cash when travelling around the country. And while we cannot lower the prices here, we do have a few tips on travelling Iceland on a budget.
- Duty Free is your friend. When you get off the plane and walk through a labyrinth of the Keflavík airport, you will pass through a duty-free shop filled with alcohol and other goodies. You may also spot Icelanders loading up here like doomsday preppers. This is because the duty-free shop in the airport is the cheapest place for alcohol in Iceland. So if you intend to drink, whether beer, spirits, or wine, the airport is the best place to pick your poison.
- The 55 bus: getting from Keflavík airport to Reykjavík is a necessity for most travellers. But, boy, it can cost a lot. Some choose to take a taxi – pretty simple but rather expensive (around 20,000 ISK for a one-way trip). Most choose a private bus, like FlyBus or Airport Direct, both of which cost around 3,900 ISK as of the time of this writing). These buses are dependable and leave every 30-60 minutes from the airport. But there is a cheaper option, although slightly more complicated. The public bus 55 picks up and drops off at the airport. You can purchase a ticket on the bus with a credit/debit card (not something you can do on Reykjavík city buses!). To get to the pick up, walk east from the airport past short-term parking to the street Kjóavöllur that is on the way to the car rental area. One-way tickets cost approximately 1,960 ISK.
- Get the Reykjavík City Card. If you are going to spend any time at all in Reykjavík, the City Card is a must. You can purchase a card that lasts 24 (4,600 ISK), 48 (6,400 ISK), or 72 hours (7,890 ISK). Included in this price is entry to the city’s swimming pools, entry to all the Reykjavík City Museum locations, all the Reykjavík Art Museum locations, the National Gallery and National Museum, and way more! The bus payment system can be complicated – sidestep this with the City Card: you ride for free! Check out all the benefits you can get with the City Card.
- Get outside. Hiking is free! Sure, you’ll need to figure out how to get to different hiking spots, but the cost is minimal compared to the experience of hiking through Iceland’s incredible nature. Besides, there is less chance of you spending a bunch of money when you’re wandering through the wilderness. There are some great hiking options not far from Reykjavík!
- Camp! This one requires some planning. You will need to bring some gear with you or purchase some things upon arrival. The weather in Iceland is fickle and often terrible, so you need to be prepared: waterproof everything, warm sleeping bags, etc. But if you can manage to gather what you need, campsites are either free or dirt cheap! Of course, this isn’t an option year-round, as many campsites in the countryside close down in the fall.
- Share the costs. Travelling in a group is an excellent way to save money. There are thousands of tourists in Iceland at any given time, and there are plenty of websites and social media pages where people offer to share car rentals, offer rides (carpooling), and plan trips. Use caution when using these sites and always meet the users in person before committing to travel with someone you don’t know!
- Happy hour. If you didn’t get your fill at the Duty Free shop, pop into the bars and pubs in the afternoon to take advantage of the happy hour deals. Half-priced beer, BOGOF, and other deals are usually on the table. If in doubt where to go, a beer & booze tour could be the answer.
- Free things to do in Reykjavík. Not everything costs money in the city. You can walk into Hallgrímskirkja for free (though going up the tower costs money), and their organ concerts are also typically free. Nauthólsvík is Reykjavík’s geothermal beach, complete with white sand and hot tub. It is open from May 15 to August 15, and on nice summer days, it fills up with families trying to soak up the evasive Icelandic sun. A walk through the woods on Öskjuhlíð gives you a nice break from the city. Tuesday night karaoke at Gaukurinn is another perfect free event. They also have comedy and open mic nights. Hús Máls og menningar is an event space on Laugavegur that has free music almost every day. Keep your eyes on some of Reykjavík’s biggest events and festivals, as there are usually free events, such as the off-venue concerts at the Airwaves music festival. Other places like The Nordic House and the city library offer an enormous variety of free exhibitions, events, workshops, and talks geared towards individual and the whole family. Check out our events page to learn more!
- Get food from the grocery stores. It can be more economic to get some of your food from grocery stores rather than restaurants, saving you time and money. Some travellers like the long sandwiches (langlokur) with various fillings, that you can get in most grocery stores, plus skyr, bread, fruit and snacks that you could grab with you on the road.