Iceland on a Budget: 10 Ways to Save Money
Travelling in Iceland on a budget might often seem like an impossible task. Trips to Iceland cost a lot, with things sometimes even costing up to 2–3 times as much as they do in Europe and North America. But we’re here to help.
The crew at Go Campers strongly believe that exploring this beautiful country doesn’t have to break the bank. In this article, we’re going to share our tips to travel in Iceland on a budget.
And if you’ve already rented a campervan, congratulations, as it’s one of the cheapest ways to visit Iceland and save some money. Here are 10 more ways to save money in the country and travel to Iceland on a budget.
1. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Iceland enjoys plenty of incredible, clean water. In fact, it’s one of the best countries in the world when it comes to clean and safe tap water. So, an easy way of travelling around Iceland on a budget is to bring a reusable water bottle with you, saving you from having to buy bottled water from the supermarket.
You can fill up your reusable bottle at any of the taps around the country without worrying about its quality – it’s fantastic everywhere. If you don’t believe us, maybe the fact that the Icelandic Tourism Board ran a campaign promoting the tap water in the country will convince you.
For the ultimate natural experience, you can even fill up your water bottle from various rivers around the country. Finally, bringing a reusable water bottle to Iceland also helps the environment as well, as 80% of plastic bottles end up in landfill. Everybody wins.
2. Make Use of our Sharing Centre Before Setting Out
In the Go Campers’ office where you’ll be picking up the camper, we run a sharing centre for our customers. Here, you can rummage through other travellers’ leftover food and other supplies, like charcoal for BBQs, paper towels, and even the occasional second-hand book. Spending 5 minutes digging through the shelves before you set out is a great step towards saving money in Iceland on your trip.
Things that you’ll usually find are rice, pasta, canned food, and useful things like oil, salt, and pepper that you wouldn’t really want to buy anyway. And don’t worry – we regularly go through the shelves to make sure that everything is clean and not past its best by date.
3. Make All Your Meals in the Camper
Eating in Iceland on a budget can be tricky – but not in a campervan. While Iceland’s modern cuisine is incredible, it turns out that one of the best places to eat in Iceland on a budget is in the back of your campervan! Our entire fleet of campers comes equipped with everything you’ll need to whip up delicious meals on the road. With a gas stove, pots, a pan, and all cooking utensils, you’ll be a master at quick meals by the end of your campervan trip, dramatically reducing your cost of travel in Iceland.
Visit the cheap supermarkets (Bónus or Krónan) and stock up on food for your trip. We recommend easy recipes like pasta with vegetables, rice and beans, or the classic hot dogs that are very cheap to buy from the supermarkets. Renting a BBQ is also an easy way to enjoy more complex meals, like hamburgers, without paying the restaurants prices. And if you do fancy eating out, lunch time is always much cheaper than dinner time. Bon Appetit!
4. Brew Your Own Tea and Coffee
Coffee in Iceland is an important business. As one of the nations with the highest consumption of caffeine per capita, you can easily find a lot of great coffee around the country. But you might have to decide just how much coffee you’ll buy from the cafés, as it can quickly add up over the course of a trip in the country.
The average cost of a regular coffee with milk in Iceland is between 300–600 ISK. Brewing your own every day is an easy way to cut costs and save money in Iceland.
If you’re set on buying a coffee, a neat trick is to order yourself a simple filter brew from the gas stations. With this, you can enjoy unlimited refills!
5. Make Use of the Free Hot Springs
There are plenty of classy geothermal spas around the country, but often, the entry fees can be quite high. For those willing to pay, you do get your money’s worth; it’s a luxurious experience. But the penny-pinching travellers among us might want to seek out Iceland’s free hot springs instead.
Travelling Iceland on a budget will ideally involve a lot of stops at these smaller, natural hot springs. Found out in the awesome Icelandic nature, these pools are the perfect and relaxing way to take a moment to sit back and soak up the scenery.
Some of our favourites are: Seljavallalaug or Reykjadalur River in South Iceland; Hellulaug and Pollurinn in the Westfjords; and Djúpavogskörin in East Iceland. Visiting any of these will help you save money in Iceland.
6. Visit the Bars and Pubs for Happy Hour
If you’re looking forward to a beer at the end of a long day driving, be aware that alcohol in Iceland is expensive. That goes double if you’re visiting a bar or pub, where a pint of beer can set you back up to 1,400 ISK.
But locals know that the best way to save money in Iceland is to make use of the happy hours. Most venues in Reykjavik and Akureyri have a special deal to draw in the punters each evening.
If you’re in Reykjavik or Akureyri for a night, make sure to visit during these hours to get the special deal; sometimes it’ll be two for one, otherwise it might just be a specific beer selling for cheap. Of course, the best way for budget travel in Iceland is to not drink at all, but then you’d miss out on some of the fantastic local beers.
7. Buy Your Alcohol in Duty-Free
If you’re looking instead to enjoy a drink at your campsite, then you might be in for a rude surprise. Iceland taxes its alcohol – a lot. It’s one of the most expensive things in the country and can quickly break your budget if you’re trying to travel in Iceland on the cheap.
A case of 12 beers from Vínbúðin (the state-run alcohol store) might set you back about 2,500 ISK. So, when you arrive, do as the Icelanders do and immediately dive into the Duty-Free store at the airport. Alcohol here is much cheaper than it is inside Iceland, so it’s a great way to save a few bucks if you’re planning on having some beer or wine after you’ve finished driving for the day.
8. Use the Petrol Discount Tag
If you’re travelling for about a week or more, then buying the camping card before you set out will save you some money at the campsites around the country. This card allows you to stay at select campsites around the country for free – you’ll only have to pay the overnight tax, which is 333ISK per person. Otherwise, camping can quickly add up.
On average, campsites cost around 1,500ISK per person, per night (however some charge per camper). You can buy the camping card from us at Go Campers. One Camping Card is valid for two adults and two children (under 16). It’s an easy and quick way to visit Iceland on a budget.
9. Use the Petrol Discount Tag
When you pick up the camper, attached to the key is a little N1 discount tag. When you fill-up with petrol, all you need to do is swipe this tag first at the pump, and you’ll receive a small discount.
It’s not a huge discount, but every little bit helps when you’re trying to reduce your Iceland vacation cost. The average price of a full tank of petrol for our Go Smart Camper 2-pax is between 6000–7000 ISK. Petrol is also one of the biggest costs of travel in Iceland on a road trip.
10. Get a Tax Refund Before Flying Home
No matter how hard you try, sometimes trips to Iceland cost a lot more than you budgeted. Luckily, there’s one more way to save some money before you fly home: the tax refund scheme for tourists.
If you’ve purchased over 6,000 ISK of goods (for example, a woolly Icelandic jumper) and reside outside of Iceland, you’re entitled to this refund. At the airport near the check-in counters, find the counter and present your items with receipts to get your refund.
You’ll also have to show your passport to prove that you live outside of the country. If all the requirements are met, then you’ll receive a nice little VAT refund into your bank account – the perfect way to end your Icelandic trip on a budget.