Iceland tourism is booming. When I took a trip to Iceland last October, it did not take me long to find out why. Iceland’s lovely landscapes, its playful people, and the ubiquitous appreciation for the arts make travel to Iceland a paradise for anyone into that. And now quite a few major US airports have cheap flights to Iceland. WOW air sprang on the scene in 2011 and everything about them made me say, “Wow!” They are hip in a Pan Am type way, and are a budget airline that ddoesn’t make you feel like you’re on a flying Greyhound Bus.
If you plan to travel to Iceland, you may want to budget more than $1,000 for your trip. However, when I ditched my plane ticket back to North America and decided to stay an extra four weeks in Iceland, I did not even have enough money for a ticket off Iceland, so learning how to enjoy Reykjavik on a budget allowed me to write, live and save enough for a ticket to Paris, where I eventually made it back to North America in time for Thanksgiving.
That’s a story for another time. This is the story about how you can travel to Iceland, a pricier destination, on a starving artist budget. As it was, on my extended stay in Iceland, I stayed in Reykjavik, socialized regularly, and was able to make it 32 days while spending only $950. Below is a breakdown of my budget, and then I’ll tell you how I did it.
Iceland Budget Travel
|Expense||Cost over 32 Days in Iceland|
|Things I may have smoked:||$50|
Sublet An Apartment While in Iceland
Hotels in Iceland are expensive. If you plan to stay in a hotel in Iceland, expect to spend thousands of dollars on your accommodations. Even searching Air BnB for lodging in Iceland, yields that the least you’ll pay is about $60 a night. If you’re staying a month, that’s more than $1,500 for a bed, and trust me, there’s so much to do in Iceland that you do not want to spend much time in bed (unless of course you meet that special, Icelandic someone).
I was able to find super cheap lodging in Iceland by making friends with Icelanders early on in my trip. Most college students in Reykjavik pay about $400-$500 a month in rent. These digs are not on the Internet. The best way to find out about them is to “put the word” out. If you know someone with connections in Iceland, they might be able to help you put the word out on Facebook to find a place you are looking for. My digs were pretty awesome, as were my roommates, so the whole experience of subletting not only saves money, but is an opportunity to be a person living in Iceland, not just a tourist bent on eating puffins.
Save Money In Iceland By Buying Your Groceries At The Bonus
I only wish I had learned this lesson early on. One of my first shocking experiences in Iceland was walking into a grocery store and seeing that a package of Ramen which cost $0.20 in the US cost $2.50. Everywhere you go, Ramen is there to save you from breaking your budget. It was not just the Ramen. Everything else was equally inflated. This price pattern repeated itself in grocery stores across Iceland.
Then, my new roommate in the apartment I sublet took me shopping with her and I learned where the Icelanders shop for their groceries. They shop at The Bonus. Icelanders speak about The Bonus like Catholics talk of the Blessed Virgin. At The Bonus Grocery Store, you will find yourself nodding at the prices saying, “Okay, yes, that sounds reasonable. That price does not make me want to throw myself off the Latrabjarg Cliffs.”
Last year at The Bonus, Ramen was $0.50, and that seemed pretty reasonable.
Save Money In Iceland By Buying Your Meat At The Kolaportid Market
The Kolaportid Flea Market is located on Reykjavik’s northern harbor and is open Saturday and Sunday. It is one massive sale of everything imaginable. In the fish market you’ll find fish priced at less than half of what you’ll find in the grocery store. At the height of my cod eating frenzy, I was procuring cod at about $3 a pound from a guy. Even if you don’t eat food, USA Today ranked the Kolaportid Market as number 9 in its list of Top Ten Things to Do In Iceland.
Save Money When You Travel To Iceland By Buying Your Booze At Duty Free
I can’t stress this enough. If you can, purchase all the liquor you plan to consume outside of bars at the duty free of whatever airport you are flying into Iceland from. Walk into a government taxed liquor store in Iceland and a little piece of your soul will die. I don’t want to even talk about what a 750ml of shitty rum costs in Iceland because I am still trying to make sense of it all. Even if you don’t drink, buy as much liquor as you can at duty free and give it to the Icelandic people. You will be a hero.
Save Money When You Travel To Iceland By Not Spending $10 For A Beer in A Bar
That’s right, that’s how much the cheap beer costs in a bar. Don’t think the liquor store will save you, beers are $5 a can there. The first key to saving money in Iceland, and still drinking 5 beers a couple nights a week is to hit up happy hours like you’re unemployed. The second key to saving money in Iceland is to find out from the kids where the $5 a beer bars are. When I was there, it was The Olsmidjan Bar that served beer for $5 and a beer AND whiskey for $10.
Drink For Free In Iceland By Starting A Band
So, this tip might not be for everyone. When I was in Iceland two Icelanders and I–Thorburger and Baron–started band. While we failed to make millions and fill auditoriums of adoring feminine fans, we did manage to have a blast and drink for free. Icelanders love music. Starting a band is cool even if you are an adult here. If you can play anything and plan to be in Iceland for more than a week, find some people to jam with and find a bar that appreciates the sort of music and you will drink for free, 98.6% guaranteed.