Everyone has heard how expensive Iceland can be, but until you shell out 1200 ISK (about £10) for a pint of a lager or 2900 ISK (about £25) for a personal-sized pizza, it doesn’t quite hit you.
Here’s how I pinched a few pence to make Iceland more affordable:
Use reward points or loyalty programs to defray major costs. I used Hotels.com to book Skuggi Hotel in Reykjavik and redeemed a free night I earned through their rewards programme (more on how to save money when traveling in general here) saving myself £140 before I even stepped foot on Icelandic soil.
Stay in a hotel with free breakfast and load up so you can skip lunch. Skuggi was in a great location right in the center of town, we got a nice room and the buffet breakfast was perfect - lots of fresh fruit and skyr, Icelandic yogurt that’s naturally high in protein and low in fat. There was also plenty of pastries, salmon, eggs, bacon, etc if that’s more your speed.
Take breakfast souvenirs to snack on especially if you’re doing a day trip to the peninsula or southern Iceland that has limited food options. On our days outside Reykjavík, I made little ham, cheese and veggie sandwiches on wholemeal rolls to take with us in the car. We did this for three days and probably saved ourselves about 5400 ISK.
Bring protein and snack bars from home. It was astonishing that buying food in the grocery store was as expensive as eating out, so defray costs by bringing your own snacks.
Go for “cheap” eats. Iceland isn’t known for its cuisine, so why waste your hard-earned money on it? Even eating “cheap” is going to cost you, but you can defray your cost by: hitting up Subway for their foot-long sub of the day, slurping down a delicious bowl of Asian-style noodle soup at NoodleStation or catching a burger meal-deal at B5.
Drink tap water. I don’t think the water can get any more pure than Iceland. I’m incredibly neurotic about drinking tap water outside the UK and US and I was fine. We brought our own water bottles and filled them up all week long.
Get your drink on during happy hour. Download the Appy Hour app and you can pretty much find beer or wine for half price around Reykjavík most of the time. The app tells you what’s on, when and how close the happy hour is to your current location. My favorite was Bryggian Brewery (happy hour 3-7pm daily) where a chosen “house” beer (brewed on site) is only 500 ISK (£3.50) a pint.
Make your photos your only souvenir - if you thought the food was expensive, just wait until you see the price tag on those socks dotted with puffins. Come on, you were never going to rock those with that Viking hat outside Reykjavík anyway...
Skip the museums and go explore - there’s so little to learn about, you may as well save the 2000-3000 ISK admission charge and just read up on Icelandic history on your phone. The real sights are the natural wonders.
Skip the tower (1000 ISK entrance fee) at Halljuriska (church in the shape of a geyser) to hear the organ play (free). There is a 360 degree view of Reykjavík from the tower - it’s just the City isn’t particularly scenic so its not worth the money.
Be smart with your travel money. Use a travel card like WeSwap to get cheaper exchange rates (and they're giving away £10 if you sign-up on the app with code WESWAP10) or a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and always choose to pay in the local currency. I use the Halifax Clarity card. The credit card will always gives you a better rate than the shop/restaurant. Most credit or debit cards charge a 3%+ foreign transaction fee which really adds up. In Iceland, everyone, everywhere no matter how remote seemed to accept credit cards (even for parking). I wish I hadn’t bothered taking out any cash!