Let’s not beat around the bush here. Iceland tends to be pricy for visitors. The currency is problematic, and the cost of many things are very high because most things need to be imported. So your Iceland vacation can very quickly get pretty expensive. But please don’t let that stop you from visiting us. There are ways to cut down on your costs a bit. While Iceland will never be a cheap destination, here are a few tips on how to travel cheap in Iceland. A few little moneysaving tips, some cheap activities and some things you can do for FREE as well.
Don’t Buy Bottled Water!
It always breaks my heart when I go to the supermarkets in Iceland and I see stacks of bottled water. The packaging makes it very clear that they are targeting tourists. Which makes sense, because Icelanders don’t really buy any of that.
Just so we’re clear: The tap water is clean, pure and ready to drink. There is never a good reason to buy bottled water. It’s expensive, unnecessary and bad for the environment. So by all means, save your money and just drink the tap water. If you feel you need to carry water with you, you could bring a reusable bottle from home, or buy one over here. But buying water is definitely not how to travel cheap in Iceland.
Save on Alcohol
Alright, you’re on vacation in Iceland. You may want to have a drink or two, as you do. Be aware, however, that alcoholic beverages tend to get very expensive in Iceland. There is a pretty steep tax on alcohol, and as with anything else, the cost of doing business gets pretty high. So it really adds up. As with many other things, however, if you know what you’re doing, you can stretch your money a bit here.
Buy Alcohol Duty Free
As you approach the Duty Free store in Keflavik Airport you’ll see a sign urging you to act like the locals and buy your alcohol there. And this is absolutely true. We all stock up on alcohol in the Duty Free store. As I said, the high alcohol tax is one of the main reasons why it’s so expensive, and buying it duty free does away with that. So that is the first tip on how to travel cheap in Iceland if you want to have a drink or two. There is a limit on how much you can buy duty free, so make sure you don’t exceed that.
One thing you might want to keep in mind is that the alcohol tax is based on the strength of the beverage. So you save more by buying spirits than beer or wine. Not that I’m trying to influence you to switch from Merlot to vodka, it’s just something to be aware of. If you were planning on buying any spirits at all, definitely do it at the airport.
Don’t Buy Supermarket Beer!
Yes, that exclamation mark is necessary. This is another thing that makes me sad at the supermarket. They tend to be very misleading. So just to make sure this is absolutely clear:
The beer at the supermarket is NON-ALCOHOLIC!
That’s right. Supermarkets in Iceland are not allowed to sell alcohol. If you want to buy adult beverages you need to go to a bar or one of the state run liquor stores (Vínbúð). Obviously the liquor stores will be a lot cheaper, but there are also ways to get your drinks slightly cheaper at the bars. Which brings us to:
If you want to go out on the town and have a couple of drinks, but you want to do it cheaper, look no further than Appy Hour. This app gives you a list of all the different happy hours around your location arranged by time, so you can make a happy hour schedule and never pay full price for drinks in Reykjavik! The happy hour prices may not be exactly cheap, but at least you’ll pay a lot less. Every little bit helps, right?
The City Card
There are lots of fun things to do in Reykjavik for the whole family. Museums, swimming pools, the farmyard zoo and all kinds of cool stuff to make your Iceland vacation memorable. The costs of those things do add up, though. But fear not!
The City Card gets you into all the swimming pools in Reykjavik, onto all the buses, into most of the best museums (including the National Museum, the Settlement Exhibition, the Saga Museum and many more), into the zoo and a lot of other fun places. Different prices get you different lengths of time (from 24 up to 72 hours). It can definitely save you a lot of money if you are planning on visiting a few of those places.
Now, your Iceland vacation can be cheaper without any paid visits to anywhere. But some of these activities are a big part of enjoying Reykjavik. So if you want to cut down the cost and cram in some culture and local color, the City Card is a great option.
How to Travel Cheap in Iceland – and Fish!
The Fishing Card
If you want to drive around the island on your vacation to Iceland, staying in hotels or even hostels can get very expensive. Sleeping in a tent or one of those small camper vans can be a lot cheaper. Of course, most camping sites charge you a little bit per night, and it all adds up. There is, however, an option that most people don’t know about.
The Fishing Card is basically a cheap fishing license. It allows you to go fishing in a number of great lakes around Iceland. Some of these lakes are fantastic trout fishing locations. If you’re at all interested in trying your hand at lake fishing while in Iceland, this is definitely the cheapest option.
What many don’t realize, however, is that the card also allows you to camp by many of those lakes (not all, but a great many). And the price is such that you can save a good deal of money if you are camping for more than a couple of nights. Now, you obviously don’t get the amenities that come with a camping site – there are no facilities at any of these places. But if you don’t mind roughing it, and you might like to try your hand at a bit of trout fishing while you’re in Iceland, you definitely want to check out the Fishing Card.
If you have to go grocery shopping, you need to know where to go. There is a huge price gap between the cheaper markets and the expensive ones. You really want to steer away from stores like 10-11 and Kvosin, as they are really overpriced. There are cheaper supermarkets, though. It pays off to familiarise yourself with them.
Bónus was the original discount supermarket in Iceland. You can find two of their stores in the downtown area in Reykjavik. There are Bónus stores all around Iceland as well. You can find stores locations and opening hours on their English web site.
Another cheaper supermarket is Krónan. They have stores all over the country, but not in the Reykjavik centrum. They also have an English web site with their locations and opening hours.
If you need to shop for groceries, these two stores should be within shouting distance in most larger towns around Iceland. If you want to know how to travel cheap in Iceland, you need to familiarise yourself with these chains. However, there are some smaller areas that have neither franchise. In that case, you probably don’t have much choice. But again, the web sites with the store locations will help you out.
Look at the street art!
Reykjavik has a lot of cool street art, and that of course doesn’t cost you anything. So taking a walk around the downtown area, especially the residential part, is a fun thing to do without paying anything, and there is a lot of beautiful art around there. Take our Free Walking Tour to get a better idea about where to go to see some cool artwork.
Save Money on Your Iceland Vacation
I hope this list has been helpful and has given you some ideas for things to do in Iceland. If you need any information, do not hesitate to get in touch. If this has been useful, I hope you will consider booking your tours, accommodation, flights or activities through this web site. It won’t cost you any extra, I make sure to only list the very best partner companies I can find, and it does help me to run this site and market my tours and activities. I appreciate you and hope you have a great visit in Iceland.