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How to Travel to Iceland on a Budget

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Iceland was the last destination of our round the world trip. After 30+ countries and almost 2 years away we were heading home. While Iceland was never on the original itinerary since our flight back from Italy allowed for a layover in Reyjkavik to be extended up to a week for no additional cost we decided why not?

Iceland would be an epic destination to finish the trip on.

Only one thing to be concerned about here.

Iceland can be extremely expensive. After frolicking all over the world mostly on $30-50 a day we figured we could make a budget trip out of Iceland too. Here are my tips for creating your own budget trip to Iceland.

Self Drive Tour with a Rental Car:

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Instead of booking transportation through tour companies book a car and go on your own self drive tour. We rented a car through Sad Cars – but feel free to take a look to find a cheap car rental in Iceland. We ended up with a slightly older car that is a bit worn – but hey for a good price who cares right? Also by doing some initial research we figured we would not need a 4×4 as we were not planning on driving off of the ring road so were able to get a AWD (cheaper and more gas efficient) and were fine with that. If we had learned how to drive a manual car beforehand we could have saved even more money since manual cars are significantly cheaper to rent.

If you have the chance to learn how to drive a manual I high recommend it! You can save hundreds of dollars just by renting a manual instead of an automatic.

By having a car we were free to go where we pleased, when we wanted to. We were also able to stock up on a bunch of snacks and food at the grocery store we that we could make our own lunch and dinner. Without having to lug this around with us we were able to store quite a bit of food in the car.

Travel at the End of Low Season 

We happened to be traveling in mid July so that was already the beginning of high season, but if you plan your trip out to start just before high season starts you’ll also save on rates for accommodation and the rental car as everything is cheaper during low season. And best of all you’ll probably have the same exact weather as the beginning of high season so win win right?

High season starts July 1 and by traveling in June you can save 132 euros on a 6 days rental car rate alone. Timing wise we could not do this but I would highly advice traveling in June instead of July to take advantage of low season rates.

Look for Couchsurfers or Stay in Dorms

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Since we were traveling at the beginning of high season it was hard to find couchsurfers – it seems even those rooms get booked up quickly! If you know far in advance when you’ll be traveling start messaging couchsurfers in your destination – this will allow you to have free accommodation as well as the interaction with a local who can tell you all about the culture, show you around etc. We were able to couchsurf once (on our last night) during our trip and free accommodation aside we had an awesome time with our hosts, asking all sorts of questions and learning a ton about the culture that we could only have gotten from a paid organized tour guide. If couchsurfing isn’t your thing look for dorm rooms in hostels. We stayed in a few dorms during our trip and found them to be clean and comfortable. The hostels always had shared kitchen facilities that allowed us to cook our own meals and save on food costs. This also allows you to mingle and interact with other travelers.

Travel in a Group

It was just the two of us so we had to split the rental car, insurance and gas prices in half, but if we had two or three other travel companions with us we could split this up between more people. This definitely makes a big difference so if you can find people to travel with this will decrease your costs!

Go out for Lunch but Make your own Breakfast and Dinner 

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Food is expensive in Iceland and while we did want to experience the cuisine we did not need to do so for every meal. For breakfast we stocked up on the local and delicious Skyr yogurt at the grocery store and ate that with granola. For lunch we normally found a local spot to enjoy some soup, or hots dogs (if in Reykjavik). For dinner, since everywhere we stayed had kitchen facilities we would drive to a local grocery store stock up on some groceries and make dinner at the hostel/guesthouse. This allowed us to drastically decrease our food costs.

Limit the Drinking

As food is expensive in Iceland so are the drinks. As much as I love to party it’s simply cheaper to do so in other countries so I can wait out the week. Sure, we grabbed a few beers while we were watching the World Cup games but we didn’t go out and buy tons of drinks consistently.

Be Selective in the Tours and Activities you Participate In

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Iceland is the adventure travelers playground. There are tons of various adrenaline activities, tours, and things to do. If you pick an expensive activity for every day you could spend tons of money by the end of your trip. We instead chose to drive around the whole ring road and experience the various destinations and sights without the expensive activities and tours. The only expensive activities we paid for was the Puffin Tour in Rekjavik (which I highly recommend if you love puffins as much as we do) and the whale watching tour in Dalvik (which I would not recommend as I did not find it was worth the price). This will have to be a personal choice and each traveler has their own preferences, but with Iceland being an expensive country I recommend picking one or two activities that you are very interested in, instead of signing up for something exciting in every destination (which you could definitely do).

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