Flights to IcelandFlights to Iceland Accommodation in IcelandAccommodation in Iceland Transport in IcelandTransport in Iceland Food in IcelandFood in IcelandThings To Do in IcelandThings To Do in Iceland

One of the most breathtaking countries in the world and until the last few years vastly untouched by tourism on a large scale. It’s also one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been to. I managed to do a week stopover on my way to Canada for around €900 and I slept in a car for 5 days. In comparison to three weeks in Europe for €800 just days before it was a shock, but it was worth every cent.

 

<img src="data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODdhAQABAPAAAP///wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs=" data-lazy-src="images/" width="800" height="600" alt="iceland - icelandsize 300x162 - Iceland: How to get the most on a budget">With a population of just over 320,000 people on the entire Island it’s one of the smallest in Europe for its shear size. The phone book has the entire country in one book. It list’s every person along with their occupation. Most list their job; Barman, Farmer etc but there’s a few cute and funny ones such as elderly women listing “Grandma” and a man by the name of “Thor” who has listed himself as a “Thundergod”. (This was told to me by a hitchhiker).

 

I spent a week in Iceland. Wednesday to Wednesday in June. My Cousin flew in on the Thursday and left on the Saturday night. We knew it was going to be expensive from people telling us about it but I really wasn’t prepared for how much my pocket would hurt when I got there. For someone who loves to travel and am very organised in flights and packing, I love going somewhere with no plan or knowledge of the area getting lost and exploring. This is very romantic but usually proves expensive. To give a little perspective my first night I went to get food and Fish & Chips in an average enough not to fancy bar with a 330ml beer cost me €33.00. This was along with the hangover the next day from a night out with a mexican spending all the Icelandic Króna forced me to be a little smarter with my buck.

 

 

 

Flights to Iceland:

There’s an increasing amount of choice with the boom in tourism in Iceland. For this I’m going to just use WOWair. Check out IcelandAir and keep an eye on Skyscanner for any deals. But WOWair is dirt cheap. WOW are overall pretty decent for the price you pay. The crew are amazing. The airline is growing and another few years should have the hang of things overall.

My flight was delayed hours due to a strike in KEF. Keep in mind they have a tight luggage policy. The on board allowance is one small carry on bag, ie a handbag. If you want to bring on a small suitcase like you would with Ryanair that will be €17 if you do it online or €40 at the desk or if you get to the gate it will be €80.

I seem to remember the small bag only being 7kg limit. I managed to say my bag was full of food. The check in allowance for a suitcase going under is a 20kg limit and overweight is very expensive. Don’t even think about eating on board. There will also be about €20 in additional fee’s added in the checkout.

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Having said all that, that’s just small things to take note of. For a small airline and a flight to Iceland for 120 euro, I can’t give out too much and the crew were really nice and all sound like Bjork.

Worth Noting:

The airport is a fair distance from Reykjavik. There’s two bus services that leave when the bus is full that will get you into Rjekavik with shuttle services to your hotel. There’s Airport Express and the one I used Fly Bus. It’s 3,000isk Return (€24/$25us). If you’re booking a car, The rentals are all located within the Airport a few minute walk across a carpark or they collect you in the shuttles it takes the guts of 1hr30m to get to your hotel.

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 Accommodation in Iceland

The average price of a dorm room in Reykjavik is around €40/50. If you’re coming from America that’s probably not too bad but when I’m accustomed to €10-20 a night in Europe it’s brutal. I managed to book a room for €30/n in a great location in a relatively new hostel/hotel. But once you get outside into the country its mostly motels and side of the road places for around €100/n. So if you want to stay in a comfy bed plan ahead and try find some deals, but honestly: Camp or Sleep in a car if you can.

*I visited in June when the weather was mild*

When we originally started booking the trip we joked about sleeping in the car and the more money we spent on the Europe trip, that would end three days before flying over. The more we began to seriously consider it. I’ll be honest, it was mostly for the stories of “That time I slept in a car in Iceland for a week”. But we couldn’t didn’t want to lug a tent through the airport and had originally planned to buy one out there. (Do not buy one there, bring one. There’s no cheap camping shops, its mostly north face style shops at eye watering prices).

Sleeping in a Car:

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It was pretty awful. I’m not gonna lie. But the best way to think of it is someone handing you €100 when you wake up. It was peak summer so 24hrs of daylight! It was amazing to just drive and pull up anywhere you like and roll back the seat and powernap for a few hours. The first location we stayed was this waterfall. Which is a much nicer view than a middle aged man in a hostel with no idea of personal space.

Camping:

Camping in Iceland is very easy. Camping with three tents or less for one night is permitted. If it’s private land you need to seek permission if possible. But, if you’re just pitching for the night and gone early there should be no problems. Don’t camp on farms or close to livestock for obvious reasons. There is plenty of official camp sites but to be honest its more fun and cheaper to just pitch up somewhere remote and interesting. I met a great group (Julia and John from Couchsurfing and picked up some amazing American Hitchhikers: Greg, Ryan & Julie).

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They(Americans) had been wild camping for their whole trip. Some nights they used the tents, but a lot of the time they slept out under the sky in their warm sleeping bags. They hitched and had no problems apart from some long waits. Iceland is very, very safe.

 Transport in Iceland

Getting around Iceland is easy enough with a few options. Most people do the Golden Circle which is a 3,000km round trip from Reykjavik.

I’m going to start with the cheapest way.

Hitchhiking:

It sounds daft these days to go hitchhiking anywhere, but Iceland is genuinely one of the safest places I’ve been. You can just walk the roads with a thumb out. It’s going to be tough, there will be days when it will take hours and days where you get crazy lucky. I personally didn’t hitch but I picked up several hitchhikers and their stories were worth pulling over for:

 

The French Guy:

On our second day after sleeping at the waterfall above, we spotted a guy hitching along and picked him up. Names aren’t my strong point but he was a really cool guy and we spent the afternoon driving along with him. He had a month to walk around Iceland and hike some mountains and glaciers. We told him we were going to the Blue Lagoon and he insisted it was overpriced and we go to Reykjadalur. It’s known as the Steam Valley. Park the car and hike a decent hour into the misty mountains following the trail and river till you find the bathing area. This is where a skin boiling natural thermal river joins a spine tingling glacial river and forms a luke warm stream down the mountain. There’s changing areas and safe spots to leave your bag. It’s busy enough but not crowded. The best part…. IT’S FREE!

 

[fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2Uxxdv26X0″ width=”1080″ height=”720″]

The Bible Girls:

I nearly gave Stef whiplash when we were doing around 140km and seen three girls standing with a cardboard sign with the word “Vik” on it. (where we were going). I pulled over and they all piled in and let Stef take over the driving so I could lean back and chat to them. They were American’s over volunteering with their church group. They were over for a few months and the trip was almost over.

They had been getting around the whole time by hitching and had no major trouble. Couple of long days but generally got to where they needed to be. We spent the day exploring waterfalls and glaciers on the way to vik.

The view from the top is breathtaking. We took the alternative route up by scrambling up the side but there is a nice safe path up.

The Americans:

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The three on the left. Julie, Greg & Rian as mentioned earlier had been camping and hitching their way around the Golden Circle. They managed pretty well, but did split up a few times for several hours, depending on how many could squash into the car. I met them driving behind Julia and John above and turned out they were flying out the same day as me. So we all just hung out and traveled together for a few days.

Hitchhiking in Iceland is very safe and free. All you need to do is keep your wits about you be prepared to walk all the way and have a good story.

Local Transport:

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Public Transport Iceland.

The bus system in Iceland is exceptional. You can get around very easily without breaking the bank too much. This would be great for young or solo travelers. There’s fairly regular and daily buses that go around the island. Most have free wifi. (We stole some from a bus at a petrol station, and joked about following it for a few miles).

 

If you get to Akureyri look up the free bus shuttle that goes around the small scenic city. It’s only about 20 mins but its free and a cool way to see the city. Check out the cathedral at the top of the big steep hill just from the main street.

Driving:

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THEY DRIVE ON THE RIGHT!

If you’re ever going to splash out and rent a car for an amazing road trip now is the time. Iceland is just miles upon miles of empty roads. And the majority of the roads are in great condition. There’s dirt tracks and some bumpy roads, but its ever improving.

Worth noting: The maximum speed limit anywhere in Iceland is 90kpm. This is probably just an across the board solution to the ever changing weather and climate there. The roads can be hazardess and without notice turn into gravel roads. Now I’m not condoning speeding. But everyone likes to let loose on an empty road now and then. Thankfully in Iceland the speed cameras are about twice the size of a postbox and there’s signs before them. Keep it relative to the weather and conditions.

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All the main car rental companies are in the main airport. I booked with RyanairCars but there’s also RentalCars.com for good cheap deals. Petrol was a little more expensive but overall wasn’t a major issue. The car cost me around €250 for the 6 days. With around 1-200 on petrol. (Stef paid for some I’m not too sure exactly how much I spent). It was 2,000km of driving.

They offer gravel damage as the roads can be rough. I opted out an by some miracle didn’t wreck the car. They are very anal on the dents. The guy marked little dents that you would need a magnifying glass to see. I would have got it in hindsight for how paranoid I was anytime I went off road.

Petrol stations are can be a little scarce at times. On Highway 1 (The main road on golden circle, loops the country) they’re common but on the side roads it can get a little worrying. Make sure to fill the tank every-time and top up along the way when it’s been a while. And don’t forget to eat the hot dogs from the petrol stations!!! (More info in Food below).

You’re gonna need a killer soundtrack. These roads are made for putting the foot down for a few hours and winding through the hills and wilderness. (Need help? Check out my driving playlist on Spotify).

 Food in Iceland:

 

Let’s start with the most important first: Drink.

Alcohol is insanely expensive in Iceland. €9 a pint if you’re lucky. Yes €9!!! I made the mistake of going out the first night to bars and it was great but I blew all my króna. Unless you pop bottles on the weekend, just avoid the bars. And the liquor stores. It’s just as expensive in the stores. I thought people were joking when they said “buy a load of cans in the duty free when you arrive”. Until I got through and seen everyone in arrivals with a slab of beer on their trolley. I text Stefan to pick up some beers and made 6 beers last a week. Stock up on a spirits and make it last.

 

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The Hot Dogs. Oh god the hot dogs!!

Every petrol station sells them. They are soo cheap and genuinely taste really good. Add a tonne of fresh and fried onions, Lash on the sauce and you’re good to go.

 

I’m slightly ashamed and slightly proud that we gate crashed a kids bbq at an electronics store to eat free hotdogs.

I can neither confirm or deny if we went up a second time.

 

 

Ok so as much as I loved the hotdogs it might not be enough to survive on. Crackers, bread, peanut butter and jam is though. I swear all we ate for the trip was cheese and salami sandwiches. And tins of sweet corn. It was rough, but we saved an absolute bomb. I think we got subway once as a treat.

Oh and the YOGURT! (Skyr) I don’t know what it is about this yogurt, but its amazing. It’s also very cheap and everyone will ask you have you tried it yet.

BONUS, Bonus is going to be your new best friend. It’s the big yellow supermarket with the little pink pig as its mascot. They are everywhere and crazy cheap (for Iceland) . Stock up on non perishables and keep the money to see some attractions.

 

 Things To Do In Iceland:

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As soon as we heard about this (and remembered vaguely seeing it in photos) we knew we had to go.

On November 24, 1973 a US Navy DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. It was left there and has become a world icon for Photographers capturing the northern lights against this amazing piece of artwork as it has now become.

So, Naturally I wanted to PennyBoard on the roof of it. Someone later told me Justin Bieber had skated on it. But I don’t care or count it. As far as I’m concerned I am the First and probably only person to skate a pink penny board on the roof of this plane. (1 min in)

[fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNBwKQQ2Cjg” width=”1080″ height=”720″]

It’s easy enough to miss. But with some help from google or the locals you find the spot on the side of the road. Park your car and hike a good hour down the black sands to the crash. There’s kind of a path just keep going and when you think you missed it go a little further is down a valley. Walk on the left of the big field of Lupins (Purple Wild Flowers).

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OK so this is the one item here that will cost a lot. I want to add it as the optional splurge for anyone who has a little extra cash and wants to do something amazing. We didn’t do this. I’m brutal at scuba diving, I panic and have yet to get the hang of it, but Stef is a dive instructor and after a lot of debating left his licence at home so he wouldn’t spend €350 on a dive.

*note this is not a novice dive you will need a padi or higher qualification to partake*

There is snorkeling available cheaper and for beginners. If you want something really memorable have a look into it here.

Be sure to check out The rest of þingvellir National Park. It’s full of stunning scenery. (Or so Stef tells me. I had a nap and got back up to go see the plates spot with him). But the drive around the park was awesome.

 

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There’s tonnes of Sulfuric hotpools around Iceland, but Geysir is the big one, and it’s on the Golden Circle. It’s dead easy to find and there’s a carpark right at the entrance. *There’s a LOT of mosquito around so be prepared* .

We originally planned to stay here but the amount of Mozis was unbearable so me moved on to Gullfoss as mentioned earlier.

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Kerið

Look, I’m not going to lie. It was about €4 in. But we just really like sneaking into places.

Park the car a couple of hundred meters down the road(behind this photo) there’s even a little inlay perfect to park in. Scramble up the other little volcano beside it and just walk across the ridges. Step over the broken fence that practically invites you in and hey presto you have another hot dog.

The path at the other side leads you down pretty safely. But if you don’t mind getting dirty and want to re-enact the bit in Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam scrambled down the rocks at Mordor. Then I highly recommend it.

 

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Ok. It’s cheesy and a complete cliché but go get lost. Turn off the sat nav (or your phone, cause seriously who even uses a satnav these days). Take a side road and just head off and get lost. Find somewhere new I didn’t. Make your own adventure, pick up some hitchhikers and find out where they’ve been and enjoy yourselves.

If you want some more visuals from one of the most beautiful places in the world check out my highlight video below:

[fvplayer src=”https://youtu.be/dxEkc1jHbeU” width=”1080″ height=”720″]

Chris

Author Chris

Videographer, Photographer, Web Designer and Traveler sums it up nicely.

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