Whenever I tell people about my trip to Iceland, the one question they always seem to ask is “Wasn’t that really expensive?”
They’re always really surprised when I tell them that it wasn’t really, especially when compared to a weekend in Oslo where I was considering selling an organ in order to afford a McDonald’s lunch.
Visiting Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few ways in which you can lower the costs of your getaway, while still making the most of all this incredible country has to offer:
1. Be flexible in the airport you fly out from
Luckily for us in the England (and those travelling via the country), a number of low-cost airlines, including WOW air, easyJet and Flybe, now fly to Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport.
However, while flying from London Luton with easyJet in November will cost you £182 return, if you fly from Gatwick with easyJet (and WOW air on the way back), you can scrape £86 off this. Obviously you have to factor in costs of getting to the airport, but if you’re able to scrimp a little bit at this stage, you’ll have more to spend when you get there!
2. Go self-catered
When we went to Reykavik, we stayed in our own little studio apartment with its own kitchen. We took advantage of this and packed some cooking essentials, such as pasta sauces, as well as the essential Yorkshire teabags. Everything else we picked up from the local supermarket when we got there, so we could make sandwiches for our lunches and had our breakfast ready and waiting for us in the morning.
If you opt for self-catered, however, do try and save aside some money so you can try the local cuisine at least once!
3. Pack the hiking books!
A lot of Reykjavik city centre is surprisingly walkable, with a little stroll along the harbour towards the Hallgrímskirkja church proving quite pleasant in the summer months. Complimentary city walks maps are available at the Tourist Information Centre, while Apple users can download a Reykjavik Map and Walks app.
4. Swap pricey tourist attractions for cheaper alternatives
Think outside the box in order to save some money each day. While there’s no denying that the view from the Hallgrímskirkja church is definitely one to behold, you can catch a fantastic view across the city from the 360 degree platform of The Pearl. The only difference is that to go up the church, you’ll have to pay around 600ISK, whereas the view from The Pearl is completely free.
The view from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church:
5. Book well in advance
…And I mean well in advance.
Having a look on Expedia at Reykjavik hotels for next March (yes, March 2015, i.e. 8 months away…) you can pick up 4 nights in the central Rey Apartments for two people for just £281. Oddly, the same 4 nights in a small apartment work out as £313 if you book directly on their site. So – shop around, book early, and you can land yourself a pretty good deal.
6. Combine tours
Instead of scheduling a whole day to visit the Blue Lagoon, stop off on your way to or from the airport. Airport transfers are available from Reykjavik Excursions which drop you off at the Lagoon for as long as you like. There’s even a place there to store all your luggage, so you can relax without worrying.
7. Shop around for the best exchange rates
Obviously this is a tip that can be applied to every holiday but it’s arguably even more important when you’re visiting a country such as Iceland where everything can seem mind numbingly expensive.
I had a quick look at three different travel money sites to see how much £500 would get me in Iceland Krona.
The Post Office gave me 88,500ISK (for £502.05)
Thomson Travel offered me 89,150ISK
Marks and Spencers would have given me 90,850ISK (or 91,800ISK if I had an M&S card)
That means a potential extra 3300ISK which works out to be another £17 in your back pocket. Granted that’s not really enough to have a wild night out with, but that would probably buy you a few postcards…
8. Here in my car, I feel safest of all…
(Gary Numan reference, squee)
If you’re travelling in a large group, it might work out cheaper to rent a car rather than booking tours for all of you.
With a tour of the Golden Circle with Reykjavik Excursions costing around £50 per person (and around half that for kids 12-15 years old), the money can quickly add up. You could be looking at around £150 for one day tour for two adults and two children.
On the other hand, Hertz offer an excellent car rental service from just 70,700ISK for seven days (around £361). This has enough room for two adults and two children, with space for luggage too. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sight-seeing (and prefer having the luxury of your own wheels) this might be the way to go as it could save you money in the long run.