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Iceland Budget Guide: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Visiting

May 20, 2017.happynfull.2 Likes.4 Comments

Woohoo! Country Number 15: Iceland.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

Chris and I found a WOW airfare sale that was $300 direct roundtrip from LAX to Iceland. Say whaaa? Sign us both up! Little did we know, the WOW factor of this airline was that they charge for everything. For all international flights I’ve been on before, I’m used to having two meals and unlimited beverages served. So imagine my disbelief when I asked for water and they said, “OK that will be $2.99US.” I literally blurted out, “Wow.”

But all in all, WOW airline was a really good deal. They allow you to carry a personal carry on (think backpack size or purse) for free, but even a carry-on luggage is $49.99 extra and to check in a 20 lb. suitcase is $69.99 — this is all one way prices by the way. So being the budget travelers we are, Chris and I opted for the 20 lb. suitcase and stuffed it. He will argue that I took up 60% of the space… pfft! my scarves were thick!

I would recommend packing snacks to bring aboard or buying food in the terminal that you can eat on the plane because their menu option was expensive and basic. I’m not about to pay $4 for a mini can of Pringles. If you can think of the total price it would cost with another airline, you’ll realize the discount flight with additional charges for everything isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’d rather get there with $300+ less, even if I’m starving until we land.

Speaking of starving… Iceland is hella expensive, yo! Here are the 10+ things my budget ass wish she prepared better for.

Everything I Wish I Knew Before Heading to Iceland

 1. Pack a variety of Ramen and unperishable snacks in your check-in bag.

Dude. As we window gazed at menus, we were sticker shocked. $20 for a personal 10” cheese pizza? $17 for a burger, fries, and drink at a fast food joint? $15 for a chicken Thai noodle soup? $18 for Pad Thai? $25 for spaghetti? $8 for a hot dog?! Needless to say, the first thing I was vying to hit up upon landing back in Los Angeles was AYCE (all you can eat) Korean BBQ.

 2. Get an AirBnb with a full kitchen.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

On that note, we couldn’t justify going out to eat. Luckily, we booked an AirBnb with a full kitchen. Hotels are expensive – around $150 minimum a night. Hostels were surprisingly expensive, too. $50 each person for a shared room and shared bathroom. With 2 of us needing lodging, it was a no brainier to get a hotel. But we really lucked out when we found an Airbnb for a ‘studio’ (in actuality, it was a 1 bedroom apartment) for around $100/night.

Our Airbnb was awesome. I fell in love with the Scandinavian design and our host was kind enough to supply us with breakfast and fresh ground coffee. The bed was super comfortable and the modern design made us feel like we want a home such as this one. Plus, the living room armed with a Smart TV and Netflix really did us good on rainy and snowy days (half the trip!). Chris binged so hard on Project Runway.

RELATED: If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb yet, get some credit to apply to your first trip by signing up here.

3. Go to Bonus Discount Grocery Store.

Iceland on a BudgetThat piggy is seriously going to save you a ton of money. We made the mistake of going to another grocery store called 1011. We bought 2 apples, 1 can of full size Pringles (I know, I’m obsessed), and a chocolate bar. I almost died at the register. It was near $30 USD. I wanted to pick up a lot more stuff during that grocery trip but Chris and I were constantly like, “OMG! $7 for bread? $12 for ice cream?” LOL so we walked away with the cheapest items which still made quite the dent…

Then, we discovered Bonus Discount Grocery Store. Omg we stocked up on so much:

2 frozen pizzas, 1 frozen garlic bread, 1 can of pasta sauce, 1 can of coconut milk, 1 can of Thai red curry sauce, chicken, ravioli, fresh produce, onions, garlic, lemon, green tea packets, noodles, bread, jam, soda, beer, yogurt, banana, oranges… and all together it came to around $65!

4. The Weather is Unpredictable.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

When we were packing for our trip the 7-day forecast was doom and gloom all 7 days with the rain symbol popping up everywhere on my screen. When we arrived, we saw fresh falling snow from the sky! It was quite an amazing experience as I had never seen that before. But as the days went on, the weather forecast cleared. The days it said it was going to rain, we stayed inside, only to stare out the window all. day. long. and see dry cement! Then, the day it said it was going to be perfectly sunny, we went out, only to have to walk against really high winds with rain getting into our eyes. Bizzarre. 

5. Cross-Reference Tour Companies.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

South Coast Tour stop

There are 2 main players in the tour bus guide business out there: Reykjavik Excursions and Gray Line. What’s really helpful is going to the Tourist Information Center around day 1 and let the staff know how long you’re there for. The staff was able to look at the 3-day forecast and tell us what the weather would be like along the tour stops (down south – hours outside of the main city, Reykjavik). Our staff member was kind enough to map out what he recommended we do and see given the 6 other days we were going to be in town.

We ended up booking the following tours:

Day Trip to Geysir, Gulfloss, & Thingvellar National Park via Reykjavik Excursions. The tourist information center staff told us the websites and their office charge the same price and it’s the cheapest deal. But being the frugal person that I am, I cross referenced Expedia and found that instead of $95 the tour was only $65. On top of that, I saved money using E-bates and Honey! Winning.

As far as the tour went, ours was a 6-hour tour but they had a longer tour I think around 8-9 hours that allowed you to stay at each site longer. I think the 6-hour tour was perfect as it allowed us to explore all parts and still get enough time to walk around to see everything visible to tourists. Don’t expect entertaining tour guides through this company, but the good thing is their buses are comfortable and have free wi-fi so you can find your own source of entertainment.

Also, we were noobs and didn’t bring anything to eat except the two apples and can of Pringles and chocolate bar listed above. When we stopped at the restaurant in the Geysir, I paid $13 for mediocre Minestrone soup and a bread. It didn’t even taste that good but I ended up pocketing the bread for later… it was $13! Sad.

South Coast Tour via Gray Line – This was my favorite tour in terms of the incredible sights. Gulfloss was my favorite destination in the above tour but I really loved everything in the South Coast Tour! If you had to only pick one, I would say South Coast Tour all the way. The destinations were just breathtaking. Two large waterfalls, the black sand beach, and the chiseled rocks — all very magical! This tour was booked direct as surprisingly Expedia had it for more expensive.

The tour bus was a lot smaller without wi-fi but the landscape out the windows is so pretty it’s nice to look at. You end up seeing a lot of farm animals like sheep, cows, and horses, but also a ton of waterfalls and volcanic terrain. Very cool.

Note: Tour companies are run very promptly. They mean their pick up time and departure time so leave 15-minutes early from when you really need to. Pro tip: Their pick up and drop off locations go to hotels directly. So if you’re Airbnb’ing – scout around and record the name of the nearest hotel. That’s your stop. We couldn’t pronounce the name of our street so we just went with a main bus station that was a 10 minute walk away.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

At Gulfloss - a super windy day but happy the sun was out to greet us. and rainbows, yet again!

6. Never Pay for Water and No, I Swear I Did Not Fart.

If you’re coming anywhere that treats their drinking water aka from the states, you’re going to be in for a surprise when you turn on the hot water. Iceland prides itself on having the cleanest water. The bottled water comes straight from the tap — so never buy bottled water. Pack a re-usable bottle and carry it everywhere with you so you can always just turn on the cold water and drink. That’s a good way to save money!

OK going back to the farting… I never realized until Iceland that I wet my toothbrush with the hot water spout. The taste of boiled eggs mixed with mint is not a yummy combination. I was in the bathroom and Chris walked in and goes, “Ugh! Did you fart?” I was like, “No. I swear I didn’t.”

What we learned after showering is the hot water has sulfur and thus smells like boiled eggs. But it is still very pure. After 7 days we didn’t get anymore used to it, but we’re thankful for clean and pure water at the tap.

7. Make sure you stay somewhere within walking distance of the main city center street, Laugavegur.

There wasn’t too much to explore off this main street so the less you have to pay for public transport – especially on a bad weather condition day – the better.

That said, we did get the 24-hour city pass one day but to be honest the attractions were not that amazing. It’s worth it though if you’re just looking to see as much as possible with public transporation built in.

8. Perlan Building For Free Views

The Perlan Building was part of the 24-hour pass though if you buy a single ride you can get there much cheaper and still get in for free.

This is a great place to take city view photos for free. The other place is the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral Church, but it cost $10 to get up to the rooftop.

RELATED: Photographer Tips: 5 Tips to Photograph a New City

9. Pack for Correct Weather.

Chris forgot to pack gloves and the cheapest ones we found were $30! I usually say, “Oh if I forget it I’ll just buy it when I get there.” Trust me. This is the one country you want to prepare properly.

Iceland Budget Guide - Ultimate List of Things to Do

The Black Beach was stunning.

10. Visit The Blue Lagoon Either Day of Arrival or Departure.

Blue Lagoon in Iceland - Ultimate List of Things to Do

We had a blast here - who knew geothermal spas could be so relaxing.

You’re going to want to go to The Blue Lagoon the day you are coming or heading to the airport as it’s really close by. We bought our tickets directly through their website with transportation built into the costs. We went with the basic plan and paid an additional $10 for a towel when we arrived. Make sure to book your reservations in advance as they do fill up!

The Blue Lagoon was an amazing experience. Their futuristic lockers were out of this world, and I love that they have a wristband that gets zapped for all charges throughout your stay. When you enter the Blue Lagoon, they ask that you shower beforehand and leave the conditioner in your hair so the minerals from the hot spring don’t harden your hair.

If you’re bringing your phone to take photos, they sell protective cases but it was $25. We were very careful with our phone to take a few photos and then put it back in our locker. You can go to and from as many times as possible. 3 hours is more than enough time to get the full effect of the Blue Lagoon – be sure you check out their mini waterfall, their relaxation lounge upstairs where you can sleep, their hot sauna, and the mini cave.

The Blue Lagoon was my favorite part of the trip and definitely was a great way to end this beautiful visit!

Iceland is a Once-In-a-Lifetime Must Visit Destination

Funny, when we arrived back in LAX and headed through customs, I could tell who was from our flight because I saw the Bonus piggy plastic bags everywhere. I laughed to Chris that it is like a souvenir. He reminded me, “You know why they kept them? Plastic bags were $2 each.” That’s another pro tip, don’t forget to bring your own bags to the store or be prepared to stuff everything into your purse or backpack.

Enjoy Iceland and all of the amazing views nature has to offer! It’s a beautiful city and something to explore once in a lifetime as global warming is real and their climate is changing and ice caps are melting quickly! Take care of our planet. It’s good to us.

Iceland Budget Guide - How to Prepare for Visit
Categories: Europe, Travel Guides

Comments (4)

  • Jazmin . May 20, 2017 . Reply

    I was considering renting a car when I am in Iceland. It’s super expensive, but do you think it would be worth it? We’d skip a lot of the tours and do the drive ourselves.
    If we didn’t get a car, how expensive is public transportation? I noticed there is no Uber in Iceland.

    • (Author) happynfull . May 21, 2017 . Reply

      I think renting a car is totally worth it! There’s so many beautiful landscapes I wish I could have just picked up and went to. The tours are not very entertaining so I don’t think you’re missing out on too much in that respect. Going at your own pace is super nice too. You don’t need a car all days – maybe just rent it for 2 and then you can always add on should you decide you want to explore more. No Uber, the bus is clean and timely. That’s the better option as taxis are $$$.

  • Jessica C. . May 20, 2017 . Reply

    I am saving this one. Victor will appreciate all the budget friendly tips lol Iceland sounds amazing and we can’t wait for October to come!!!

    Jessica || Cubicle Chic

    • (Author) happynfull . May 21, 2017 . Reply

      Wahhh I didn’t know you had a trip planned. Oh my gosh. Have so much fun!!! Let me know if you have any other questions before going !

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