Here are 12 mistakes you should avoid – I would have wanted to know before I went to Iceland myself. I share all my tips with you on how to prepare for Iceland and save some money according to your budget. Iceland is super expensive but in my opinion, it is totally worth it – you will collect beautiful memories for life.
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world – so it is even more important to plan a bit ahead and calculate with your budget, to avoid these common mistakes. Or in other ways here is a guide on how to plan your Iceland trip:
Number One: Book in advance
This is a really basic rule for travelling: Book in advance. But I can tell it is especially important for Iceland – whether we’re talking car rentals or accommodations. Keep in mind that Iceland is really expensive for most people and the rule of first come first serve also applies here.
Do I need a car?
In combination with number one, I also want to answer the question of whether or not you need a car. I am a huge fan of travelling by public transport but this time I am afraid the answer is yes. There are a lot of beautiful places in Iceland which are only reachable by car. In addition, public transport is quite expensive compared to other countries I’ve been to, for example, the 188 km from Reykjavik to Vík í Mýdral costs 7,980 kr (approximately 54 € or 57 US$) one way with Strætó.
Another way is to bring your own car by ferry to Iceland. The Ring Road is also cleared in winter and remains passable. Other places in Iceland like the Westfjords or the inner part of Iceland like Landmannalaugar will require better cars (and summer).
Number two: Take the cheap flight
Most cheap flights arrive late or go early in the morning. If you can find a good deal at weird times – take it. Unfortunately, public transport is only running from 6:30 am till 11 pm so you may be too early or late to catch the public bus (excuse for number three). But there are shuttle busses leaving after every flight from the airport plus bringing you also to the airport for early flights – so you won’t need a taxi.
Number three: Use public transport from the airport
There are several shuttle buses for tourists and taxis waiting for you in front of the airport but there is a way cheaper option most locals use: public transport. The bus number 55 goes around twelve times a day to the capital Reykjavik (less on the weekend), takes around an hour and 15 minutes and costs 2,280 kr (around 15.50 € or 16 US$). You can pay by card on the bus. You will find a timetable here.
❗️Tip: There are also plenty of car rental places at the airport so it can be also an idea to book the car at the airport and use it to save the cost of leaving and going to the airport.
Number four: Don’t travel by yourself
Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling alone and Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. But travelling alone is just way more expensive. Try to plan your trip with a group of friends, ideally 4-5 people in total (or as many spots as your rented car has), so you can divide costs as the car rental, petrol, accommodation and food. This will save you a lot of money.
Number five: Do research on the accommodation
You can probably already guess: Staying in Iceland is very expensive as well. Cheaper solutions can be renting a caravan to have a car and a place to sleep in once. Also, camping by tent can be an alternative (at least in summer but you have also to calculate with more expensive gear).
Of course, sharing a dorm room (I paid 46 € / 49 US$ per night for sharing a room with 20 people) can be also an opportunity to save some money. Otherwise, number four also applies here – travel with friends and share bigger rooms with each other.
Number six: Be prepared for any weather
Clothes are another important topic: Especially in summer, you should bring different clothes instead of this one really warm jacket (don’t bring your winter jacket in summer!). The best tactic is to use layers – or as we would say in Germany use the ‘onion look’ (because – you know – onions have layers 😉 ). The weather can switch super fast – in summer you can easily have all four seasons in one day.
Really important regardless of when you travel: Bring a rain jacket and windbreaker plus a hat and gloves. Believe me, even in summer you will need them.
Number seven: Cook for yourself
In many (Western) countries cooking by yourself can save a lot of money – and it is a main point for Iceland as well. Go shopping in supermarkets (not convenience stores!), the cheapest are Bonus (with a pig in the logo) and netto.
❗️Tip: Honestly, Iceland is not exactly famous for its food anyway. One of the more popular dishes is Fish and Chips. If you want to give it a try but still save some money – give food trucks a try. Locals recommended Vagninn a truck at the harbour of Reykjavik, but it is only open in summer. Also, Hot Dogs (even in Vegetarian and Vegan options) are a popular food choice in Iceland, you can get them at food trucks (for example at Hallgrímskirkja, the main church of Reykjavik) as well.
Number eight: Bring a reusable bottle
You don’t need to spend any money on water because not only the tap water but also the water coming from glaciers, streams and waterfalls is very clean and drinkable. Just bring a reusable bottle and save your money.
Number nine: Use free hot springs
You probably already heard of spas like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon – the entrance fees are rather high. If you want to save money you can also take a look for free (or way cheaper) hot springs in nature you can find everywhere in Iceland. There is also an App called Iceland Hot Spring Map (but costs money). The hot springs have an average temperature of 38-40 degrees Celsius (100-104 degrees Fahrenheit) which makes it possible to take a bath outside all year long. – And as the locals say here: there is always a place for one person more join the hot spring.
My favourite hot springs we visited were:
- Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool, one of the oldest pools of Iceland: H98V+FC9, 861 Evindarhólar
- Fosslaug Waterfall with hot springs: FJV8+MHM, Varmahlíð
- Hot Tube in the Westfjords: Bíldudalsvegur, 466
❗️Tip: Did you know that you can also snorkel or dive between the two tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia? Unfortunately, this is the opposite of free since you need special equipment to swim in the cold water. You can find the rift Silfra in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the national park of Þingvellir.
Number ten: Download offline maps
This can be lifesaving! Especially in the Highlands and the Westfjords, you can easily lose your internet connection, so make sure to download the maps beforehand particularly if you use Google Maps for navigation.
Number eleven: Leave the Golden Circle
Don’t get me wrong, the Golden Circle has really beautiful sights but especially in summer it is also really crowded since it is close to Reykjavik. So don’t plan too much time on the Golden Circle – there is so much more to see! One underrated and not-so-often visited part of Iceland is the Westfjords.
Number twelve: Enjoy the free nature
This is not really a tip but something that makes Iceland so great. A lot of nature and spots are for free (like the most famous waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss). The national parks as well, the only fees you have to calculate are the parking fees. In order to keep it that way, respect the rules, don’t leave any trash (only foodprints) and enjoy this beautiful and unique island.
I hope I could help you with those tips. Are you missing anything? Then feel free to leave me a comment. Have a great time in Iceland!
You have read the blog post 12 Mistakes you should avoid in Iceland on My Travel Journal-Blog.