Even before we actually made it to Iceland it was obviously true to us that it’s cheap to get to Iceland, but not so cheap to be in Iceland. Accommodations were pretty pricey, so we opted to Airbnb. Souvenirs could get pretty expensive, but those are avoidable and not always necessary. But eating? That’s a must. We soon discovered that this sustenance thing we’re supposed to do three times a day had the possibility to push us over our budget in Iceland. So here’s what we did to make sure that didn’t happen.
1. BYOB (Water bottle, that is)
I can usually be spotted with a reusable water bottle everywhere I go (case in point: the picture to the right of this text). Whether at home, work, or adventuring abroad. I have recently switched to stainless steel water bottles in an effort to eliminate [some] plastic products from my daily life, but that’s a story for another time.
In the words of my good friend, Snæþór…
“Paying for water in Iceland is a scam.”
Seriously. Just dip your water into pretty much any river, waterfall, or glacial flow and you can get some nice, cold refreshment.
Or if that’s not your jam, find a public water fountain and fill up. But seriously, don’t pay for single use water bottles. In Iceland or at home. Ok, I’m about to get preachy, so I’ll move on.
2. [Don’t] get your drink on
Alcohol is ridiculously expensive in Iceland. The only alcoholic beverage we had the entire time we were there was a can of Gull beer, and that was just to say we had tried it. (It was actually pretty terrible and we didn’t have more than one sip each… oops)
You can expect to pay $8+ for a pint, or $10+ for a glass of wine, and spirits tend to range on the high side as well.
Iceland is definitely not the place for alcohol tourism, that’s for sure.
3. Hot dogs for every meal!
Yes, hot dogs. In the states I would never be caught eating one, but Iceland does them differently. And they’re delicious! For a little perspective: allow me to provide you with some analogies.
Hot dogs are to Iceland, as tacos are to Austin. As deep dish pizza is to Chicago. As cheese steaks are to Philly. As waffles are to Liège. (Stopping here because this is actually just making me really hungry)
Back to hot dogs. You can find them (and trust them) in every gas station for approximately $3! When we were roadtripping around the Ring Road, there were a lot of times when the hot dogs were the only thing that was really in our price range to eat. And we were ok with that! But I am still kind of surprised we didn’t just turn into giant hot dogs before our return to the U.S.
4. Share a pizza
We also ate quite a bit of pizza while we were in Iceland. We figured if we bought one pizza for $20, that’s about $10 per person with some potential for leftovers. Not bad! My favorite pizza place was Eldsmiðjan in Reykjavik. If you go, try the Primavera! It is topped with cheese, bacon, maple syrup, pizza sauce (marinara), spinach, apple, and cheddar cheese. I know it sounds funky, but just trust me. It’s the best pizza I’ve eaten in my entire life.
5. Cook for yourself
I fell in love with a few Icelandic products from our time there. We tried to shop at the local markets for most of our meals and snacks. Bónus was my favorite little store, just look for the drunk piggy bank logo. The food staples of my grocery runs to Bónus included Skyr (amazing Icelandic yoghurt), Kókómjólk (delicious chocolate milk), Kinder Eggs (because I hate that they’re illegal in U.S. and I was overly excited about eating my first one in the 9 years since I moved to the states from Europe), and other non-perishables. We were all over the country and didn’t stay in one place for more than a night, so we couldn’t refrigerate much, so the non-perishable part was important.
Happy [budget] wanderlusting, friends!