I recently travelled to Iceland – a destination quickly becoming one of the most popular countries for photographers and adventures alike. For me, it was just a dream to take on this scenic paradise. I made that dream a reality, with the help of a budget and some crafty ideas.
You can make your destination dreams come true too! Here are my thrifty tips to help you out:
5) Monitor flights, especially on a weekday evening (Tuesday/Wednesday)
I usually tell people if they want the cheapest flight, to check website about 3-4 weeks before their trip. I have usually gotten my best rates by waiting last minute, essentially. However, for a trip like Iceland, use a budget airline like WOW Air.
I got a $99 flight one way – which you won’t find by many of its competitors. Keep in mind, you’ll pay for checked bags and food. So pack light, and measure your carry-on before you leave.
4) Stay at guesthouses, rather than hotels
During my stay in Iceland, I travelled the coast by staying in guesthouses and cottages. You can generally find guesthouses on Expedia, but I also used local sources to find the best rates.
“Guesthouse” usually indicates a private room, possibly a shared bathroom and other shared amenities, like the kitchen.
Make sure you check your booking, does it include breakfast? I’d spend the extra 10-20 dollars NOW to make sure your guesthouse includes breakfast, or else you’ll be paying more in the currency of wherever you're staying.
For me, I was able to book nine eight nights in Iceland for approximately $400 CDN per person. I had to sacrifice the luxuries of a five-star, but it also gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other travellers (50 % of them from Canada) and met with local business owners. In my experience, the guest homes were generally a family operation, and because of my seclusion in the cottages, I saw the beautiful, dancing auroras. Something you wouldn’t see in a more light-polluted area.
3) Rent a car...and get insurance!
Iceland is very barren. You can travel for an hour before you run into another gas station. The winds also reach up and over 100 km/hour.
But despite that, I am telling you to rent a car. Joining tour groups can cost over 1,000 CDN and you’re running on their timetable.
I rented with Alamo – and my experience was acceptable. We returned the vehicle with damage – a rock fell from a cliff, smashed our windshield, and the intense wind gusts caused another vehicle’s door to hit ours (while parked!) You never know what may happen, so be prepared to cover it out of pocket until your insurance can cover you.
I would again recommend a local insurance company over an Icelandic one. We had 100% coverage, no deductible, which is nice. Because everything is MORE in Iceland.
And don’t be surprised, gas will cost you – approximately $100 to fill a small Volkswagen Polo. I spent about $250 on gas – based on a two person trip around the coast.
2) Utilize grocery stores
One of my biggest pieces of advice for a budget traveller is to utilize the country’s grocery stores. Not all restaurant prices are comparable to Canadian prices! If you’re able to use your guest home’s kitchen, pick up pasta or likewise. You will save hundreds!
Did I mention Icelandic chocolate also makes a good, affordable souvenir? I brought back a bag of it. People loved it. Think about little, sentimental ideas gifts like that, that will allow your friends and family to experience your trip but not cost too, too much.
1) Know that S%$# happens, but have fun anyways!
S^%$ is going to happen, trust me. I have yet to travel without some snags. You’re going to want around $500 for emergencies, and a proper GPS.
Apparently Google Maps makes mistakes, and you miss your guesthouse for the night...(Yes! That happened to me!) This might force you to shell out a pretty penny to stay at a hotel. But it’s all part of the adventure. As long as you understand that, don’t let it put a damper on your journey.
Emily Santos is a blogger, photographer and travel writer from the GTA. Follow her Iceland adventures and more at TheseTinyStories.com