One of the things that surprises people most when they come to Iceland is how expensive things are. Tourists who come here regularly experience sticker shock when they see the prices on everything from groceries to transportation to gasoline to accommodation and just about everything else. One of the reasons many people go camping in Iceland in the first place is to save money on hotels. Can you really blame them? Staying overnight at a campsite costs a fraction of the price of staying at a hotel. And if you have the Iceland Campingcard, it’s even cheaper (but more about that later). So whether you decide to rent a campervan or motorhome or just drive a rental car and set up your own tent, let’s look at some easy ways to save money while you’re camping in Iceland.
Money Saving Tip #1: Plan Your Meals in Advance
It’s easy for things to add up very quickly in Iceland. While it may seem perfectly harmless, having your morning cup of coffee and a snack here or there will soon begin taking a bite out of your budget. Spending $3-5 on something small, multiple times a day over the course of a week can quickly tack $100 or more onto your trip expenses. Eating at restaurants is another way to get off balance with your spending. Even sandwiches cost $15-20!
The remedy for all of this is to plan in advance when and where you’re going to eat and allocate funds accordingly. Head to discount supermarkets like Bónus, Krónan or Nettó to buy your own groceries. Stock up on healthy snacks like apples, oranges, nuts, and dried fruit. I assume you’re already planning on cooking your own meals as a way to save money. Planning what you’re going to eat (meals and snacks), and including things like coffee and tea, is a great way to stay within your budget. The price of one meal in Iceland can easily get you three days’ worth of groceries if you plan it correctly. Buy pasta, cereal, bread, eggs, stuff to make sandwiches, and other staples.
Also, don’t buy bottled water while you’re here camping. Tap water in Iceland is clean, fresh, and safe to drink. You’ll save a ton of money by bringing refillable metal or Nalgene reusable water bottles with you and topping up from the tap. It’s good for the environment and even better for your wallet.
Track every penny in order to make sure you’re maximizing the money you’ve set aside for your Iceland trip.
Money Saving Tip #2: Invest in the Iceland Campingcard
If you decided to come camping in Iceland and the Campingcard isn’t on your radar yet, it needs to be. It’s a discount card for campsites it gives you access to over 40 different places to stay. This is a good option for people taking longer trips in Iceland and/or people traveling with their kids. At a cost of 19.176 ISK (149€ or $173), the card offsets the cost of paying at the campground. How much are campsites in Iceland? It can be as little as $5 and as much as $14. You have a period of 28 days to use the card. It grants you entrance for up to two adults and a maximum of four children under 16. You’ll have to do the math to see if the Campingcard is right for you. Also, note that many campsites close from mid-September to mid-May, so you can only use the Campingcard in the summer.
Money Saving Tip #3: Take Advantage of Happy Hour and BYOB
Another way to save money in Iceland and travel on a budget is with wine, beer, and liquor purchases. Due to high taxes, alcohol is extremely expensive here. While refraining from drinking altogether is the cheapest option, the next best thing is to take advantage of happy hour. Getting a beer will only cost you $6 as opposed to $10. You can also lower your costs by purchasing your own wine, beer, and spirits from a liquor store. For anything with an alcohol content higher than 2.25%, you’ll need to head to Vínbúdin, a chain of state-owned liquor stores. You can also shop duty-free at the airport and save around 30%.
Easy Hacks to Save Money on Your Iceland Camping Trip
These are some quick and easy ways to avoid spending mistakes in Iceland and have extra money while you travel. With a little bit of planning and foresight, it’s easy to travel on a budget in Iceland. In addition to saving money on food and alcohol, also look into the large number of free or low-cost outdoor activities and museums available. For example, instead of going to the overcrowded and expensive Blue Lagoon, why not substitute it with the Mývatn Nature Baths or the pool at Hofsós? Or take advantage of free walking tours in places like Reykjavik. There are tons of little tricks and easy ways to save money in Iceland. You just have to know where to look.