Reykjavik on a budget: How to make your money go further in the Icelandic capital

When you mention you’re visiting Iceland, one of the first reactions you get from people is a sharp intake of breath and some kind of utterance that includes the word “expensive”.

But while it may be true that Iceland is one of the most pricey countries in the world, a visit there doesn’t have to break the bank.

For us, doing Reykjavik on a budget came out of necessity rather than choice. It has always been a dream of ours to visit. So, when we saw that someone was advertising a housesit there, we applied with wild abandon.

Never for a second did we expect to get the sit. But, miraculously we did. So, within a few weeks of sending off our application, we were jetting northwards. We had little krona in our pockets and payday was almost a week away.

However, with a little bit of research and some common sense, we discovered that you can make your cash go further in Iceland. So, without any further ado, here are my top tips on getting the most out of your visit when you’re visiting Reykjavik on a budget.

Take Advantage of the City’s Free Sights

Major attractions like the Blue Lagoon or the Golden Circle tour will set you back a few quid, but there’s plenty to see and do in Reykjavik for free. In fact, top sights including the Hallgrímskirkja church, Harpa concert hall, and Perlan are all free to visit, and each of them are must-sees.

Pack Your Walking Shoes

Luckily, Reykjavik is such a compact city that it’s easy to cover it entirely on foot. We didn’t catch the bus once during our stay and still managed to see everything we wanted to. Walking is undoubtedly the best way to take in the city centre, and its colourful houses and taverns. Another great place to wander is around the old harbour. You can then stroll along the waterfront to the Sea Voyager Sculpture, taking in Harpa on your way. Alternatively, a trip around the Tjörnin city lake makes for a lovely stroll too.

Get Creative in the Kitchen

One of the greatest expenses for Reykjavik visitors is without a doubt eating out. So save yourself a hell of a lot of money by eating in. Most budget accommodation options like Airbnb and hostels usually give guests access to a kitchen. And what’s more, supermarkets in Iceland aren’t as expensive as you might think. Our store of choice for our stay was Bonus – said to be the cheapest and most basic of options. However, we found the store had pretty good stock – even for us vegans.

Swot up on your alcohol options

Iceland has one of the highest alcohol taxes in Europe, so a trip to the pub can cost you an arm and a leg. However, the locals have devised a crafty way of getting tipsy without anyone having their eyes out. It’s called Happy Hour and it’s absolutely rampant in Reykjavik. By downloading the “Appy Hour” app you can plan the perfect night out, merrily hopping from one bar to the next in order to catch the best deals. As you can imagine, Dan and I took full advantage of this, and I plan to write about some of our favourite drinking spots soon.

Another way to save is by, of course, drinking at home. You can buy alcohol from government-owned stores called Vínbúðinn. Alternatively, for even cheaper fun, stock up at duty-free before leaving Keflavik Airport.

Join a “Free” Walking Tour

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a massive fan of the free walking tour concept. And the CityWalk in Reykjavik is up there with the best. Over three freezing hours, our guide taught us all about Icelandic history and culture, while also sharing some invaluable insider tips. Being the seasoned pro he was, our guide knew the best spots in which to shelter from the biting wind and even took us into the city hall to thaw out mid-tour. So it’s safe to say that he earned his tip.

Follow the Locals to a Public Pool

The Blue Lagoon is possibly Iceland’s most famous attraction. However, with entry prices starting at 6,990 ISK (£45), it’s hardly a budget bathing option. Luckily though, you don’t have to spend a fortune to experience Iceland’s geothermic magnificence. Do as the locals do and visit one of the public-owned pools dotted around the city – here’s a rundown of the best of them.

Know When to Splurge 

By scrimping on some of the smaller stuff, like eating and drinking – we were able to splurge on some bucket list experiences. For you, it might be whale watching or a south coast tour. For us, it was the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon. And I can’t imagine visiting Iceland without ticking at least one of these of our list.

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