Saving Money in Scandinavia: Iceland

I briefly mentioned in an earlier post that I took a trip in May 2016 with my best pal, Penny.

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This is Penny. ❤️

We hit up Reykjavík, Iceland first, for three awesome days, before heading to Stockholm, Sweden. From there we went by night bus to Oslo, took the train to Bergen, bussed to Ålesund, and then Geiranger and then we flew to Copenhagen before heading back home (to Toronto, and Halifax). All in all, we were gone for 3 weeks, though it felt like 3 months. It’s amazing what a complete lack of a schedule does for your sense of time! Adjusting to normal life again was weird.

Sometimes I still can’t believe any of it happened…

How much did it all cost? How did we do it?

(Lucky for you, I’m a nerd and kept my Excel file of expenses! 😆)

In the first place, we wanted to go anywhere at all. We just wanted to travel together. Penny works in Toronto, and I’m in Halifax, which means we never see each other. This was to be a joyous reunion!

I’m not a fan of hot places, and Iceland intrigued both of us. Then we learned about the stopover deals with Icelandair, and decided to extend our trip to Northern Europe, after seeing Iceland. Three weeks seemed like plenty of time to see the things we wanted to see, although in all honesty, on the last day… we could have just not gone to the airport and stayed forever. It was hard to leave. Scandinavia is a beautiful part of the world, and extremely friendly. Really, it probably had more to do with having to go back to work.

We came up with this plan in July 2015, and bought our plane tickets then. The plane tickets took us from Toronto to Reykjavík, then to Stockholm a few days later, and then from Copenhagen back to Toronto a few weeks after that. All we had to do, was make sure we were in Copenhagen to catch our flight. Everything in between Stockholm and Copenhagen was left unplanned.

The plane tickets per person: $1022.3 (taxes in, including all 3 flights)

Of course, after we bought the tickets, we were too excited to sit on them and not think about it. So we decided to at least plan our time in Reykjavík, since we only had 3 days and wanted to make sure we made the most of it. I also booked our hostel for Stockholm (Långholmen Prison Hostel!) so we’d at least know where we were sleeping when we arrived there. We bought the plane tickets on July 31st, and had our first two hostels, Iceland tours and Blue Lagoon tickets paid for on August 1st. Ha!

A little impatient. However, that would later turn out to be a HUGE benefit and major cost-savings (more on that when I write about Sweden).

  • Reykjavík City Hostel: $30.74 per person per night
  • Shuttle from airport to Blue Lagoon to hostel (including lagoon entry fee): $92.57 per person
  • Golden Circle Tour (one full day): $92.57 per person
  • Return shuttle to airport: $18.24
  • City Walk tour of Reykjavik: Free (and one of our favourite parts of the trip! Sara was hilarious)
  • Meals: Very wide range here. It is very possible to eat cheaply and still try traditional Icelandic dishes. It is also possible to pay through the nose for “traditional” Icelandic dishes. The best thing I ate in Iceland was a lamb stew at the Gullfoss waterfall. I think it was $5. I also managed to find a creperie that made gluten-free crepes, about an hour before we were supposed to meet our shuttle to the airport… talk about luck! That crepe MADE MY DAY and was probably about $6-7.
    • Note: We didn’t really drink. We were there Monday-Wednesday, and missed taking part in the typical weekend pub crawl, but we both had more important things on our lists and alcohol in Scandinavia is PRICEY. We just didn’t think it was worth it. Other people might consider that a necessary experience in Iceland, and pass on other things that we enjoyed. To each their own!

Overall, I probably spent an average of $100 per day in Iceland, including meals, accommodations and activities. We did a lot of walking, and there is plenty to see in Reykjavík that costs nothing at all. We also ran into two more Canadians during the City Walk tour, and wound up having a drink and exploring with them  and our hostel roommate after the tour, before racing back to our hostel to catch our airport shuttle. We’re still in touch via Facebook and/or Instagram. That’s priceless!

Due to my tendency to stay in hotels as part of my job, I know that $100 per day while travelling (in one of the most expensive destinations in the world), is nothing. I routinely have to spend $100+ for one night in a standard hotel. For me, getting a bed in a secure place, with amazing scenery, for just $30/night, was INSANE. I was laughing.

In our case, renting a car would not have been cheaper, though it probably would if we were to stay longer, or at a safer time of the year. During May, there were a lot of risks and travel warnings due to melting snow and ice, and all we could rent were huge, rugged SUVs, which were not cheap. We decided to put the responsibility of driving onto a tour bus driver, and just enjoy the sights (or sleep the entire time, like Penny). Hahaha!

I definitely would look into renting the next time I go, because a lot of the most incredible and scenic places in Iceland are very far from the city, and require a vehicle and a map.

I’ve read a lot of reviews/blog posts about travel to Iceland, and many people tend to find Reykjavík too small to be that interesting or to keep their attention for very long. I felt the opposite. Some of my favourite things about Iceland were observed or experienced while wandering around Reykjavík on foot, and many of them were completely free. I love looking at architecture in different countries, and checking out graveyards (especially after  I learned how people are named in Iceland… I had to look at some graves to see for myself. So neat!)

Pretty sure I spent a full hour just taking pictures of ducks… and I loved perusing Mál og Menning (a bookstore on Laugavegur). I also got to enjoy a quiet, solo, morning latte at Te & Kaffe on our last day, before exploring the rest of the city. It was a perfect day!

Have you been to Iceland? Where did you splurge and where did you save?

What would you do differently?

* All prices I give are in CAD.

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4 thoughts on “Saving Money in Scandinavia: Iceland

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