Our daughter Lindsey, and grandkids Cameron and Sadie out for a walk at Baxter Conservation Area south of Ottawa, Ontario. Photo taken by Ruth October 26 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Osgoode, Ontario, Canada. Just south of Ottawa.

And where are they going next? We leave November 1st for a six week trip to Romania and Moldova.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Iceland on a Budget

I've been meaning to do this post for a while. We often talk about other countries being "cheap" or "expensive" when compared to our home country of Canada. But just because a country is comparatively expensive, doesn't mean that we don't want to visit it! So we wanted to explain how to visit a country and see everything it has to offer, and do it at the best possible price. We only have one real world experience at this.


There are quite a few comparatively expensive countries in the world. Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and others. We want to see all of these countries. But we will have to have them interspersed with all of the "cheap" countries in the world!

So last year, we manufactured the opportunity to visit Iceland. But, (and this is the very first thing you should consider when trying to visit an expensive country!) we did it as part of a journey where we were going that way anyhow! We were in England at the time, and we needed to get to Halifax, Canada. We found a stopover flight that landed in Reykjavik and allowed us to visit Iceland at no extra airfare cost. This made our travel to Iceland totally free!

Aboard our Icelandair flight to Reykjavik.

Icelandair has some totally great deals, and they fly from quite a few U.S. gateways now. Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, among others. It's actually easy to stopover in Iceland if you're heading to Europe anyhow, or the other way around.

Try and visit in the shoulder season. July and August are the most expensive, and you will likely save money in June or September.

Okay, so now that you're there, how do you deal with food, lodging, and exploring? 

Notice I left "drinking" out of that question! One of the most expensive things in "expensive" countries is alcohol. So, don't plan on doing any drinking. There is so much visual stimulation in Iceland, that you don't need any other forms of stimulation!

Next up is transportation. First thing, DON'T rent a car at the airport unless you can find an exceptional deal. You're going to want to rent a car eventually, but Iceland has some very different car rental rules and you're going to want to take advantage of them. Reykjavik airport is actually quite a distance from the city itself and there's only one realistic way to get between the two...the airport shuttle that is run by Flybus.

Book online, and in advance. You'll be dropped off pretty much wherever you need to go in Reykjavik. There are several hostels in Reykjavik, but you'll really only want to spend a day or two there. Try and pick one that has an included breakfast and hopefully one that is buffet style. This way you can leave your hostel on a full stomach.

Couchsurfing is a possible option, but we found that there are a limited number of couchsurfer hosts compared to the number of people who want to couchsurf. Obviously if you can set up a couchsurfing place to stay then this is the way to go. But don't count on it.

Okay, so now that you're in Reykjavik, you'll need food. Groceries are expensive! You've hopefully left the house with a full stomach, so pick up some cheese and crackers and some other easy snacks for lunch. Then, have an early dinner at a restaurant that does  lunch. We found a couple of reasonably priced places that did good food at decent prices. In a city where a chicken salad can cost well over $20, you need to find these little out of the way places.

The Momma Steina restaurant is just down the street from the main church in Reykjavik. Great local food at decent prices. Eat in, or take out.

And The Noodle Station. Another hearty meal at a decent price. 

If we were to do Iceland again, we would rent a car and some camping equipment. This way, you can explore at your leisure and  there are a lot of places where you could simply set up your tent out of the way and for free. The camping rental gear would include enough cooking equipment that you could make at least one meal per day, if not more. And the rental car means you can stop for scenic photography whenever you want. And you will want!

Iceland is one of the most photogenic countries in the world!

Iceland is truly beautiful!

So, for your car rental you will want to shop around. A lot. This will probably be your biggest expense so you have the most opportunity to save if you do it carefully. We noticed that there are a lot of "private" car rentals available, and some are not advertised online. If you can't find a steal of a deal online, then wait until you get there. You will find a car at a "reasonable" price. Don't take any extra insurance. The odds of your rental car being stolen are slim to none, and there aren't many cars on the road in Iceland anyhow. Oh, and get the most fuel efficient vehicle you can find. Iceland is bigger than you might think and you'll put a lot of miles on the car.

So there you have it. Accommodation, transportation, and food...all looked after, and as cheaply as possible. This is how we would do Iceland when we return.

And return we will!

This will make your decision to visit Iceland even easier...


  1. Yes, I so totally agree with your thoughts on Iceland - loved following you last year on your visit there - the photos were fabulous. Never thought of going there before but you sure wet my appetite on that one! Now if I could just get Mr. Barry to give up hunting or fishing in the states for a visit there!!!

    1. You really should try to go, it is definitely a place that I know both you and Barry would love. Tell Barry they do have salmon fishing there, mind you it is VERY expensive for a license. Trout fishing is much more affordable apparently.

  2. I LOVE that header photo! Fantastic!

    I, too, remember when you did Iceland. What a beautiful country! We will never see the shoreline,so thanks for taking us along.

    1. Don't ever say never because you just never know whats in the future but I am glad that you enjoyed reading about it through our eyes.

  3. I have always wanted to go to Iceland and really enjoyed following you on your visit. Your photos were fantastic. This is a great 'how to do it' post. Thanks!

    1. We certainly loved it there and only got to see such a small portion of it. We would really love to spend at least a month there but even longer would be better to really be able to do it justice.

  4. I, too, have Iceland on my bucket list. I'm very fascinated with the "pure-bred" Icelanders (is that the word?) There have been so many important discoveries about genetics and inherited diseases / syndromes done in Iceland because of the purity of the genetic lineage. And, of course, I'd love to see some of that wonderfully natural scenery for myself.

    1. They are a very healthy and active group of people to be certain. They also have very strict immigration rules so it actually is quite hard to actually live there full time unless you were born there. The scenery is outstanding to say the least.

  5. Great post! I'm looking at the stopover flight option now to go at the end of March - beginning of April. Sadly I think it'll be too cold to camp but hopefully someone can host me through Couchsurfers (If I'm lucky). Did you find there were enough backpackers there who were renting cars? I'm going solo, so ideally I'd team up with a group to split the cost. Thanks for the travel inspiration!

    1. To be honest we didn't really come across any backpackers that we actually spoke to but when we eat at the Noodle Station, it certainly looked like a backpacker kind of place so that might be somewhere to check out, also there are a couple of hostels in Reykjavik, they are a bit pricey but again it might be a place to check out to see if anyone else is looking to share a ride.

      Another suggestion would be to try googling "share a ride in Iceland" or something similar and see if anything comes up.

      Good luck and have a great time, it is really a beautiful country and definitely one we would love to return too.


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