A Budget Traveler In Iceland: Part Two

How I traveled to Iceland on a budget. #Iceland*I was not compensated for the links in this article. 

Picking up where I left off in part one, I woke up Sunday morning with a nasty head cold. At least my plan for that day was to just leisurely explore the city. I didn’t want to do a long excursion, since I was scheduled to go on the Northern Lights boat tour that evening at 10pm.

One of my first stops was the Volcano House, which was very close to my hotel. I think volcanos are really cool, so I plopped down the $17.50 (ouch) ticket to see both films to learn about the history of some of Iceland’s volcanos, including the fairly recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (oh yeah, I totally copied and pasted that). I thought it was very interesting!

I also hadn’t had the chance up until that point to taste any of Iceland’s cuisine, so I plopped down another $19.39 for a simple lamb stew and diet coke. It was a lot of money, but with having a cold, soup tasted so good.

Lamb Stew

Lamb Stew

During that time I looked out the window and all of a sudden hail was coming down pretty hard, so I took a picture. Not one minute later it looked completely different. They are not kidding about the weather changing quickly in Iceland.

The quickly changing weather in Iceland

The quickly changing weather in Iceland

Next, I headed to the Kolaportid flea market, where I sampled smoked shark (salty), dried fish (blech), and bought the most amazing dessert bread thing that tasted like a cross between a donut and focaccia bread.

A cross between a donut & focaccia bread. Foconut? :)

Foconut? :)

I had more time to kill, so I went to the much talked about Laundromat Cafe, where I ordered some chamomile tea ($4.36) and people watched.

The rest of the evening before the Northern Lights tour, I chilled in my room drinking from the bottle of wine I purchased at duty free, and eating my packet of tuna, peanut butter, and some Icelandic flat bread I bought at the grocery store ($2.21).

I was relieved to know they canceled the boat tour portion of the Northern Lights excursion, and would be taking us by bus instead due to rough sea conditions. I wasn’t in the mood to freeze my ass off AND get sea sick, so whew!

The next three hours were probably the most boring part of the trip. It was a long bus ride full of anticipation, followed by what seemed like 80 mph freezing winds at the place where we stopped to spot the lights (luckily there was a restaurant you could go hang out at inside), and feeling kind of lonely since no one was really talking to me. I wish I had brought some headphones to listen to some music.

We did not see the lights, but I was a little too tired and cold to care. The bus dropped us off in the city center, and during my ten minute walk back I was pelted by hail in howling winds. I must admit I was laughing all the way down the street. Geez, kick me while I’m down!

The next morning I booked a Golden Circle excursion with Iceland Horizon ($80). David, the owner of the small tour company, is a jolly fellow originally from England who operated a smaller bus, which I LOVED! I HIGHLY recommend his tour since he is full of knowledge about the history of the country, and talks about some other fun facts about Iceland.

Gullfoss Waterfalls

Gullfoss Waterfalls

We visited a crater, some small waterfalls, Gullfoss waterfalls, Strokkur geyser (read about the controversy here. I did NOT pay to go in, but I could see it just fine from the fence), Thingvellir National Park (LOVED), and stopped by to say hi to some super cute and cheeky Icelandic horses. I also caved and bought myself another lamb stew at the Gullfoss tourist center. ($16.80)

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

At the end of the tour, David even dropped me off at one of the seemingly very few pharmacies in Reykjavik, where I discovered they seemed to be the ONLY place in Iceland where no one spoke English. So I had to mime a stuffy nose.

Travel Tip: Pack any medications you think you might need at home. Pharmacies are not always open or easy to come by. Better safe than sorry. 

Feeling better after medication, I decided to try one of the more local type restaurants many people had recommended, called Icelandic Fish & Chips, which was just a short walk from my hotel across the street from the Old Harbor. You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. I settled on the recommended combo of Icelandic cod (with a truffle sauce) with roasted potatoes over greens. I also ordered some homemade bread which came to $28.96. Good lord! It was simply fantastic though!

Icelandic Fish and Chips

Fish & Chips

Travel Tip: Tipping is not expected in Iceland, which made the cost of everything just slightly less painful. 

I COULD have rescheduled (for free) doing the Northern

Lights boat tour THAT night, but I was feeling spent after the Golden Circle tour, and just wanted a good night’s sleep. Apparently  they DID see the lights that night, but it wasn’t all that spectacular. Someone said it was like seeing fireworks through some clouds.

By the next morning I was well rested, packed, and ready to head to the Blue Lagoon, where we would bring all of our stuff, then head directly to the airport after we were done.

In case your package includes this, do not worry about the Fly Bus situation. There are only two busses that go to the airport. One at noonish and the other at 2:15. Since it seemed like EVERYONE I met had a flight at 5pm no matter what city they were flying to, the 2:15 bus will get you there in plenty of time.

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon was very well run and organized. You drop your luggage off at a separate building, then walk (and freeze) on the way to the main building, where they give you your robe, towel, and wristband which opens your locker and gets you your free drink and facial mask. There are different packages, but this is the one that mine included.

If you don’t want to run from the main building to the pool, there is an indoor pool section with a little door where you can ease getting outside.

The pool is nothing short of awesome, and included some little coves and bridges, and some hot waterfalls and a heavenly steam room. Everyone moves very crouched down because there is literally a blizzard blowing above your head, but the warm water feels amazing. I roamed over to the bar where I ordered a champagne and my algae mask, then headed to a nice area where I could put my drink down and chat with some tourists.

After spending time in the pool, I took my time getting ready and headed to the cafe to order another expensive ham & cheese sandwich, chips, and a soda ($14.24). Hey at least the champagne was included in my package!

The Fly Bus then took us to the airport where I finished my vacation. Given it’s such a small and quiet airport, I had a lot of time to kill so I ordered another sandwich at the airport, and my first and only Icelandic beer, which was tasty ($16.98 for the sandwich and beer).



Total cost for my trip was about $1,600 (including Denver). You can view all my pictures from the trip here


Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. To get the latest updates, be sure to subscribe. To support her fundraising efforts to produce more video for this site, please visit her crowdfunding page!

Latest posts by Tonya (see all)

  • http://nzmuse.com eemusings (NZMuse)

    Haha yea, the rapidly changing weather was another thing that made me feel right at home! Just like Auckland.

    Ooh yeah we also went to Icelandic fish and chips. No particular memories – assume it was good but not mindblowing. So Thingvellir was snowy when you went? Awesome!

    I didn’t realise there was an admission fee – looks like it may have been introduced just after we went (September).

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Just for the geyser. It literally started a couple days before we got there. Lot of controversy.

  • Kim

    Love it! Want to go to Iceland even more now.

  • http://deardebt.com/ Dear Debt

    Aww I miss Iceland. I also went to the Fish and Chips place. Loved it but dropped $50 there! Yikes. Blue lagoon was magical and Ryan and I rented a car and went to the places you mentioned. It was nice getting lost, listening to Icelandic radio and just having fun. I can’t wait for my next real vacation! So glad you could experience the beauty of Iceland. I’d also like to go back in the summer.

  • Kyle James

    Enjoyed reading about your trip! The blue lagoon looks amazing, is it a natural hot spring with a swim up bar? Glad you had a great trip. My 12 year old son told me recently that they named Iceland “Iceland” only to keep people away. Made sense, is it true? I kinda figured he was pulling my leg.

  • http://nextbiteoflife.wordpress.com/ Kemkem

    How would the rate the holiday overall? Reading this, l get the feeling that it was just okay. Would you go back? I’m just curious. I kind of felt like this about Sydney. I spent a lovely 3 weeks there. I had fun, but it was just okay, and l wouldn’t go back.

  • http://luke1428.com/ Brian @ Luke1428

    That’s interesting that tipping is not expected. Wonder why that expectation has not developed there? Can we start a movement and import that tradition to the U.S.?

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Looks like a very nice trip overall Tonya, especially at that price. It’s interesting they don’t tip in Iceland, but it looks like the prices more than made up for it. ;)

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    Sounds to me like you had a great trip. I’ve been to Iceland before and like you the cost of things really did add up but it’s not like I’ll be going there again. When I travel I think of my budget but I also like to splurge as well. Great piccies too!

  • Done by Forty

    Incredible trip, Tonya! I’m a little surprised at the cost of food, but I guess the exchange rate isn’t always in our favor. Thanks so much for sharing these details and photos!

  • debtfreeoneday

    The Blue Lagoon sounds amazing Tonya! Sorry that you didn’t get to see The Northern Lights though. I’ve always wanted to see them. Great review of the activities that you did, if I ever get to go to Iceland, I’ll be revisiting this to plan my trip!

  • http://theheavypurse.com/ Shannon Ryan

    I definitely want to experience the Blue Lagoon sometime in my lifetime. It looks amazing. I am still surprised by how the food costs are and it’s interesting that tipping is not expected. And a nice bonus given how high everything is. Sounds like a good, but cold, trip! I feel like a wimp for complaining about how chilly it’s been the past few days here. LOL!

  • http://www.uniquegifter.com/ Anne @ Unique Gifter

    It sounds like you were able to see and do a lot of things in the short time that you were there! It’s a bummer about the Northern Lights, they are gorgeous. Would you recommend people going to Iceland? I know that it’s expensive, I’ve heard that part over and over!

  • http://frugalportland.com/ Kathleen O’Malley

    it’s funny — I get chilly looking at those pictures and reading your descriptions! what an amazing trip.

  • Kim

    I had that same experience in a pharmacy in Venice. You’d think there would be some international menus with words for common things, but I guess if an Italian or Icelander (?) came to the US, they would get no help at all, although they would probably know how to speak English. Thanks for the write up. I knew they ate all kinds of fish there, so I’m glad you tried and reviewed.

  • alwayshungry4

    The fish and chips look sooo delicious!! I hear you about the pharmacy – I completely forgot to pack some Tums and Pepto-Bismol, and it was tough to find something comparable here for B! I plan on writing up on it, as well. Sorry to hear you became sick for your trip, but it sounds so much fun all around! See you in a few weeks. :)

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I look forward to our meetup! I’ll send an email so we can discuss details!

  • E.M.

    The horses are so cute! It’s insane how quickly the weather changed, though. Today was super windy here so I feel your pain. It’s not fun to be outside in those conditions, but I’m glad you got to enjoy some aspects of the tour. The Blue Lagoon sounds very nice, and I love seeing waterfalls in general. They’re so mesmerizing!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      It was super windy here yesterday too. The big difference is it was in the 60’s! :) I’m not sure I could ever live in Iceland. :)

  • http://shopmyclosetproject.com/ Michelle

    I want one of the horses but it won’t fit in the tiny place. The pictures are lovely, thank you for sharing with us!! If I go to Europe I’m fine. Whenever I go to Asia I always get sick the first week. Think eye issues (pink eye), weird rashes. I think I live in too clean an environment. I’m excited to got to Iceland now.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      I think I got sick because of the stress I was under. :( Luckily it was only a minor cold. Yes I wanted to ride one of those horses back to the states. So cute! When we pulled up they all ran over to us like puppies. :)

  • http://www.youngadultmoney.com/ DC @ Young Adult Money

    Gullfoss waterfalls and the Blue Lagoon look amazing!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Yes both of those places were highlights!

  • Fit is the New Poor

    Blue Lagoon has been on the top of my travel bucket list forever. It looks like so much fun!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      So relaxing!

  • jefferson @seedebtrun

    The food looks great, Tonya, and you really got to see some amazing things. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! (and an additional thank you for the $ breakdown. did you have to convert all of that to dollars before posting?)

    I have always through that the weather changed quickly here in Missouri, but that is a whole other level! Holy smokes!

  • http://www.thefrugalweds.com/ thefrugalweds

    The Blue Lagoon looks AMAZEBALLS! We are definitely visiting Iceland now.
    It’s interesting that tipping isn’t in their culture there. I thought it was the same in the Philippines when we traveled there – but they apparently automatically add a “service charge” to your bill. It’s a good thing we found out beforehand. Yay for frugal travel buddies!

  • http://poorstudent.ca/ Stu @ Poor Student

    Seems like you had an amazing trip despite the cold! The Blue Lagoon looks amazing — actually from the pictures I saw of any place in Iceland, they look all amazing :D Thanks for breaking down your budget so I can have rough guidance if I visit it in the future.

  • Heather @ Run Like a G!

    It seems like you had an amazing trip! What a place to experience! I still can not get over the price of food!!! CRAZYYYYY!

  • Green Money Stream

    The Blue Lagoon really does look absolutely amazing. Sorry to hear you had a cold, but sounds like a nice trip. I would like to try the fish and chips!

  • Megan Michael

    Wow those horses are beautiful and so is the national park. I was looking at your pics on Flickr… wow!

  • Arman @ thebigmansworld

    I’ve heard from my friends who travelled Iceland that the Northern lights can really be hit or miss! The lagoon though looks absolutely amazing!

    I loved how you included a breakdown of the costs involved- Although I wonder if it would have been cheaper not buying food etc at tourist hubs? Sounds overall it was pretty well balanced :)

  • http://www.mightytravels.com/ MightyTravels

    Wowzers, Iceland sounds real expensive! I would still love to go and the excursion you did sounds awesome :)

    See you around Twitter – just started following you so I can read more of your adventures!

    Selina @ MightyTravels