Iceland is expensive, there is no way around that one. I visited in the Summer of 2014 outside of peak season. I went with two other friends, and we were all pretty skint, but we managed to do a week long road trip around the south of Iceland on a strict budget. And had an absolutely, amazing time. So here’s how we stayed for a week, saw epic things and didn't blow our student budgets.
- Go with friends. We split car rental and fuel between three, as the public transport outside of the Golden Circle is non existent. Obviously other split-ables were food costs etc. There are lots of places that are amazing to travel alone, Iceland isn’t one of those!
- Stay in hostels. We stayed with Hostelling International for our entire road trip, but it still wasn’t cheap, they averaged around €27 a night in a dorm. Still, a lot cheaper than hotels. Another plus of going with friends, we managed to take over most of the 4 bed dorm rooms we stayed in, effectively getting the whole room. Hostels in Iceland are super lovely too!
- Cook yourself. Hostels with kitchens mean cooking up your own feasts. We bought vegetables, bread, pasta, sauces in Reykjavik and took them around with us on our roadtrip. Meat is expensive in Iceland and it’s a pain trying to keep it cold between hostels, so we ate a vegetarian diet for our trip. PLUS one of the hostels was literally hours from anything. If we hadn’t taken our own food, we wouldn’t have eaten! Also, save more money and properly plan your week of eating so you don’t buy too much!
- There are SO MANY free things to do in Iceland, take full advantage of the beauty of the things right at the side of the road. We stopped frequently, and looked at the large expanses of nothing but spectacular mountains. We stopped at the hot spring pool on the side of the Eyjafallajokull volcano, which was FREE to swim in. An EPIC life experience such as that, was free, that’s pretty cool. You can stop and look at Glaciers melting with seals swimming around. All free. Much in the Golden Circle is also free, watching the Geysirs, walking the epic waterfalls, is all free. Now to me, that makes enjoying the DELICIOUS hot chocolate at the expensive restaurant AT the Geysir, just the more enjoyable.
- Avoid the Blue Lagoon. This is where our perfect plan fell apart a bit. We could have easily missed out on the Blue Lagoon, in hind sight. If you have loads of cash- do it. If you don’t, and you have been in the thermal bath at Eyjafallajokull volcano then The Blue Lagoon will just be a really expensive, slightly posher and less authentic experience.
- Stick to the speed limit. Common sense I know, but it might seem easy to let put your foot down on the beautiful long roads. Other than the obvious HUGE safety concern, especially on uneven, gravelly, sheep covered and often destroyed(!) roads, Iceland is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to speeding. If caught, there is a 0 tolerence, fines are the highest in the world and there are "hidden" cameras everywhere (apparent screens that tell you your speed are also actually camera traps). At the hire car centre, we were told that people are fined a lot.
After all of this, we did treat ourselves a few times. We had the best fish and chips ever in Rekykvik, it was bloody expensive but so worth it. We also did a Whale and Dolphin viewing experience, and one of the coolest things ever- I smelt a whale fart! These were expensive luxuries, but if you are torn between the Blue Lagoon and Whale Watching, there really isn't a contest, visit the Volcanic spas and do the whale watching!