Over coffee one brisk but sunny afternoon my friend/business partner Tyler told me that flying to Iceland is surprisingly inexpensive. We took a look at it and I bought my tickets right there in the cafe’. Later Oby and I decided that it would be fun to go together so we added him to the itinerary and found ourselves in Iceland for 10 days this May.
We pieced our trip together with advice we received from Lonely Planet, friends who’ve been before and good ole’ Google. It feels like my duty to give back to the traveling community with a few tips from our experience. So, here we go:
1. Fly WOW air!
Their tagline is “cheap flights to Iceland.” With flights beginning at $149.00 each way, it allowed us to fly roundtrip with luggage and upgraded seats for $500.00! Beyond that, if you’re looking to go anywhere in Europe, I’d check to see if WOW flies there. If they do, fly through Iceland and you may be able to save upwards of $500.
2. Take the bus from the airport.
We read this in all kinds of travel guides and still didn’t listen. Usually when I travel, I like to take a cab from the airport. It’s usually a little bit more expensive, but, worth it after a long day of traveling to not hassle with figuring out the bus system. What the guides didn’t tell us is that transfers from the airport are around $17 and are more of a shuttle than a city bus so there aren’t routes to figure out, just hop on the bus and get to the city center. Also, a cab ride will cost over $100 for the same trip and you will be so sad when you get to the place you’re staying and you’ll wonder why you have to be such a stubborn ass anyway.
3. Where to stay.
We stayed in an air bnb that we LOVED. Seriously, we loved it. It was on the bus line and a bit out of the city. We overlooked the water and had the entire place to ourselves. Plus, our hosts were seriously, SO good to us. Check it out here. We also spent a decent amount of time at KEX Hostel and I definitely recommend that as a second option if you are looking to make other friends who are traveling or if you are traveling alone.
4. Where to eat.
Food and drinks are EXPENSIVE. Just be prepared for that before you go. In fact, I’d probably recommend a shorter trip to keep the cost down overall. However, a few places that we loved:
>> KEX Hostel – great food + awesome atmosphere overlooking the water.
>> The Icelandic Bar – by far my favorite meal and dining experience of our trip. A varied menu featuring traditional icelandic food as well as more modern dishes.
>> The Laundromat Cafe – the brunch spread of your dreams.
>> The Sea Baron – best lobster soup in the world.
>> Reykjavik Fish – Seriously, the perfect fish and chips.
>> Baejarins Betzu Pylsur – Apparently, the world’s best hot dog. Seriously, it’s famous. We were filmed for Brazilian TV while eating ours. So, we’re kind of a big deal by hot dog association.
5. Where to drink (coffee)
>> Reykjavik Roasters – there are two locations of this specialty coffee shop and roaster. Our shop of choice that we went to almost every single morning.
>> Kaffi Slippur – Inside of an adorable hotel that was a delight to explore. The atmosphere was cozy and the coffee was legit!
>> Te og Kaffi – Their chain coffee shop. It’s just about everywhere. We expected it to be starbucks-y. But, we were pleasantly surprised with how good the coffee was. It’s more stumptown-esque. It’s definitely a chain, but, the coffee is decent even if you had to get it to-go at the locations that we visited.
6. Where to drink (alcohol)
>> KEX Hostel – KEX was a respite for us. We knew there would be wi-fi there and plugs for our perpetually dying phones. Beer was served in steins at the standard price of $10/pint.
>> Dillon – a whiskey bar that we visited with our Air bnb hosts. They had a decent bourbon list and the drinks weren’t too overpriced.
>> The Drunk Rabbit – I’m a sucker for an Irish Pub.
>> At home or in the streets- alcohol is expensive even at the store in the city. The best place to buy alcohol is in the Duty Free shop at the Reykjavik airport. Also, rumor has it that there aren’t any open container laws in reykjavik so you can drink on the street if you want to. Most people don’t start drinking there until late at night though, so you may be alone until post-midnight. (we were typically asleep by then, because well-rested = life.)
7. Getting out of the city.
Everything we read said to rent a car. However, when we did research cars were upwards of $100/day. That wasn’t in our budget this trip. So we centralized ourselves in Reykjavik and had a great time. Were we to do this again we’d likely stay a shorter time and rent a car to balance the cost out in a way that let us see more of the countryside. But, you live and you learn. You can however, take buses out of the city relatively cheaply and easily. So, I’d recommend looking into that as an option.
>> The Blue Lagoon – soaking in naturally warm water with the one you love while sipping on cocktails, a free face mask and nowhere to be. Totally worth it. Just make sure to not get your hair in the water if you don’t have to, it will make it SO dry. The spa provides conditioner and blow dryers, etc. So, you can get things settled after you get out if you need to.
>> Geothermal pools – in the city there are geothermal heated pools that people visit before and after work. It’s a huge part of their culture and a neat way to meet new people visiting or local. Also, it’s a pretty inexpensive way to do something fun.
>> The Golden Circle – we took the golden circle tour with Viator and had a great experience. In fact, we got engaged on this tour! You visit a geyser, a waterfall, pet horses, explore a historic chapel, walk through canyons created by earthquakes and more.
>> Hallgrimskirkja Church – I don’t know about you, but, one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place is to get up high and see the city from a different perspective. We visited The Pearl for that as well, but, my favorite views and experience were at the church in the city center.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to tell you, but, this is a good place to start at least!
with love and happy traveling,