Road tripping around Iceland is a fantastic experience, but it’s not without its challenges. If like me, you don’t have an endless pot of gold to finance your trip with, chances are your Iceland adventure is not proving the easiest trip to plan. So, I’ve put together 8 top tips, that will help you get the most out of your road trip without breaking the bank.
- Rent a Camper Van
Why pay for rented transport and accommodation when you can combine the two? Yes, living out of a camper is not the comfiest way of traveling, but it sure does save you some dosh. I rented a basic van from GoCampers and it came with pretty much all the essentials. I upgraded slightly to a van with heating, as we were traveling during spring and it was still pretty cold. I’m definitely glad we paid a little extra for the heating as it would have been hard work keeping warm in the night without it. Renting a camper can not only save you money, it also gives you the freedom to explore the island on your own terms. Although we had a rough itinerary planned, we definitely made the most out of having our home on wheels, as we changed and modified our plan as we traveled around the island.
- Monitor the weather
The weather in Iceland is fickle, and it pays to keep an eye on the forecast throughout your trip. If you’re planning on driving around the whole island, don’t spend too much time worrying which direction to set off in. Instead, wait until you arrive on the island and refer to the forecast to see where the best weather will be and base your decision on that. Throughout our trip, we regularly amended our plans to avoid bad weather and it made all the difference.
- Bring food supplies
Iceland is expensive, like really expensive! So packing a few food supplies really makes a difference. Things like teabags and instant coffee sachets, packet noodles and cuppa soups are lightweight and make ideal snacks when you only have a camping stove at your fingertips. I also packed a few packets of biscuits and cereal bars to keep me going. Before leaving Reykjavik we stopped at a supermarket to buy the bulkier and fresh products such as pasta, bread, milk, and cheese. Even our small basket of essentials really added up so we were really pleased that we had brought some food supplies with us!
Tip: The most affordable supermarket with the best range of products is definitely Bonus. Look out for their bright yellow logo with a pink pig on it. You’ll find their stores in and around Reykjavik and a few in western Iceland.
- Pack a flask
This was honestly a life saver, and probably the best thing we packed for our trip! It sounds silly, but until you stand outside in the cold waiting for a pot of water to boil, you will not appreciate how convenient a flask of hot water is! We got into the habit of filling our flask with boiling water each morning after we had made ourselves a cup of tea. Thanks to the flask we could then help ourselves to hot drinks or cuppa soups throughout the day without having to open up the back of the van and get the camping stove out. Whenever we found ourselves parked in a particularly warm spot sheltered from the wind, we would boil more water to fill the flask. Trying to boil water on a camp stove in a cold and windy spot is nearly impossible and takes forever, so being able to take advantage of a bit of warm weather or a sheltered area to quickly fill our flask saved us a lot of time and energy.
- Swap the Blue Lagoon for Myvatn Nature Baths
The Blue Lagoon is one of the best known and most visited sites in Iceland, but it’s not the only geothermal pool on the island worth visiting. With tickets for the Blue Lagoon starting from 51 Euros, it’s also not the cheapest place to visit and the crowds of tourists that visit each day can spoil the atmosphere. If you wish to save a bit of money and avoid the crowds, try heading to the Myvatn Nature Baths in the north of Iceland instead. Tickets are cheaper at around 30 Euros (they are further discounted out of the summer season) and on the whole, the place is less touristy. It also makes for a relaxing stop in the middle of your road trip to melt away the tension of living out of a camper van!
- Download a Northern Lights app
Increase your chances of seeing this spectacular phenomenon in the skies by downloading an app that forecasts where and when the Northern Lights will be visible. There are loads to choose from on the app store, and they predict the strength and location of the Northern Lights just like a weather forecast. We visited Iceland in spring so seeing the aurora was far from guaranteed. We studied the apps each day and tried to camp overnight wherever we had the best chance of spotting them. Why leave such a spectacular experience to chance?!
- Bring an SLR Camera if you can
Phone cameras have improved a lot over the years, but for capturing landscapes like Iceland, an SLR is the way to go. When I visited Iceland, I didn’t actually own an SLR but luckily a friend let me borrow their camera. I would recommend doing the same if you can, just make sure you have travel insurance that covers the camera, just in case!
- Splash out and go snorkeling at Silfra (excuse the pun!)
Silfra is the only place in the world where you can literally swim in between two tectonic plates. The plates are slowly drifting apart at a rate of 2cm a year and have filled with crystal clear glacial spring water. Don’t let the freezing cold water put you off though, you’ll be snorkeling in a dry suit so only your face and hands will actually get wet! It’s not a cheap experience, but I would gladly eat packet noodles for a week in order to afford it, as it’s such a unique and awesome experience!