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Iceland: 5 useful tips to save money on food

Jokulsarlon iceberg lake at sunset

People often ask me if food is expensive in Iceland, and how much I spent for food when I was in Iceland. So today, i will give 5 great tips to save your money.

In particular, I’ll try to explain how i saved some money on food in Iceland during my 3 trips, in 2013, 2014 and 2015. I understand that out there is full of young people, like students, but also of tourists coming from countries where the strength of the currency is very limited, in a way that making a trip in a place like Iceland is very expensive and prohibitive. For this reason, i have tried to put together some tips i used to make the trip more sustainable

DISCLAIMER: the present article has been realized in pure amateur form with a mere recreational, personal, non profit intention. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee in any case the absence of errors or the freshness of the informations reported. For this reason he strictly invites any reader to also search for more informations about the same arguments inside other external sources, and to report any eventual mistake to the author through the Contact page on this website. In any case the author will not be responsible for any action committed by anyone following the reading of the informations reported inside this article

Here we go:

ARTICLE INDEX

  • Introduction
  • Initial assumptions
  • 1- Save money on breakfast in Iceland
  • 2- Eat cheap food on short breaks in Iceland
  • 3- Have a cheap lunch in Iceland
  • 4- Have a cheap dinner in Iceland
  • 5- The secret behind my food strategy
  • Conclusion: Let’s recap everything

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INTRODUCTION

I would like to begin by pointing out 2 facts:

1) after the icelandic financial crysis of 2008, as depicted by most economy graphs of the currency change between ISK and EUR available on internet, at least for now the situation has slightly changed and nowadays traveling in Iceland for an european tourist as well as for a north american tourist has become slightly less problematic with the prices being a little bit more affordable (at least when i went the prices were still good. Things can change again the future).

2) i still admit that in some instances, i found some places taking advantage of tourists, by selling food for excessive high prices, beyond every reasonable justification. But these were exceptions, not the average standard i found. Infact, i visited some very nice chains of supermarkets even equipped sometimes with tables and microwaves ovens, which sold me different goods for acceptable prices, and during this article, i will show some examples of this

Following, i will try to precisely explain how i saved money on food during every single phase of the day, including breakfast, short breaks, lunch, and dinner, by also providing some pictures of the typical food that i bought

INITIAL ASSUMPTIONS

Before proceeding, it’s worth to firstly provide some important considerations and assumptions which represent the “base” of my article, otherwise what i’m writing could make less sense:

1) Water is free: in the following guide i will not consider the price of water bottles, since despite being very high, in reality, after buying the first bottle, i found to be possible to easily refill it with the tap water  (although just to stay safe, i always asked first)

2) My trip style: i understand that everyone has his own style of traveling and/or his food preference, or culture precepts, or even some particular diseases or food allergies. For this reason, before proceeding i would like to better explain my trip style:

  • I don’t travel to eat:  I usually don’t visit Iceland to specifically try its kitchen specialties, but just to visit the country itself. For this reason, I tend to save as much money as possible, by only making 2 or 3 exceptions, during which i like to visit a restaurant to eventually enjoy some expensive meals for cultural reasons ( i always like if possible to try the local food when i travel somewhere), although not strictly necessary
  • My average activity: My average daily activity consists in driving for an average of of 150/200 Km, and hiking or taking pictures for 3/4 hours, plus some eventual night sessions to spot the northern lights
  • Don’t like to cook: I don’t like to cook and i don’t care to find guesthouses or hotels where i can cook food. For this reason, this guide doesn’t take into consideration in anyway any type of cheap food that could be eventually bought and cooked at home, except for the Asian noodles which require some hot water
  • My trip length: I tend to make a trip not longer than 10/11 days because i tend to take hundreds of pictures and i easily get tired after a while. For this reason, I understand that eating every day cheap food for a very long time, like in the case of a tourist visiting Iceland for more than 2 weeks is not really feasable. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that my suggestions are more indicated for a medium/short trip, not longer than 10 days (more or less)

ICELAND: MY FULL GUIDE TO SEE THE AURORA BOREALIS

3) My physical condition:

  • No cultural precepts: I don’t have any special preference when eating food or special cultural or religious precepts. I easily eat everything without problems
  • No allergies: I don’t have any special disease or food allergy which could impede me to eat some particular food

DISCLAIMER:

I’m not responsible for the choices one will make or the food one will eat. Following is just the explanation of my experience in Iceland. Before eating the food i’m talking about, one should carefully check his own health status, to understand if some personal diseases or allergies could conflict with the following food

1- SAVE MONEY ON BREAKFAST IN ICELAND

Firstly, it comes the breakfast time…

MY FAVOURITE CHEAP OPTION:

  • Guesthouse/Hotel breakfast: this is a diffused practice already known by many tourists, especially by those who are more accustomed to eat after waking up (more rare for italian people who just take a coffee and a brioche, but more frequent in north Europe). Furthermore, while booking a room, although sometimes not initially included, quite often i found that it is possible to ask for it in change of an extra charge (on condition for example of doing it in advance with a specific request). The reason for this option to be my favourite one is easy to guess. I pay a fixed price, and i can eat what i need including food rich in proteins like ham….well….i don’t see any reason to miss this
20150911_092500

The table of a “fixed price” breakfast….a great chance for recharge of proteins

2- EAT CHEAP FOOD ON SHORT BREAKS IN ICELAND

Ok, one goes out in the morning or afternoon, starts to make some hiking, drives for so long, and before it’s lunch or dinner time he begins to starve a little bit. The same is true while staying outside in the night to see the northern lights under the cold air

For these reasons, in Iceland i consider normal and quite common for my body to make some short breaks far from the main meals

MY FAVOURITE CHEAP OPTION:

  • Buy something in the supermarkets of Iceland: Although Iceland is often depicted as a very isolated place, by visiting it 3 times i found that more or less, many remote areas were still equipped with a supermarket where it is possible to find lot of useful food, from sandwiches to biscuits, to fruit juices. Some of them were even situated in more isolated areas. For example i found one just a couple of miles south of the isolated area of the Skaftafell glacier, or another one in the centre of Fludir which is quite close to Gullfoss and far from Reykjavik. There were plenty of choices and prices were not that high. While on the road, when i spotted a supermarket, I often stopped to  fill up my backpack with something to eat
20150909_173538

A typical shelf of an Icelandic supermarket…biscuits of all kinds everywhere

Some food examples for short breaks:

Icelandic Chocolate bars: great ones. Every bar had a special different picture of Iceland

Fruit Juice Boxes: enough cheap and good to accompany some biscuits

Skyr (Icelandic yogurt): as an alternative to fruit juices, Iceland is known for producing a special kind of yogurt called Skyr. I consider it a valid food especially if eaten together with some biscuits

Biscuits boxes: I loved the Maryland biscuits, but also other brands were very good

ICELAND: 10 POPULAR MYTHS DEBUNKED!

Icelandic Chocolate

The popular and delicious icelandic chocolate. Every package has a different image

3- HAVE A CHEAP LUNCH IN ICELAND

Time for lunch. Following, what i did to save money

MY FAVOURITE CHEAP OPTION:

  • Buy food in the supermarkets or fastfoods of Iceland: best option for me. There was enough “ready to be eaten” food, and prices were contained. Furthermore, differently from some other countries, here some supermarkets (not all, just some) were even equipped with microwave ovens to warm up food, and tables to eat inside, like the one in Fludir town. As already said above, i found them enough in many areas, including for example Hvollsvollur, Sellfoss, Fludir, Klaustur, Vik, Skaftafell (couple of miles south of it), and not only

Some food examples for lunch:

Chicken/beef/eggs/salad sandwiches: i found sandwhiches to be very popular in Iceland and they could be eaten both cold or warm (especially if the supermarket had a microwave available).

Hot Dogs: good and very cheap. One of the places that offered cheap hot dogs was situated in the town of Hvollsvollur where tourists are often forced to pass while driving toward the south coast from Reykjavik. More specifically, the fast food selling them was situated next to the main fuel station

Asian noodles hot boxes: an incredible cheap and pleasant resource of food i found in Iceland. It was the cheapest food available and perfect to eat after staying in the cold the entire day, eating these hot noodles and drinking their hot broth was so relaxing!

Skyr (Icelandic yogurt): as explained above, a valid food as an alternative to milk or fruit juices

Icelandic Chocolate bars: great ones. Every bar had a special different picture of Iceland

Fruit Juice Boxes: enough cheap and good to accompany some biscuits

Biscuits boxes: I loved the Maryland biscuits, but also other brands where good

ICELAND: 12 MISTAKES TO AVOID BEFORE GOING!

20150909_174050

The popular Icelandic sandwiches, sold almost everywhere. Thanks to the plastic package they can eventually be warmed up with a microwave oven

 

  • Visit a restaurant for a soup meal: when i say “restaurants” i mean the “hash houses” sometimes found also inside guesthouses. When visited, these places sometimes offered me the option of a nice and cheap “soup based” meal, usually composed by the soup itself together with bread and butter. When lucky enough, some of them even offered me a “meat based” soup rather than just a vegetable one (usually beef meat), which was a great choice since it’s a meal rich in proteins. Eventually, if not enough, i could even eat some biscuits or a piece of chocolate to complete the meal as a sort of “dessert”

4- HAVE A CHEAP DINNER IN ICELAND

Ok, and now it comes an important part of the Iceland food strategy……

MY FAVOURITE CHEAP OPTION:

1) Eating hot soups or asian hot noodles: this has been my favourite food for an Iceland dinner, because it was very hot and relaxing, especially after a day spent under the cold air of Iceland, and perfect to aid the body to get to sleep, waiting for the next morning during which it would have been possible to have a nice breakfast. Not only, this was also the perfect “second dinner” food to enjoy, after spending many hours in the night to spot the aurora borealis. One comes back in the room in the middle of the night, he feels cold and tired and everything is closed. What’s better than eating a hot box of asian noodles with their nice hot broth? This is why i always liked to buy some noodles boxes in advance, to keep them ready in the backpack. They just required some hot water from the tap and in 3 minutes they were ready!

2) Having another sandwich: eventually, sandwhiches were still an option for me, together with the soups or asian noodles

ICELAND: 20 REASONS TO LOVE IT OR HATE IT

20150909_194430

The asian hot noodles boxes, one of the cheapest food available in Iceland, available in almost every supermarket

5- THE MAIN SECRET BEHIND MY STRATEGY

Concluding, and easy to guess, the best thing to save some money for me has been to make a compromise for lunch and dinner and to balance a little bit more the food intake during breakfast. For this reason, I also considered useful to not visit too often the restaurants, although i found cool to do it a couple of times to try some Icelandic specialties (i consider the icelandic kitchen very nice). In this sense, some cheap food like the asian noodles hot boxes, or the biscuits and chocolates, really sustained me in reducing the total expenses, which sometimes, could have been really high, especially for those tourists coming from countries where the strength of their currency (money) is very limited when converted to Icelandic crowns (ISK)

ICELAND: A LIST OF MY FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT

CONCLUSION: LET’S RECAP EVERYTHING

Just to recap, these have been my favourite 5 tricks:

  1. Pay an extra charge to have a hotel breakfast
  2. Make wide use of supermarkets to buy food for all meals
  3. Don’t go every day to the restaurant
  4. Refill the water bottle when possible
  5. Always keep some cheap food ready inside the backpack, from chocolate to asian noodles, so that in case of isolated places far from supermarkets, i could still eat something without being forced to pay more money

Have a good Iceland journey, and good luck to all the northern lights hunters!!
Thanks for reading!

Moyan
Copyright © Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Small excerpts or the pictures contained in the article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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My third trip to IcelandSeptember 3rd, 2015
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