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In this blog post you can find travel tips on budget traveling to Iceland, based on my 4 days winter adventure in that part of the world. You will learn how to plan your trip to Iceland and you will find a 4-Day Itinerary as well. I visited this island in late March. My main goal was to explore Iceland’s country side, outside of Reykjavik, where you can find the real beauty of Iceland. I wanted to stay away from crowds, bars, restaurants and city tourist attractions.
Iceland is in the North Atlantic Ocean, located between Europe and North America. This island is famous with breathtaking landscapes with waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes and lava fields. Most of the Icelanders live in the capital – Reykjavik. Iceland is a dream destination all year round for travelers from all over the world.
The most important thing to consider, while making your Iceland trip plans is what month of the year you will be visiting. The island has different activities to offer depending on the season and weather. For example, if you want to see the Northern Lights, you need to keep in mind that the only time to see them is September through mid April.
However, is Iceland a good place for solo travelers in the winter time? Depends if you are on a budget or not. What saves you significant amount of money anywhere you travel is staying at AirBnb, renting a car, buying and preparing your own food.
If you want to book a room at one of the expensive hotels in Reykjavik, go for a city sightseeing only and purchase expensive tour packages for exploring the countryside, then Iceland would be a good fit for you in the winter time as a solo traveler.
However, if you are a solo traveler on a budget, I wouldn’t advise you to drive alone during winter time in Iceland. Weather conditions can change drastically (snow, rain, strong winds). You could possibly get a flat tire. It’s always helpful to travel in pairs during winter time in case something goes wrong.
I flew from the East Coast in USA to Iceland with WOW Air. They offer the lowest air fares for that route. I found a $260 RT flight from Baltimore International Airport (BWI) to Keflavik International Airport (KEF). The air fare doesn’t include carry on and check in bags. You will need to pay additionally for them. You should read carefully their baggage fees and policy. For assigned seat, you need to pay additional $10. I flew both ways without paying for assigned seats and both times I had good seats (aisle and window). However, if you don’t want to take the risk of getting assigned a middle seat, then you should pay the extra $10. Keep in mind that you must pay online for luggage and seat 24 hours prior to your flight in order to avoid extra fees if paying at the airport.
You can bring a sandwich and some munchies for your flight. The food options offered at WOW Air flights are not very expensive but I wouldn’t qualify them as good food. You should bring a water bottle with you as well, to fill in with tap water just before you get on the airplane and later you can use it in Iceland for the same purpose. (A small bottle of water in Iceland costs $3, while tap water in Iceland is considered to be the best and purest in the world.) WOW Air charges $2.99 for water, coffee and any other non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t forget they are a budget airline company and that helps them to keep their air fares low.
WHAT TO BRING
I decided to challenge myself and to leave for my Iceland trip with as less as possible luggage, packed in only one carry on backpack. It worked perfectly fine. I didn’t miss anything. Here is a list for you with the essentials to bring for up to a week trip to Iceland.
- Bags: wheeled bag or 40L backpack, hydration daily backpack, luggage travel locks, lightweight foldable bag, clothes packing cubes
- Jackets: down jacket, lightweight vest, rain jacket, poncho, backpack rain cover
- Shoes: waterproof hiking boots, lightweight flip flops, shoe packing bags
- Tops: mid layer tee, thermal base layer
- Pants: thermal bottom, storm surge pants, jeans
- Small Items: winter hat, thermal gloves, thermal socks, underwear, swimsuit
- Misc: sunscreen, inflatable neck pillow, lightweight travel/swim/sports towel, external battery pack, universal travel adapter, small packing cube for cables/battery pack/adapter, water bottle, coffee/juice bottle, food flask, personal cosmetics
- Snacks on the go: trek mix individual packs, instant oatmeal packets, instant coffee packets
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As a solo female traveler, I didn’t want to drive alone because of the winter conditions. As a first time visitor in Iceland, I was able to see so much of Iceland in just 4 days because of his help, knowledge and expertise. He made sure I get to see everything possible for that time frame, which will enhance and make my first trip in Iceland an unforgettable experience! If you are interested in hiring a private guide, you should contact him (Zaho Popov) with any questions and requests for a trip quote, by email at email@example.com or you can call him at +3546952255
I had a positive experience with this company. I rented their cheapest car- Toyota Yaris. I paid 95 Euro for 2 days car rental- 75 Euro car rental and 25 Euro fee for picking it up at different locations (pick up at their Reykjavik office and drop off at Keflavik Airport). It was a really small car with manual shift, but it got the job done! I would definitely consider them for future Ring Road trip in Iceland during the summer time and I will update my review about this company!
I didn’t do even one organized tour in Iceland since I was using the services of private guide for the first 3 days and rented a car for the last day. Next time I’m in Iceland (during summer time), I would love to try some of the tours offered by the local tour companies, such as a boat tour to see the puffin birds, glacier hiking, etc.
Using your American credit card when refilling gas can be confusing. The gas station machines in Iceland always asks you for a pin code. Sometimes it will work when you press the green button but sometimes it doesn’t. You might want to contact your credit card company prior to your departure to Iceland, to request a temporary pin number.
If you want to save money, you should get an accommodation through AirBnB. It doesn’t really matter how close to Reykjavik the location of your AirBnb is if you are already renting a car and planning to explore the countryside. If you’ve never used AirBnb before, you can accept my invite to join and get $40 off towards your first trip.
If you are driving around the countryside, before you hit the road, you should buy some fruits and products from Bonus supermarkets to make your own sandwiches. You can stop by little restaurants along the way and have a bowl of soup as a nice addition to your sandwiches. This will save you you significant amount of money.
Alcohol is also very expensive in Iceland. If you want to save money, buy a bottle of alcohol at the airport in USA and bring it with you. Alcohol in Iceland is expensive even at their Duty Free Shop. For example, a bottle of Bacardi at the US Duty Free costs about $14-$17, while its priced about $24 and up at the Iceland Duty Free.
Expect to spend about 2-3 hours at the Blue Lagoon. Make your reservation at least 10 days ahead of time.
4-DAY ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Arriving in the morning at Keflavik Airport (KEF)
6-7 a.m Pick up your Rent-a-Car
8-11 a.m Blue Lagoon
11 a.m Golden Circle drive
Hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs (an hour epic hike one way!)
Rent a car (SADcars are the cheapest) and either drive out of town every night after 10pm or spend a night in Vik or somewhere else in the countryside, where you will be away from light pollution. Look for pitch dark areas, pull over and wait. Your chance to see them that way is so much higher than staying in Reykjavik and doing only one or two Northern Lights tours. It’s pretty easy to drive in Iceland for a couple in terms of directions. However, in terms of unpredictable weather – it’s not easy. I wouldn’t recommend solo driving in Iceland in winter time.
Chase the Northern Lights in the night
* lightweight travel towel
South Coast drive / Day Trip to Svinafellskojull Glacier & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
* Prepare sandwiches and beverages for the road so you don’t waste time stopping at gas stations
Places to stop by and see on your way to your final stop (Diamond Beach)
You should start driving back from the Lagoon no later than 5pm. Expect to arrive in Reykjavik around midnight. Look for Northern Lights on your way back! That is when I saw them in Selfoss, an hour before Reykjavik.