Iceland has to be one of my favourite short trip destinations from the UK. It has something for everyone, from 5* luxury to self sustained adventures. With return flights from London for as little as £50, why wouldn't you go?? How does a 4 day, long weekend road trip around Iceland sound? Fooookin' expensive I hear you say, which it is.
Unless of course you follow these top tips, then you could do it for £35 a day, including your return flights and food...
Rent A Car
I cannot stress enough how important it is to rent a car when you're there if you want to keep costs down. Car rentals start at £20 a day. Compare that to an 8 hour tour around the Golden Circle which start at about 10,000ISK (£70)!!! Right there you can see why a rental is the cheapest way, a one day excursion costs more than 3 days car rental for a solo traveller. The best thing is, is that there is a 1,300km ring road that goes all the way around Iceland taking you to the best sites.
*When you rent a car, rentals from Reykjavik centre tend to be cheaper than from Keflavik airport. Rental companies in town also tend to offer airport transfers for a fraction of the price if you're renting from them.
When you rent your car you'll be asked if you want to pay extra for gravel protection. From within Reykjavik you probably won't see the point, but trust me by the end of day one you will understand why. Although the ring road is paved, a lot of sites are down unpaved gravel roads and the noise the gravel makes as it flies off your tires and over the body work is pretty intense. Knowing you're not getting charged for the gravel damage to the paint work is a very liberating experience. Did someone say handbrake turns?
ALWAYS GET GRAVEL PROTECTION!!!
Take A Tent
When we were driving around Iceland we would refer to the central part of Iceland as the 'GIFA' - the Great Icelandic Fuck All. There is so much of Iceland that is uninhabited with 63% of Icelanders living in Reykjavik. OK, there might be some 200 volcanoes and nearly 12,000 square kilometers of glaciers taking up a fair chunk of it, but there is still huge expanses of campable land! The best thing is, on the condition you are considerate and respect the land (as I'm sure you will), you can camp almost anywhere. This is the word from the Environment Agency of Iceland about wild camping:
“Camping with no more than three tents is allowed on uncultivated ground for a single night, unless the landowner has posted a notice to the contrary. However, campers should always use designated campsites where they do exist. Do not camp close to farms without permission. If a group of more than three tents is involved, these campers must seek permission from the landowner before setting up camp outside marked campsite areas.”
Don't forget a decent roll mat, you probably be camping on hard ground more than grass!
Travel Off Season
Peak season, and therefore the most expensive time to visit Iceland is going to be in the summer, so any of the other 8 months are going to be markedly cheaper. The added bonus to going off season is that the Aurora is most visible from September to April. Mid winter tends to have worse weather so you are less likely to see them, and also camping out wouldn't be much fun if you aren't used to winter camping. However camping is totally doable in autumn and spring with the right sleeping bag.
The more the merrier!
If you were to follow these tips on a trip by yourself, you're already seeing everything Iceland has to offer at a tiny fraction of what the opposite option would cost. Let's say you spend €25 a day car rental and it costs you €200 on petrol to drive around the entire 1,300km ring road in 4 days. That's €300 in total for that road trip!
Now though, factor in some mates. If you fill the car with 4 others, that 4 day road trip has just cost you €60 each. A 4 day road trip has now cost you less than what a one day, 8hr Golden Circle tour has just cost you! If you can't drive or have boring mates who'd rather have a Grey's Anatomy marathon, go to Iceland anyway. Just head to a hostel in Reykjavik and try and find as many people as possible to fill the car. Getting into cars with strangers can be fun!
Let's say return, off season flights cost you €60 and food for four days costs you €40, that's €160pp (£135) for a 4 day road trip around Iceland (including food), with a load of mates...
In my 'expert budget adventure traveller' opinion, this is one of the best overseas budget adventures someone living in Europe can have! Fly there Friday morning, fly back Monday evening, and you're back at work Tuesday morning...
Best. Long-Weekend. Ever
You can thank me later.