My first purchase in Iceland last week was fittingly in a store entitled “I don’t speak Icelandic”. That purchase was a Where’s Wally look-a-like beanie with Iceland printed along the front in capital letters. So if you don’t know already: I’m a tourist. And proud of it.
I arrived in Iceland with an advised budget plan and a nice clean pair of Timberlands. I left with two empty pockets and one pair of shoes fewer. Like any tourist, I was totally unprepared. However, over my five nights there, I believe I found the Icelandic answer to the backpacker’s ultimate debate: When to be a stinge and when to have a splurge?
Splurge: Buy some wellies.
This is 100 per cent essential. Take this from someone who poured a litre of water out of their Timberlands every day. Very depressing.
Stinge : Cook at home
Everyone will tell you that Iceland is an expensive place to visit.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah” I said. On my first night I thought I would treat myself to a beverage. One bottle of wine and 5,500 Kroner (£40) down I left defeated with my Icelandic beanie in hand. I soon found that I could only just afford a gas station hot dog (actually a speciality and quite delicious). However, I recommend booking in to an Airbnb where you can do your own cooking, or a bed and breakfast that offers free brekkie…and a sneaky take-away sandwich.
Splurge : Eat at Friðheimar
I know I sound a little contradictory, stay in, go out, stay in, go out, but this is a must do. You’ll find this adorable tomato farm on your Golden Circle route. With a menu of all things tomato you can’t go wrong. You’ve got tom pasta, tom apple crumble and a damn good tom Bloody Mary. If you’re struggling to justify a meal other than a ham sandwich, pick the tom soup.
Stinge : Go see Burfaoss
There’s nothing like Mother Nature’s natural (and free) wonders of the world. Allow yourself some exploring time, because you’ll be trekking through dense bushes, deep mud pools and you better hope you packed those wellies. Whilst in Iceland you’re going see your fair share of waterfalls and you might be just about over it after ticking off the big names, like Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, but this one is well worth the trek! Some would even say worth the death of a new pair of Timberlands…
Splurge : Hire a car
Quite honestly if you splurge on this and this only you’ve made the right decision. We hired a car from a company called Green Motion, which I would highly recommend. They picked us up from the airport in the torrential rain and dropped us straight to the door of our hot red automobile. The other option was catching the bus across Iceland. With a 100 per cent chance of rain forecasted for the first 48 hours, we avoided this option … but each to their own.
Stinge : Go to Hveragerdi
Not only is this free, but the hike up to these amazing hot springs will have you feeling good about the number of hot dawgs you’ve been eating.
It’s about an hour hike, with incredible views along the way. Be careful not to get desperate and jump in the first hot springs you see, as these are over 27°C and will leave you looking like a lobster. Keep trekking up. You’ll eventually see a little boardwalk and a small area to hang your stuff. Strip down and dive in!
Splurge : Visit the blue lagoon
Lots of people actually say to give this one a miss. Tell em’ they’re dreamin’. After paddling around the lagoon with a face mask on, sitting against the wall getting a back massage, I really don’t know where they’re coming from. It’s a unique experience you couldn’t find anywhere else. Yes, it is a tad pricey, around 5,500 Kroner (£40) for an hour, but I say go the final splurge. When in Rome! Or Iceland…