Reykjavik on the CHEAP

by constantstateofmotion

I am constantly asked by countless people what the secret is. “How do you travel so much!?’ Where is the money coming from?!” So, to answer everyone’s questions and be able to share a bit about how I do it with the rest of would-be or current travelers out there, I have decided to start sharing my secrets!

I arrived in Iceland yesterday, and although I have found myself in one of the most astonishingly beautiful places in the world, I have also learned quickly that everything here is impossibly expensive. How expensive you ask? For example, I wanted to purchase chicken breasts yesterday for some chicken curry (my go-to cheap eat), and the cost for 4 regular sized boneless, skinless breasts: USD$20. Pair that with about USD$20 for the rice, the sauce, some frozen veggies and a bottle of tonic for my gin, and suddenly, it is the most expensive chicken curry I can possibly imagine.

With my go-to cheap eat out the window, I had to improvise dramatically.

Before I begin, let me say a couple of things: if you find yourself in Naples, dodging traffic and mobsters, PAY THE €20 for the pizza! Pizza in Naples is why you travel to Naples, so the €20 is ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT! Iceland however? You don’t come here for a gustatory delight to tickle your tastebuds into a culinary memory that lasts a lifetime, so suddenly, you pay the €20 to whale watch, or go trekking, but when it comes to food: eat to live.

So heres how I did it:

First, everything is imported and incredibly expensive, so if you are going to buy something, it is better to buy it locally. I started in the Airport Duty free shoppe. The Iceland Gin is distilled and bottled on the island, and cost me only USD$9.36, which the cashier squawked was a deal, because apparently in liquor stores in town (where the bottle is subject to incredible taxes), the same bottle costs around USD$38.60. Same for the energy bars, my cost was USD$3.30 as compared to USD$4.95 in the grocery store. So, upon arrival, I have already fought jet-lag and secured alcohol at a cost savings of about USD$32.54.

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The bus ticket into town was an unavoidable expense of about USD$25. But rather than take a taxi into the center, I decided to walk. Yep, it was raining and blowing and about 38°F. Cost savings? Most likely at least USD$10.

I am staying at the Hostelling International Reykjavik Downtown, which I highly recommend to make your stay in Iceland as cheap as possible. Sure, the daily room rate is about USD$33/night, but if you bypass the option to buy breakfast, this hostel has payed for itself already.

How so? Well, when travelling on the cheap, one thing you learn very quickly is how to make the most of the “FREE FOOD Bins” in Hostel Kitchens. I have donated to these countless times as a way to pay-it-forward, but also to rid me of any guilt when appropriately raiding them to find ingredients, or in some cases whole meals for absolutely nothing. This hostel has the most comprehensive store of free food bins I have ever seen, which makes my goal of eating on the cheap much easier to realize. For example, this morning for breakfast? Coffee with cream, sugar and bit of Nesquik, graham crackers and the Dutch version of Nutella. Cost? USD$0, savings? About USD$20. Deliciousness factor? 1000.

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The supermarket chain here is called BONUS!, which I love, because it is very similar to an ALDI, which also means cheap amazingness. To prepare for at least two lunches and two dinners, I purchased bowtie pasta, generic pasta sauce and some canned meatballs. Eat to live, remember. Total cost? USD$4.41, which makes my cost per meal at about USD$1.10. Add to that, additionally, that the hostel kitchen offers free fresh garlic, AND there are cheese tortellini in the free food bin, paired with a spice rack that marvels Thomas Kellers kitchen, and I was eating very comfortably and deliciously for my USD$1.10. Cost savings as opposed to eating at a restaurant? Well, I saw plates of pasta advertised for about 2295 Kròna each, or USD$13.75. You do the math.

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So, by being smart with my purchasing, raiding the free food bins, and making small sacrifices, I have managed to save at least USD$100.00, which is a great little store of cash for a Pint in London with Maddie Johns, or to splurge on a typical Icelandic meal of whale meat or fermented shark…

…to be continued.

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