Iceland, a land of fire and ice, beckons travelers with its stunning landscapes and unique cultural experiences. The Golden Circle in Iceland is a must-visit destination among its many attractions.

However, traveling to this Nordic wonder can be expensive. But fear not! You can explore the Golden Circle without breaking the bank with the proper planning and budget tips.

Is Iceland's Golden Circle Expensive?

Iceland's Golden Circle is generally considered expensive, especially compared to travel costs in many other parts of the world. This perception of high cost is primarily due to several factors:

  • Location and Import Costs: Iceland's remote location means that many goods, especially food and consumer products, must be imported, which adds to their cost.
  • Tourist Demand: The Golden Circle is one of Iceland's most popular tourist routes, which can increase prices, especially during peak travel seasons.
  • Accommodation and Dining: Hotels and restaurants in and around the Golden Circle can be expensive. While there are budget options, they are often still more expensive than similar options in less expensive countries.
  • Transportation: Renting a car, a common way to explore the Golden Circle, can be pricey, and fuel costs in Iceland are generally high.

However, the expense can be managed with careful planning and budgeting. Opting for off-peak travel, seeking budget accommodations, self-catering, and using public transport or shared car rentals can help reduce costs.

Despite the higher prices, many travelers find the unique experiences and breathtaking landscapes of the Golden Circle well worth the expense.

14 Tips on How to Save Money In Golden Circle

Tips on How to Save Money In Golden Circle

1. Travel Off-Peak

Plan your trip when a destination is less crowded and often less expensive. This concept is particularly relevant in tourist-heavy destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle.

Here's what it entails:


Off-peak travel usually means visiting outside the high tourist season. For Iceland, the peak season is during the summer (June to August), when the weather is milder and the days are longer.

Off-peak would be during the shoulder seasons – spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October). Winter (November to March) is also off-peak, though some areas might be less accessible due to weather.


  • Lower Costs: Airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies often lower their prices during off-peak periods to attract more customers. It can significantly reduce the overall cost of your trip.
  • Fewer Crowds: Popular attractions in the Golden Circle, like Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area, will be less crowded. It leads to a more enjoyable experience, allowing you to appreciate the sites without the rush and bustle of peak tourist times.
  • Unique Experiences: Visiting Iceland in different seasons offers varied experiences. For instance, spring may allow you to witness the melting ice and burgeoning wildlife, while autumn offers stunning fall colors.


  • Weather: Iceland's weather can be unpredictable, especially outside the summer months. Pack suitable clothing and check accessibility, especially for driving routes.
  • Daylight Hours: The amount of daylight varies significantly in Iceland. Winter has very short days, which might limit your sightseeing time, but offers the chance to see the Northern Lights. In contrast, shoulder seasons offer a good balance of daylight and night.

Traveling off-peak to the Golden Circle can provide a more authentic and cost-effective experience, but preparing for the seasonal variations in weather and daylight is essential.

2. Book in Advance

It is a key strategy for managing travel costs, especially when planning a trip to popular destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle. This approach involves securing your travel arrangements well before your intended departure date.

Here's why and how booking in advance can be beneficial:

  • Lower Prices: Generally, flights, accommodations, and car rentals are cheaper when booked months in advance. Prices tend to rise as availability decreases closer to the date.
  • Better Selection: Booking early gives you a wider range of options. You can choose from the best accommodations, flights, and rental cars according to your preferences and budget.
  • Avoiding Last-Minute Scarcity: Popular destinations like the Golden Circle can get fully booked during peak seasons. Early booking ensures you get all the preferred dates and places to stay.
  • Special Deals and Discounts: Some airlines, hotels, and tour operators offer early bird specials and discounts for advance bookings.
  • Budget Management: Knowing your major expenses in advance (like flights and accommodation) allows you to better plan your budget for the trip.
  • Peace of Mind: With major arrangements settled, you can focus on planning the finer details of your trip, leading to a more relaxed travel experience.
  • Flexibility for Changes: When you book in advance, you often have more leeway to make changes if needed, as last-minute changes can be more restrictive or expensive.

Booking in advance can significantly reduce the cost and stress of travel, especially to sought-after destinations like the Golden Circle in Iceland. It's a strategic step in ensuring a more enjoyable and budget-friendly travel experience.

3. Use Budget Airlines

A cost-saving strategy where travelers opt for low-cost carriers instead of full-service airlines when planning their trip. Budget airlines, also known as low-cost carriers (LCCs), offer significantly lower fares by eliminating many traditional passenger services.

Here's how they work and how they can help you save money in Iceland like Iceland's Golden Circle:

  • Basic Services at Lower Costs: Budget airlines reduce operating costs by offering no-frills services. It means you typically pay only for the seat on the plane, with additional fees for extra services such as checked baggage, on-board meals, and seat selection.
  • Secondary Airports: They often operate out of smaller or secondary airports, which charge lower landing fees than major airports. It can result in lower ticket prices, which might mean traveling further to reach your final destination.
  • Book in Advance for Best Rates: Budget airlines typically offer the lowest fares when booked well in advance. Prices tend to increase closer to the departure date.
  • Online Bookings and Check-ins: They encourage online booking and check-in, reducing the need for physical ticket counters and staff cutting operational costs.
  • Point-to-Point Travel: Most budget airlines operate on a point-to-point basis, without the complexities of connecting flights, which can simplify travel plans and reduce costs.

Using a budget airline, travelers to Iceland's Golden Circle can save a significant amount on airfare, which can then be allocated to other aspects of their trip, like accommodations and activities. However, it's essential to be aware of the potential trade-offs, such as less legroom, no free in-flight meals or entertainment, and charges for additional services.

4. Stay in Hostels or Guesthouses

A budget-friendly accommodation tip for travelers, particularly relevant in expensive destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle. Here's a breakdown of what this means:

  • Shared Facilities: Hostels typically have shared sleeping quarters (dormitory-style rooms) and common areas like kitchens and lounges. Private rooms may also be available, usually at a higher cost than dorm beds but still less expensive than hotel rooms.
  • Guesthouses: These are often family-run and provide a more intimate setting than larger hotels. They might offer private rooms and, in some cases, include breakfast. Guesthouses can give a cozy, home-like atmosphere, often cheaper than hotels.
  • Social Aspect: Hostels are renowned for their social environments. They provide opportunities to meet fellow travelers, exchange tips and stories, and sometimes even organize group activities.
  • Local Experience: Both hostels and guesthouses can offer a more local experience. Hosts or staff are usually locals who can provide invaluable insights into the area and tips for budget-friendly activities and dining.
  • Facilities for Self-Catering: Many hostels and guesthouses have kitchens where guests can prepare their meals, helping to save money on eating out.
  • Location: These accommodations are often strategically located near major attractions or transport links, making them convenient bases for exploring.

Choosing hostels or guesthouses for travelers visiting the Golden Circle in Iceland can significantly cut accommodation costs, allowing for a more extended stay or budget for other activities. This choice particularly appeals to solo travelers, backpackers, and those prioritizing experiences and interactions over luxury accommodations.

5. Rent a Smaller Car

Rent a Smaller Car

It is a practical budget tip for travelers visiting areas like Iceland's Golden Circle. In Iceland, particularly in tourist areas, car rentals can be a significant part of your travel budget.

Opting for a smaller car has several cost-saving advantages:

  • Fuel Efficiency: Smaller cars typically consume less fuel compared to larger vehicles. Given the high fuel prices in Iceland, a more fuel-efficient car can lead to substantial savings throughout your trip.
  • Lower Rental Costs: Smaller vehicles are generally cheaper to rent. The daily rental rate for a compact or economy car is usually less than that of a larger SUV or 4x4, which are popular in Iceland.

However, it's essential to consider your specific needs, including the amount of luggage, the number of passengers, and the type of terrain you plan to navigate, before deciding on the size of the car to rent.

6. Pack Smart

Packing smart" refers to carefully selecting and organizing the items you bring on your trip to maximize efficiency, convenience, and adaptability. When traveling to places like Iceland's Golden Circle, this means:

  • Avoid Overpacking: Bring only what you need to minimize luggage weight and bulk, making travel easier and potentially reducing baggage fees.
  • Reusable Items: Include a reusable water bottle and travel-sized toiletries to reduce waste and expenses.

Packaging smart ensures you are prepared for various activities and weather conditions while making your travel experience more comfortable and cost-effective.

7. Use Public Transportation

Public transportation is a cost-effective way to explore Iceland, especially for those on a budget. Here are some key points about using public transport in the context of traveling to Iceland's Golden Circle:

  • Cost-Effective: Using buses is significantly cheaper than renting a car, especially considering the high fuel prices in Iceland.
  • Travel Cards: Consider purchasing travel cards for multi-day use, which can offer savings for extensive travel.
  • Experience Local Life: Public transport can offer a more local experience and a chance to meet fellow travelers and Icelanders.

While public transportation in Iceland is reliable and can offer significant savings, it requires more planning and flexibility than renting a car, especially when visiting more remote areas of the Golden Circle.

8. Avoid Eating Out Frequently

It is a practical tip for managing expenses while traveling, especially in destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle, where dining out can be costly. Here's why it's important:

  • Cost Savings: Restaurants in tourist areas often have higher prices. Limiting how often you eat out can significantly reduce your overall travel expenses.
  • Local Groceries: Purchasing food from local supermarkets like Bónus or Krónan can be more economical. These stores offer a range of products at lower prices than restaurant meals.
  • Self-Catering Accommodations: Choosing accommodations with kitchen facilities allows you to prepare your meals, giving you control over your food budget.
  • Cultural Experience: Shopping and cooking local ingredients can provide a more immersive cultural experience.
  • Healthier Options: Preparing your own meals can often be healthier than eating out, as you have control over the ingredients and cooking methods.

While dining out is a delightful part of the travel experience, doing so frequently in areas like the Golden Circle can quickly escalate costs. Balancing meals out with self-prepared dishes can help keep your budget in check without sacrificing the enjoyment of your trip.

9. Look for Combo Deals

It refers to seeking bundled offers that combine multiple services or activities for a lower overall price than if purchased separately. This approach is especially beneficial when traveling to places like Iceland's Golden Circle, where individual activities can be costly.

Key points include:

  • Cost Savings: Combo deals often offer significant discounts, making them more budget-friendly.
  • Convenience: Bundling various activities into one package simplifies planning and booking.
  • Variety: These deals can include a mix of popular attractions, providing a well-rounded experience.
  • Tour Operator Offers: Many tour operators in Iceland offer combo deals, including guided tours, transportation, and sometimes meals or accommodations.
  • Flexibility: Some combo deals offer flexibility, allowing you to choose from various activities to create a personalized experience.

Always compare the individual cost of activities with the combo price to ensure it's a good deal, and read the terms for any restrictions or limitations.

10. Travel in a Group

Travel in a Group

Refers to organizing your trip with a group of people, which can effectively reduce costs while traveling, particularly to destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle. Here are some key points:

  • Cost Sharing: Traveling in a group allows for sharing expenses such as accommodation, car rentals, and fuel costs.
  • Accommodation Savings: Booking a more extensive shared accommodation like a holiday home can be more cost-effective per person than individual hotel rooms.
  • Transportation Efficiency: Renting a single larger vehicle or sharing costs on guided tours can significantly cut down individual transportation expenses.
  • Food and Meal Prep: Group travel enables sharing the cost of groceries and meals if staying in self-catering accommodations. Cooking together can be both a bonding experience and a money-saver.
  • Group Discounts: Many attractions, tours, and activities offer discounted rates for larger groups.
  • Shared Planning and Resources: Group travel allows for pooling resources and ideas, leading to more efficient trip planning and cost-saving strategies.

Successful group travel requires good coordination and the ability to compromise and agree on travel plans and budgets.

11. Avoid International Roaming

Refers to the strategy of not using your home mobile network while traveling abroad, in this case, to places like Iceland's Golden Circle, due to the high costs associated with international roaming charges.

Here are some key points to consider:

High Costs:

International roaming can lead to exorbitant fees for calls, texts, and data usage outside your home country.

Alternatives to Roaming:

  • Local SIM Cards: Purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival can be much cheaper. It gives you access to local calls, texts, and data rates.
  • Wi-Fi Use: Utilize free Wi-Fi in hotels, cafes, and public areas to connect to the internet without using cellular data.
  • International Plans: Some mobile providers offer international plans that are more affordable than standard roaming charges. It's worth checking before you travel.
  • Travel Apps: Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or Messenger can be used for communication over Wi-Fi, avoiding the need for cellular data or calls.
  • Data Management: Turn off mobile data and data roaming to prevent background apps from using data unintentionally.

Avoiding international roaming and using these alternatives can significantly reduce communication costs while traveling in Iceland.

12. Beware of Hidden Charges

It refers to being cautious about additional costs that might take time to be apparent when booking or purchasing services, especially while traveling. These charges can significantly increase your overall expenditure if you know them.

Here are some key points to consider:

Rental Cars:

  • Look for extra fees like insurance, GPS, child seats, or additional driver fees.
  • Check for mileage limits that might incur extra charges if exceeded.
  • Inspect the car for any damage before renting to avoid being charged for existing damage.


  • Some hotels or rentals charge for Wi-Fi, parking, or resort fees, which are not included in the displayed rate.
  • Be aware of cancellation policies to avoid penalty fees.


  • Additional charges for baggage, seat selection, or in-flight meals are common.
  • Be mindful of flight change fees.

Cell Phone Usage:

  • Roaming charges can be expensive; consider local SIM cards or walking packages.

Tours and Activities:

  • Extra costs for equipment rentals or special access are not included in the base price.
  • Tips for guides might be expected or suggested.


  • Service charges or tips might be added to your bill automatically.
  • Some places charge for tap water or bread.

Understanding and anticipating these hidden charges allows for more accurate budgeting and can help avoid unexpected expenses during your trip.

13. Visit Local Thermal Pools

It refers to the practice of visiting geothermal pools found throughout Iceland, including areas around the Golden Circle. These pools are integral to Icelandic culture and offer a relaxing, authentic experience.

Key points to consider:

  • Affordability: Local thermal pools are cheaper than famous geothermal spas like the Blue Lagoon.
  • Health Benefits: Rich in minerals, these geothermal waters are believed to have health benefits, including improving skin health and relaxation.
  • Variety: There's a wide range of pools, from simple, community-run pools to more elaborate ones with additional facilities.
  • Accessibility: Most towns and villages have their thermal pool, making them easily accessible.

Visiting local thermal pools is a budget-friendly activity and an opportunity to relax and immerse yourself in a quintessential Icelandic experience.

14. Plan and Budget

It is crucial for managing expenses, especially when traveling to destinations like Iceland's Golden Circle. This strategy involves:

  • Advance Planning: Research costs associated with your trip well in advance. It includes accommodation, transportation, food, and activities.
  • Set a Budget: Based on your research, allocate a specific amount of money for each aspect of your trip. Consider setting daily spending limits.
  • Prioritize Expenses: Decide what's most important to you (e.g., experiences, dining, souvenirs) and allocate more of your Iceland on a budget there.
  • Look for Deals: Seek out discounts on flights, accommodations, and activities. Booking in advance often helps.
  • Prepare for Unexpected Costs: Always have a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.
  • Track Spending: Keep a record of your expenditures to ensure you stay within your budget.

This methodical approach helps avoid overspending and ensures a more relaxed and enjoyable travel experience.

Traveling to the Golden Circle in Iceland can be costly, but with these budget-friendly tips, you can make your trip memorable and affordable. Remember, the beauty of Iceland isn't just in its landscapes but also in its ability to offer experiences for every kind of traveler, budget included.

In conclusion

Although a trip to Iceland's Golden Circle might seem costly, employing various tips on how to save money in the Golden Circle can make this remarkable location more budget-friendly. Budget travelers can delight in the Golden Circle's captivating allure without exceeding their budget by diligently planning, focusing on necessary expenses, and utilizing resourceful tactics.

Key strategies include selecting a more affordable period for your visit to Iceland, securing a budget-friendly hotel room, and relishing the array of complimentary tourist attractions. Incorporating these aspects into your financial planning can lead to significant savings.

Simple grocery shopping at local grocery stores instead of dining out, exploring national parks, and staying informed about fluctuating flight prices contribute to a bit cheaper travel experience. With these mindful preparations and savvy saving techniques, the beauty of the Golden Circle is within reach, all without sacrificing the essence of your journey.

This method of saving money in Iceland ensures an unforgettable and economically feasible adventure, inviting travelers to enjoy Iceland's breathtaking scenery and cultural vibrancy. For more trustworthy insights on Icelandic explorations, watch Golden Circle Tours now!


What are the main attractions in the Golden Circle that I can visit for free?

‍The primary attractions of the Golden Circle—Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Gullfoss waterfall—are all free to visit. Other free attractions include the Kerid Crater Lake and the secret lagoon in Fludir.

Are there affordable accommodation options available in the Golden Circle region?

Blue Hotel Fagrilundur - On The Golden Circle, Skyggnir Bed and Breakfast, and Guesthouse Nordheimar are some of the popular budget hotels in Golden Circle. In addition to these budget hotels, Guesthouse Henia Bed&Spas, Austurey Cottages, and Julia's Guesthouse B&B are also popular in Golden Circle.

Are there public amenities I can utilize to save costs while traveling in the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is well-equipped with public amenities such as free parking, public restrooms, picnic areas, and public Wi-Fi spots. Utilizing these can result in significant savings.

‍How much money should I take to Iceland for four days?

If you plan to visit Iceland, you must budget approximately £90 per day per person or £630 per week to include meals and excursions. If you plan many tours, you may need to increase your budget.

Should I exchange money before I travel to Iceland?

If you plan to pay with cash in Iceland, exchanging the currency at Keflavik Airport or Reykjavik City is recommended.