The Golden Circle
When Americans think of Europe we think of England, France, Germany and Italy but what if you can get a taste of Europe, without even being on the continent?
For that, we have Iceland, a volcanic island nation gem located east of Greenland with reasonable flights from North America or continental Europe.
Leaving Boston to Reykjavik on a six-hour flight gave us some time to look up some history, attractions and learn a few words in Icelandic. I mean very few, like two words since Icelandic is extremely difficult.
We were warned about the prices in Iceland while in Boston so, I stalked up on my friend Vodka. Once we arrived the prices were kind of high but coming from California nothing scares us more than the cost of living in San Francisco.
As nomads, we wanted to enjoy Reykjavik while staying within budget. Here are some tips that helped us save in the long run.
Place to stay
There are the usual Hotels but if you are on a budget, hostels, Couchsurfing and Airbnb would be the ideal choice.
Hostels: There are many hostels throughout the city but the only one we know was the Capital Inn near the Fossvogskirkjugarður Cemetery. We never booked there, but walked a young American girl to her hostel. It was a 45 minute walk (one way) so we saw a lot of the city.
Couchsurfing: Being Couchsurfing hosts, this was our ideal choice since everyone uses it. However, being two males, this option was practically impossible in Reykjavik but it was worth a try.
Airbnb: We are also Airbnb host but have never been a guest so this was going to be interesting. Our Airbnb host was welcoming, spoke English and even invited us a couple of times, to protest. We arrived a couple of days after the revelation of the Panama Papers so we wanted to be as far away from that as possible, so we declined.
Keep in mind the closer you are to the city center of Reykiavik, prices for accommodations will go up. Also, the hot water in Reykjavik has a very strong sulfur smell. So when taking a shower with hot water, be prepared to smell rotten eggs.
Where to Eat
This is where things get a little expensive. If you are used to eating out three times a day back in your country, doing the same in Iceland is suicide. Get something small to eat then hit the supermarket.
Supermarket: Everything will be in Icelandic but look at the prices. We noticed that vegan cheese was cheaper than real cheese, which in San Diego would be the complete opposite. We walked out with sliced vegan cheese, sliced ham, a loaf of beard and a two liter coke for $50.00. We felt like we conquered the Mount Everest.
Fast Food: This is Europe so everything comes in European sizes, from coke, coffee, pizza, pho to sandwiches. We set aside $20 (10 per person) and ate out about once a day.
Where to drink
Icelandic’s tend to hit the bars a bit late, around 11 at night or later. So the bars will be kind of dead until that time. This is where the duty-free booze comes into play. Before heading out, make yourself a couple of drinks, from there hit the happy hour places. There are many so many places with beers from Iceland and all over the world. Happy hour prices were around 7 to 8 dollars per pint.
Locals: It is easier to talk to others especially when one has had a beer or two, this is where getting to know the history and networking comes into play. We happened to be at Kíkí’s bar around 01:00 am and struck up a conversation with an American and Jóhannes (a local). We told him about our travel story and he offered to take us out to the Golden Circle. We were floored by how generous this individual was and the fact that we had a bit too much to drink and are now we were committed to the Golden Circle at 8 in the morning. Needless to say the Golden Circle and the geothermal pools were well worth it.
The Golden Circle which consist of The Strokkur Geyser, the Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. The Secret Lagoon (Geothermal pool), The Perlan, Ingolfur Arnarson Statue. The Icelandic Phallological Museum (penis museum) and the Hallgrímskirkja (the Church of Iceland).