When I initially put together my plan to cycle tour around Iceland, a big must for me was to keep the costs down as much as possible. There were two main reasons for this: I was working a minimum wage job with no savings put aside and I wanted to help support the theory that you don’t need big money to do a big adventure. With this philosophy in mind it ended up moulding the entire trip in terms of time, gear, food and accommodation.
I set myself a £1000 limit for everything, including flights. To ensure I stuck to my budget once I landed in Iceland, I withdrew what was left from the preparation stage and divided it all equally between the 4 weeks. My debit card came with me in case any emergencies arised but I can happily report it was not used.
Below is a concise list of expenditures and cut-corners that helped to keep me within budget. Despite the (sometimes) lack of comfort, the atrocious diet and the funny looks from passers-by (especially from those with shiny new disc-brake bikes) at my general set up and appearance; I 100% urge you to consider getting out there with little money. If nothing else, it removes any excuse to put it off until you’re older and richer and it makes you appreciate those luxuries you’re used to in everyday life.
I hope this blog will do a little something to inspire you.
GETTING TO THE START POINT
As a complete beginner at cycle touring, I did not own any of the necessary gear to set off (including a bike!). After doing only a little online research I realised it would be very difficult to keep within my budget once I’d purchased panniers, sleeping bag etc etc. Panic!
This is when I remembered The Adventures of Charlie and was lucky enough to win a bike and touring gear, all of which was originally budget bought to prove you don’t need top notch, expensive gear to have a great adventure – perfect.
Flights were then at the top of the list for highest expenditure. I made sure to book as in advance as possible (3 months to be exact) to lower the price and traded in a protective bike box/bag for quite literally a see-through plastic bag.
Tip: Using a plastic bike bag to transport your bike overseas is great – the baggage handlers can see exactly what they are handling which prevents harsh handling (fingers crossed) during transit. I’ve tested it out 4 times and have had my bike returned damage free every time.
Total £ spent on getting to the start: £259 (return flights, £50 each way for bike) / £0 bike + gear
FOOD ON THE GO
As a lot of people may know, Iceland is expensive, especially when it comes to food. But as in most cases it suddenly becomes a lot cheaper if you self-cater during your trip. Once I accepted that I had to cycle past restaurants serving local caught fish and cafes with homemade cake, it was okay. I tricked my mind into looking forward to super noodles and a packet of biscuits instead. I took my trusty Kelly Kettle with me which boils water solely with natural resources (another small money saver) and hit the supermarket every few days for all the necessities.
Tip: Always head to the largest supermarket it town – they usually have more to offer and it seems to bring the prices down. Local bakeries are also brilliant for fresh rolls and a more-affordable cheeky treat.
Total £ spent on food: £491 (Inc. coffees in restaurants, the odd ice-cream and even a shared beer!)
LIFE IN A TENT
Luckily I have always been a huge fan of camping so it was an easy decision for me. After finding out that wild camping in Iceland is condoned I was keen to see just how many nights I could pitch up in the wilderness. The tent I used was one I already owned – a Gelert Solo that cost me £25 – which may have been teeny tiny but it kept me warm and dry for the duration and gets 5* in my book. In the end, I spent a total of 5 nights in a campsite (ranging between £10-15) and the remaining 23 were enjoyed in some stunning locations around the island. I dread to think how much money could have been spent on accommodation but I can say with confidence it would have been at least double what I spent for the entire month.
Tip: Allow time for finding somewhere to wild camp before it gets late/dark. Finding somewhere completely hidden helps with relaxing and permits a lay-in rather than the mad rush in the morning to avoid attention.
Total £ spent on camping: £55 (campsites) / £0 (camping equipment/gear)
This is something that most people allow for when they go off travelling. But me being me, I thought about it and quickly un-thought it deciding everything would go swimmingly and just as I had planned. WRONG. If anyone’s adventure has ever gone perfectly to plan I would love to know (it wouldn’t be an adventure otherwise).
Somehow, despite three rather large unforeseen expenses, I still managed to stick within budget. You may be wondering how; I cut down on my food expenditure even more and cut out a few treats a day (which mainly consisted of coffee as an excuse to sit in a warm place for at least 2hrs) until I felt I was back on track.
Tip: Put extra pennies in the account just in case and include this as part of the budget.. hopefully it won’t get spent and you can finally treat yourself to that fish at the end!
Total £ spent on unforeseen expenses: £50 (bike repair inc. new tyre, 4 spokes) / £35 (mini stove – natural resources for the Kelly Kettle became scarce and I desperately needed tea) / £20 (Hostel – extra night due to bike getting lost at start) = £105 !
Of course all of this information is based solely on my experience and doesn’t mean everyone can pull off the same – it is especially difficult to come by a free bike with full touring gear, for example. More money was saved because I already owned a lot of outdoor clothing, which might not be the same for someone who is venturing outdoors for the first time.
Regardless, I hope this is a good example of budget solo travel – and my first time going solo I might add – so leave your excuses at the door and get yourself out there!
If you’ve managed to read this far (well done!) I’d love to hear your comments below, or any questions if you have any regarding solo and/or budget travel, and of course, cycling touring!