Self-catering in Iceland

by Katie Hammel on November 2, 2010

by Katie Hammel | November 2nd, 2010  

When most people go on vacation, the last thing they may want to think about is cooking for and cleaning up after themselves. If you’re a traveler who likes to be pampered, self-catering is probably not for you. But if you are on a smaller budget but still want to be able to enjoy all that Iceland has to offer, self-catering is your best bet for cutting costs.

Tours in Iceland are expensive; car rental in Iceland is quite pricey. Cheap accommodation is hard to come by. Dining out costs more than you’d probably expect to pay at home, and drinking – forget about it. Is Iceland worth all this expense? Absolutely. But there is a way to cut down on how much you spend without sacrificing the experiences that brought you to Iceland in the first place. The solution is to find a hostel, guesthouse, cabin or apartment that offers kitchen facilities and self-cater.

With the exception of luxury hotels (and most “hotels” fall into the luxury category in Iceland, if put there by nothing other than price), the majority of accommodation in Iceland offer some kind of kitchen facilities. Of course, these can vary from a hot plate and a mini-fridge to a gourmet kitchen fully-stocked with cooking supplies and even some food staples like flour and sugar. Find out exactly what your accommodation offers and take that into account when evaluating which lodging offers the best value. The better the kitchen facilities, the easier it will be for you to cook your own meals and not feel like you’re scrimping too much on the experience.

Icelandic grocery stores, like the major chain, Bonus, are well-stocked with fresh veggies (though these can be expensive if not grown locally), cheeses, breads, and meats. Icelandic meat is relatively cheap, and you can be sure it’s organic and hormone-free – it’s illegal in Iceland to give hormones to any animals meant to be consumed by people. You’ll also find a wide variety of pre-packaged foods like pastas, crackers, chips, cookies, sauces, and ready-to-eat meals.

For all your alcohol needs, you can stop by the Vinbudin in town, though a better option is to stock up on liquor at the airport Duty Free. The markup on wine and beer isn’t as severe, but for liquor, expect to pay 2-3 times in the Vinbudin what you would have at the Duty Free.

Outside of Reykjavik, self-catering is very easy. Most accommodation offers the option, and if you’re staying in the countryside instead of in a small town, it becomes even more attractive. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a great meal with a gorgeous view of Iceland spread out before them?

In Reykjavik, self-catering doesn’t have to mean giving up on sampling some of the best local Icelandic delicacies either. Supplement some of your self-catering meals with a few splurges here and there. And there are some lower-budget options available as well. Pizza, and of course the famous Icelandic hot dogs, are good low-cost choices.  An excellent trade off it to treat yourself to some meals out for lunch, when you’ll eat less, entrees cost less, and you won’t drink (or won’t drink as much) and then cook your own dinner.

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