- 1 Free Iceland
- 1.1 Getting there
- 1.2 Free Accommodation
- 1.3 Free Food
- 1.4 Things to do
- 1.5 Free Communications
- 1.6 Get around
- 1.7 Staying longer
Iceland is a country in the North Atlantic ocean, usually considered to be part of Europe. In this page you will learn how poor travelers can get around the country with little or no money.
Unfortunately it's hardly possible to get to Iceland for free. You can't obviously hitchhike to Iceland, and you'll either have to fly or to take a boat.
Some travelers claim they managed to get free last-minute tickets by getting to the airport on the same day and asking around. It might be a strategy worth trying.
There are ships sailing to Iceland from Denmark, Norway, Shetland and the Faroe Islands, and cargo vessels from all over Europe and America. Ship hopping can be dangerous though, and the voyage can last for several days, so you'll need adequate food supplies.
Reykjavík is a real paradise for CouchSurfers, but outside the capital city it can be almost impossible to find hosts. Although there is no such a thing as unlimited free-camping law like in Scandinavia, you can virtually put your tent anywhere, since most parts of the island are unhabitated. Unfortunately, at present there are no squats or other rent-free homes, although there is a growing anarchist movement trying to find a suitable place to use as a "house of the revolution". Several attempts of squatting houses by the local squatters' movement have been severely repressed by the police.
Reykjavík is full of free toilets: every library or museum has a toilet you can use for free. Going into cafes to use the restroom is highly tolerated and you'll hardly be asked to buy anything in return.
If you want to take a shower or have a hot bath, all major towns and cities are teaming with cheap public swimming pools (entrance fee 300kr, in Reykjavik 360kr), or you can visit the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, where you can have a hot bath, a swim in the Arctic Ocean, and a hot shower afterwards, all free of charge. In most pools you can get free soap too.
Free food is distributed every Saturday from around 2 p.m. at Lækjartorg, in the city centre of Reykjavík, by the local Food Not Bombs squad. Dry food is also available to take away with you, and sometimes even books and clothes. On other days at Háskólatorg during lunchtime, many students leave their food behind on the tables for the cafeteria area custodians to throw away for them. As of this writing, nobody will give you a dirty look if you eat these leftovers; in fact, you will doing the custodians a favor.
There is a soup kitchen intended for homeless people in downtown Reykjavík (Borgartún 1) called "Kaffistofa" run by a Christian charity organization called Samhjálp. If you look like a tourist they will probably not serve you food. Some bakeries will give you free bread if you go shortly after they close (5 p.m.).
Most cafes, restaurants, and even banks and offices (i.e. the Tax office) will give you free, fresh water to drink. Tap water in Iceland is usually very good (but be careful to only drink the cold water, as warm tap water tastes a bit eggy or farty), and in the countryside it's generally safe to drink water from creeks and rivers, since glaciers are usually not far away, especially in the Highlands.
In some cafes you can find free filter coffee at around closing time. Nearly every bank offers free coffee to everyone during the daytime.
Going to bars or simply on the street on weekend nights is a good way to get free beer or cocktails from people who are either feeling happy, or who have visibly had enough of it, and who would beseech you to finish off their drinks.
Reykjavík offers a large selection of dumpstered foodstuffs, although outside the capital area it can be impossible to get free food this way. Sometimes downtown dumpsters get locked though, while it happens very rarely in the suburbs. Always go at night and beware of cameras and cars driving by.
In the backyard of some takeaway pizza places you can find lots of mistake pizzas, sometimes even still warm. They don't like visitors though, so be very careful or go after 2 a.m. when they close.
Things to do
Some museums (like the Modern Art Gallery in Reykjavík) are always free, but on Wednesdays all museums in Reykjavík are free.
Swimming in the Ocean
At Nauthóltsvík Geothermal Beach in Reykjavík you can have free bath in a hot tub, free shower and a taste of Ocean water.
Community Space and Resistance Library at Cafe Hljomalind
Cafe Hljomalind (Laugavegur 29) offers Yoga classes on Wednesdays at 6pm, Thursdays at 5:30 pm and Saturdays at 12 pm (noon). Samba classes are on Sundays at 4pm. These classes are free in the community space, however the community space is run on donations so if you do have spare change it is appreciated to keep the space going however it is not required. Often there are concerts, lectures or other happenings at the community space, just check the calender at the cafe. Usually these events are free but donations are always appreciated. The resistance (mostly anarchist) library is also situated in Cafe Hljomalind and borrowing books there is free, however a lot of work has gone into collecting these books as they are almost impossible to get in Iceland so please remember to return books before leaving the country. (CLOSED for the time being but the collective is looking for new housing)
Most cafes have free wireless internet access, and in some cases you can also catch the signal by standing outside.
There is not a single train in the whole island, and the favourite way of transport of the local population are cars, that means good chances of getting free rides. Just make sure you don't go too far from the beaten track, you might wait for several hours until a car comes.
The bus system of Reykjavík also has routes to nearby towns that and often they will allow you to take a bicycle on board. This will take you a long way toward the most frequented tourist destinations of Iceland (Mosfellsdalur, Esja, Borganes, Selfoss, etc.) for a small fee. The charter buses cost in excess of $100.
The buses in Akureyri are free for everyone.
The best way to get a free ride on a bus in Reykjavík is to go to the main bus station (Hlemmur), wait for a bus and make sure that the driver gets off. When the new one will come, they'll start chatting and will be too busy to check your ticket, so just ignore them and grab a seat.
If you have to pay for a bus ride, just chock any coins you have (even foreign ones) into the box by the driver's seat, he'll never count them. Just make sure they tinkle nicely enough when they fall down, and go straight to your seat (don't expect a feedback from the driver, he's too busy to drive). If you are or just look young, you can pay even less, since a bus rides costs 100 ISK instead of 280 ISK for kids under 18.
The bus tickets are little snippets of paper that are easily forged, if you feel so inclined.
If you fall in love with the place (as many do) there are a number of organisations who provide free accommodation and food if you work for them.
SEEDS Iceland is a volunteering organisation which organises volunteering projects around the whole country, and they often seek volunteers to help in the office and to work as leaders on the projects. The projects are mainly environmental, but they do a few cultural and social projects too. Check out Seeds.is for more info. If you work in the office you will live in loan modification RVK and be given food and accommodation and often pocket money. As a camp leader, you could be sent anywhere in the country, but will always get transport, food and accommodation.
The Hostelling International hostels also take volunteers to work in the hostels and get free accommodation. Check Hostel.is and contact each hostel individually. In Reykjavik especially, you will do better in spring and autumn, when hostels are not always fully booked but still need staff all the time.