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A Guide to Low-Cost Eating in Iceland
9/20/10 08:41
If you are a planning a trip to Iceland, one of the things you will be confronted with is the high cost of food. This is still true despite the depreciated Iceland krona. This article will provide some tips on how to save money on food.

Food expenses are always an important consideration when travelling. In some countries this is not a big issue because food is cheap, or at least moderately affordable. And, many countries offer a true bounty of food choices. Iceland's food scene is neither cheap nor particularly abundant.

That isn't to say that there isn't good food in Iceland. Far from it. I have had some truly memorable meals there. But I digress. If you are travelling in Iceland and aren't swimming in money, you will want to know where to go to get reasonably affordable food.

Grocery stores

Forget dining out for every meal. This is especially true when you leave Reykjavik. There are numerous small towns outside of the capital city and while many of them have restaurants, they are usually more like truck stop cafes with very simple menus. My suggestion is to stock up on supplies at the various grocery stores. The cheapest of which are Bonus and Kronan. Stock up on the basics: bread, cheese, Skyr (an Icelandic dairy product similar to yogurt), deli meats, etc. Buy local greenhouse-grown vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. Almost everything else is imported. If you have a place to cook your own meals, your options will increase. In that case, I recommend buying fish. It's fresh, clean, reasonably affordable and doesn't need any fancy sauces or condiments to be tasty.

Hot dog stands & local shops

Icelandic hot dogs are excellent. They are made with lamb and pork and have a unique flavor that is slightly smoky and more than slightly delicious. If you ever go to Iceland, I highly recommend that you try one - and order it with everything. There are hot dog stands in many locations, the most famous of which is called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur ("best hot dog in town"), located in downtown Reykjavik. You can also buy hot dogs at the various and numerous local shops. These stores sell the basics: candy (in Iceland candy is a basic), ice cream, sodas, pre-packaged sandwiches as well as hot dogs and hamburgers (sometimes). Not the healthiest fare but it'll do in a pinch. And, that is kind of how it goes with eating in Iceland for the tourist - not the plethora of choices many are used to (especially Americans), but rather what's available. When you are on the road and hungry, you will lower your standards and be happy to have found a pre-made sandwich and some Skyr. Mark my words. If it matters to you to have vegetables, buy them at a grocery store and bring them with you. Don't expect to find vegetables at these shops.

Fast food

There are a few fast food restaurants in Iceland, mostly only in Reykjavik. My favorite is Subway because you can get a reasonably healthy meal for not too much money. A 12" sub and a soda will set you back about $10. Of course this will vary with the exchange rate. Other choices are Taco Bell (yes there's a T-Bell in Iceland) and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Dining out

The following recommendations are not 'night-out' type of fare but rather, sit down restaurants as opposed to fast food or a hot dog stand. First up, for those who are seeking a low-cost, reasonably healthy restaurant, I would recommend seeking out Thai food. There are many Thai expats in Reykjavik who have opened some decent restaurants. Another excellent choice is a restaurant called Saffran. There you can get tasty middle-eastern inspired food that is both healthy and affordable. Lastly, there's a restaurant called in Reykjavik called Nings. They serve Chinese food that is made fresh; its decent but not awesome.

Now that I have saved you money on food, I highly recommend that you spend that money doing things that you can't do almost anywhere else. Go out and explore Iceland's beautiful nature. Take a hiking tour, take a jeep tour, walk on a glacier, drink directly from a stream. Soak it up because while Iceland may not be the best culinary destination, it does boast some of the world's most beautiful and exotic vistas, landscapes and unspoiled nature. Do some sightseeing in Iceland - just bring a sandwich.


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