There was one thing that really stood out as we ventured across Iceland’s East Coast.
The lack of tourists.
Given that many do one or two day trips from Reykjavik that tend to end at Diamond Beach, this shouldn’t really have been a surprise – but we took in the miles and miles of road with nobody else about with wide eyed glee.
Were we finally able to enjoy Iceland without the crowds of tourists and their tripods?
Or were we about to realise why so few travel up the East Coast, especially in winter?!
In this video:
An hour’s drive from Diamond Beach, we stayed in the fishing town of Höfn in a place called Apotek Guesthouse.
The great news is that whilst they’re pretty basic, they’re clean, comfy and have great amenities. For example, this place had its own private bathroom, great wifi, a communal kitchen for cooking in, a decent COFFEE MACHINE (praise the lord) and also came with continental breakfast.
That night, we had promised ourselves a pint out and about, and after several failed attempts, found the downstairs bar at Otto Matur & Drykkur open with pints costing £7.02.
We started the next day with a breakfast FEAST made up of items we’d bought on the first night and the basic items the guesthouse provided.
Then, we headed off and filled the car for the first time and I was horrified to see it total up to £59.61 total.
We were only got a third of the way around!
My initial budget of £50 each for the entire ring road was starting to look a little ropey…
Aside from stopping off on the side of the road to admire the scenery, our first proper stop of the day was the fishing town of Djúpivogur for a spot of lunch (pasta and soup prepared at the guesthouse).
We then walked down to Eggin í Gleðivík which is an artwork by Sigurður Guðmundsson of 34 huge, granite eggs, each representing a bird that nests in the area.
I enjoyed the walk down the the harbour whilst James remained fairly unimpressed 🤣
Love Home Swap is what it sounds like – a website that allows you to swap your home with other people across the globe.
Yet, if like me, you think ‘who in their right mind would swap their luxury pad for my gaff?’ then don’t be put off just yet, because they offer an alternative service that for me, has worked an absolute treat.
It’s called a points swap. Quite simply, instead of swapping our home, we swapped points to stay at this beautiful cabin in Iceland.
So how do I get points?
On joining the website, you’ll be allocated points. At the time of writing, these are the current rates:
Lite – 0 points Standard – 200 points Premium – 500 points
With my refer a friend link, you get 25% off your first year which brings the Premium membership to £9 a month. You do have to pay in full so this will set you back £108.
Whilst this can feel like a lot, let’s take the Icelandic home of DREAMS you’ve seen above as an example.
On Love Home Swap, it’s 220 points a night meaning that with the Premium membership, you can ‘afford’ to stay there for two nights.
Two nights = 440 points Premium membership = £108
Therefore, the nightly price would equal £54 costing just £27 each if two of you were staying.
It’s worth saying that this place sleeps SIX (two doubles and two single beds), so if you were heading there with a group, it would be just £9 a night each.
Do I have to add my home when signing up?
Yes you do! The crux of this website is swapping your home with someone else, yet the points swap allows you to get started without having someone come and stay at your place.
Do I have to pay up before I’ve booked the place?
You do have to sign up before you can confirm a home but you will get a two week free trial when you sign up that allows you to message people and get something in place before you spend your money.
This is exactly what I did when I used Love Home Swap for the first time for a trip to New York. And look where we ended up!
How likely is it that we’ll find a place?
It depends on where you’re going. Big cities and popular tourist destinations will tend to have more options, but a lot of it does come down to whether the owner has availability, whether they’re wanting to do a points swap (some don’t offer this) and whether you have enough points!
I found it really difficult to find a place in New York and it took me four weeks (I had a month free trial) to bag my place. However with Iceland, I actually found four different places that would accept my points, so it all just depends!
Whatever you find, just make sure you put a reminder in to cancel your membership before your trial is up so that it doesn’t end up costing you a thing.
From my own experience, Love Home Swap’s customer service is brilliant and they were in constant contact with my during my free trial to see if they could help.
How easy is it to cancel?
You’re in touch with a real person by email and so cancelling would be very straightforward if that’s what you needed to do. You can also reach them by phone.
What tips would you give for finding a swap?
Love Home Swap is a community. Whilst they do now have some places that allow you to book ‘instantly’, this isn’t like booking a place on Booking.com or Airbnb. These are largely people’s homes and therefore you may have to wait a little longer for a response and you can’t demand services in the same way that you could with a hotel.
Also, you book homes through messages so my top tip would be to be personable and warm. Tell your potential hostees about yourself. Why are you visiting the area? What are you excited about? What do you like about their home?
If they’ve got five different people offering the same deal, what would make them choose you over the others?
Also, especially if you sign up for the Premium service, you get access to the site’s dedicated ‘Swap Team’ who can find places that match your wants. Use this! It’s their job to help and it will make your search so much easier.
Do you offer a discount?
Why YES I DO cheers for asking pal 🤣 Love Home Swap have a refer a friend scheme that’s open to all their members which gives mates 25% off the prices online. This is genuinely the cheapest way for you to sign up:
What do I get in return? 3 months free membership! Cheers lads.
Are you getting paid to tell me all this?
No. I’ve been a full paying member of Love Home Swap for two years and will continue paying whether people use my link or not. In my second year I paid £180 for my standard membership and having already stayed four nights in Napa and two nights in Iceland, it’s more than paid for itself already.
I’ve used all my points up, what do I do now?
I would absolutely recommend getting involved with the Love Home Swap community and accepting points swaps of your own! We’ve had a few people stay at our place when we were away and the points we’ve earned have allowed us to continue our cheap travels.
I don’t fancy home swapping – can I still do an Icelandic road trip for a similar price?
Absolutely. I already had two guesthouses lined up if Love Home Swap didn’t work out.
I’ve enjoyed frolicking around, making the most out of £5 flights but recently I realised that I was eager for a new challenge.
And what better place to flex my money saving muscles than Iceland?
Renowned for its beauty – and the price tag that comes along with it – I thought it would be the perfect destination to do on a budget.
The challenge (which I do indeed accept) is to get flights, accommodation, 4×4 car hire, petrol, food, drink and activities for a 6 night road trip around Iceland’s ring road for less than £600.
In the first video, we nab flights with Wizz Air for £57.98 each, a 20kg suitcase for £29.50 each (we shared!), 4×4 car hire via Northbound for just £78 per person and our first supermarket shop for £28.50 each.
Total spent so far = £193.98 each
Total left = £406.02 each
We flew with Wizz Air from London Luton for £57.98 each. Being Wizz Air club members (€29.99 a year for two people) we saved around £15 each but we could have flown for just £55 without the discount (£39 with!) the week prior – alas, the flights didn’t work for James’ work!
Is it worth joining Wizz Air’s discount club?
If you’re planning on more than one trip per year with them and you’re travelling with the same person, then yes. They also do a group membership for €59.99 where the member + 5 companions get discounts so if you often travel as a family or social group, it’s definitely worth looking into.
The flight itself was more than fine. Wizz Air has a very similar offering to Ryanair so sure, it’s not luxury, but for the price you really can’t complain.
As we were travelling in the winter, we decided to add on one 20kg suitcase which cost £59 – ouch. However, as well as helping to keep us warm with the numerous jumpers packed inside, it also made financial sense as I was able to pack some food bits and towels that we’d later get charged to hire at the geothermal pools.
I usually jump straight onto Skyscanner yet I quickly realised that it wasn’t bringing up any local rental companies. Some googling later, I found Northbound who consistently offered the cheapest prices.
Northbound are a broker, so they’ll scour a whole host of local companies to bring you the best price.
As we were there during some pretty icy weather, we definitely needed a 4×4 and I quickly found a Suzuki Jimmy for just £156 for 6 days. At just £26 a day, I think that’s unreal value!
One tip – if you’re searching from the airport, make sure to change your pickup destination to their local office as this can often save you even more money.
On arriving at Keflavik Airport (that’s Reykjavik’s international airport), we looked out for our name on a board and were greeted by a very friendly fella from Lava Rentals. Two minutes later, we were in their minibus and five minutes after that, at their Keflavik office.
We lucked out being the first to be served at the desk (there were around four people behind me) and five minutes later we were in our car and ready to go.
We were honestly so impressed with speed and efficiency of the people at Lava Rentals and would definitely recommend the whole process!
It is worth saying that I reached out to the folk at Northbound asking for more info after noting their cheap costs, and they gave us a Dacia Duster. Lava Rentals show this model online at £40 a day but I bet you could find it cheaper via Northbound‘s site.
All in all, we saved around £60 by booking with them over Skyscanner. NOT TOO SHABBY PALS!
Finding cheap flights and a cheap car was simple enough, but I quickly realised that if one thing was going to catch me out, it was going to be the cost of food on the road.
I knew that we’d be cooking most of our meals but I was nervous about the prices and whilst I’d watched numerous videos about what to expect, I did feel that this area could be my downfall.
My top tips here are to:
Make a food plan at home
Work out what you can bring from home (small packets of salt, pepper, etc.)
Make a list of everything you need to buy
List in hand, we rocked up to the Netto which was just 400m from the hire car company. The other budget supermarkets are Kronan and Bonus – the latter being undeniably the cheapest – yet as we were fast approaching 9pm, Netto was one of the few places still open.
This is what we ended up buying in our first big shop:
Semi skimmed milk
Heinz baked beans
Heinz baked beans
Red kidney beans in chilli
1 pack (6 slices)
Sour cream and onion crisps
1 loaf 820g
Mystery item I can’t remember
Overall, I was super pleased by how affordable most things were. Yes, a little pricier than normal but no where near as bad as I had built it up in my head! I also could not believe that Heinz baked beans were cheaper there than in the UK – MADNESS!!!
The list definitely helped and I found this particular Netto (this one!) had a really good range of items. Everything I looked for, I found!
A great start to the trip – and the money saving – but how will we fare further down the line??!