saving money as a volunteer in Iceland

Save Money On Travelling In Iceland Through Help Exchanges And Volunteering

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Despite Iceland’s reputation as an expensive country preceding it, with a little planning and a willingness to trade some of your spare time it is possible to visit this staggeringly beautiful land without emptying your bank account.

We examine realistic options for saving money by taking a volunteer role in Iceland, or even making some with a paid one.


Paid Work in Iceland

Some opportunities do exist for working in Iceland. The tourist industry is booming with numbers rising to a point where the new coalition government is considering limiting tourist visitors to protect its natural wonders. These numbers, combined with low unemployment amongst a small population, mean foreigners are often welcomed to take tourism jobs, particularly in remote areas where it can be tricky convincing Icelanders to fill these positions.

Work in hospitality in Iceland

From glacier walks to ice cave tours and whale watching, these trips to join while in Iceland give a good idea of the adventurous flavour to Icelandic tourism and the types of work that may be available. We suggest using the official tourism website, Inspired by Iceland, to find contact information for businesses that may be hiring.

An agency called Ninukot is able to arrange work in the hospitality sector for three to six months through its partner agencies in Europe. The jobs, in country hotels or holiday farms, pay around €2000 per month with €15 deducted per day for room and board. They also recruit for farms, the horticulture industry, and au pairs.

Iceland is part of the European Economic Area and EU citizens are entitled to work here for three months before requiring a residence permit. For Americans and other non EU native English speakers teaching English is usually the best bet in most places for fixing up employment, but that is not going to be the case in Iceland, where almost everyone is fluent already.

Saving money through volunteering may instead be a better option. While gap year companies can guide you effortlessly into a volunteer programme it is possible to save on their fees and arrange volunteer work by yourself. We list some options for volunteering in Iceland in the Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work section of our website but we also recommend exploring the websites of the major help exchange platforms.

Help Exchanges in Iceland

Help Exchanges in Iceland

Regular readers will be familiar with the concept, but for those new to the Jobs Abroad Bulletin a help exchange is a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours arrangement, where hosts provide food and lodging to volunteers in exchange for help with their home, business or pet project. Money rarely changes hands and volunteers tend to pay their own travel costs.

Whether work or volunteer visas are needed is debatable and varies from country to country. Most help exchange platforms promote themselves as cultural exchange or learning experiences but we suggest not debating this issue with immigration if you are arriving on a tourist visa.

Most help exchanges are found through websites such as Workaway or HelpStay, who charge a small yearly membership fee to provide access to host contact details but otherwise allow users to poke about their websites for free.

Iceland has a good number of hosts for its size, the majority wanting help in remote areas with their horses, sheep and cattle. We list a few projects in Iceland below*:

Help on a family dairy farm near Sauðárkrókur
Great auroras in the winter and guaranteed snow are among the rewards for assisting this family and their robots with duties that include milking cows and feeding calves. The farm is in the north of Iceland where volunteers will enjoy a peaceful experience, nature and interesting Arctic conditions. This host will also pay at least the minimum hourly wage for each hour worked.

Volunteer opportunity with DogSledding Iceland
Dog sledding is not a job, it is a lifestyle, say the Icelandic/French couple who own this dog sledding company. The hosts are very open that this position is not for everybody and the reviews we read point to hard work, uncompromising service and fairly basic living conditions, none of which seems to put off the countless applicants they receive each year.

Horse or farm work exchanges in Iceland

Help with a non-profit creative initiative to make a queer artist residency in Neskaupstadur, East Iceland
Married gay couple Hafsteinn and Hakon have just bought a historic old property in their peaceful town where they intend to starting house their long time dream project,  a Queer Artist Residency,  and start a Queer Festival. Like minded, fun, creative people are welcome to help with renovations, social media or design.

Help needed with training Icelandic horses on a farm near by Egilsstaðir
The sight of up to 50 horses running free over the mountain trails with the wind in their mane is a view you can enjoy working with this host, who need help from a passionate rider with dressage training. Expect to also cook and help in the house and around the farm. Due to Covid, at the time of writing they were only looking to host people already staying in Iceland.

*The listings given above are suggestions only and were available when we updated and reposted this article in 2021.

Images courtesy




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This piece was first published in an older version of our blog