The Price of Living (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

There has been a great deal of discussion about the entrance fee to Geysir over the last couple of months.

Politicians and activists who feel access to the country’s most splendid natural wonders should be free of charge are outraged.

I understand their disposition to the fee but at the same time, it is hard to dismiss the argument landowners give to justify charging a fee. To landowners, the fee is necessary in order to maintain the area and built better facilities for visitors.

If memory serves me right, a caller in the Reykjavík Síðdegis afternoon radio show pointed out that locals in a Central American country he visited paid less to visit the country’s natural wonders, while tourists paid a higher price. I quite like that idea.

I am not suggesting Icelandic landowners charge visitors from afar a steep price, in fact, it should be easily affordable to all tourists.

Residents in Iceland should not be excluded from paying a fee but the amount should be a little lower.

It would also be a nice idea to once or twice a month make Sunday visits to natural wonders free of charge, preferably for both locals and visitors. I am quite sure this idea is already a practice in countries around the world and it has been discussed in Iceland too.

In my mind, Iceland as a tourist destination should cater to travelers of all budgets. I am a backpacker at heart myself and I have been to places where I was charged more than the locals, all within reason too, and I was happy to pay the extra fee knowing that my money was going to maintenance and local salaries.

Therefore, I don’t mind paying a fee to visit the geyser Geysir. In fact, I think it’s fair.

My only criticism is that perhaps a more discreet payment collection would be preferable, such as a nature pass or a nature tax.

It is fair, just like it was fair that I got a student discount to the Louvre while living and studying the arts in Paris. No one felt it was an unfair benefit and it only opened up my eyes to extraordinary work of arts and art history during a period I had little money to spend outside of daily expenses.

I get the feeling that sometimes us Icelanders get too caught up in internal issues, debating back and forth while not paying any attention to opposing views.

The future of tourism is ecotourism, a growing industry that contributes to the preservation of natural wonders in countries visited.

To visit the Galapagos, tourists are charged USD 100 per person. I’ll happily pay a contribution to the preservation of this unique place.

We need to stop arguing about this issue, find an agreeable solution and grasp the concept that the planet needs us to take action and protect it from further damage. Nature preservation is a high priority and a payment collection is a way to protect landmarks from further damage.

I find it far more concerning that in Iceland, the very clothes we need the most are the most expensive to acquire. If I were a tourist visiting Iceland, arriving on a very rainy day and walked into one of the sports or outdoor stores in the city to purchase a raincoat, I’d be shocked to see the price of a decent one.

I haven’t bought proper rain gear for years, let alone decent boots. I have needed both but the idea of paying a minimum of ISK 15,000 (USD 90, EUR 100) for a good one and at least ISK 10,000 for a pair of nice rain boots is simply out of order.

Same goes for a decent jacket for the winter. The cheapest proper ones I’ve come across is around about ISK 25,000 and that by the way was one fourth of the full amount I got paid monthly in student loans a few years back.

So, how about opening up a debate about the price of living in Iceland, about the fact that a couple can easily spend more than ISK 80,000 per month on groceries. It is possible to spend less but if you want to indulge on a good steak or go out for a meal every now and then, this amount is within easy reach.

The cost of living in Iceland is absurd and rather than protesting the entrance fees, I suggest we demand a fair cost of living.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir@gmail.com 

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.