I visited Bónus, the Icelandic chain of discount stores with a cult following among tourists — here’s what I saw

The discount chain was a welcome sight in an expensive city like Reykjavik.

caption
The discount chain was a welcome sight in an expensive city like Reykjavik.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

  • Bónus is a chain of discount grocery stores based in Iceland.
  • I took a trip to the land of the ice and snow last month and needed to grab a few incidentals here and there.
  • The Icelanders that I spoke to all recommended shopping at Bónus for its low prices.

Visiting an Icelandic chain of discount grocery stores wasn’t on my vacation itinerary.

But learning about Bónus ended up being, well, a huge bonus during my visit to Reykjavik last month. My friend and I weren’t initially planning on hitting up a grocery store during our Labor Day weekend trip, but we needed to pick up a few items since her bag hadn’t made our flight from JFK. That’s how we ended up visiting Bónus.

Founded in 1989, the company now employs 1,000 people, according to the grocery chain’s website. There are 20 Bónus stores in Iceland, and 12 in the Faroe Islands.

The store might not boast an international presence, but it’s still managed to attract attention from visitors to Iceland thanks to its thrifty prices and its plump, pink piggy bank logo.

Here’s a look inside Bónus:


My friend and I first heard about Bónus on the taxi ride from the airport to our hotel.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Daniel Lobo/Flickr

The cab driver pointed out a store with a jolly piggy bank on its sign as we drove into Reykjavik.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Jason Eppink Follow/Flickr

He told us that Bónus was the least expensive grocery chain in town, and recommended shopping there.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Reykjavik is brutally expensive, so we decided to heed the taxi driver’s advice and give Bónus a shot.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

We didn’t need to grab any food — just replace a few sundries that had been in my friend’s mislaid bag.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

While we were there, though, I decided to wander around and check out some of the products. I noticed a ton of store-branded items — like these ciders …

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

… this toilet paper …

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

… and this orange juice.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

I also saw that Bónus isn’t exactly a 24-hour operation. It certainly doesn’t cater to early-morning or late-night shoppers.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

One of the stores we visited had a sign saying it was open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

On Friday, the shop opens its doors at 10 a.m. and shuts them at 7:30 p.m.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

And then, during the weekend, shoppers can visit Bónus from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

We ended up visiting two different Bónuses during our trip. The stores we stopped by were well-lit, no-frills, and neat.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Both times we visited the store, the place was pretty quiet. Not abandoned, but far from crowded.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

We didn’t shop at other grocery stores while in Iceland, so we didn’t get to compare any prices.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

But a tour guide also recommended Bónus later during the trip, and cited its reasonable prices.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

And we weren’t the only ones who got a tip about Bónus. The store frequently pops up on Reddit threads that offer tips on visiting Iceland.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit


One traveler described buying “noodles, frozen pizza, sandwiches, beans, tea, fresh fruit, cheeses, and dairy” for a two-week trek in the island nation.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit


Another shopper wrote that they “stocked up at Bónus… to avoid the crazy eating-out costs,” and called the store “reasonably-priced” and comparable to Aldi, price-wise.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit, Reddit


A different visitor said that Bónus “had the biggest food selection I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

caption
Newspapers at a Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit, Reddit


One poster described Bónus as one of the “supermarkets that locals shop at.” Another gushed that their Bónus tote bag was the “best souvenir from our trip.”

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit


But all this online love for Bónus has seemingly confused some native Icelanders.

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit, Reddit


In a thread where a poster discussed snagging Bónus-branded t-shirts, another poster asked if it was “normal for foreigners to want a t-shirt with a big money pig on it?”

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit, Reddit


Another poster added, “Man, you tourists are weird!”

caption
A Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

Source: Reddit, Reddit


Weird or not, my friend and I embraced the enthusiasm for the discount chain.

caption
Skyr at a Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider

She even picked up a few Bónus shopping bags — which display the brand’s cute, squinting mascot — to take back to the States.

caption
Shopping bags at a Bónus store in Iceland.
source
Áine Cain / Business Insider