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Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, or what I like to call, the Land that Nearly Makes Everyone Broke. Yes, the rumors are true, Iceland is expensive. Since my trip in November, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to create an affordable Iceland budget for all travelers.
I’m a budget-savvy traveler, so I was determined to stretch my dollar as far as I could while I was in Iceland. Even with my years of experience traveling on the cheap, I found it difficult to remain under budget while on my 10-day road trip through Iceland. Here’s the grand total of all my expenditures and what you can expect to spend when spending 10 days in Iceland.
I flew roundtrip with Icelandair from Minneapolis. My flight was direct and lasted roughly 6.5 hours. When I traveled to Iceland in November, tickets were on average $500-$600. I was ecstatic when I found tickets for $380 on Kiwi — the total cost ended up being $438 after taxes.
If you’re located to WOW Air hubs, that could be a cheaper option for you. For me, the closest WOW Air hub is in Chicago and flights weren’t cheap during the time frame I would be traveling.
Yet, I still end up finding the flight deals using Kiwi‘s app and search system. I love that you are able to set up alerts and find the best prices.
Rental Car: $901.78
If you’re spending more than three days in Iceland, I highly recommend embarking on a road trip on the Ring Road. The Ring Road is Highway 1 that follows the coast. Depending on how fast you travel, you can complete the Ring Road in 7 to 10 days. For me, I was very reliant on how well the weather was that day.
I rented a car for 8 days in November and was able to complete the Ring Road. That averages to about $112.73 per day. So no, car rentals in Iceland are not cheap or budget friendly.
I highly recommend renting with Lagoon Car Rental. They were able to pick me up at the airport and check-in and out was quick and painless. There was a slight hiccup in my booking and I ended up with an AWD vehicle instead of a 4WD. This only affected my travel plans slightly, which I was very thankful for. Otherwise, I loved the KIA Ceed I rented from them.
Note: I partnered with Lagoon Car Rental during my road trip. They provided me with a complimentary vehicle for seven days to see the Iceland countryside. To reflect an authentic budget for Iceland, the total does not reflect the discount or complementary services I received from Lagoon Car Rental.
Miscellaneous transportation costs $342.55
The largest chunk of transportation costs was my gas, which cost about $327.55. On average, gas costs about $8 per gallon. For a road trip, this isn’t bad at all, if you take into account the Ring Road itself is roughly 830 miles long. I also took a few detours off the Ring Road to see some sites, which added to my total gas costs.
Other miscellaneous transportation costs included $5 parking at Thingvellir Park.
Just as a head’s up, the airport is not located in Reykjavík, but in Keflavik, so take that into consideration. I met some lovely travelers my last day in Reykjavík that gave me a lift to the airport so I could eliminate the 1.5-hour bus ride and the $15 expense from my budget.
Total transportation cost = $1,682.33
Another popular form of transportation is renting a campervan to travel the Ring Road. This is a great way to save on both transportation and accommodation costs. If you are traveling to Iceland in November like me, many camper van companies will not rent to tourists in the winter. Check out this extensive guide to exploring Iceland in a campervan.
For my entire trip, I stayed in Airbnbs throughout the countryside. I found that this was the most cost-effective way for me to travel authentically and on a budget in Iceland. I stayed at a total of nine Airbnbs. At the end of my trip, I spent two nights using Overnight.
A full review of each property can be found here, and links to each individual listing will be included below. If you’d like to save $40 off an Airbnb stay, use my referral link.
Note: I partnered with and was sponsored by several Airbnb hosts during my Iceland trip. This helped alleviate costs of my trip while I was abroad. To reflect an authentic budget for Iceland, the total does not reflect this discounts or complimentary services I received from Airbnb hosts.
Total accommodations cost = $1,477
Street Food: $26
In attempts to help illustrate how expensive food is in Iceland, I split it up into two categories: street food and groceries.
Street food I qualify as food bought on the street or at an establishment. For me, that was one $8 Icelandic hot dog in Reykjavík, $10 spent on a sandwich at the airport and an $8 beer bought at the Myvtan Nature Baths.
I did my research about my Iceland budget beforehand and knew that eating out was a quick way to rank up the dollar bills. There were a few nights that I was treated to dinner by my Airbnb hosts or I was fed in Reykjavík at a conference I attended.
For groceries, I purchased one bag of frozen peas, a can of soup, a Skyr yogurt and pasta sauce, which totaled $12.
So you’re probably wondering how I ate so well. Well, I was blessed to have a free checked bag with my ticket, so I lugged a huge roller bag across the country and filled it with food. I brought along noodles, oatmeal, granola bars and tuna. I lived off these provisions for the duration of my trip. This was all the food I had in my cupboard at home, so it wasn’t an added vacation cost. (I’ll be publishing a blog post more about this in the future, so stay tuned by subscribing below!)
Total for food = $38
Honestly, Iceland has enough natural wonders that you don’t need to spend much on attractions. I went on a total of four attractions when I was there in November.
The first guided tour I embarked on was the Silfra fissure snorkeling tour. The tour was amazing and I highly recommend it. This tour cost $169. The second tour I went on was a whale watching tour out of Reykjavík by Reykjavík Sailors. This tour cost $94.05 and was also definitely worth it.
Other tours that come highly recommended are the Jokularsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour, snowmobiling over glaciers and ice caving and glacier climbing in Vik. I didn’t have time to fit in these tours, but I wish I did.
Note: the price of the Jojukarsarlon Glacier Lagoon and snowmobile tours are not reflected in the attractions or overall cost of this budget.
I also embarked on two self-guided tours. I prefer these tours over guided tours sometimes because of the ability to wander around aimlessly. My self-guided tours started by soaking in the Lake Myvtan Nature Baths in northern Iceland. I splurged and also purchased a doppelbock beer while soaking in the turquoise waters. To top it off, I enjoyed the geothermal baths during a blizzard. For a day pass it costs $37.74.
The final self-guided tour I paid for was the view at the top of the Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík. You can pay $9 to ride the elevator to the sixth floor and it offers some of the best aerial views of the city.
Pro tip: Go at 4:30, right before the ticket office sells tickets and you’ll have the entire viewing area to yourself.
Total of attractions = $309.79
Note: My whale watching tour was a complimentary tour provided by Reykjavík Sailors. I did include this price though in my total attractions budget, though I did not pay for the tour. I wanted my attraction costs to accurately represent what I experienced.
Another saving measure I utilized in my Iceland budget was to not buy lots of souvenirs. Instead, I opted to put more money towards experiences instead of material things. I bought my usual fridge magnet and Christmas ornament. I splurge a little and also purchase a lava rock necklace for myself.
If you’d like a few recommendations on souvenirs, here at 10 unique Iceland souvenirs to bring home.
Pro tip: Visit Reykjavík’s Kolaportið market for your souvenirs. The flea market is located near the city’s harbor and sells wares from all local vendors.
Total spent on souvenirs = $51
Total trip cost = $3,069.12
Even as a budget traveler, the cost of this trip astounded me. For my 10-day Iceland road trip, I spent an average of $306.91 per day.
(Note: This total does not include souvenir or flight costs in my total Iceland budget).
What I would’ve done differently
Overall, I think I was very budget savvy on my trip. I was fortunate enough to work with numerous companies and individuals that helped alleviate the costs associated with my Iceland budget.
But for those of you who aren’t travel bloggers, I would recommend focusing on how much you spend on accommodations and food. During the summer, you are able to rent a campervan, which would greatly decrease how much you spend on lodging. Better yet, you can alleviate some of the costs by going with a group to sit the cost of accommodations and transportation costs.
If you are only in Iceland for a few days, there are numerous day tours that you can also book that might be more affordable than a car rental. A few notable companies are Gray Line, Reykjavik Sightseeing and Troll Expeditions.