Budget Breakdown: Iceland’s Ring Road Edition

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.

Transportation

Flight: $438

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

Editor’s note: 

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

Accommodations

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.

Hrísmóar Cabin | Harbour homeHvammstangi Cottages |  Guesthouse Hof í Vatnsdal | Óli´s HomestayGíslastaðir Cottage | Ásahraun Cottage | Seaside StudioDowntown Backyard Cottage

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

Food

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.

Groceries $12

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

Attractions

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. 

Guided tours

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. 

Self-guided tours

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. 

Souvenirs

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.

This post was sponsored in part by Lagoon Car Rental, Reykjavik Sailors and several Airbnb hosts. This post also contains affiliate links. 

49 thoughts on “Budget Breakdown: Iceland’s Ring Road Edition

  1. Few of my close friends visited Iceland a while back and I absolutely loved hearing their travel tales. I have heard Iceland is crazy expensive. I love your idea of renting a campervan for a roadtrip.

  2. Yikes, I have always wanted to go to Iceland but these costs are crazy. I am especially surprised by the Airbnb prices. I find your trick to bring food rather interesting but wondering if one is always allowed to do that when it comes to customs and able to if you take luggage restrictions into consideration. I must say that for me eating local food is so much part of the experience as well as I am a total foodie so I don’t think I would want to miss out on that. All in all, it seems I need to save a little longer before I make my Iceland dream a reality!

    1. I was spoiled at a few of my Airbnbs where my hosts cooked me traditional Icelandic food — and honestly, that’s my favorite way to taste the food of a country. Homecooked is always better! Yes, customs are different everywhere so you definitely have to do your research. I found that unopened and prepackage food was significantly cheaper to get through customs. And as you implied, I’ll do anything to save a few bucks to splurge on an experience instead! There were hostels and cheaper Airbnbs scattered around the island, but many places get booked quickly, so if you see a good deal, book quickly.

  3. Very expensive! But I guess it was all worth it! I am a very low budget traveler too but I dont know if I could do it cheaper than you! In my case I would use couchsurfing, sleep in the car/campervan and cook our own food (but ofcourse in November it would be freezing!) But lucky that the best part of Iceland is for free…the nature!

    1. If you read the entire article, my accommodations were paid for — other than $8 worth. I worked with the owners and they hosted me for the evening — so I basically was Couchsurfing. And if you do your research, it’s hard to couchsurf in Iceland due to the high tourist demands. And yes, I cooked all my own food (except a few meals worth in Reykjavik), which I noted in the foods/groceries section.

  4. Reading this really brought back memories of Iceland, and how expensive it is! I agree about the food costs, it’s possible to eat cheaply, but also splash out for one night in a nice restaurant. The tours are worth it in my opinion; the country’s beautiful and if you’re going to go once, do it properly!

    1. Agreed! It’s just nice to have a reference point of how much the ideal Iceland trip would cost. I’d hate for people to get there and not be able to embark on their dream vacation because they weren’t informed!

  5. Budget is always an issue for me when traveling. I always work with a tight budget, so I always make sure to plan every last detail. You have some great recommendations here. I am not traveling to Iceland soon but at least know I have a vague idea of how much the trip would cost if I do.

    1. Thanks! I always thought Iceland was not all about the hype — that was until I went there and witnessed it first hand. The daily hype about the country gets a little boring, but honestly, one of the most unique places I’ve ever been.

  6. Good break up of expenses . This will surely help me plan better. But Iceland is a must see destination for me, so I may not mind a bigger hole in pocket, need to select out some expenses which I can reduce.

    1. If it’s a must-see destination you should go! This post is definitely for those people who are a little naive about how expensive Iceland is. There were so many times that I saw tourists in the country and they were begging for money because they didn’t have any more cash — I know this for a fact because I ask them specifically. Nothing wrong with that, but definitely need to make sure people are well informed about how expensive the country itself is.

  7. You really saved on food during your trip! I spent more than $38 on 1 meal! I need to check out airbnb options with dinner included. The car rental option seems to be the best way to see the whole Island in one go. I like the fact that the attractions of Iceland are mostly free of charge.

    1. I often feel that food can eat up a budget fast! I opt to let locals cook for me or experience a few authentic, traditional meals from the region, just not every meal on my trip. And yes, I would definitely recommend a car rental! I love the freedom of just cruising to where ever I want to go, so I always lean towards a car rental. And yes, free attractions always help!

  8. This was the best Iceland-budget post I’ve ever seen! You kept track of everything so perfectly. I’m impressed. I’ve been wanting to do basically this same trip- so it’s great to know a pretty precise cost-estimate beforehand!

    1. Thank you! I feel that many Iceland budgets are unrealistic (often don’t include everything) and I wanted to 100% honest with my readers. The worst feeling is being on vacation and feeling like you’re going broke because of it!

  9. Nice financial breakup of Iceland tour. I was not knowing about Kiwi app and now I will also search cheap airfares through this app. Renting a car from Lagoon car rental also looks good as you are highly recommending it. I would also love to purchase lava rock necklace as a souvenir.

    1. I loved Iceland! I honestly thought I was going to be disappointed due to the endless amount of hype the country receives. Yet, it is well deserved! I would love to go back when there isn’t snow so I can do more hiking and see the highlands, this area is closed off in the winter. I think Iceland is great for solo travelers, couples, families, anyone who is looking to have an adventure of a lifetime! I would definitely recommend a road trip on the Ring Road, even in fall/winter with the snow.

  10. Loved all your tips for making Iceland more affordable. That’s the biggest complaint we hear from all our friends who have been, so looking forward to putting some of these to work when we go. Loved that you got a car and road tripped. It’s such a beautiful country and your photos are amazing.

  11. I totally agree, Iceland is one of the most challenging places we’ve ever had to budget in. Apart from accommodation and transport one of our other big expenditures was food, so it’s interesting to hear how you managed to save money here by eating street food. We also didn’t Airbnb and that looks like a good idea. When we go back (because we really want to) I will make note of some of these ideas.

    1. Hi Nicola! Yeah, I was somewhat regretting my trip to Iceland because I knew that everything was expensive. I was fortunate that I was able to indulge in some traditional Icelandic food from some of my hosts, but otherwise, cheap eating is always my style! I definitely want to return to Iceland again. This time in the summer/early fall to experience the highlands and tour the Diamond Road! Thanks for reading!

  12. Iceland is high on my list and I would love to bring my daughter. Was your total trip minus the flights in USD? I have always been interested to know if Iceland was always expensive before tourism exploded there in the last few years. I guess in part they are somewhat isolated so its expansive to get anything there. The cost of food was surprisingly ok though. Will have to ensure I get accom with a kitchen to help reduce the expenses.

    1. Hi Amy! Yes, my entire budget breakdown series is converted in USD. I talked to a few locals there and it sounds like prices have always been a little higher in Iceland due to importing costs, etc. What definitely has changed is the service industry. This is prices at restaurants, rent being astronomical, parking, etc. These are every day things for locals, but the prices have spiked due to the demanding tourism industry. Hope that answers all your questions!

  13. Well, I am visiting Iceland next week, and I have read a lot about this expensive food in Iceland thing in different blogs. I wish to buy groceries in cook in the homestays and hostels I am staying at. All of them have kitchen facilities. My itinerary almost looked same as yours in the beginning but lately I had changed it and kept to South Iceland and Snaefellsnes. I am also renting a car. And I believe in some summer, I am going to take a campervan and do the whole ring road.

    1. Hi Shreya! I hope you had a fabulous trip to Iceland! It’s still one of my favorite countries. Homestays and Airbnbs definitely helped me stay within budget. I hardly ate out either, which I sorta regret. I did feast on an iconic Icelandic hot dog though! Happy travels to you!

  14. Wow, so it is true, Iceland IS expensive and it’s hard for a budget traveller to keep within a tight budget. Thanks for the comprehensive guide that’ll help me plan better for 2019. I definitely plan to make it a road trip so renting a car makes sense, however, its really expensive as I can see. Happy to see you’ve recommended a car rental company -Lagoon Car Rental. I will give them a shot when I book my trip. Even accommodation seems fairly expensive, despite you considering the cost of staying in Bnbs.

    1. Hi Medha, I hope you find that rest of my Icelandic content helpful as you are planning your trip. If you have more questions definitely feel free to reach out. I think a road trip is the easiest way to cut down on costs. If you going in the summer you can even save by renting a camper van, that would eliminate nearly all your accommodation costs as well. Hope you have a fabulous trip!

  15. Yikes, I knew Iceland was expensive but hadn’t realised quite how much, that’s scary. Hasn’t put me off the idea though, I think I’d do what you suggest and get a campervan during the summer months and bring some basic food supplies with me and maybe some friends to share the cost. Better start saving 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah! You definitely need to save for your Iceland vacation, but it’s definitely doable. I’m glad you’re not letting the steep prices stop you. If you research what you would like to see ahead time as well you’ll also be saving money. If you need any more inspiration or tips for your upcoming vacation, make sure to check out my Iceland archive! Happy and safe travels to you!

  16. I am so so jealous you got to do the entire ring road!!! I spent 4 days in Iceland and covered a lot of ground, did the whole east and south cost, but never got the whole way round as I had to go back to Uni :/ But woooow your trip looks amazing! I have book marked your article as I really do want to go back to Iceland again very soon and do the entire ring road. Your pictures look incredible! Thanks for sharing (Not surprised about the price lost most haha)

    1. Hi Emilio! I definitely made sure I stayed in Iceland long enough to do the Ring Road because that’s been at the top of my bucket list for years. I’m so happy that I did! It definitely was a memorable adventure. I got to see a lot of untracked area, which made it all that much more special. Happy and safe travels to you!

  17. I did all this road hitch hiking as I am budget traveler and the sums for renting car you mentioned sound cosmic to me! Additionally I went to the western fjords, which was a great idea, highly recommending. From all the ring my favorite was the lake area, with steaming volcanoes and crater all around. Beautiful memories. <3

    1. Hi Anita! I’m so glad that you were able to do that! I contemplated hitchhiking, but being there in the winter months, that seemed like a bad idea. I wanted to get to the westfjords as well, but the roads were all closed due to a horrendous snowstorm. Just another reason to go back — like I need anymore, ha! Happy and safe travels to you!

  18. I love how you broke everything down by price. Its really cool you got to do the entire ring road, I was there for 4 days and made Reykjavik my home base and woke up early morning to travel each place. I also missed out on the Jokularsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour as you did. We got a little side tracked getting to the glaciers with different hot springs. Your trip sounded very cool!

    1. Hi Courtney! I’m so happy that I did the Ring Road, though the South Coast is beautiful I loved seeing all the diversity that the country had to offer. I definitely want to go back during the summer months and see how different the landscape looks. Happy and safe travels to you!

  19. The campervan is such a great idea! I did that too during my last visit actually. Iceland is so damn expensive, that renting a campervan is by far the cheapest option because you don’t have to worry about accommodation and transportation both.

    1. Hi Daniel! I definitely wish I could’ve rented a campervan. By the time I thought about it most of the campervans were booked or the companies didn’t rent during the winter months. It requires a little more planning, but it definitely can save you a lot of money. Happy and safe travels to you!

  20. This is a great article for budgeting purposes. Thanks for breaking it down so clearly. Iceland is definitely a place we want to travel to and we knew it was expensive but I am surprised at the cost of car rental and petrol. Thanks for the tip re staying in Airbnb’s – they look good and perfect if you are on a tight budget. I may consider an RV, thanks for the tip on this.

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