It is well known that Iceland is not one of the cheapest destinations to explore. Situated in Northern Europe it is probably even one of the most expensive countries in the world. Nevertheless, it is still possible to explore the land of fire and ice on a budget. In this blog post, I will explain to you what things cost in Iceland and what you can do with a certain budget.
This way you can decide how much of a budget you would like to have for a trip to Iceland. It all depends on what you want to do. Do you like to eat out for dinner and do a lot of tours? Then you will need a higher budget than if you don’t mind cooking your own meals and love to explore the beautiful Icelandic nature – it is free of charge!
Preparation costs to travel to Iceland
When you plan on going to Iceland there are a couple of things you need to arrange. Like a ticket to get there, you might need to arrange a visa before you can enter the country, and you need to make sure you are insured. How much do these things cost?
You can either fly or sail to Iceland. Flights will bring you to Reykjavik in the South West of Iceland. The ferry departs from Denmark, passes the Faroe Islands and will sail you to Seydisfjordur, in the East of Iceland.
The costs for a flight ticket totally depends on where you come from. Within Europe, it is possible to find return flights between US$300 and US$600. If you visit Iceland from a country outside of Europe, tickets can be a lot more expensive.
The ferry has set prices for 4 different seasons: winter season, low season, midseason and high season. Prices depend on factors like bringing your own transportation means and the kind of hut you want to stay in. On the website of the Smyril Line, you can find the exact prices.
To enter Iceland you need a valid Schengen Visa. So, the only visitors who don’t need a visa, are travelers with a nationality from a country that is part of the Schengen States.
All visitors need to carry a passport that is valid until you leave Iceland. For visitors that have a nationality outside the Schengen states, your passport must be valid until at least 3 months after you leave Iceland.
A visa for Iceland is usually issued by the embassies of Sweden, Denmark or Norway and costs €60. Check the site of the Icelandic Government to figure out whether you need a visa and where you can apply for one.
Nothing is as annoying as feeling sick in a foreign country. Nevertheless, this is something you can’t always prevent. An accident can happen at any time, like a sprained ankle during a hike.
You better visit a doctor when you don’t feel well and how nice is it to be insured and not have to worry if x-rays need to be taken or medicines need to be taken?
Always check your current health insurance if they cover any costs for medical help abroad. Also, check if you are insured with travel insurance if your stuff gets stolen or your luggage doesn’t arrive.
Transport costs to get around in Iceland
There are a couple of options when it comes to getting around in Iceland. You can bring your own vehicle when you travel to Iceland by ferry. It is also possible to rent a car or camper, and you can also get around by bus. Below I’ll tell you what each transport method will cost you.
Bringing your own car
With the Smyril Line ferry, you can bring your own car, which will cost you between €200 and €450. This is the price for a car + one person. The price depends on the season.
This can save you a lot of costs, as renting a car in Iceland can add up quickly. Just be aware that driving your own car in Iceland can cause some damage to your car from gravel roads or sandstorms.
You will also need some extra time, as sailing from Denmark to Iceland takes almost 4 days! It is an awesome experience though. We have sailed out of Iceland to the Faroe Islands, where we stayed for a week and then continued with the ferry to Denmark. So, if you have some vacation days left and you want to go on the ferry, don’t forget to explore the Faroe Islands as well!
Renting a car
You can rent all types of cars in Iceland. From a small car to a 4WD to a camper van and even a 4WD camper van! The prices for a small car start from US$40 a day and become twice as expensive during the high season.
If you want to take your exploration to the next level you might want to rent a 4WD car. This type of car can be rented from US$100 to US$150 a day and also become a lot more expensive during high season.
Do you prefer to rent a car which allows you to use it as accommodation as well? A camper Van may be something for you. A very basic and small camper Van can be rented for US$90 a day. If you want a bit more room and luxury the price will go up to US$180 a day. And once again, these are low season prices and will add up high during high season.
To keep your car going you have to fuel up every now and then. Fuel taxes are quite high in Iceland and that is reflected in the fuel prices. Although prices fluctuate from day to day, count on US$1.85 per liter. Sometimes it is 10-15 cents cheaper, sometimes it is 10-15 cents more expensive.
Getting around by bus
Iceland does have buses that drive you around from one place to another. Buses mainly drive along the ring road and just a few might take you into the highlands if the circumstances are good.
Getting around by bus isn’t cheap, a one-way ticket from Reykjavik to Akureyri will cost you around US$80. So, when you travel in a group with a minimum of two people, the chances are high that renting a car will be a better option than taking the bus.
Iceland also provides public transport within the bigger cities. A one-way ticket from A to B within the same city will cost you around US$4.
Accommodation costs for staying in Iceland
Besides renting a car or getting around by bus, accommodation will probably be one of your higher expenses in Iceland. The fun thing is, that you can make it as crazy as you want. There are a lot of options when it comes to accommodations in Iceland and price differences between them are huge!
Let’s start with the most expensive one, hotels. And expensive it is. For a double room in a hotel, you pay at least US$200 a night. But room prices can easily add up to US$400 a night.
Iceland has a lot of guest houses. And although they are a bit more affordable than hotels, prices are still quite high. You can get a double room in a guest house starting at US$120 a night.
This network is expanding more and more in Iceland and prices are more affordable than for a guest house or hotel. Especially when you travel with more than 2 people. Don’t wait too long with booking, as the affordable accommodations are likely to sell out.
This is where the budget accommodation comes in. Camping in Iceland is the most affordable option. For a campsite, you pay between US$10 and US$35 per night. As you can see, this is a lot cheaper than staying in any other accommodation available in Iceland.
Another good thing about camping in Iceland is that you don’t have to book in advance. Campsites always have a spot available for you! So, you can make up or change your plans last minute!
Costs for food and drinks in Iceland
A lot of people claim that groceries are very expensive in Iceland, but in my opinion, these people exaggerate a bit. Yes, of course, it is more expensive than in Asia, but compared to my home country, the Netherlands, it really didn’t matter much.
Do your groceries at the Bonus. This is the discount supermarket and is a lot cheaper than any other supermarket in Iceland.
If you want to explore Iceland on a budget, adapt a bit. Forget your meals from home and eat local foods. Local fish and Skyr (Icelandic Yoghurt) can be bought for reasonable prices as they come from Icelandic soil. A simple pasta for two can easily be prepared for a couple of dollars. You just might have to leave out the cheese…
Here are some prices from Icelandic supermarkets:
- Tomatoes 1kg: US$2.50 – US$5
- Apples 1kg: US$1.50 – US$3
- White rice 1kg: starting at US$1.50
- Chicken breast filet 1kg: US$13 to US$18
Costs for eating out can add up high to the daily costs you need to travel around Iceland. A basic meal in a cafe will cost you between US$15 and US$25 per person. In a restaurant, you pay at least US$25 for a meal.
Alcohol and tobacco
If you want to travel to Iceland on a budget, you better not smoke or drink. At the supermarket, you pay at least US$2 for local 0,5L beer. In the bar, you spent 2 to 3 times as much for the same beer.
A package of Malborough cigarettes will cost you between US$10 and US$13.
Tours and activities to explore in Iceland
There are many tours and activities available to explore more of Iceland. Think of a whale watching tour in the summer or ice climbing in an ice cave in the winter.
Prices for tours vary a lot, depending on the season, activity, and the size of the group. On average you will pay between US$50 and US$250 for a day tour. Multiple day tours are available from US$400 for three-day tours.
Below are some awesome tours in Iceland. Click on more to see what other activities you can do.
Traveling in Iceland, how much does it cost?
With all the above information you can figure out a bit about what you would like to do in Iceland, how you want to get around, and where you want to stay and eat to decide on a budget.
An insight into our budget
I would love to give you an insight into our budget, but I don’t think it will be applicable to a lot of you. We have traveled around Iceland on a pushbike, which we brought with us on the plane.
As we were cycling around Iceland we were allowed to free-camp most of the time. So, we had almost zero costs for transport and accommodation, which are normally the highest costs.
Our grocery costs, on the other hand, were higher, as we ate a lot! Cycling makes you really hungry haha – and the food we ate was often ready-made-just-add-some-water. This is a bit more expensive in Iceland than buying plain pasta and a sauce. But we had to travel as light as possible and it all needed to stay good for quite a while.
Anyway, what kind of budget should you keep in mind to travel around Iceland? Below I will give you some budgets you can keep in mind to travel to Iceland:
- Real backpackers budget: You just want to go to Iceland, because it is awesome, but you do everything you can to spend as little as possible. You brought your own gear so you are able to camp and you prepare your own meals. Transport? Hitchhiking! You only take the bus when there is no other option. You should be able to travel around Iceland for US$35 to US$50 a day.
- The budget traveler: You rent a small car to get around, but don’t mind sleeping on campsites and cooking your own meals with the gear you brought from home. Maybe you can afford one tour, but more isn’t necessary since you love the Icelandic nature! You should be able to travel around Iceland for US$80 to US$120 a day.
- The explorer budget: You rent a 4×4 car to be able to explore everything in Iceland. 1 or 2 tours a week are also on the planning list. You don’t mind camping, but want to sleep in a bit more comfortable accommodation once or twice a week. You don’t really care about eating in restaurants, but once a week would be nice. You should be able to travel around Iceland for US$175 to US$250 a day
- The luxury budget: You don’t want to think about anything, just do a couple of tours a week, rent a good car, sleep in guest houses and hotels, and eat out every day. You should be able to travel around Iceland for US$250 to US$500 a day.
Whatever your budget is going to be, always make sure to have a little extra. This way you can afford that awesome tour you came across and you can cover some unexpected expenses.
We love to hear from you
I hope this blog has helped you to figure out how much money you need to travel around Iceland and to explore it the way you want. Have you traveled around Iceland or do you have a question? Please leave a comment below.
And don’t forget to check out what to explore in Iceland!