Iceland is a dream destination for a lot of travelers, and for a reason, the land of fire and ice is spectacular! But Iceland is also knowing as an expensive destination, and it is true. But I am sharing some tips and tricks to help you to stay on a budget and share my secrets on how to compare prices and save money for your trip to Iceland.
TIPS & TRICKS TO SAVE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING TO ICELAND
I am often asked how much it costs to travel to Iceland. The real answer is, ” It depends”.
You can easily spend a fortune, or you can make the trip affordable for your budget.
If you are trying to decide between renting a camper van or a car, how much meals cost, prices to do all the awesome activities you are dreaming to do in Iceland, etc. look no further! You can find out how the prices compare, and I am here to help you to save money while having the best time of your life in Iceland.
After I self-drive for 10 days around the Ring Road, I have learned some good tricks and I have some good news to help you go on your dream vacation to Iceland without breaking your bank account!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a trip of a lifetime. You do not need to skip experiences or activities, you just need to make smart decisions and know where to spend and where to save.
I always look for smarter ways to travel and be on a budget and I here to share some “secrets” with you on how to travel to Iceland on a budget, without sacrificing the experience.
How much does it cost to travel to Iceland?
This guide has side by side prices comparison that will help you to save money and also, have alternatives that will help you put your budget together with confidence.
Enjoy it and safe travels!
Travel smarter and save money during your trip to Iceland – YES, it is possible!
YES, IT IS TRUE THAT ICELAND IS ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE DESTINATIONS
The bad news is that it is true that Iceland is very expensive.
Actually, Iceland is the most expensive country to visit in Europe and according to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index, Iceland currently ranks as the third most expensive country in the world.
But wait, don’t stop reading this blog yet!
Wondering why Iceland is so expensive? It’s a combination of politics, economics, and geography.
While Iceland is not expensive to get to (flights can be quite inexpensive), Iceland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, located near the Arctic Circle, between Greenland and Norway.
As you can imagine, the cost of getting goods to Iceland is included in the cost of living (and visiting).
Adding to the cost of living is the drive toward reduction of fossil fuels by higher gas taxes. This is great news for the earth, but not so good for your wallet (remember everything gets transported by trucks, boats, planes, etc.). The President of Iceland wants more reliance on electricity (easily generated on a volcanic island) and less on fossil fuels. Bravo!
But remember when I said I have some good news to share with you?
That dream trip to Iceland can be more affordable than you expect, and I am here to help you by sharing some ideas and advice on how to compare prices, save money and travel to Iceland on a budget.
OVERVIEW ICELAND ON A BUDGET – COMPARE PRICES TO SAVE MONEY
There a few things you can plan to help you to travel on a budget.
So go through this blog post thoroughly for things to consider, make some notes and start to pack for your dream vacation to Iceland on a budget.
I will go on more details for the big 3 expenses during our trips: Rental vehicle, food and accommodation.
Here are some estimates of what we spent for 2 people per day:
- Accommodation at GUEST HOUSE: $100
- Food with 2 meals from the supermarket and 1 meal at the restaurant: $120
- Car rental + gas: $65
Which is an average of less than $150 per person per day. Not bad, right?
And it can be even cheaper if you consider using a Hostel, cook all your meals, and share transportation with more people.
I am also sharing a list of options for budget and free activities for your to choose from.
And last but not least, a comprehensive list of tips on how to save money and be on a budget for your trip to Iceland.
NOTE: All the costs listed here are average only. Costs can go lower or higher depending on your preferences and considering low and high season.
Icelandic horse love is FREE
TRANSPORTATION IN ICELAND – Compare prices and save money
You will need to rent a vehicle to drive around Iceland. This is fact if in case you want to explore the wonder of this country in your own pace!
The first question should be: Which option fits inside my budget, should I rent a car or a camper van.
So let’s evaluate this side by side costs comparison and also, some Pros & Cons between renting a van vs renting a car.
*PRO TIP: All prices below are average only, it may vary (a lot) between low and high season. Camper Van prices based on for 2 people with a small kitchenette to prepare small meals
$220 US Dollar per day/ for 2 people
- Van Rental $120
- Gas $50
- Camper w/ Shower $20
- Food (cooking all meals) $30
$225 US Dollar per day/ for 2 people
- Car Rental $30
- Gas $35
- Food (1 restaurant/Day) $60
Renting a car in Iceland or a camper van?
ADDITIONAL ON RENTING A CAMPER VAN:
- Companies will not normally rent a van to you for less than three days, especially in the summer.
- The most expensive vehicles come with extras, for example, a shower and/or a roof tent.
- Standard insurance coverage is included, with extra options being available for an additional fee.
- Some, but not all vehicles, can be insured for driving on F roads.
- The items that the basic rental fees will cover varies from company to company, so this is something you should check up on too.
- Be careful to park where it’s allowed!
PROS & CONS
RENT A VAN
- You save on accommodations
- You save on food, considering if you cook your own meals
- Convenience to sleep close to the next destination
- Make it a fun experience and you can nap anytime
- The rental is more expensive
- The fuel is more expensive
- You will cook more often
- You are more limited to drive on some roads
PROS & CONS
- The rental is cheaper
- The fuel is cheaper
- More comfortable options to have a place to stay (room + bathroom)
- Some guest houses include breakfast in the price
- You can cook your own meal if we stay at a place with a kitchen
- You will need to rely on find affordable accommodations
- You will need to eat at restaurant more often
- You need to pack and unpack bags daily
FOOD IN ICELAND – Compare prices and save money
We all know that one of the higher expenses when we travel is the food, especially if you are like me, I am always hungry!
I think we all agree that this is not an expense that we can cut from our budget correct? But let’s budget and save some on food.
The bad news is that Iceland is not a cheap country when it comes to food but there certainly are ways to keep the costs down.
If breakfast is included in your accommodation, then go for it!
If your accommodation gives access to a kitchen, you can cut costs a lot. Preparing your own food and going for a picnics is always going to be cheaper than eating out all the time, and food can be your biggest expense or also, the best way to save money and be on a budget.
If you are considering to buy your food from the grocery, I recommend Bónus stores and they offer the best value.
Bonus Opening hours
Mondays – Thursdays: 11:00 to 18:30
Fridays: 10:00 to 19:30
Saturdays: 10:00 to 18:00
Sundays: 12:00 to 18:00
To find your nearest Bónus shop click here.
- PRO TIP: All the costs here are an average per person per day. Prices may vary as dinner is normally more expensive than lunch or if you add beverage to your restaurant meals.
FOOD AT RESTAURANT
$65 US Dollar per day/ per person
- Breakfast: coffee + pastry $15
- Lunch: fish & chips or hamburguer $20
- Dinner: without a drink $30
$15 US Dollar per day/ per person
- Breakfast: coffee + cheese + bread + yogurt
- Lunch: sandwich and beverage
- Dinner: pasta + protein or prepared meals
I cooked most of my dinners as it was a big cost saving for my trip to Iceland Iceland has one of the best fish and chips The bakeries in Iceland offer a YUMMY variety of pastries
ACCOMMODATIONS IN ICELAND – Compare prices and save money
As I already mentioned in the beginning, one of the most popular options is to rent a camper van and pay for a camper park with bathrooms and shower available.
I am a big fan of Guesthouses as they are often charming, with many offering similar facilities to a small hotel and even better, local families run it as a business and most cases, they are inside their land/farm – I am a big supporter of supporting local communities during my travel.
Also, quite a few have guest kitchens, and cooking for yourself is another great way to keep costs lower. You can simple use Booking.com – they have incredible great options to be on a budget.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many great options for accommodations you can find in Iceland.
I traveled to Iceland during spring time, and I rented everything with a day in advance. At this time of year, it was not necessary to book in advance.
Here you can find my very detailed 10-day itinerary to self-drive Iceland Ring Road, including day by day details and recommendations for accommodations.
Another great advice and something for you to keep in mind is if you are going out of the city center, which can be great if you have a car rental, then the prices are going to go down. If you are staying out of town you can cut your accommodation budget by around 30-50%! Good deal, right?
* PRO TIP: Keep in mind if you are traveling during summer-time, it is high season and the prices will be higher and you will need to book in advance (even campgrounds).
FOR 2 PEOPLE/ DAY
- HOSTEL – with shared bedroom and bathroom $30
- GUEST HOUSE – with shared bathroom $60
- GUEST HOUSE WITH BATHROOM or CABIN $100
- HOTEL with breakfast included $120
One of the cabins I rented during my trip to Iceland – not bad! Renting a cabin in Iceland is a great option to stay on a budget and they are very cozy Wine + photography + Travel on a budget make me happy
BEAVERAGE COST IN ICELAND – Compare prices and save money
**COST SAVING ALERT: IT IS EXPENSIVE TO DRINK IN ICELAND!**
Simple answer: Taxes! One of the things which is taxed most heavily in Iceland is alcohol.
If you like to have your beer during your vacation, or enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of an adventurous day (or vodka, rum, bourbon, etc.), the BEST option is to buy bottles upon your arrival at the airport Duty Free at Keflavík Airport – You will not find alcoholic drinks cheaper anywhere on the island.
Plan accordingly so you don’t have to run out of your favorite drink.
Another alternative is to make use of the great happy-hour specials at local bars
Another good alternative is that some Guest Houses allow you to bring your own bottle of wine for dinner, so you can ask what their rules are.
I stocked on my red wine from Duty Free – I love wine with a view Take advantage of the Happy Hours that offer better prices at the pub in Iceland
COST OF ACTIVITIES: FREE vs PAID – Tips on how to save money
I found it amazing that the majority of the best outdoor activities in Iceland are FREE. Only a few places will charge you for a small entry fee and parking.
I have listed here the top 3 activities in Iceland to make sure you can be on a budget and how we can compare prices and save money from options from $$$ to FREE activities.
NATURAL THERM POOL
BLUE LAGOON IN REIKJVIK – It is beautiful and you have probably seen many of the perfect Instagram photos of this place. The Blue Lagoon may be a convenient tourist trap, but luckily you can still soak in a hot spring lagoon on a budget, and even better, avoid the crowds.
RING ROAD ALTERNATIVE : If you are doing the Ring Road driving, I highly recommend this option – the views of the valley are incredible as you soak in the warmth of turquoise bliss.
Myvatn Nature Bath – Average price $40
GOLDEN CIRCLE ALTERNATIVE : If you are doing the Golden Circle you have the option to do the Secret Lagoon, and if it is at the Golden Circle, it is not really a “secret”
FREE ACTIVITY: Hot Spring River is an amazing alternative, and even better, for free! It will require an approximate 1 hour hike to get there and there are no changing rooms, but it is a natural river among the nature. It can’t get any better.
PROFESSIONAL ICE HIKING IN SKAFTAFELL NATIONAL PARK –
It’s an amazing activity to do while visiting Iceland, being on top of majestic glaciers and to explore its formations was one of the highlights of my trip to Iceland. It was my first time in Iceland and my first time ice climbing and I even got to explore an ice cave. It was AMAZING and you can read about my experience here
The Skaftafell parking lot fee is around $50 for the day. Make sure to pay at the kiosk to avoid the previously discussed “administrative charge” by your rental car company.
FREE ACTIVITY: But if you are traveling on a budget you don’t need to pay to get up close to a glacier. You have the option to hike close enough to explore the tongue of the glaciers, the lakes and icebergs floating in the lagoon. I did both, and had an amazing time with both options.
I went for a hike at the Sólheimajökull Glacier Lagoon and got the chance to explore the foot of the glacier.
Be aware that hiking on the glacier requires special equipment such as crampons and a tour guide. Without crampons you are literally on a slippery slope.
HUSAVIK: TRADITIONAL WHALE WATCHING TOUR
It was on my bucket list, and it’s probably on your bucket list too. The feeling to be in the same environment and close to these magnificent animals is fascinating.
But I could have skipped it, as I have been on whale watches before and you pretty much see from a certain distance, some of the tail, if you are lucky!
FREE ACTIVITY: If you go in high season which is from June to August, you still can sit in the harbor in Husavik and patiently spend a few hours observing the water and maybe you can spot a whale.
I am not saying you are going to see one, but our boat was in the bay just driving in circles and we didn’t need to be much further from the harbor to spot the first whale.
**BONUS TIPS: IMPORTANT COST CONSIDERATIONS TO SAVE MONEY IN ICELAND**
VISIT ICELAND DURING THE LOW SEASON
The off-season is when there is the least amount of tourism activity in Iceland, and things are a bit dead. November through May is when things are pretty mellow throughout the island, but you can get better prices from flights to accommodations. Time it right, and you can also get long days, milder weather and less crowds (April/May, September/October). During winter, some road and sights may close limiting your plans.
RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH vs DINNER
Normally you can pay almost twice for the same dish for dinner than what you are having for lunch. If you chose to have one meal per day at a restaurant, pick lunch over dinner.
NO NEED TO TIP
Icelanders do not expect you to tip them. Especially Americans are so generous on tipping, but you won’t need to plan any additional budget for the tips.
The town of Vik
DRINK TAP WATER
Icelanders are proud to have the cleanest water in the world, and they should be! You can carry a reusable water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day, or drink straight from any stream or faucet you come across the whole country.
Considering that each bottle of water costs around $2.50 and if you are drinking 4 bottles a day, you save $10 a day
FUEL IS EXPENSIVE
Fuel is very expensive across the whole of Iceland. The average cost of diesel is $7.25 per gallon. If you have a Costco membership I have good news, as they have the cheapest gas and you should load up before leaving Reykjavík.
Make sure you keep that in mind and plan your itinerary accordingly to take full advantage and not drive back and forth on the road. Read my full 10 days Ring Road trip itinerary.
STAY OUTSIDE OF TOWN
Look for accommodations strategically located near enough to your next destination, but perhaps outside of the towns (farms and guesthouses). If you choose to stay in town, search various sites such as booking.com and look for options such as private rooms in a local house.
Visiting any waterfall in Iceland is FREE
TRAFFIC TICKETS AND TOLLS CAN BE EXTREMELLY EXPENSIVE **BE AWARE** THIS TIP CAN SAVE YOUR CREDIT CARD
In the fine print of your car rental agreement, there may be a note about “administrative charges” from the rental company for any traffic violations or unpaid tolls. One example is a company that charged €50 for tunnel tolls, on top of the actual toll charge. Using the tunnel 7 times, the rental agency charged €350 (7 x €50)…more than the cost of the car rental…plus the toll charge.
When you rent a car or camper, check the fine print. It is not unusual for Iceland agencies to have fees hidden in the contract. Also, keep an eye on your speedometer, the speed limit (most main roads are 90 km/hr, most tunnels are 70 km/hr, and most towns are 50 km/hr.
The tunnel with the toll is north of Akureyri, the Vadlaheidi Tunnel. The tunnel toll cannot be paid physically on location. Drivers can instead pay for a single trip online or register to be automatically charged for their trip to a card or bank account. The toll must be paid within three hours of travelling through the tunnel, otherwise it will be charged to the individual under whose name the vehicle is registered, with an additional ISK 1,000 charge. Check here for more…
Be careful: This tunnel – can break your credit card – the only toll in Iceland
CONCLUSION ON HOW TO SAVE MONEY AND TRAVEL ON A BUDGET TO ICELAND
As you can see it is possible to travel to Iceland without breaking your bank account. All you need to do is to plan well in advance and to make smarter decisions on how much you are willing to spend, but the most important thing, to be able to relax and enjoy your trip.
It is possible to go on activities, to eat at a restaurant and enjoy the local food, it is possible to have a glass of wine while you enjoy the incredible views of Iceland – all you need to do is to compare prices and work on your priorities to be on a budget.
I hope that this pricing comparison helps you to make better decisions on how to plan your trip to Iceland to accommodate your budget.
Also, now that you know there are so many options for free activities around the country, start to make your plans, pack and go! That dream trip to Iceland is possible, and it can be more affordable than what you thought. If you have any additional questions or suggestions, I would love to hear from you 😉!
My top picks to make your trip to Iceland the best experience
Iceland Travel Guide
Guidebook to Iceland
Find a Flight
Compare best options
Best reliable options
Protect your trip
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