Iceland – How to travel on a budget – Featuring price comparison

 PAULA MARTINELLI

COST TO TRAVEL TO ICELAND & DETAILED PRICE COMPARISON

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. 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. How much does it cost to travel to Iceland? This guide will help you put your budget together with confidence.

I will share with some “secrets” with you on how to travel on a budget. There are ways to save without sacrificing the experience.

The bad news is that it is true that Iceland is very expensive. Actually, Iceland is the most expensive country to visit in Europe. But wait, don’t stop reading this blog yet! While Iceland is not expensive to get to (flights can be quite inexpensive), but it “is an island, surrounded by water…big water…ocean water”!

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 the 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!

Iceland travel scenery cost nothing

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 travel to Iceland on a budget.

There a few things you can plan to help you to travel on a budget. So go through this 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. I am also listing some good tips to travel on a budget.

Here are some estimates of what we spent for 2 people per day:

Accommodation at Airbnb: $100

Food with 2 meals from the supermarket and 1 meal at the restaurant: $120

Car rental + gas: $65

This 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 your own meals, and share transportation with more people.

All the costs listed here are average only. Costs can go lower or higher depending on your preferences and considering the low and high season.

How much does it cost to pet an Iceland Horse

Iceland horses' love is for free!

SECTION 1 - Travel Cost of Transportation

CAR VS. CAMPER VAN

You will need to rent a vehicle to drive around Iceland. This is a fact in case you want to explore the wonder of this country at 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 some points and costs

*Camper Van prices based on for 2 people with a small kitchenette to prepare small meals

Iceland travel cost comparison - transportation

How much it cost to drive Iceland

Self-drive Ring Road in Iceland

SECTION II - Travel Cost of Meals

How to travel on a budget - Price Comparison

HOW TO SAVE WITH YOUR MEALS

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.

All the costs here are an average per person:

How much restaurants cost Iceland

save travel cost by cooking meals

Cooking dinner and enjoying my Duty-Free wine

SECTION III - Travel Cost of Accommodations

Best Options for Accommodation

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.

Another option is to rent a cabin or a room at a Guest House. I am a big fan of Airbnb on my travels, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many great options you can find in Iceland. I traveled to Iceland during springtime, and I rented everything with a day in advance. At this time of year, it was not necessary to book in advance.

Keep in mind if you are traveling during summer-time, it is high season and the prices will be higher and you will need book in advance (even campgrounds).

How much travel accomodations cost Iceland

How much an Airbnb cost

One of the Airbnb's I booked

SECTION IV - Cost of Beverages

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. 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. The good news is that some Guest Houses allow you to bring your own bottle of wine for dinner.

Cost of Wine in Iceland - priceless

Duty free wine tastes so good

SECTION V - Important Cost Considerations

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. The time it right, and you can also get long days, milder weather and fewer crowds (April/May, September/October). During winter, some roads 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.

 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. 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 airbnb.com, hotel.com, booking.com, vrbo.com and look for options such as private rooms in a local house.

TRAFFIC TICKETS AND TOLLS CAN BE EXTREMELY 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 traveling 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...

Cost of Iceland Tunnel - expensive

Be careful: This tunnel - can break your credit card - the only toll in Iceland

SECTION VI- Cost of Activities

FREE vs PAID ACTIVITIES FEES

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 will list here some of the great paid activities, but also alternatives while taking full advantage, being on a budget:

Blue Lagoon (Reikjvik) – Average price $100

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 to do the Myvatn Nature Bath, it costs $40 – the views of the valley are incredible as you soak in the warmth of turquoise bliss.

Golden Circle or day driving from Reykjavik alternatives: You have many options, but the best one is the Secret Lagoon for $40 per person. Being in the Golden Circle, it is not so 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 nature. It can’t get any better.

Cost of Nature Baths in Iceland

GLACIER HIKING

Professional glacier hiking and ice climbing tour (Skaftafell) – Average price $180 for 4 hours

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.

Skaftafell Glacier Ice Climb

Solheimajokull glacier Ring Road

WHALE WATCHING

Boat tour from Husavik – Average price $100 for 3 hours

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.

Whale watch Iceland - travel tips

Humpback whale

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 😉!