How Much Does it Cost to Go to Iceland?
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If you haven't already heard it from everyone else, let me be the first to tell you: Iceland is expensive. Super expensive. Iceland is currently ranked as the 3rd most expensive country in the world. During our visit, we tried to limit expenses where we could without limiting experiences. We did everything we wanted (within reason... unfortunately, no helicopter rides over the gorgeous landscape), but for the lowest price we could swing. In this guide, I break down everything we spent money on and how to reduce your expenses while in Iceland.
A bit about our trip first.
We drove the Ring Road around the entire country in 11 days. We used a rental car and stopped in a new town every night, except for at the end of the trip where we spent 4 nights in Reykjavik.
Cost for a 11 Day Trip to Iceland for 2 People
We used Airbnb (use this link for $40) for all of our accommodations. Our focus was to find tiny houses on farms so we could stay in a more remote place that has its own kitchen. Since we were looking for a place to ourselves and not a private room, our accommodation prices are a bit higher than what they could be. However, our experiences at each cottage/cabin added to our trip.
1 Night Airbnb in Vik: $271
1 Night Airbnb in Hofn: $216
1 Night Airbnb in Egilsstadir: $151
1 Night Airbnb in Myvatn: $224
1 Night Airbnb in Akureyri: $178
1 Night Airbnb in Snæfellsjökull: $184
4 Night Airbnb in Reykjavik: $678
On average, over our 10 nights, we spent $184 per night. Before booking accommodations, my goal was $100 per night... well that was a lost cause.
Since we did get all accommodations with their own kitchen, to make up the difference, we got nearly all of our food from the grocery store.
Besides going for "private rooms" instead of "entire place" on Airbnb, another way to reduce your accommodation expenses is to camp!
If Airbnb isn't your thing and you want to stick with hotels, Booking.com is the best place to book hotels or B&Bs in Iceland. Not all Icelandic hotels are found on other sites and Booking is usually the cheapest.
We went all out on the fun activities. While none of these are necessary to make your trip around the ring road a success, they sure were fun and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. All prices below are for 2 people.
Snowmobiling on Vatnajökull Glacier: $462
Horseback Riding: $280
Snorkeling in Silfra between Tectonic Plates: $320
Blue Lagoon: $173
Whale Watching in Husavik: $190
The Phallogical Museum: $27
Ground Transportation: $1,243
Rental Car for 10 days & Insurance: $865
We splurged a tiny bit on the car so we could get an automatic. Manual transmission the default in Iceland, and a lot of Europe. As Americans, we knew we would feel more comfortable drive multiple hours a day in an automatic. If you feel the same, be warned, book your rental car ASAP.
We used Blue Car Rental, due to their excellent reviews. Blue Car Rental is a local family-owned car rental company in Iceland. They also have some of the best prices, include insurance and taxes in their quotes, and have amazing customer service.
We spent $369 on gas to get us around the full Ring Road with multiple detours. Since gas stations can be few and far between while on some parts of the Ring Road, we got gas nearly every time we saw a station to avoid being stranded.
Another tip for Americans or those who have only Chip and Signature cards (vs. a Chip and Pin), the gas pump needs a pin number, which most American credit cards do not provide. Additionally, not all gas stations are manned by an attendant to pay for gas with. To get around this, we bought a gas card for N1 (gas station brand) at a manned gas station for our first refueling. You can just use this gas card at the pump and refill it if the funds are running low. We bought 4 10,000 isk gas cards.
Groceries from Bonus/Kronan: $125
Eating out at Fridheimar: $41
Ice Cream: $9
When traveling, you are pretty much guaranteed to spend more money on food than you normally do. Eating out pretty much every meal adds up. Especially in Iceland. A cheap sit-down meal typically costs $25 per person.
To save money on food, we bought groceries and made cheap microwave or stovetop meals or PB&J sandwiches. We either had a picnic outside of one of the spots we were visiting for the day or cooked in our Airbnb.
We only ate out once. At an amazing tomato soup restaurant inside a greenhouse, Fridheimar.
While we love to eat local cuisine while we travel, the food Iceland is known for is not necessarily Vegetarian-friendly. Hot dogs, puffin, whale, fermented shark, smoked lamb, and seafood. All of the money we would have spent on food got shifted to experiences.
STL -> ORD -> KEF roundtrip for two people: $1,020
So we actually did not pay any of that price. We used credit card rewards points to cover the cost of our flights. You can read our post on getting free European travel to figure out some great credit cards to get for free travel.
Icelandair vs Wow Air
We flew on Icelandair from the United States. While WOW Air has lower base prices, Icelandair's price includes bags, seat selection, and in-flight entertainment. Icelandair also has better reviews and significantly less delays. After reading the horror stories about being stranded for hours due to WOW Air and the cramped seats, we decided to book through Icelandair. While some people are able to fly WOW Air with no problem, I did not want to take the chance. The cost difference, for us, between Icelandair and WOW was only $100 (which is about the cost of WOW's baggage fees).