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Visiting Iceland on a Budget – Our Daily Travel Budget in Iceland

A beautiful church glows on the hillsides of Iceland

You hear it all over the place – Iceland is expensive, you can’t do Iceland on a budget, etc, etc. Right before we left we saw an episode on the Travel Channel where Samantha Brown went to Iceland and paid about $5 for a cup of coffee. We hadn’t done any research and when we saw that we were a little nervous about our budget to say the least!

While Iceland can be very expensive, it is also totally possible to do it on a budget. I know because we did it.

So how much does it cost to travel in Iceland?

We averaged $66/day for two people. Personally, I think we did pretty good because we still had a great time, but I know our style of travel won’t work for everyone.

The first number listed below is the Icelandic Krona and then I converted it to USD. Also, I am converting these numbers as of 4/11/11. Currently $1 USD = 112isk – at the time we were there $1 USD was worth about 120isk so the numbers are a bit higher now than they were at the time.

Here is a break down of our daily budget in Iceland:

Camping:     2,000isk/day for 5 days) = $89

Car Rental:            10,280isk = $91

Petrol/Gas:             8,000isk = $71

Food:                       12,833isk = $114

Alcohol:                        950isk = $9

Sightseeing:              1,440isk = $13

Transportation:       8,394isk = $75

Total:                      51,897isk = $462 USD / $66 a day or $33/per person a day

Like I said before that was the total for both of us in Iceland for 7 days. Actually doing the numbers right now I am shocked. I personally suck at currency conversion and to make my life easier I was calculating in my head a 1:1 ratio, which was wrong. I thought we had spent more so -yah! Our budget for the entire European leg of the journey was $50/day, and I’m pretty happy that we actually came close to this in Iceland, one of the most expensive countries in that area. Wow.

Here is the breakdown of what we did and how we spent our money:

1.  Lodging

We stayed in Iceland a week, leaving on the 7th day and one day we unintentionally car camped for free, so we actually only paid for 5 nights of lodging. We highly recommend camping in Reykjavik, Iceland. It was cheap, accessible and by far some of the best camping we had anywhere in Europe. It is also attached to a hostel, which has free WiFi and you can use the hostel TV room, etc. On top of that its only a 15 minute walk into the heart of the city. Camping in Iceland was awesome. I would do it again in a heartbeat. We also saved a bundle–the hostel was about $30/per person a night. A hotel runs much, much higher. If we had stayed in the hostel we would’ve spent about $300 on lodging vs. the $89 we spent.

2. Car Rental:

Combined with gas this was the biggest expense we had and this was just for a one day rental. We had planned on taking public buses until we got there and discovered that outside of Reykjavik – they don’t exists. Oops. So we rented a car to see more of the country and were shocked to discover the prices, our first quote being $185/a day – ouch! We shopped around and got a better deal but found out later we still overpaid. If we had waited a day and rented on Sept. 1st, we could’ve halved our car rental costs. Please read our other post for more information about saving money on a car rental in Iceland. I will say this much: If I go to Iceland again, I will put more money towards a car rental so I can have it for multiple days. I would love to rent a car and drive the entire island. Unless you want to go on tour buses, plan on renting a car–besides hitchhiking there is no other way around the country.

3. Food

We were pretty good with food and we still ate well. We spent about $57 each for the entire time we were there. How did we do it? Well for starters we ate oatmeal and/or energy bars for breakfast. We brought these with us along w/ Via coffee packs. I am not a big breakfast person so this was a really easy way to save money off the bat. Of course, if you want to get technical, you could still add these pre trip costs in but they were still pretty minimal. The campground also happened to be right around the corner from a great bakery. They made huge, amazing loaves of bread for about $3. Also Iceland makes some darn good Swiss cheese & hummus. We became slightly addicted to bread, cheese & hummus while we were there. We also hit up grocery stores along the way. We would go in and grab lunch or something for dinner. It was a great way to see a bit more local Icelandic culture and try some different foods. One of my fondest memories was the day we spent people watching while we picnicked on the stairs of a random church. We also did eat out. We had one really nice dinner out. Of course, my idea of really nice could be different than someone else, but I am a bit of a foodie and truth be told I LOVE eating amazing food out. We picked a great organic, vegan restaurant and had some pretty amazing food. We also ate pizza out one night. We cooked at the campground, I think  two or three times, with food we bought at the grocery store (which is included in this price). We snacked on things here and there, and ate a decent amount of Icelandic chocolate–all this is included in this figure.

Oh and don’t forget the water – cold Icelandic water is absolutely fantastic. I have never had better water anywhere and it’s free. We brought bottles with us and refilled them. We couldn’t get enough of it.

4. Alcohol

This is shockingly low. Even to me this is low but that is because Iceland alcohol is NOT CHEAP. We bought a couple beers at a convenience store and we had 1 beer out at a bar – 1 measly beer. I know a lot of people would not be able to do this as cheaply and we do like to drink but we were on a budget. We scouted around for cheap happy hours and couldn’t find them so we saved our hangovers (and beer money) for Paris & Italy where we were able to drink tons of fantastic wine at a fraction of the price.

5. Sightseeing Again, this is low but I’m pretty proud of us on this front. We did a lot in Iceland–we just did it smartly. Here’s a list of the things we did for free or nearly free.

  • We spent a couple hours checking out and taking photos of the Icebergs at Jokulsarlon–free.
  • We went to the Icelandic National Museum on a Wed–free.
  • We went up the Hallgrimskirkja church for a great view of the city, since no one was there to collect money (and there was no box to leave it in) that was also free.
  • We spent 2 days at the Laugardalslaug thermal pools right next to the campground (about $10) – a great deal, I highly recommend this for anyone going to Iceland.
  • We hiked around the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – free.
  • We hung out with some Icelandic Horses – free.
  • We walked around Reykjavik talking to people, visiting bookstores and checking out the sites–free. Stay tuned for a photo essay coming up of this.
  • I spent a decent amount of time admiring the amazing fiber goods in Iceland – free.
  • We discovered 90% of the population believes in elves – free.
  • We learned the mayor of Reykjavik was a supremely cool guy and we tried to get an interview with him – free.

Somewhere we spent another $3 on sightseeing but neither one of us can remember on what. We had a lot of fun in Iceland; we were always entertaining ourselves and apparently we hardly spent anything to do it. We never sat around at our tent so you can definitely go to Iceland and hang out on the cheap and still see a lot.

Be sure to check out our other post for more ideas of things to do in Reykjavik for under $5.

6. Transportation

This was for one type of transportation, which can show you how expensive Iceland can be. This is for travel from the airport to the center of the city and out of the city into the airport on a bus. We saved $10 on the way back to the airport by walking to the bus station instead of getting picked up right outside the hostel. This cost is the number one reason why, if you rent a car in Iceland, you should try to rent from the airport, then you can completely avoid it. It cost us almost as much to go back and forth to the airport as it did to camp for 5 nights in the capital city.

Looking back at this really shows me just how inexpensive travel can be. I definitely spend more in day to day life in the U.S. and for what? Day to day routine cannot compare with the lust of travel and seeing new places. Especially when you consider the price. In fact, I think it is easier to have more fun for less money when you are in a new place–whether it’s a new town or a new country. It’s just easier to be excited about simpler things when you are inundated with new accents, smells, food, stores, etc. People always think we have a bundle of money to travel full time but believe me – we don’t.  We have student loan debt and other crappy debt as well but we make it work. Traveling can be as expensive or budget friendly as you make it and you really don’t have to spend a lot to have a great time. So, if you’re willing to travel a little outside the box, you can have an inexpensive and fantastic time in just about anywhere, including Iceland.

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I hope this post helps some readers who might be thinking about planning a trip to Iceland. If you’re looking for more references on the cost of traveling in Iceland within different expense ranges you can check out this great post on BootsnAll – How To Budget For A Trip To Iceland.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me directly, and I can help you out.


Did you hear? We also make travel scarves with hidden pockets! You can check out our shop at Speakeasy Travel Supply.

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