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

By Posted in - Camping & Iceland & Travel Blog & Travel Resources on April 10th, 2011

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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(51) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Monica -

    April 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    wow, well done for sticking to your budget so well! I always thought that Iceland was way too expensive but you’ve just proved that you really can see any country on a budget!

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

      It was probably good to start there since we were really good about keeping track of our expenses in the very beginning so it helped us stay on track. 🙂 @Monica,

  • Fresh From Twitter -

    April 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    […] Proving you can see any country on a budget: Daily Travel Budget for Iceland. | News1 new result for "alaska cruises"u00a0Royal Caribbean opens 2012 Alaska […]

  • Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker -

    April 12, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Thanks for the rundown! I’m putting together my itinerary for 2 weeks in Iceland in late May. I hope I can get a good deal on a car rental. Hadn’t thought about camping, as I don’t have a sleeping bag with me (anymore) or a tent, but might be worthwhile if I can score a decent bag rental. Very impressed by your low daily budget!

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Oh – that will be a great time to visit. Check out to see the rentals – we found out later they were really cheap, plus if you rent for multiple days you can get a good discount. Have fun! Oh yah, a sleeping bag might be a great investment for you. Iceland is very quiet and felt very safe – you could cut out lodging mostly if you had a car comfy enough to sleep in – just by sleeping on the street 🙂 @Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker,

  • Tijmen -

    April 12, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Iceland used to be a lot more expensive, I was there in 2004 and I think I had to pay around 5 euro’s for a beer which was insane. I have been thinking of going back there for a while, I heard from lots of other people as well that its a lots more cheaper now. Oatmeals and energy bars for breakfast and doing lots of camping is a good way to keep it cheap 🙂

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

      I think we did get lucky because it was a year after the volcano and the economy wasn’t doing well. The alcohol was still insane but def. didn’t prevent the locals from drinking it up. ahaha 🙂 @Tijmen,

  • Kelsey -

    April 12, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Given that I have Icelandic friends I can stay with, Iceland is looking cheaper and cheaper by the minute. Thanks for the breakdown!

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

      oh you should go for sure! Lots of wide open spaces and having a friend there would make it a lot of fun I’m sure! @Kelsey,

  • Ayngelina -

    April 12, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Wow that is so much more reasonable that I thought Iceland would be. At $33/day I wouldn’t say it’s expensive at all.

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 7:49 am

      I think we did good too! But I know a lot of people would’ve wanted to do other things which would jump the price up. But it is possible. 🙂@Ayngelina,

  • Bluegreen Kirk -

    April 12, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I didnt think the beer there was that expensive but that and the breakfast would certainly help one save some money on a trip. Looks like a good plan if you want to vacation and sight see but on a minimal budget.

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Yeah, I love to eat my own breakfast. It’s quick & easy and saves so much money. I just checked out your post on Snorkeling in Key West. I love snorkeling and that spots sounds like a dream!!! @Bluegreen Kirk,

  • Jilianne @ Cotswolds Cottages -

    April 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Great info Bethany 🙂 If you chose to stay in a hotel or B&B how much it would’ve cost you guys?

    • Bethany -

      April 15, 2011 at 7:59 am

      Hi Jilianne,
      Well I never checked on a price for a BnB but we stop at a couple hotels on our drive to ask about the price and they were both in the $250/night range. Pretty pricey for us. @Jilianne @ Cotswolds Cottages,

  • Angela -

    April 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Well done on sticking to your budget, I have to say I’m becoming pretty good at saving while traveling… and also before traveling, just trying to adopt it as my lifestyle..
    Iceland must offer truly breathtaking icy landscapes, but your pictures are always stunning!

    • Bethany -

      April 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Me too. I have never been so good at saving as I have in the past couple of years. It amazing when you change your perspective on money and travel it becomes a lot easier huh? Glad you like the photos too. 🙂@Angela,

  • Andrea -

    April 16, 2011 at 5:28 am

    That’s completely reasonable! I would have thought it might be way more expensive being in the location it is and an island.

    • Bethany -

      April 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Well there are a lot more expensive things to do – we just didn’t do them 🙂 @Andrea,

  • Cailin -

    April 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I would like to say that when I just visited Iceland I did it for so cheap…. but I didn’t haha However I was just on a short 3 week Europe trip so nothing long haul so I didn’t really have a budget to try to squeeze into 🙂
    I think you guys did a great job with your budget, I also visited at a colder time of year when camping wasn’t really an option, possible…. but not really an option, however I hope to go back in the summer sometime and I bet I will stay for much cheaper then 🙂

    • Bethany -

      April 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      I would’ve loved to spent more money on a car and driven around the country more but all in all we had a great time! We were there in the early fall/late summer and it was just starting to get cold. I can’t imagine camping in the winter…brrrr! @Cailin,

  • Rebecca -

    April 17, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Iceland sounds so fascinating and I’d love to go there one day – good to know it can be done fairly cheaply!

    • Bethany -

      April 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Hi Rebecca – Iceland was great. We loved it and did it very cheap and there are cheap flights there (at least from the east coast of the U.S. and in/out of London.@Rebecca,

  • […] lot of middle ground there, and you have quite a bit of control over which end of the spectrum your daily budget in Iceland lands on. If you’ve got the funds and can go all out, you can plan a luxurious trip […]

  • Dave and Deb -

    June 25, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Great tips, you’ve given us hope that we too can enjoy Iceland one day soon. It is another one of those places that we have yet to visit because we thought we couldn’t afford it. That’s something I love about the blogging world, it gives everyone hope.

    • Bethany -

      June 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

      It definitely can be expensive. If you take all the tours, drink all the alcohol and stay in a lot of hotels I can see that it could add up fast but if you do more of your own thing and put your money where you want it- you can have a great time for pretty cheap! I want to go back and camp the entire island on the coast! @Dave and Deb,

  • Jun Jie -

    July 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Great writeup ! I learnt alot of stuffs from reading up Iceland on ur website ! Gonna spend 3 weeks in Iceland in Sept 2011 and I am definitely gonna travel cheap around the country !

  • Darryl -

    August 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm


    May I know from which car rental did you rent you car?

    • Bethany -

      August 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Darryl, We used Hertz. We didn’t have any issues with them at all. 🙂 @Darryl,

  • Darryl -

    August 20, 2011 at 5:15 am


    Thanks for the information. Would you be kind enough to share your itinerary? 😀

    • Bethany -

      August 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Well we flew into Reykjavik and spent about 3 or 4 days hanging out there. When we found the deal on the rental car we decided to take a ride and just drove to Hofn, stayed there and came back to reykjavik the next day. We were on a big budget and could only afford one day on the rental car. 🙁

      We spent some time at the thermal pool mentioned above, catching up on work at the hostel and hanging out in the city. We did pretty much all the free things we could find and went to the museum as well. We had a great time really. Ideally I would’ve liked to driven around the country more but at the time we didn’t have a lot of cash.

      Then we hung out in@Darryl,

  • Natalie -

    March 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Beth! I love beans too! Did you have a stove with you when you camped? I plan on camping for two weeks and will be flying from the US. Wondering if I can get by without a stove. though boiling hot water for cooking would be nice!


  • Bethany -

    March 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Natalie! They are delicious aren’t they. 🙂 We brought a small backpacking stove but never used it. The campground at Reykjavik had hot plates at no extra charge, so campers could cook and boil water. While we spent one night at a campground along the ring road, we left early in the morning so I don’t know if they had a similar set up or not. If you are going to be traveling outside of Reykjavik, then I would bring a small camp stove just in case. There is an outdoor store in downtown Reykjavik, which sells the fuel canisters.

    If you have any more questions before your trip, just let us know. You are going to have an amazing time! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Persis Shanker -

    December 7, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Dear Bethany,
    I love your article. Could I ask that you guest post on my little tiny blog on iceland? 😛 Would love your insights on budget travelling in Iceland. Thanks dear!

  • A World to Travel -

    February 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    True fact: Iceland can be really expensive.. although public buses run all the ring road year long, their prices are not cheap! Hitch hiking would be our best tip 😉

    • Bethany -

      March 6, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for your comment. We never found any public buses in Iceland (except in the capital city). We were told there were none that traveled Ring Road. The only ones we saw that did were tourist buses and yes, they were pretty expensive!

  • Cole @ -

    February 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Okay reading ALL your Iceland posts now 😉 Won’t comment on them all sorry but just wanted to say thanks for the tips. We are headed there for 7 days in April and plan to rent a car for the whole time. Can’t wait to photograph it all!

    • Bethany -

      March 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Lucky you Cole! You guys will have a lot of fun, it’s a very easy place to travel but looks very unique. 🙂

  • will rickard -

    March 6, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Hello! great post… Just a question..
    It says your car rental for 5 days was:
    Car Rental: 10,280isk = $91

    So a bit less than $20 a day, how?! I just looked at Hertz and it would cost over 1000 euro for the cheapest car for 10 days. Please let me know! thanks, Will.

    • Bethany -

      March 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Good question Will and I’m sorry we weren’t clear enough in our write up – The car rental was just for 1 day and was the cheapest rate we could find at the time. $20 a day I think is completely unheard of in Iceland but would be an incredible deal!

    • Bethany -

      March 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

      You should try – they have the cheapest anywhere in Iceland and also check your dates – in the shoulder seasons the rates go down pretty significantly. 🙂 The other option is to go bigger and rent a camping van and then you won’t have to pay for a hotel.

  • Kori -

    June 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    This is a great guide! I just stumbled upon your site and absolutely love it. There is so much great information!

  • Anna -

    July 17, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Hi! I was googling what Iceland prices are realistically, and I had trouble finding anything. You’re page finally came up and it was so incredibly helpful! I also travel on a small budget so it was important to me to find a guide who travels in a similar way! I’m glad you said you wish you had a car to drive around, I think that solidified my decision to get one! Thank you!!

  • Annie -

    September 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I was just curious – did you have any concerns about leaving your tent all day? I would really like to camp, but I’m not sure how comfortable my husband would be with leaving everything in the site while we go out adventuring. Not to mention that it would really screw up my budget if we had to replace things that had been stolen… But I love the rest of your ideas!!

    • Bethany Salvon -

      September 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Hi Annie,

      That is a good question. We did not have any issues but I will say I am very crazy about keeping my electronics safe on the road so each day we camped (in iceland, france and italy) we took our electronics with us in a backpack. Kind of a pain but really not that bad since I would always take my camera out with us anyway, the only extras we had to carry was the computer and the portable hard drives. We left everything else in the tent – our large travel backpacks, clothes, bathroom stuff, etc. We also brought a small lock and locked the tent, of course someone could still cut it open but it gave us peace of mind. We never had an issue – not once, in any location.

      Iceland in general is extremely safe. People hitchhike all the time as well but I would always err on the side of caution and bring your expensive gear with you in a day bag. Other than that, i don’t think anyone is looking to steal your clothes or camping gear but again locking up your tent can help – that way people can’t just walk/crawl into your tent like they owned it.

      I would do it again in the heartbeat if we got the chance, it is a great way to see a place on a budget. 🙂

  • Morad Echarkaoui -

    September 21, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this information. I’m planning on going to Iceland in August 2014 and I had some hesitations about the possibility of travelling on a budget.
    Your post has cleared things up. 🙂

  • northierthanthou -

    January 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Looks really beautiful.

  • Jet -

    February 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Just booked a ticket in august 2014 🙂
    What time did you go to Iceland?
    The pictures look great!
    Was also a little scared for the prices, but got more exited now, thanks!

  • Alan and Anna -

    July 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for the great advise! Going to Iceland during the first 2 weeks of August and plan to travel the ring road.How plentiful are campsites and are reservations needed? Is it a matter of driving in, pitching a tent and paying an attendant or…..? Thanks

  • Sarah Marie -

    December 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    My friend and I are traveling to Iceland in June 2015. We intend to rent a car and camp. We were curious about showers. Do hostels rent out showers even if you aren’t paying for a bed? Are they shared showers?

    We will likely only stay for 7 days. Is there anything you wished you spent more time/money on while there? A place you wish you explored more or a place you could have cut from the list? I’d appreciate any advice, information etc you have to offer! Thanks.

  • John -

    June 7, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for the post. Ill be travelling there soon and have been stressing about expense and accommodation. I wont be living on $33 a day I’m sure 🙂 but I have now made the decision to rent a tent and camp and also drive with a rental car. Awesome post, thanks again.

    I’ll be keeping a travel blog too of my year away as all the cool kids do these days (only going to Iceland for 9 days)