An Iceland vacation is never ‘cheap,’ even if you plan it on a strict budget. The country is known as an expensive destination. You’ll need to get savvy to save money on your trip to Iceland. The average Iceland trip cost is $200-300 per day – without factoring in the most extortionate (yet fantastic) things to do in Iceland.
Certain activities, like snorkeling between the tectonic plates, can cost that just for one trip. And you’ll need to factor in rental car costs if you plan to venture anywhere outside of Reykjavik, the capital city, that day trips don’t cater to. All things considered, you can quickly see how things add up. Maximizing your budget as much as possible is essential so you don’t miss out on memorable activities and experiences. So, let’s figure out an Iceland budget together.
How Much a Trip to Iceland Costs
When you visit Iceland, all your decisions impact your final Iceland trip budget – be it rental cars or private rooms. In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the average trip cost factors so you can build an idea of what budget you’ll need as an individual visiting Iceland. We’ll cover everything, from accommodation prices to food costs and the costs of some of the most sought-after tours.
Airfare won’t be a massive part of your Iceland travel budget. Depending on where you travel, the average price of flights is only a few hundred dollars. The average flight from the east coast of the US to Iceland is just $450 return, which gets even cheaper when you are flying to and from Europe. Compared to flying to other destinations, especially Australasia, Iceland is not expensive to reach airfare-wise.
Even then, you can save money when visiting Iceland by taking advantage of off-season flights and using air miles. Look into airline reward programs like British Airways, Qantas, and Delta SkyMiles. Airline loyalty programs get a bad rep for not actually being worthwhile. Still, choosing wisely and actively saving points can be a great tool to get cheap flights. Always compare flight prices by using websites and tools like Skyscanner – always using a private browser, of course, since those pesky cookies hike up prices on flights you view.
How flexible are you with your Iceland vacation as well? It is worth noting that if you fly from Europe to North America with Icelandair, they offer a complimentary layover in Reykjavik, which you can extend to anywhere between 1 to 7 days if you’d like a mini trip to Iceland. This is a brilliant way of squeezing in an Iceland vacation at a cheaper price than direct flights usually cost. If you are already making this journey, knowing about this little tip is handy. Why not take advantage of a stopover you’ll already be making and take advantage of Icelandair’s typically cheaper flights? Just picture it; you could combine London, New York, and Iceland in one trip.
As you can see, your Iceland vacation cost will not be massively impacted by flight prices. However, if you want to take extra steps to reduce the cost of your trip to Iceland, there are a few tricks you can have up your sleeve. You should budget $500 maximum for return flights to Iceland from North America or Europe with a mid-range airline.
But if you fly off-season and from specific destinations like London, you can snag flights for as little as $100 return. The more flexible you are, the lower your airfare budget needs to be. And, of course, the more ready you are to fly outside of peak season, the better deals you’ll find. Our advice is to get hunting on Skyscanner or a flight comparison tool equivalent.
Budget: $500 for return flights or under $200 if you are flexible and departing from Europe.
Accommodation prices in Iceland are steep. It’s surprisingly steep, actually. Accommodation costs are one of the largest chunks of the average trip budget when visiting Iceland. Even the most basic of hotel rooms are extremely expensive, even more so when looking at mid-range hotels and – God forbid – luxury hotels. It is also worth noting that the cheapest hostels and best value-for-money properties get snapped up quickly. In remote areas of Iceland, you quickly become short on options. Compare prices when booking accommodation in Iceland, but also make sure you don’t stall too much and book far enough in advance to avoid missing out on the best prices.
If you act quickly and book in advance, the average price for a budget hotel is $150 per night. For a three-day trip, you can expect to pay around $499; for a week, you are looking at $1,047. If you don’t book in advance, these prices rise as you are left to front bills to stay in more luxurious hotels and vacation rentals than you usually would choose. It also pays to consider location, as certain areas will have more expensive hotel rooms, like on the Ring Road and Golden Circle.
Typical prices average $150 per night, but remember that this is across all over Iceland as a general average. Be prepared to spend more in certain areas. When planning a trip to Iceland, cost is a huge factor when choosing accommodation, and you need to be fast-thinking to get the best deals.
These are a few examples of average accommodation costs in different Iceland hotels:
Hofn Cottages are as budget-friendly as accommodation gets in Iceland. These basic cabins cost just $70 per night; you get your own patio and cooking facilities. These sell out quickly. But their remote location means slightly cheaper prices.
Reykjavik Konsulate Hotel
This mid-range hotel in Reykjavik costs approximately $250 per night, but you can see why. It has a trendy design and an onsite wellness center and gym. It is a glossy version of a mid-range stay in the capital, and it has a great location to enjoy central Reykjavik.
This luxury hotel costs upwards of $500 for an average room. It is a brilliant example of top-tier luxury in Iceland. If you sleep through the magical phenomenon, you get a star gazing observatory onsite and even northern light wake-up calls. Oh, and you get volcano views out of your window.
Budget: $150 per night for the average rate for a cheap hotel.
Regarding transport in Iceland, you need to realize one major thing – transport barely exists outside the realm of rental cars. Tourists fly into Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, located just outside of Reykjavik’s capital; from there, you can organize a shuttle service into the city center. Reykjavik itself is really walkable and a tiny city, much more like a town than an actual city, let alone a ‘typical’ capital city.
Iceland has a minimal bus service. It isn’t safe to rely on public transport in very remote areas. We wouldn’t recommend it if you are venturing out of Reykjavik or the main settlement areas.
If you stay in Reykjavik and don’t rent a car, you can organize tour experiences to take you to the main tourist attractions. For instance, you can get tours to the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, and Ring Road on the South Coast.
You can also get tours to experiences like horseback riding on black sand beaches, hiking on glaciers, seeing exploding volcanoes, and snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra. The caveat is that you will pay hundreds of dollars for each of these experiences, almost like paying for mini holidays on your actual holiday. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can still enjoy Iceland, but be prepared to splurge a little on booking private tour day trips. It will rocket the total cost of the average Iceland budget.
The best way to get out of Reykjavik and see Iceland is to book a rental car. If you are wondering ‘how much does it cost to rent a car,’ it depends on which car rental companies you look at, what season you visit, and whether you want a camper van or not. The cheapest option is a car, for which you can buy a tent and camp or book cheap hotels.
Or you can spend more upfront on a camper van and have the whole road trip experience, saving money on accommodation. With rental options, you could embark on the classic week road trip along the South Coast and complete the classic Ring Road road trip. It is the most liberating form of transportation around Iceland. And you’ll save loads of money by avoiding the aforementioned expensive organized day trips while opening up to more free attractions and off-the-beaten-track experiences.
Budget: $350 plus $100 petrol for a week of hiring a rental car, or approximately $870 on transfers for day trips and airport journeys.
Food is another significant expense when it comes to visiting Iceland. When calculating a trip to Iceland cost, you must set aside at least $500 per week as a food budget. For $500, you can afford a few meals at local restaurants, a food shop at one of the cheaper grocery stores, and a few drinks on a night out. Food prices are high in Iceland, especially for imported and taxed goods. However, you can soon chip the price tags down if you are flexible with trying local brands.
Need an idea of what food prices are in Icelandic grocery stores? They aren’t extortionate, but you can see that some products have much higher prices than others. You should also have an ISK to USD calculator ready, as the conversion is a little whacky. Average food prices include:
$1.60 for milk $3.20 for white rice $3.50 for a loaf of bread $2.20 for a bottle of water $14.90 for a block of cheese $19.60 for 1kg of chicken fillets
It is also worth mentioning that Iceland is famous for its hot dogs. A standard tip for saving money is to snack on a hot dog for lunch instead of sitting in at local restaurants. The sausages are served on little takeaway carts and are one of the most traditional, budget-friendly Icelandic dishes.
They date back to the Viking era and are called ‘bjuga’ sausages. Bought at little street stands, these hot dogs cost as little as $2.50 – a real bargain. This fun little tip might be more aimed at novelty than genuine money saving, but the spirit and overall meaning are spot on. Avoid sitting down regularly to eat to save money, and remember that local specialties are your best friend.
Remember that if you want to enjoy grocery store food in Iceland, you must have cooking facilities. And this is where the accommodation crossover comes in. You should book accommodation with private kitchen facilities in an apartment or a shared kitchen in a hostel or homestay environment.
By choosing this accommodation setup, you can easily still have a food budget of $500. If you stay in a hotel and don’t have access to a kitchen, expect prices of around double the same period. The average meal price is nearly $120 for two people at a mid-range restaurant, which quickly adds up.
Food is $500 per week if you eat out a couple of times and have a kitchen in your accommodation. Alternatively, your food budget will be closer to $ 1,000 per week if you expect to eat out daily.
Budget: $500 per week for eating out a couple of times and then cooking in with grocery-bought food, or $1000 for eating out all week.
Tours and Activities
Entertainment prices are where the majority of your budget will come in – especially if you don’t hire a car and instead rely on guided day trips. These guided excursions can reach prices of over $300, and if you plan on doing 4-5 activities, you can see how this starts to add up. You can take guided trips to the Golden Circle, whichever volcano is exploding and attracting enamored tourists, and do things like snorkel between the tectonic plates or spot the northern lights. All these things come at a cost, but at the same time, you don’t want to miss out on any dream excursions. This little conundrum is what makes visiting Iceland so expensive. And also, so impressive – you wouldn’t want to stay somewhere with nothing to see, would you?
Recommended Tours in Iceland
One way to make this cheaper is to rent a car. Specific day trips, especially ones to see natural beauty spots or spot the northern lights, are easily replicated for free apart from petrol costs if you rent a car. By paying a single upfront fee for a car rental, you can pick fascinating tours and complete them independently – like the Golden Circle, Ring Road, and things like the best Icelandic waterfalls.
Sure, things like a boat tour to see whales or glacier hiking experiences require a guide. Still, lots of Iceland can be visited independently with a rental car. Even northern lights hunting can be done by yourself and without a guide. To be honest, most Northern Lights tours are just guessing and driving to remote spots anyway. Download one of the many maps and get up-to-date information on predictions so that you can go out it alone, much cheaper.
Alcohol prices can get really expensive in Iceland, so we suggest stopping by a duty-free shop or cutting alcohol to cut costs. Nightlife can get understandably expensive in Iceland, so while partying can be fun and a short night out can be budget-friendly in Reykjavik (when in Rome, right?), stick to just the odd night out if possible.
It is worth adding that clothing is an additional cost when enjoying day trips and activities in Iceland. You will likely need to invest in a winter wardrobe with some merino additions; thermal clothes are necessary during most months in Iceland. You can’t compromise on this, and we’d recommend making the most of clothing sales in the run-up to your trip to Iceland. With proper clothing, you will be warm. And if you aren’t warm, how will you enjoy your experience? Make the most of your money by investing smartly in suitable clothing for your activities beforehand.
So, how much should you budget for tours and activities in Iceland? And what should you budget for the additional cost of purchasing suitable clothing for each tour beforehand? These are our budgeting stats for a week in Iceland without a car rental:
$1,200 for four-day trips with an organized tour operator, including transportation. $200 for suitable clothing, including two Merino top and bottom base layers and shoes. $200 for a couple of nights out in Reykjavik.
$400 for four-day trips, including two organized tours without transportation and two free experiences. $100 fuel. $200 for suitable clothing, including two Merino top and bottom base layers and shoes. $200 for a couple of nights out in Reykjavik.
Budget: Without a car, expect to pay around $1,600 over a week-long period, while with a car, this totals up to about $900.
Overall Trip Cost
So, if you’ve been frantically trying to add things up, don’t worry; we’ve got you. This is how much traveling to Iceland costs, not including your travel insurance. We’ll acknowledge the main influencing factors in each budgeting area – whether you rent a car, visit in off or shoulder seasons, and book accommodation with cooking facilities. This is precisely how much you should budget to visit this beautiful country.
Airfare costs approximately $500 for a return trip to Iceland when you fly from Europe or North America. However, if you are flying from Europe, are flexible with visiting in off or shoulder seasons, and fly with mid-range airlines, budget less than $200 for return flights.
For accommodation, you should budget $150 per night for an average but cheap-ish hotel somewhere reasonably well-located. If you are willing to compromise on location, you can pick up cheaper accommodation for around $70 per night. Or, if you want luxury accommodation, be prepared to pay up to $500 per night. With all accommodation types, book early to secure the best rates.
Figuring out a transport budget is a tough one. If you get a rental car, you should budget $350 for renting the vehicle upfront for a week and approximately $100 on fuel. If you don’t rent a car, you can easily explore Reykjavik on the bus for as little as a few dollars each time. However, you will spend a lot more on transfers, and we estimate an $800 difference in your day trips and excursion costs as opposed to self-drive attractions. You should also add airport transfers at over $70 for return tickets on the shuttle bus. For a week in Iceland, budget $450 for transportation if you hire a car and $870 for transportation if you rely on shuttles.
The message is simple regarding food: find accommodation with a kitchen to take advantage of grocery store prices. Budget $500 if you want to eat out a couple of times and then cook the rest of the time. Budget $1000 if you plan on eating out every day for most if not all, meals.
Tours and Activities
Tours and activities are your main cost when visiting Iceland, especially if you don’t rent a car. Without a car, expect to pay around $1,600 over a week, while with a car, this totals up to about $900.
10 Top Money Saving Tips
Are you ready to cut some money off that average Iceland trip cost we’ve just given you? If you are up for the challenge, there are ways to save money when visiting Iceland. After all, an average price is exactly that – an average price of what most people spend when they visit. You can do better than that if you utilize our top 10 tips on reducing your Iceland trip cost and saving your valuable money.
Anything from car rentals to hostels, and even some lesser-known things like campsites and bus passes, can make a massive difference to what your holiday to Iceland costs. So, buckle up and prepare to jot these top money-saving tips down. Using these could knock hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, off your Iceland budget.
1. Visit Off-Season
It goes without saying, but visiting Iceland in the off-season is the best way to save money. Iceland gets super busy over winter when tourists flock to enjoy snow sports and try to spot the northern lights. If you want to do these things, why not visit in February or late January? Avoiding the December crush by picking these shoulder seasons is the perfect way to snag reduced tours and day trips, plus find cheaper hotel rates thanks to lower booking competition.
Of course, if you are flexible with your Iceland activities, visiting in the off-season is even better. June until October is perfect for lower car rental rates, cheaper hotels, and tour deals. Remember that this period has certain tour and attraction closures, and you likely will miss the northern lights. This season is also famous for the midnight sun, where Iceland stays light for 24 hours a day.
2. Buy From Grocery Stores
Grocery stores are so much cheaper than local restaurants. You don’t want to stick to a budget while eating out for every meal because it just won’t happen. The average cost for a two-person meal at a mid-range restaurant in Reykjavik is nearly $120. An average McDonald’s meal is over $16. Grocery prices are much more reasonable, like $1.60 for a liter of milk or $3.44 for apples.
Buying food from grocery stores might sound obvious, but this only works effectively if you’ve found accommodation with a kitchen, so this is a catch-22. We’d suggest finding a communal kitchen or apartment hotel to make the most of this money-saving technique. Trust us, it will be worth it.
3. Rent a Car
This might sound more expensive at first, but renting a car is one of the best ways to explore Iceland on a budget – especially if you want to sightsee a lot. This is because tours are one of the most expensive in an average Iceland trip cost. Companies charge extortionate amounts (we are talking hundreds of dollars) for simple things like transfers. If you rent a car, yes, it will be an initial upfront investment, but you’ll save hundreds if you purchase more than 2-3 day trips. Being able to drive yourself is one of the best ways to cut travel costs in Iceland. Check rates here!
4. Take Advantage of Free Attractions
If you rent a car, it also stands you in good stead for saving money – enjoying Iceland’s free attractions. Iceland has a ton of free attractions, be it waterfalls or the beautiful geothermal area at Geysir. If you are road-tripping Iceland, you can stop at these places for free and quickly build a low-cost itinerary. Everyone knows Iceland is expensive, but with some research, you can soon find budget-friendly and often entirely free things to do.
5. Try Camping
Camping is one of the best ways to save money while visiting Iceland. You can camp in one of two ways – with a campervan or by renting or bringing a tent. It goes without saying that this is a better idea in summer (read: do not attempt in cold weather). Still, if you visit Iceland at a warm time of year, it is a brilliant way to reduce accommodation prices. You’ll find campsites all over Iceland, so this is also one of the most straightforward money-saving tips to put into practice.
6. Try out a Bus Pass
We’ll preface this by saying that bus connections are limited. You will only be able to use the bus network to access specific places at specific times, so you’ll need to be happy to use a pretty rigid travel style if you are going to take advantage of this travel hack. However, if you are happy to color between the lines to save yourself some cash, bus passes are well worth looking into. You pay a single flat rate fee and get unlimited use of the bus network for a designated period. This saves you money on otherwise expensive day trips or car rentals. And if you don’t have a driving license, it is the cheapest alternative.
7. Buy Alcohol From Duty-Free Shops
Another huge tip is to buy alcohol from duty-free shops. If you can pick up alcohol from the airport when you land, it will save you a ton of money on your trip to Iceland since alcohol is heavily taxed. The duty-free shop is your best friend if you want a fancy tipple. With that said, though, a better approach would be not drinking while visiting Iceland. Iceland actually banned alcohol in 1915, and the ban was only fully lifted in 1989 – which is now hailed as beer day. The country has a longstanding political objection to the consumption of alcohol. If you want to save substantial money when visiting, you should do your best to conjure up a financial objection.
8. Find Hot Springs that Aren’t the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is dreamy; we’ll be the first to admit it. However, to save money on visiting Iceland, you should consider alternatives. You can read all about the Blue Lagoon here, created using a factory’s thermal byproducts. But it is also worth looking at free hot springs you can visit in Iceland. Definitely look at alternatives to mainstream tourist attractions.
9. Skip Bottled Water
Skip the bottled water; seriously, Iceland has some of the purest tap water in the world. Bottled water is a massively unnecessary expense, so bring a refillable water bottle and cut the dollars you spend on your trip to Iceland. Of course, reducing plastics also helps the environment – a huge win-win situation. If you fancy going one step further, especially if you plan on camping, it is worth investing in a filter bottle, too, because then you can fill up from natural water sources like rivers and lagoons.
10. Book in Advance
Sure, there’s a time and place for carefree, last-minute travel. But if you want your trip to Iceland to be budget-friendly, try something other than this travel style while trying to reduce your Iceland trip cost. The more you book in advance, the more options you’ll have regarding accommodation and tours. Since these things sell out fast, with the cheapest options going first, you can shoot yourself in the foot by waiting. Check out refund policies and rebooking flexibility if you are worried about committing too far in advance – just don’t wait until the last moment and bank on finding budget alternatives.
Your Iceland trip cost might depend on what you decide to do on your trip to Iceland. Still, this guide gives you a pretty clear idea of an average Iceland trip cost. By considering all of these factors – accommodation, food, transport, airfare, and tours – you’ll have a ready-made budget for visiting Iceland. And if you use some of our budgeting tips, you might even save some money. Who doesn’t want to knock a chunk off one of the world’s most expensive destinations?
Are you looking for more Iceland inspiration? Check out these fun facts ahead of your holiday to Iceland. We also have a guide dedicated to the best things to do in Reykjavik – Iceland’s walkable and vibrant little capital city. Don’t forget to explore Reykjavik, even if you head off on a week-long road trip around the rest of Iceland.