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Curious about the real cost of a trip to Iceland? Perhaps you’ve heard about how expensive this Nordic island can be. I had some initial sticker shock myself when booking our first trip to Iceland.
After an initial high upon finding really good flights to Reykjavik, my husband, Aaron, and I were quickly brought back to earth when friends and family started warning us about how expensive of a place Iceland is. Talk about a buzz kill…
However, when I started planning my trip and actually got into the details, I realized there were definitely ways to manage our Iceland trip cost. We just needed to plan out what we were willing to spend ahead of time, and then stick to it.
Thanks to really good planning, Iceland was completely worth the visit and money well spent on mind-blowing and unforgettable experiences. In fact, Aaron and I just made a return trip in January 2022, if that tells you anything. Below, I am going into exactly what we spent, in order to help you understand what to expect when booking your own trip.
Here is our actual Iceland Trip Cost (in USD):
The above shows what my husband and I actually spent on a recent 4-day trip to Iceland. Our budget was definitely not on a shoe-string, but also wasn’t luxurious. We prefer to select a few areas to splurge, while saving in other areas.
There are many factors that will make our actual expenses higher or lower than yours will be, which I am discussing below. For each category, I will suggest ways to reduce costs, as well as tell you what splurges are worth it. After all, doing some of Iceland’s bucket list-worthy experiences are worth the investment!
Travel Savvy Tip
Don’t look at this budget as a lump sum! That’s the quickest way to get intimidated and assume Iceland is unattainable. The truth is, you won’t pay the full amount at once. You’ll buy your flight, lodging, and rental car right away, and then likely pay nothing for a few months.
Once it gets closer to your trip, you’ll start looking at tours you may want to do, as well as make restaurant reservations. When you get back home from your trip, you’ll pay off any remaining vacay expenses you’ve incurred.
Breaking it into chunks like this is a much more approachable way to afford the cost of a trip to Iceland!
Iceland Trip Cost Breakdown:
Since Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic, you will need to arrive via plane into Keflavik Airport (KEF). Some major cities, like Boston and Chicago, offer direct flights to KEF, which is forty minutes outside Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital.
Direct flights are best to take whenever possible, as they are normally the most cost effective. Once upon a time, Icelandair had a direct flight out of Cleveland, but that ended after a short six month stint. Unfortunately, Cleveland, like most other US cities, now requires a connection to fly to Iceland.
Here is what the $1,002.07 that my husband and I spent includes:
- $568.47 for both of our round trip flights from Cleveland to Boston.
- $433.60 for only my round trip flight from Boston to Reykjavik; credit card points covered Aaron’s entire flight.
Solo travelers should budget around $500-$700 total for airfare; everyone should read the below tips to avoid overpaying for flights:
- Be flexible with your travel days, as weekend flights can be crazy expensive. Play around with searching different departure and arrival days, and you’ll be amazed what a difference that can make.
- Travel during the low season (November through April), when there is an overall drop in prices.
- Last but not least, the tip that has helped me the most: Sign up for a credit card with travel rewards points. We’ve gotten countless free flights thanks to our cards, simply due to points earned on every day purchases. We’ve had great experiences using both the Capital One Venture and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
While it might not be necessary to rent a car while in Iceland, it is what I recommend doing. Assuming you want to explore sights along the Golden Circle and South Coast, the alternative is paying for multiple bus tours. If you are traveling alone, the cost difference might not be huge, but it increases quickly when traveling in a group of two or more.
The $590.56 Aaron and I paid above includes the following:
- $321.62 to rent an automatic, 4-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires. Consider using SADcars for inexpensive rental options.
- $16.97 for parking in Reykjavik. Even street parking in Reykjavik usually requires paying at a machine. Sometimes, certain sights do as well, although it isn’t common.
- $173.83 for gas. This is mostly due to my husband and I driving 10 hours roundtrip to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
- $78.14 taking Lyft to and from the Cleveland and Boston airports.
Try not to be too nervous about the unpredictability of Iceland’s weather. Checking road conditions here before going out is a huge help, as the site’s map shows you which roads are clear, slippery, and impassable. In bad conditions, you could still try to join a last-minute tour instead.
Also, joining a tour could ultimately be the overall best option for you, if you don’t mind exploring with a bunch of other people! There are plenty to choose from in Iceland, from a simple bus transfer to Reykjavik to touring the Golden Circle.
Solo travelers renting a vehicle will spend roughly the same as the above total.
A couple years ago, I would’ve said to hands-down book an Airbnb to save money. However, Airbnb isn’t quite the budget lodging option it once was, with fees constantly increasing.
The way things stand now, I would definitely consider both hotels and Airbnb’s, since prices can often be quite similar. For both options, generally the more outside of main tourist areas you stay, the lower room rates will be. Pricing is also cheaper during the low season, from November to April.
The price I have above of $1,519.50 includes the following:
- $1,302.20 for four nights at the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre. The hotel was a little bit of a splurge, being chic and well-located in a part of town I really like. Hey, it was a birthday trip! Plus, we paid extra to include breakfast in our stay.
- $217.30 for one night at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. My husband and I were doing an early ice cave tour the next morning, so it made the most sense to spend the night on the South Coast.
Solo travelers would possibly pay the same as above for a similar room, or maybe even less for a smaller room. If you prefer hostels, there are several options in Reykjavik to choose from.
Choosing to prepare food rather than dine out during your Iceland stay could help save you money. However, beware that even groceries in Iceland are quite expensive, and will add up.
Bear in mind that this option works best if you are staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen. Of course, the mere fact of having a kitchen on our October 2018 Iceland visit didn’t motivate us to prepare food. We did eat breakfast in, but that’s only because we brought granola bars from home.
On our January 2022 trip, we stayed in a hotel and did not have our own kitchen for preparing food. Therefore, we didn’t bother with buying groceries during our stay. The $3.04 shown above was for water bottles purchased at a gas station while we were on the road.
Food & Drink
Food and drink is the category where if you’re not careful, your budget may start to unravel. Food and drink can indeed be quite pricey in Iceland. Think double of what you would typically spend for the same thing at home.
There are several ways to spend less in this area, which I’ve listed below. While we put many of these into practice during our October 2018 trip, I will admit on our January trip to Iceland we threw it all out the window (it was my birthday!):
- Opt not to drink while in Iceland, although you may want to try at least a couple of their breweries. Aaron and I are really into craft beer, so we knew this was an area we were would splurge in.
- Bring food with you from home. We like to bring Cliff bars with us to eat as breakfast or snacks.
- Go to the grocery store and prepare lower cost meals at your Airbnb. This is easier said than done, since it takes extra time and effort. On our 2018 visit, Aaron and I intended to do this, but we never made the effort to grocery shop.
- Feeling extreme? Do what a friend of ours did and just eat ramen for four days. Not really our style, since food is a big part of travel for us, but to each their own.
I recommend budgeting about $100 a day on food for couples, and about $50 a day for solo travelers. This should comfortably allow you to eat out twice a day at moderately priced restaurants and cafes.
If you are going to splurge on any part of your trip, experiences is the area to do it. The $760.05 above includes the following activities:
Seeing the northern lights was a top priority for me, so we went all in and splurged on the Super Jeep tour. It was worth it!
Additionally, as we were visiting during ice cave season, the ice cave tour was a last minute addition on a whim. Again, worth it. A bright blue ice cave is definitely not something you can see every day!
Here are some tips for experiencing Iceland while keeping the cost of your trip as low as possible:
- The Blue Lagoon is the most famous hot spring in Iceland, but certainly not the only one worth visiting. It’s also quite pricey at around $91 per person; the newer Sky Lagoon is just as magical and significantly cheaper. If you are on a tight budget, it’s wisest to see what the other hot springs have to offer.
- Rent a car to self-drive the famous Golden Circle and South Coast routes. Tours can run $100-$150/person for a minibus, but less for a huge bus. A rental car allows you to see more sights at your own pace and lets your money go a bit further.
- Look for bigger northern lights bus tours, which are much less expensive than Super Jeep tours.
Don’t forget to take advantage of free things to do in Iceland!
- Simply look for the northern lights on your own
- Explore Reykjavik and see the Harpa concert hall, Sun Voyager sculpture, Hallgrímskirkja Church
- Natural sights along the Golden Circle and South Coast are largely free, except the rare small parking fee
Iceland Trip Cost: Miscellaneous Expenses
- Shopping: $44.60 Chances are you’ll want to leave Iceland with a memento from your trip. Just be careful that you don’t blow your budget! The $44.60 we spent was on some locally made yarn.
- Cell Phone: $40 You may need an international plan to make sure your phone works during your trip. Under Verizon, I pay $10 for every day I use cellular data abroad. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it for how often I rely on my phone for Google Maps and last minute restaurant searches. Aaron keeps his phone on airplane mode so that we only pay for my phone.
- Pet Boarding: $284.01 While it’s ideal to have a friend or family member watch your pet for free, that isn’t always possible. When Aaron and I travel together, we always pay to board our dog in a cozy little “suite” at his vet office.
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As you can see, Iceland can be expensive to visit, but there are ways to manage it. Hopefully this will help you plan the cost of your trip to Iceland so you have an incredible experience in the “Land of Fire and Ice”!
Are you planning a trip to Iceland soon?