Our Budget Trip to Iceland – How Much Does a Trip to Iceland Cost?

Iceland may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of “budget travel” – in fact, it is one of the top 5 most expensive countries in the world! However, when we were considering visiting Iceland, we knew we had to make it a budget trip. I had read several posts about what you should budget for Iceland, with several places saying that you should budget $1500 per person per week, not including airfare, and that’s not even doing many paid activities.

Well, that to me is not a budget trip, so our original budget for our Iceland trip was to keep the cost close to $1700 for both of us for one week, including flights, lodging, food, cars, entrance fees, experiences – EVERYTHING. We ended up spending a bit more than that – our total cost for everything was right about $2300.

We deliberately decided to spend a little bit more on some really cool experiences – which at the end of the day, I’m glad we spent the extra for what we did. While everyone has different definitions of what constitutes an expensive trip or a budget trip, I personally feel awesome about that cost for the amazing experiences we had during high season in one of the most expensive countries in the world.

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A little bit of basic information:

Iceland’s currency is the Icelandic krona (ISK). $1 is about equal to 120 ISK. Or, to put it slightly differently, 1000 ISK is about $8. You can use a Visa or Mastercard just about everywhere, but make sure your card has a chip. We pulled out 10,000 ISK cash (about $80) at an ATM at the beginning of the trip and only really needed to use it in a couple of spots (showers, for example).

When paying with credit card, if given the option to have the transaction run in ISK or dollars, always choose ISK. This advice applies to any foreign country you travel to – you will always get a better exchange rate if the transaction is run in the local currency.

Ok on to the budget! Here is how we did a relatively budget trip to Iceland for two people for one week:

Airfare

Cost: We paid $170, “real” cost was $985

One of my best tips for traveling on a budget is to combine two tricks for cheap airfare: finding low cost flights and then using credit card points to pay for it. I used both of those strategies to get these flights (and to make this trip possible).

Back at the beginning of April, I knew we were going to be vaccinated soon and that countries were opening up to vaccinated travelers without quarantine. I started looking on Google flights for places that A. were going to be open and B. had a cheap flight sometime the end of May through the middle of June. Iceland popped up with just under $500 flights (not bad) and I knew it was going to be open for when we wanted to go.

After identifying a place with cheap flights, the next thing was to use credit card travel points to cover the cost. Matthew and I regularly both open new credit cards with good travel sign-on bonuses and use those to cover the cost of flights, and occasionally hotels.

We had a bunch of Chase miles ready to go and so we booked those $500 flights on Chase’s travel center.  The points we had available covered most of the cost and we were left with $170 that we paid for in cash. Having the cost of flights be so low was extremely helpful in making this Iceland trip a budget trip.

Read all about my strategies and hacks for getting flights for free or cheap here!

Lodging

Cost: $670

The next biggest line item for any trip is lodging, and Iceland hotels and airbnbs are expensive. Even hostels weren’t exactly cheap! We were looking at $100 for a shabby looking shared room with a shared bathroom in a few places. So when we started reading about renting a campervan, we were intrigued! We ended up renting a campervan and sleeping in it around Iceland.

It was THE BEST experience for many reasons, but also because it led to significant cost savings. We spent $670 on our campervan for the week and it counted as both our rental car and our hotel room. It also had a refrigerated cooler and a butane burner stove so we could cook and eat groceries instead of eating out every meal.

This cost also included bedding and a mobile hotspot. Click here to read all about traveling by campervan in Iceland, but spoiler alert – I HIGHLY recommend it!

budget trip to Iceland
budget trip to Iceland

Campsites

Cost: $80

On top of the cost of the campervan is the cost of the campsites you stay in, so definitely plan for that in your Iceland budget. They generally average $12-15 per person. This cost sometimes includes showers, but sometimes we had to pay extra for showers (we spent $5 for showers for both of us at one site).

We actually only stayed at campsites 3 of the 7 nights in Iceland. We ended up wild camping a lot – parking somewhere that wasn’t a campsite and thus did not have showers. This isn’t allowed in all places – a few waterfalls we went to, for example, had signs that said no overnight parking or camping. It worked for us because we parked in spots that did not have those signs, or we were camping and sleeping during the day.

All the details about how and why we camped and slept during the day is in our Guide to Iceland by Campervan (but if you’re going during the summer that is my #1 tip for Iceland.) All of the details about the campsites we stayed at is also in our Campervanning in Iceland post.

When we were wild camping, we either paid for a shower at a campsite (we did this once, another $6) or showered when we went to a city pool or spa-type hot springs with showers available (such as the Höfn pool, Geosea, or Blue Lagoon).

Total cost for showers: $11

Food

Cost: $348

This cost included a couple restaurant meals, a few takeout hot dogs, lots of gas station snacks, a grocery store run or two, and some food we brought with us from the United States. 

Food is known to be CRAZY expensive in Iceland – even just a cheap, not fancy burger can cost you around $20. So we knew we had to limit restaurants and out-to-eats to make this trip affordable and possible. Grocery store food is priced much more reasonably. Bonus is the cheapest grocery store, but Netto by far had the best pastries (guys, do NOT miss the pastries).

The first day we didn’t make it to a grocery store before it closed at 6pm so we had to use the gas station to pick up a little bit of food. We also really enjoyed trying out lots of different types of Icelandic candy, a lot of which came from gas stations. Finally, we got Icelandic hot dogs (made from lamb – a unique Icelandic thing) from a gas station once for a meal. Read more about our Iceland food recommendations here!

Food from US

We brought a little bit of food with us from the United States and although that may seem a little silly, it actually was SO incredibly helpful. We brought 5 different dehydrated meal pouches and ended up using 4 of them. The lasagna and the pad thai were our favorite!

Between the variable weather (sometimes it was really rainy or windy when we were ready to eat – not exactly weather you want to prepare a lot of food in) and the busy schedule we kept (It was just so fun! We didn’t want to stop!) spending a lot of effort on making dinner was super low on our priority list. So it was fantastic to just heat up water, pour it into a pouch, and boom! 10 minutes later you have a nice, hot, savory meal.

We also brought an assortment of granola bars, protein bars, and breakfast bars with us. We could’ve bought some in Iceland but it was really nice to have a bunch of options ready to go (especially because we jumped right into visiting places when we got there and the grocery store closed before we could get to it the first day).

Read this post for all the details on what we ate, best restaurants, and best food to try in Iceland.

Here’s the food budget breakdown:

Gas stations:           $70

Restaurants:           $96

Grocery stores:       $89

Bakeries:                 $30

From USA:             $63>

Gas

Cost: $321

Gas is incredibly expensive in Iceland (I know, I know, I’ve said that about everything so far) – about $8/gallon. Still, we drove around the entire Ring Road (the main road that circles Iceland), and took lots of detours for different places, so we definitely did a lot of driving.

We drove over 1300 miles during our week in Iceland. If you are staying in mostly the south part of Iceland (there are tons of things to see in the south), your gas costs will be much lower and will help make your Iceland trip more budget-friendly.

Parking

Cost: $11

We paid for parking at Seljalandsfoss waterfall and at Skaftafell National Park. Most places did not have parking or entrance fees – the one thing in Iceland that isn’t expensive!

Activities

Cost: $654

Oooooeeee this is where the cost added up for us. Even though a lot of expensive activities might not seem like part of a budget trip to Iceland, I have absolutely no regrets about spending extra money here, because the experiences we paid for were awesome. We decided to do a little extra here than we were anticipating but it was well worth it, in my opinion. This list is the cost for two people and includes:

The Blue Lagoon Hot Spring                 $120

Skaftafell Glacier Adventure Hike        $254

Whale Watching                                      $175

Geosea Hot Spring Spa                            $81

Hruni Hot Pot                                              $8

Höfn City Pool/Hot Tubs                         $16

Iceland on a budget

Obviously the first four experiences were much more expensive than the last two. We went to the Höfn city pool to experience one part of “everyday” experience of Icelandic life. Apparently pretty much every city has a pool and they are very, very popular with locals. So I liked that we did it! However, it was definitely the most basic and least exciting hot tub/spring that we went to. 

At the Hruni hot pot there was a little box that asked for a 1000 krona donation (about $8) to help with the upkeep of the pools. There was no one around taking entrance fees or anything, but we were happy to pay for the use of such a beautiful spot.

Prioritizing Activities

If I had to choose between the 4 main things we paid for (Blue Lagoon, glacier hike, whale watching, and GeoSea spa), I would prioritize Blue Lagoon and the glacier hike as must-dos. GeoSea was really fun and I would go again, especially if you have a somewhat clear day as the view over the ocean was amazing, but in the head-to-head with Blue Lagoon, I give the edge to Blue Lagoon

We went whale watching in Husavik, a city on the northside of Iceland. Husavik is generally considered the whale watching capital of Iceland and even of all of Europe, so we wanted to experience that. And we had a great time and saw a ton of whales! However, you can whale watch in a lot of places, so if I had to cut something, that would be the first to go. If your budget can handle it, I would 100% still do it!

A quick note about the glacier hike we did: You can do cheaper glacier hikes for around $85 per person, but I think it is so worth the money to do the longer hike we did and get farther up in the glacier. SO WORTH the extra money. The tour company we chose is hands-down the best company to hike with because they drive you up to the base of the glacier to start, instead of making you hike an extra 1/2 mile from the parking lot. A full review of our glacier hike and why they are the only company you should consider is coming soon!

At the end of the day, while doing Iceland on a budget was a main goal, I still wanted to really experience Iceland. I certainly never want to spend a bunch of money to go someplace and then miss out on top experiences, or come back feeling, “I wish we would’ve just….” This particular category pushed the total cost up for us quite a bit, but I feel it was well worth it. 

Souvenirs

Cost: $56

This was a line item we forgot to budget for in our original budget! However, we didn’t spend too much so it didn’t drive the price up much. We mostly just brought back various types of chocolates and candy to share (no regrets, ha!). We also brought back a  few pastries and a souvenir spoon for Matthew’s mom’s collection.

Bonus round – Healthcare!

Cost: $245

I’m not counting this category in our vacation budget (personally I’m pulling this from my regular healthcare budget). I’m also not counting it in the total cost listed above because these are not typical costs I would expect someone to budget for in their trip to Iceland, but I’ll mention it here as an aside.

A couple days in I developed a UTI (I’ve had them before, I know what they’re like) so we went to the doctor’s office in Höfn. It was an easy and straightforward process. We looked up the hours online and just walked in. They said they had an open appointment time in just under 2 hours, so we came back then and were seen by a doctor.

I got an antibiotic prescription, paid $87 for the doctor’s visit, and picked up the antibiotics at the pharmacy for $35. We did not have any kind of traveler’s insurance, so this was just a straight out of pocket cost.

We also had to take PCR covid tests to get back into the United States. Those tests cost us $61 each. Hopefully that is something that won’t be an issue in the near future!

Final Budget Breakdown for Our Iceland Trip

Flights:            170

Campervan:   670

Camping:          80

Showers:           11

Food:              348

Gas:                 321

Parking:            11

Activities:      654

Souvenirs:        56

TOTAL:        $2321

How We Could’ve Decreased Our Iceland Trip Costs Even More

Honestly, I wouldn’t change much. The things I would consider would be:

A. If I could’ve gotten our plane tickets completely free (if I had had enough points available at the time)

B. If we would’ve spent a little less on candy/not relied as much on gas stations for snacks

C. If we had skipped the whale watching tour

D. If we hadn’t done the whole Ring Road and just stayed in the south part of Iceland, spending less on gas

While those would be the first things I would do to bring down the cost, I wouldn’t actually choose to do any of them (well, except #1). I’m really happy with the choices we made!

Final Thoughts on Our Iceland Ring Road Trip Costs

Okay, so that’s it! I hope this gives you a good idea of what a budget for Iceland looks like, and also some ideas for how to make Iceland a budget, inexpensive trip!

Read more:

Our Top 8 Bucket List Experiences in Iceland

There’s a New Volcano in Iceland – Here’s What It’s Like!

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland by Campervan

Our Complete 7 Day Ring Road Itinerary

14 Waterfalls You Can’t Miss in Iceland

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