You’ve no doubt seen the stunning videos or jaw-dropping photos popping up all over the place online. The small Nordic country of Iceland is all the rage in the tourism industry & like many it probably sits in one of the top spots of your bucket list. But prices in Iceland can be over the top.
Iceland is a stunning nation, there’s no doubt about it. From its hot springs to its waterfalls the landscapes and natural beauty of Iceland are like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Even so, once you start researching a trip you’ll find that that beauty comes at a cost.
I’m often asked “How expensive is Iceland?” and the only answer I can give is that prices in Iceland are exorbitant, from food prices to gas prices in Iceland you’ll be forking out the cash…
How much will you spend though?
Costs In Iceland
Following the currency crash in 2008 prices in Iceland have crept up again. Iceland is expensive, there’s no if, and or but about it. In fact it’s back to being on of the—if not THE most expensive countries in Europe according to a study by The Independent. But by choosing the right time to visit Iceland you can drop your costs significantly.
…the majority of Iceland’s food products, goods & fuels are shipped in from Europe… -Patrick Horsfield
As a small, relatively barren nation, set lonesomely in the North Atlantic with a population of only ~330,000, the majority of Iceland’s food products, consumer goods & fuels are shipped in from Europe. Consistently you’re left footing the bill to live or travel in the country.
But dont let that dissuade you! Here’s what you can expect for average prices in Iceland in 2018:
Hotel Prices In Iceland
Accommodation and hotel prices in Iceland aren’t crazy when you consider the underlying cost of living in Iceland. Throughout the country prices vary but they never seem to get higher than those in Reykjavik, one of the worlds most expensive cities!
Hotel prices, while not crazy, are high. In Iceland you’ll pay about:
- 15,000 ISK ($125USD) /night for a basic three-star hotel away from Reykjavík’s core.
- 20,000-25,000 ISK ($175-225USD) /night for a mid-range 4star hotel in the best area’s of Reykjavik.
- 30,000-40,000 ISK ($250-310USD) /night for a classy four/five-star hotel in the cities prime spots.
- ~6000 ISK ($50USD) /night for a bed in a hostel dorm room during high season.
Accommodation is likely the biggest expense you’ll face in Iceland. To save some cash look into local guesthouses and AirBNB instead of large chain hotels or maybe look into renting a tent or camper and camping in Iceland.
Camping Prices in Iceland
If hotels are looking to be out, Camping is a more budget-friendly option. It’s something we did for the majority of our time in Iceland to save costs. For less than half of what a dorm bed costs (2400ISK or about $20USD) you can camp at the Reykjavik city campground and still enjoy some time in the city.
In the countryside, all around the country, camping prices will range between 1500 and 2000 ISK ($12-16USD) per night per person and include full facilities. Some of the best campsites in Iceland even have access to the local hot springs (a welcome reprieve after a day of adventuring)!
Food Prices In Iceland
Another big spend during my trip to Iceland was on food. Both restaurants and imported grocery products can be budget wreckers. It was too easy to avoid cooking our own meals in Iceland—at least in Reykjavik—and it cost us!
Even at the cheapest eateries we could find In downtown Reykjavík you could spend 1000ISK ($9USD) on a bowl of meat soup or plate of fries and a drink. And this is about as low as the food prices in Iceland go. Outside of the cities it was easier to motivate ourselves to cook but we still managed to spend nearly 700 ISK ($6USD) on our afternoon hotdog from a passing gas station.
A typical lamb entree at an average restaurant will run 4000-5000ISK ($33-41USD). For fine dining you’ll be dropping 7000ISK ($60) or more on an entree without even discussing the possibility of booze, a desert or a tip. Luckily tipping in Iceland isn’t a common practice.
On average for food in Iceland you can expect to pay:
- 500-700ISK ($4-6USD) for a world famous Icelandic Hotdog
- 1000-1300ISK ($8-11USD) for a basic lunch at an eatery. Meat soup, fries, etc.
- 4000-5000ISK ($33-41USD) for a dinner entree in a nice restaurant.
- 7000ISK ($60USD) or more for fine dining entree’s in Reykjavik’s best restaurants.
Feeling parched? Booze is taxed heavily in Iceland, you wont find many locals buying more than one or two while out on the town. Beer or a glass of house wine can cost between 1000-1500 ISK ($9-12USD) and cocktails cost around 2300 to 2600 ISK ($20-22USD).
Saving money on food in Iceland
To help save money on food costs in Iceland try these easy tips:
- Download the ‘Appy Hour’ App to check out all the happy hours & deals around town. Food and booze prices can drop by nearly 40% during happy hour at different establishments around the city. Track down the deals to save some cash!
- Buy your alcohol in the duty free store at Keflavík International Airport rather than bars. This works especially well if you’re planning to rent a camper van like we did.
- Look for lunch specials at restaurants
- Cook for yourself! Make your own dinners at the very least!
Cooking your own food is the big budget miser here. We had a camper van in Iceland which made cooking an easy option. Taking a trip to the local Bonus, buying local (rather than expensive imported products) and cooking will save you huge amounts of money that you can then spend on experiences!
Activity Prices In Iceland
Day trips can be real a drain on your budget! For example our Silfra Fissure snorkeling tour was worth about 17,000ISK (about $140USD) and while I’d definitely recommend it taking tours daily in Iceland will quickly break the bank!
The good news is that most attractions, like Iceland’s waterfalls are FREE! Visiting the country’s epic waterfalls, unique beaches, hidden hot springs or unique geothermal areas wont cost you a penny. If you dont have your own transportation or would rather go with a tour:
For Day-Trips from Reykjavik you can expect to pay:
- ~12,000ISK ($100USD) to explore Iceland’s south coast to Vik
- ~15,000ISK ($125USD) to check out the Snaefellsness Peninsula
- ~18,000ISK ($150USD) gets you on the inside of an Ice Cave
- ~22,000ISK ($185USD) to visit the golden circle and Blue Lagoon
Car Rental Prices In Iceland
The best way to see Iceland is, no doubt in my mind, by car. Being able to get around and explore the less visited parts of the country is well worth the cost of a rental car.
For general travel in Iceland a compact car is more than capable. However, if you’re travelling in winter or planning to use the F-Roads you’ll want a 4×4!
For Rental Cars in Iceland you can expect to pay:
- ~3,500ISK ($30USD) /day for a compact car good for 2 people.
- ~5,500ISK ($45USD) /day for a mid-size car for up to 4 people.
- ~8,500ISK ($70USD) /day for a 4×4 car/suv capable of navigating F-roads.
- ~17,000ISK ($140USD) /day for a camper-van providing wheels & a bed
Once you’ve chosen a rental car make sure you get the extra insurance. Gravel road insurance, sand & ash insurance and tire insurance can save your day. We met more than one traveler who had used these during their visits. Driving in Iceland can be ‘interesting’ but with an insurance policy you’ll be covered.
Gas Prices In Iceland
Fuel costs in Iceland are one of the things tourists—at least those from North America—find astonishing. Fuel is heavily taxed in Iceland and gas prices in Iceland can soar over $2 USD per liter. The country is isolated in the North Atlantic, marooned without its own oil deposits or refining capacity. Uncharacteristically, for a country so rich in natural resources, all of Iceland’s fossil fuels are shipped in by tanker from mainland Europe. This doesn’t help the gas prices in Iceland.
If the gas prices in Iceland are getting you down you can find the cheapest local fuel prices here. Above all, dont push your luck! Fuel stations can be few and far between in many areas of Iceland’s east and west coasts. Fill up at half a tank to avoid running empty!
Gas prices can be a real shock to tourists who haven’t planned for them. In fact, If you’re planning a Ring Road tour you can easily spend more on fuel than the cost of your car rental. We spent about $1000USD on fuel to drive an epic 4000KM around Iceland.
Luckily, almost every vehicle you’re able to rent is fuel efficient because of the high fuel prices in Iceland—Just dont rent a superjeep!
Going Cashless in Iceland
While the prices in Iceland might be a little crazy their nearly cashless society makes perfect sense in this day and age. No matter if you’re paying for food, tours or camping credit cards, debit cards and electronic payments are accepted nearly everywhere!
To that end, during my time in Iceland I took only 5000ISK in cash. While having cash in hand did come in useful once or twice, I left the country with some of that original sum still in my pocket.
To that note, VISA and MasterCard were widely accepted in Iceland, however; American Express was accepted by only a few of the major tourist-centric hotels and restaurants. Good to know before you go!
The Take Away
Knowing the how much Iceland costs can help hugely while budgeting for your trip. While Iceland is never going to be a “dirt cheap” destination, it doesn’t need to be an impossibly expensive one. All things considered, the costs are truly justified when you realize what you’re getting and where you’re visiting.
What was the most expensive part of you trip to Iceland? What costs here surprised you while planning? Drop a comment below. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!