Almost every post I read about going to Iceland told of the perils of “how expensive” it was. Nearly every comment I got when I came back included How expensive was it? How much did you spend? It was constant, so it inspired me to write this post: How much I actually spent in Iceland and what was my Iceland budget.
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I’m going to talk about my accommodations, food, activities and souvenirs. I’ll also offer tips to save money along the way.
This is an Iceland budget for an average traveller. It wasn’t a luxury trip or budget-conscious. It was an average person, me, spending an average amount while doing amazing things in Iceland.
What you need to know is that I went with two other people. Some of the costs I split, and I’ll mention when I did. Also, all prices are in Icelandic Krona (ISK) or Canadian Dollar (CAD). You can simply convert the amount on Google to find out what it would be in your currency. At the end, I have a worksheet for you to download to come up with your own Iceland budget.
>>>> TIP: Know how Iceland currency works. While in Canada we use the dollar symbol, $, to represent a cost, in Iceland it is kr. or ISK. Decimals also mean something different too. A decimal is to denote thousands. Ex. kr. 10.000 is ten thousand krona.
Flights to Iceland
One of the cheapest things about Iceland is the cost to fly there. There are two Iceland airlines, Wow and Icelandair. They are where you will usually find your cheapest fare. I spent $460 CAD for my flight, round trip from Toronto to Reykjavik.
There are a couple of differences between these two airlines that you should factor into your decision. Wow had the cheapest ticket, but after reading up, I decided to look into the extra cost items.
>>>>>>> Where to save on your Iceland budget tip 1: Figure out all the extra fees before booking your ticket. These fees can add up and bite into other parts of your Iceland budget.
With Wow, there’s an extra fee for many things, such as carry on items, checked luggage, roomier seats, snacks, water, etc. We dealt with the cramped seats and didn’t pay the carry on cost and stowed our bags under our seats. The only thing I ended up purchasing was checked baggage which was $76 CAD each way.
I also purchased cancellation and medical insurance, which was $42 CAD through Expedia. I don’t mess around with insurance anymore since I broke my arm while I was in the Galapagos. Anything could happen on any trip. It’s good to be prepared, and it’s a small cost.
With those items added to the price, Wow air was still cheaper than Icelandair for my flight. So I went ahead and booked it.
Total flight cost: $654 CAD. This translates to about 53.400 ISK
Accommodations in Iceland
I already had the idea of exploring Iceland by campervan. I came to that decision after a cursory look at hotel and hostel prices. The campervan would allow us to see the country on our own terms. We booked with Campervan Iceland for eight days. Plus insurance, plus extra drivers, the total cost was 264.300ISK. The three of us split this cost, which means my portion was 88.100ISK.
However, that’s not all that we spent on accommodations. A couple of other things needed to be factored in.
One was our first night. We wanted to stay in Reykjavik for the first night so that we could explore the city a bit before heading out into the countryside. That meant a cost of a hostel.
HI Reykjavik Downtown Hostel was: 5.400ISK per bed at the time.
>>>>>>>Where to save on your Iceland budget tip 2: We saved about $60 CAD by not checking into the hostel when we landed. We had a red eye and landed about 5am in Reykjavik, but “roughed” it until our check in time at 2pm. The super fabulous clerks at the HI let us in a little early. We were tired and hungry, and one of us fell asleep at a picnic table, but other than that, it was worth it.
In Iceland, you can no longer just pull over and just set up camp. Campervans must park in a campsite overnight. We stayed at a couple throughout our trip. Each site varied from 1.000ISK to 1.500ISK per person. The total cost of campgrounds (seven nights) was 10.200 ISK per person.
>>>> TIP: Plastic rules in Iceland. I did not get out a single Icelandic coin or bill while I was there. However, some of the more remote campsites (especially off-season) may not take a credit card. I was fortunate to have access to cash within the group; we just kept track of who paid for what.
>>>>>> Where to save on your Iceland Budget tip 3: We stayed in the off-season. Most campsites are closed, but there were enough for us to stay at multiple places around Iceland for seven nights. We also got the benefit of off-season pricing too. This likely saved us around 1.400 ISK per person.
Our total accommodation cost was 103.700ISK per person or about $1,270 CAD. Want to find out more about accomodations in Iceland? My advice is to use Lonely Planet’s guidebook.
To get around the country, we needed gas. We tried to keep the van relatively full, so when we had to fill up, it wouldn’t be such a sticker shock.
Gas prices for us were about 199,8 ISK per litre, which is about $2.43 CAD per litre. We were used to prices of $1.20 per litre in Ontario. Iceland was double to what we were used to, however, it wasn’t too far off from the prices when I was in central Europe.
Our total gas cost was 39.800ISK or $500 for travelling around Reykjavik, up to Snaefellsnes peninsula, down to the Blue Lagoon, around the Golden Circle and across the southern shore. Again, gas was a cost that we split; my portion was 13.260 ISK or about $160 CAD. We had a diesel van, which is great for fuel. I couldn’t imagine the cost if it was a gasoline vehicle.
In Reykjavik, we also had to pay for parking for one night while we did an activity. That cost was: 740ISK, or $9 CAD. Sunday’s were free. Lastly, if you head up to Snaefellsnes Peninsula, there is a tunnel toll of 1.000 ISK each way (total 2.000 ISK).
We also paid for the Fly Bus to take us to and from the airport (which cost: 3.900ISK for pick up and return per person) and a cab to take us to and from our pick up/ drop off location for our campervan (which cost 8.000ISK split between three people).
Our total transportation cost was about 20.740 ISK per person or about $250 CAD.
I think this is where most visitors to Iceland get the biggest sticker shock. Just think how food has to get there though. Many of the items are imported, so have a higher cost. That being said there are many food items that are from Iceland and have lower prices.
>>>>> Where to save on your Iceland Budget tip 4: buy at a grocery store. As you will see from my example below, you can save a ton of money by purchasing grocery items, rather than eating out.
While we ate most of the food we bought at grocery stores, we did eat out a number of times. To get an idea about the cost of food items, if you eat out, it will be more expensive. Things like a specialty coffee drink and a pastry were $17 CAD at one cafe while a hamburger and fries was $26 CAD at a bar. I had a delicious lunch of fish and chips and a drink that cost $41 CAD. I don’t drink beer, but my friends had a beer at a pub, which was about $12 CAD each, for reference.
However, one of my favourite dishes – Rúgbrauð and local trout was only $10.
In total, I spent 19.900 ISK or around $240 CAD eating out.
The cost of groceries was much easier to digest – ha. Pun. In total, groceries cost about 19.900 ISK, which was the same amount I spent on eating out! But, even better, that cost was split between three people, meaning my portion was only 6.600 ISK.
We stopped for food twice at grocery stores and once at a gas station. Here are some of the (totally not healthy but whatever) food items:
- Skyr yoghurt, which we lived mostly off of this and sandwiches
- Sandwich stuff – including bread, meat (we think it was ham), lettuce, cheese and salad dressing because we couldn’t find mayo
- Popcorn – this stuff was amazing, and we ate, I think, eight bags. I’m not even exaggerating
- Protein pudding – probably the best and most filling substance known to humans.
- Carrots, apples and bananas
- Pasta and pasta sauce (many of the campsites had a kitchen to cook)
- Chocolate covered Oreos – we had to, we had never seen these before, and they were to die for
- Paprika Lays chips. (Look, Canada has it made with all dressed and ketchup chips, but holy guacamole, paprika Lays are the next best thing.)
- And more.
The total cost of food per person was: 25.500ISK or about $310 CAD.
The activities in Iceland were some of the most expensive, but most worthwhile items to spend money on. I mean I’m not going to go to Iceland to sit in a car/ hotel and do nothing.
I wouldn’t change a thing about them. But knowing the costs ahead of time allowed me to budget for them and save money in other places.
- Snorkelling at Silfra – total cost 25.700 ISK. This included the Thingvellir national park fee, pick up fee and the cost of purchasing the photos afterwards (TOTALLY WORTH IT)
- Horseback riding: 18.000ISK – The best experience in Iceland. (Side note: I received my ride free, but my two friends paid this much for their adventure. You can read about the experience here.)
- Blue Lagoon: 10.000ISK, we got the comfort package, which included a free drink. (Note, the website says prices from 8.100 ISK. Go to the actual booking site to find the true cost of the timeslot you are looking at.)
- Taste the Saga brewery tour: 7.500ISK
- Laugarvatn Fontana: 3.800ISK
- Other Reykjavik adventures included Aurora Reykjavik (1.440ISK), Hallgrimkirkj (900ISK) and Whales of Iceland (2.900ISK) totalling 5.240ISK
The total cost per person on activities was 70.240ISK or $860 CAD.
Souvenirs from my time in Iceland
I didn’t think I purchased too many souvenirs. However, I did come home with postcards, a book, magnets, a country flag patch, an art print and other little keepsakes. It turns out I spent a total of $140 on those types of souvenirs.
There were two places where I splurged. One was at the blue lagoon. I wanted to buy a gift for my mother and grandmother. It cost: 6.000ISK
I also wanted to purchase an Icelandic wool sweater. It cost nearly $250 CAD, and I don’t regret it one bit. It has been an extremely cold winter in Canada so far, and this item has been excellent.
In total, I spent about 37.600 ISK or $460 CAD on things to bring home.
>>>> Where to save on your Iceland Budget tip 5: If you spend over 6.000 ISK on a single purchase, as a tourist, you are eligible for a VAT refund for the tax that you paid. The retail clerk should be able to help you, as he or she needs to provide you with the proper paperwork. Then before you depart, stop at the Arion bank in the departure area (before going through security) to drop it off and in about a month, you’ll get the refund. Note, make sure you have all the information on the receipt filled out in advance, this will make the process way smoother and quicker. Second, the teller may need to see the purchase as proof, so keep that in mind when packing.
>>>>> Where to save on your Iceland Budget tip 6: If you have the time, wait until your last day to purchase souvenirs like a warm Icelandic wool sweater from Reykjavik. That way you don’t blow your budget half-way through your trip. You’ll know exactly how much money you can spend.
>>>>> Where to save on your Iceland Budget tip 7: After arriving in Iceland and right after you make it past security and collect your baggage, you can pop into the duty-free shop and purchase all your alcohol needs at a much cheaper rate and more accessible place. We found it rather challenging to find beverages after leaving the airport, and the price of alcohol in bars/ restaurants were ridiculously high.
Total cost of my Iceland Budget
The point of this post is not to show you how to do Iceland on the cheap or in luxury. It’s what an average person like me spent.
Let’s add it all up:
- Total flight cost: $654 CAD. This translates to about 53.400 ISK
- Our total accommodation cost was 103.700ISK per person or about $1,270 CAD
- Our total transportation cost was about 20.740 ISK per person or about $250 CAD.
- The total cost of food per person was: 25.500ISK or about $310 CAD.
- The total cost per person on activities was 70.240ISK or $860 CAD.
- In total, I spent about 37.600 ISK or $460 CAD on things to bring home.
My total cost was 311.180 ISK or $3,800 CAD per person.
While this amount may be shocking for some, I actually budgeted that I would spend about $4,000 for everything in Iceland.
Yes, Iceland was expensive, but I was expecting it, and I was able to save up for it. I spent a little more than when I went to the Galapagos, which is also a pretty expensive vacation.
I highly recommend figuring out an Iceland budget if you want to go and not worry about costs while you’re there.
RELATED: Experience Iceland in a campervan
How to budget your trip
If you worry about money as I do, you might think that Iceland will always be out of your reach. I sure did and, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. Yes, you can do Iceland cheaper, and yes, it can be more expensive. It’s all about what you want to do while you are there.
Finding out your Iceland budget can be pretty easy. First off, find out your fixed costs. Most things, like your flights, accommodations, and activities cost have set prices that can be determined beforehand.
For more flexible costs, you can estimate. For instance, if you are driving, you can figure out the gas mileage the vehicle gets through a simple google search. Next figure out the average price of gas. Then estimate how many kilometres you are going to drive. You should be able to figure out an estimate of the cost of gas that way. Don’t forget to add a little extra for the cost of a fill-up before returning your vehicle. I estimated around $400 for gas but didn’t think of the last fill up.
For food, consider how you will be eating in Iceland. For me, a coffee and pastry in Iceland were double what it would be at Starbucks, but four times as much as it would be at Tim Hortons. Consider what you usually spend at a restaurant near home and see how the prices compare to a similar Icelandic restaurant.
Once you have a realistic idea of what you will be spending on Iceland, you can put aside a set amount for other items like food and souvenirs. Remember, while you’re on vacation, it’s so easy to blow your budget. But it sucks when you come home and realize how much you actually spent.
Coming up with an Iceland budget can be easy, sticking to it is another story.
>>>> TIP: If you are trying to stay on a strict budget, keep your receipts and have a word document, like a note on your phone, to keep a running balance of what you have spent. I would calculate (through a simple conversion app or google) what the ISK was in Canadian dollars, so I had an accurate figure. It’s also handy for when a charge comes up on your credit card, and you can’t remember what it was for, you can look to your list.
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