As soon as you touch down in the Land of Fire and Ice, the steep costs of Iceland can start to burn your cash and freeze any chance of you affording a fully authentic experience. From the price of food to the rates for accommodations to transportation fees, Iceland can be an expensive destination. But you don’t have to kick it off of your bucket list just because you are on a travel budget. We did the legwork to find out how you can stay, eat, get around, and sight-see in Iceland for roughly $100 or less a day.
Most travel budgets take the biggest hit when it comes to finding a place to stay in Iceland. Even for a very basic, non-fancy hotel (or a private Airbnb rental), you’ll probably pay upwards of $200 a night. That price can fluctuate depending on the time of year you visit. And if you head to Iceland outside of the busy summer season, you’ll stand a better chance of saving some cash on a hotel. But there are several budget-friendly accommodations options beyond hotels.
You can save with the classic low-cost (and hipper) alternative to hotels: hostels. These are pricier in Iceland compared to elsewhere and run anywhere from $25 to $50 a night per person per night. For a stripped-down budget, especially in the summer, you can try camping. There are dozens of campsites in Iceland that can cost anywhere from $5 to $20. And if you don’t want to pay a dime, Couchsurfing is free and quite popular in Iceland.
Getting around Iceland is best done by rental car. You’ll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Car rentals (as per a quick search during July) can run as low as under $40 per day for a mini car option. Split between friends, that can add up to just $20 a day on transportation. Keep in mind, however, you’ll need to budget for gas, which is quite expensive in Iceland. From March to June of 2017, the average cost per liter of gasoline in Iceland was $1.86…which adds up to just over $7 a gallon.
The country does boast an extensive bus system, but with bus passes running a couple hundred dollars (calculating on where you want to go and the length of your trip), relying on public transit may not be as cost-effective as renting a car.
One company, Happy Campers, lets you rent a camper van for as low as $117 per day. With the capacity to sleep two people, you’re looking at $84 per person for both accommodations and transportation. Again, if you don’t want to pay a Króna for transportation, you can always hitchhike which is also generally commonplace in Iceland.
Food & Drink
One of the best ways to save money while in Iceland is to resist eating out as much as possible. Buying meals at grocery stores will save you a great chunk of change because dining out at restaurants will likely blow your budget in just one sitting. If you need to eat out during your trip to Iceland, its best to do it for lunch — when menu prices are a bit cheaper.
You’ll also want to lay off the drinking while in Iceland. With a beer running around $10, thanks to high taxes on alcohol, throwing back a few cold ones can cost a lot. So if you’re not one to drink water from a reusable water bottle (keep in mind Iceland is home to some of the best drinking water in the world), you might want to pick up a bottle or two of booze at the duty-free when you arrive at the airport.
One upside to traveling through Iceland on a budget is that many of its attractions are natural, meaning they don’t usually come with an admission fee.
The most famous geothermal pool is the Blue Lagoon…which will set you back $60 for a bare-bones ticket… Thankfully, Iceland is filled with less-famous and inexpensive local geothermal pools. In fact, most towns have a hot spring or pool with either no admission fee or a small one (we’re talking $10). Some free geothermal pools across Iceland that are worth seeking out include Reykjadalur, Seljavallalaug, Landbrotalaug, and Hveravellir.
Reykjavik Walking Tour
For a dose of city life in Iceland, you can largely explore the capital city of Reykjavik without forking over your wallet. Since it is a relatively small city, you can roam on foot and discover much of its charms without the sticker shock. In fact, many tour companies, including City Walk Reykjavik and Free Walking Tour Reykjavik, offer free walking tours of the capital city (although you should consider tipping your guide). Most provide a great introduction to the city with plenty of background on Iceland’s history and culture.
Iceland features several waterfalls, many of which you can just walk right up to and see. Arguably the most famous of which is Gullfoss. Open 24/7 and declared free public open space, the iconic waterfall features walls reaching up to 70 meters in height. Part of the Golden Circle Tour, the waterfall sits in South Iceland on the Hvítá River.
Iceland is a hiker’s dream with loads of diverse hiking trails you can explore at no cost. Thanks to its landscape, you can trek with mountains, lava fields, glaciers, hot springs, and lakes as your backdrops. If you have time, try a few miles on the Laugavegur Trail, one of the most extraordinary walking trails in the world.
Did you experience sticker shock on a trip to Iceland? Share your best budget finds in Iceland in the comments below!