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If you’re planning a trip to Iceland with a fixed budget, you’ll want to know about the potential costs. Iceland is expensive to travel in. You could technically holiday there on a budget – stay in a camper van, cook your own food, avoid the adventure tours and stick to hiking and scenic drives. But most people travel to Iceland for a thrilling time. Expect to spend a little liberally on glacier hikes, cave tours, geothermal pools or hip nightclubs. Meanwhile, you can save money in other places. Let us look at the biggest costs coming up on your Iceland trip.
A big chunk of your holiday expenses will be airfare. If you want to save money here, go to Iceland when it’s low season. September to May is low season here. The cheapest months to fly and rent a car are between January and May. The tourist crowds are sparse during these months. Flights can be as low as $99 from the US and even less from European cities like London.
As far as the weather goes, April and May are the most value-for-money times to travel in Iceland. The days are sunny, dry and bright without the hordes of summer tourists. The landscape doesn’t get too green, but puffins arrive back home. You will find some tourists coming to see the Northern Lights and bathe in the spas.
You could take a tourist bus around the island. But if you rent a car, you can avoid the crowds and take the Ring Road for a scenic drive. Renting a station wagon for four, with insurance will be around $1500 a week. Note that if you’re travelling in winter, you’ll need to rent a 4WD or SUV.
How much you spend on accommodation depends on your season of visit. In off-peak December for instance, you can find double rooms at micro hotels in Akeyri at $75 a night. Akeyri is the capital of the north. Low season prices may be a bit higher in downtown Reykjavik, but still less than the average $300 a night in peak season.
Solo travellers can find hostels for cheap, and many hostels even offer family rooms. But few hotels in Iceland offer family rooms and triple occupancy rooms. If you are a family of four, more often than not you will find yourself booking two rooms. In peak season, that can mean $300 X 2 or $600 at a downtown Reykjavik hotel. A family suite can cost you $750.
An Airbnb can make much more economic sense for a family. In the low season of December, you can rent an entire apartment for a family of four between $50 and $90. In high season, you’d be set back by $200 to $300 a night.
If you want to put up for dirt cheap prices in Iceland, your best bet is renting a camper van, or pitching a tent. Hostels can start at $40 a night.
As you can see, Iceland is expensive compared to many other European destinations. But even if you had the means, it would be hard to find a luxury hotel in the country. There are, however, some four-star properties. Some are located in remote areas like Skagafjordur, and can cost over $2000 a night.
To sum up, at an average rate of $250 a night in high season, a couple may end up spending $1250 on accommodation for five nights.
Food can seem expensive in Iceland. A nice meal for four in Reykjavik can easily run into a $100. Your standard $3 burger home will cost $10 to $15 on this nearly-Arctic island where farming is practically impossible. Even a fish entree will be priced at around $30.
If you can afford it, you must try local specialities like the lamb, Arctic char and puffin or reindeer. But balance out one or two nice meals at a gourmet restaurant or chic bar with a hearty meal of lamb stew or other warm soup served in bread bowls. Many people go the way of Nonnabiti or Hlollabatar subs, American or Italian foods that typically come under $10. Don’t forget to try the Happy Marriage Cake for dessert, at Icelandic Street Food in Reykjavik.
You can, of course, save a lot of money if you grocery shop and cook your own food. This will be possible if you’re staying at a rented place or Airbnb. A dozen eggs will set you back by about $12 and a pound of local cheese by about $9 at grocery stores like BONUS (2019 prices.)
With your big expenses taken care of, you’ll now need to think about the activities you want to spend on. There are activities for all budgets here, and for some sites, you don’t need to spend money on a tour group. You can easily explore the Thingvellir National Park on your own without a guide. On the other hand, you may want to spend $3000 on a helicopter tour or a glacier hike.
Since this is the land of fire and ice, it is highly recommended that you do a glacier hike or a winter ice cave tour and a lava tube tour. A glacier walk can cost upwards of $100 but it’s usually worth it. The $100 tour of Game of Thrones filming locations, on the other hand, may not be for everyone.
Going by the prices we’ve seen, five days in Iceland in the high season can set you back by about $7000 to $9000, if you let it. With a little planning, however, you can make your kronas go a long way. Don’t let the prices put you off a visit to Iceland, though. It is bound to be a trip of a lifetime.