There is no question that Iceland is a hot destination right now. Thanks to Game of Thrones, the allure of the northern lights, and some very affordable airfare, people from around the world are flocking to this Nordic country. However, with its stunning scenery and powerful waterfalls, Iceland also comes with a pretty big price tag. So, how much does it cost to go to Iceland? The answer is probably more than you expect, but don’t worry because I’m going to be sharing plenty of tips and tricks to help save and stretch your budget as much as possible.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest an itinerary of 7 days and 6 nights. Please note that this guide is based on the costs for a single person. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels and, for this particular article, transportation). I am also creating a budget for this article based on a car rental as it is the preferred way to explore Iceland. However, other options and their estimated costs will also be discussed.
|Food and drink||$450|
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use XE.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 150,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $1,500 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
Airfare to Iceland is limited with most flights to the country being provided by Icelandair. This isn’t a huge deal as their flights are reasonable, but since Iceland isn’t a major hub for air travel, you may be limited to the number of flights available. That said, Icelandair also flies to many major cities in Europe so if you’re stopping in Iceland before continuing to Europe, there’s some value here.
Accommodation in Iceland is really pricey for what it is, so my biggest recommendation here is to stick to the necessities: clean, safe, and a good location. After all, at the end of the day, you really just need a place to sleep at night because you will be way too busy exploring.
Reykjavik has the most options when it comes to accommodation, but even then they book up very quickly. Your best bet, anywhere in Iceland, is to book in advance to ensure you do have a place to stay. For the purpose of this article, I’ve based pricing on mid-range hotel costs.
Recommendations for accommodation in Reykjavik:
My preferred booking site is Booking.com since it lists hotels, apartments, B&B’s, vacation homes and inns. In addition, they price match and you’re not required to pay until after your stay for almost all accommodations. After five bookings, you become a member of their Genius program which gets you an extra 10% off on selected properties. If you haven’t tried booking.com for accommodations, use my affiliate link now to get $25 CAD off your first stay (this applies after you complete your stay).
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and $200 back at U.S. restaurants as a welcome bonus.
Canadians should consider the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you up to 105,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $1,000. There’s also the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year.
Iceland doesn’t have a public transit system so if you plan on getting out of Reykjavik and seeing the landscape then you really only have two options: renting a vehicle or relying on day trips. For longer visits, most people choose to rent a car so they don’t have to stay around Reykjavik and can skip the crowds at the attractions. It’s definitely the best option for seeing the most of Iceland. However, it may not be the best option during the winter months when many of Iceland’s roads are closed. Especially if you are not used to driving in ice and snow.
Due to the lack of public transit and the fact that many people are uncomfortable driving in Iceland’s winter weather, there are tons of tour companies that offer a range of half day and full day trips through the countryside. These are a great alternative though the sites can be crowded since most of the tour buses follow the same schedule. It also means you will need to stay based in Reykjavik for the duration of your trip.
Reykjavik is a very walkable city, however, there is also a bus system (though even the locals say it’s confusing) or taxis available. Since Reykjavik is pretty small, most people just choose to explore on foot. As for getting to/from the airport, there are two shuttle bus companies that offer service from the airport to your hotel. This service costs about $45 return.
At the time this article was written, gas prices were approximately $1.80/ litre which means a car rental for the duration of your trip, including fuel, will cost about $750. Day trip costs will be discussed under the ‘attractions’ section of this article.
The cost of attractions in Iceland really depends on whether or not you choose to rent a car or not. If you do rent a car, then that’s your main cost as the attractions such as the waterfalls, beaches, glaciers, northern lights, and volcanoes are free to see. However, if you did not rent a car you will need to rely on tours to take you to these landmarks and they tend to cost between $80-$120 per day.
Iceland also has a few specific activities that do come with a fee. The most popular of these activities is visiting the thermal baths at the Blue Lagoon. You may also be interested in snorkelling (or scuba diving) Silfra, whale watching, or horseback riding. If you plan on doing one or two of these activities, you will need to add more to your budget. Snorkelling in Silfra alone will cost you about $200.
Also, if you are interested in museums and culture, you should probably add an addition $50 on your budget for entry to some of Reykjavik’s galleries and museums. If this is a big interest to you, consider getting the Reykjavik city card.
Food and drink
Following the same theme as everything else in this article, food and drinks in Iceland are very expensive. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways you can help stretch your food and drink budget in Iceland.
Firstly, if you really are budget conscious, don’t plan on drinking much in Iceland. Alcohol is very pricey, as in about $10 for a beer. Your best bet is to bring over a duty-free bottle of alcohol from the airport and keep it in your hotel room for a drink when you come back.
As for food, try to take advantage of hotel breakfasts (which is usually included in the price) and the local grocery stores. There is a popular store chain around Iceland called Bonus (the logo is a pink pig) and prices there are significantly better than what you will find at cafes and restaurants. So stock up there on snacks (you’ll want some as you explore!) and even some meal items if you are staying somewhere with a kitchen or a fridge.
Dinner is probably where you will want to go out and enjoy a warm meal. There are a number of different options, especially in Reykjavik, when it comes to both cuisine and budget. Cheaper options such as take-out or café type spots will probably cost you about $20-25 for a meal with a drink, while a mid-range restaurant meal will be closer to $40-$50 with a drink.
Following the suggestions above, your daily budget for food will look something like this:
- Breakfast – $7
- Lunch – $18
- Dinner – $35
It is customary to tip at least 10% when dining out in Iceland so make sure to keep that in mind whenever you’re out.
Iceland isn’t necessarily a shopping destination, but there may be a couple of things you end up buying. Whether it be a souvenir or something you find you need, like warmer mittens or a hat. I’d make sure to have at least an extra $100 for random spending. However, if you do plan on doing some shopping (especially for any Icelandic wool items) you’ll want to double or even triple that budget.
So how much does it cost to go to Iceland? I’ve shared my top budget tips with you above, so if you follow my suggestions you can expect to pay about $3,150 USD for seven days and six nights. Yes, Iceland is an expensive destination but it truly is beautiful and worth the trip. Take a look at my guides to Egypt, Southeast Asia, Italy, Japan, Dubai, Jordan, Disneyland, Tokyo, Europe, Rome and Ireland for more inspiration.