The biggest concern most people have about visiting Iceland is how much it costs? They’ve read how expensive it is. Especially now, with WOW Air out of business and Icelandair cancellations, there aren’t nearly as many options for traveling to Iceland from the US as there were before 2020. So just how much does it cost to go to Iceland?
Knowing exactly how much things cost before visiting Iceland can help you budget better. You can splurge on some things and save when possible. My biggest savings was on food. By not eating out every meal, I made up for the more expensive cost of renting a car and fuel for one. In this article, I’m telling you exactly what I spent so you can decide if it’s worth traveling to Iceland.
This post has been updated Jan 2021 and even though low cost carrier WOW Air, who I flew with on my trip to Iceland, is out of business, the rest of the information is up to date and has been double checked for accuracy. Please check Iceland’s pandemic guidelines and what they require to enter the country.
This post also includes affiliate links that means I might earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you book or buy something from a link I provide. This keeps Southerner Says ad free and on the road. Thanks for your support.
The Details of My Iceland Trip
- Month of visit – September
- How many people traveling – just me
- Time Spent in Iceland – 4 days
- Worth it? – absolutely!
How Much Does a Plane Ticket to Iceland Cost?
Updated for 2021: WOW Airlines is no longer in business
To get to Iceland, I flew WOW from from Newark, NJ (EWR) to Reykjavik (KEF). I had been attending a conference in upstate New York. Since it was cheaper to fly to Iceland from the northeast than my home airport of Atlanta, I took advantage of the lower fares and less travel time.
But ticket prices have changed drastically during the pandemic. After a quick search on Kayak.com, the cheapest plane ticket, a month out in low season from Atlanta is $700 USD via multiple airlines. A ticket from JFK in New York City is $631 USD. If and when I decide to travel to Iceland again, I will plan it either when I’m in route to somewhere else in Europe and layover there or while I’m already in the New York area.
Ticket prices can vary greatly, depending on where you live and tickets are more right now since there’s just not as many options currently from the U.S. My recent search yielded results that had several layovers unless you want to pay upwards of $1000 USD. Hopefully, things will return to a new normal and better prices sooner than later. While $700 from Atlanta isn’t crazy expensive, couple that with the prices of food and fuel in Iceland, and it’s definitely a high priced destination.
Sadly, even though it’s pretty irrelevant at this point, here’s what I spent on my plane ticket to Icleand:
- Round trip to Reykjavik from Newark, $219.98 USD
- Regular window seat, $7.99 USD each way
- Carry on, $49.99 USD each way USD
- Total $335.94 USD
How Much Does it Cost for Transportation in Iceland?
A rental car is a necessity in Iceland. With expensive taxis, no Uber and public transportation only around Reykjavik or to and from the airport, if you want to really see the island, you need a car. Once I booked my plane ticket, I began to research tours thinking that’s what I would do to see Iceland. Even though prices were reasonable, the more I looked the more it became clear is was going to be hard to see what I wanted to see in four days with group tours. I decided I could drive myself around and day trip Iceland.
My Rental Car
About that time I got an email from WOW with special rental car offers so I immediately booked a small four door Fiat through Green Motion. Green Motion’s office is located a couple of kilometers from the airport. Staff will meet you in front of the airport and take you there in a shuttle. Once we got there, I did have to wait a while for my my car since they were very busy that morning. But the comfy couches and the free lattes made waiting a little easier.
To save money on a rental vehicle, it’s best plan your trip in the spring or fall, The weather is milder and you shouldn’t need a four wheel drive, which is more expensive. In September, there were no issues getting around in my Fiat in rain and even a bit of sleet.
Southerner Says: A lot of the small cars in Iceland have manual transmissions. If you don’t know how to drive a manual make sure your vehicle is an automatic when you book it. There were a couple of people there that most clearly did not know how to drive a manual but that’s all that was available.
Car Insurance in Iceland
When I picked up my rental car in Iceland, I ended up spending more money on insurance than I had anticipated. Why? Because, I decided to play it safe and purchase full coverage insurance the agency offered.
The reason is Iceland is a very windy country. The insurance on the basic policies don’t include damage due to blowing sand and ash. Yes that’s a thing. Broken headlights, broken windshields, damage to the undercarriage and tire damage aren’t covered either.
Unsure if my credit card would cover the costs in case of an incident, I ended up purchasing a policy that included everything except, the doors being blown off by the wind. That’s just not covered ever from what I understand. And not that I was planning on doing anything stupid but my piece of mind and not having to worry about any of these things was more important that my wallet.
Fuel Cost in Iceland
In the United States, fuel prices are by the gallon. In Iceland, it’s per liter. The first time you see the price in Icelandic Krona (ISK) at a gas station you’ll freak out a little. For reference, there are 3.785 liters in a gallon.
I paid $233.3 ISK per liter for gas. That’s about $2.11 USD. There are 3.785 liters in a gallon so you are looking at about $7.50 USD per gallon. Two years later and fuel is more affordable now. As of August 2020, gas per liter was $217.4 ISK.
So, for four days, I spent about $150 USD on gas. I drove 1000 miles and went every where I had planned on going. By my calculations, I would have spent at least $300 USD on basic tours. Considering I was able to see whatever I wanted to and skip what I didn’t want to see, is invaluable. I also don’t like feeling pressured or feeling like you only have a specified amount of time. Having a rental really maximized my four days in Iceland and I saw more driving myself than I could have seen on tours.
All in all, I spent a little over a $100 USD a day for the car. It not cheap, but it’s also not the most I’ve ever paid for a rental either. I paid over $100 USD a day, for a car in Boston last summer and that didn’t even include fuel.
What I spent on my transportation in Iceland:
- Four day rental, $117 USD
- Extra Insurance, $167 USD
- Gas $150 USD
- Total $435 USD
How Much Do Hotels Cost in Iceland?
I would have loved to stay in a hotel or a cabin somewhere in Iceland but it just wasn’t in my budget. Especially for just me by myself. When I saw the prices, even in September, the low season, I knew a hostel would be my best bet.
Since there are quite a lot of hostels in Reykjavik to choose from, I considered location and cost to help me decide. An all female room is also something that’s important to me. B14 Hostel checked all the boxes.
B14 is conveniently located in Reykjavik but it’s not right in the city center. It’s close the main roads and the freeway so that made heading out of the city a snap. If I wanted to go downtown, that was easy too. Another bonus was the free parking.
Hostels might not be for everyone but in a place like Iceland, it’s a good idea. I was hardly ever there, I was so busy. I really only slept there. B14 also has private rooms and a guesthouse and an apartment downtown Reykjavik, so if I return with family or friends, I would definitely stay there again.
What I spent on my accommodations in Iceland:
- Room $35.04 USD x 3 nights
- Tax and fees $12.72 USD
- Total $117.84 USD
(Price was for three nights because I had a 9pm flight the last night)
How Much Does Food Cost in Iceland?
To offset the cost of my rental car and fuel, and because it was really more convenient when you are in the middle of no where, I decided to purchase food at a grocery store instead of eating out every meal.
After I picked up my rental car was, I went to a Bonus grocery store. In the states, I would compare this kind of store to Aldi’s. There is one located about five kilometers from the airport on route 41 that goes to Reykjavik. I didn’t even think about taking a cooler with me but I would definitely take a small foldable one next time so I could really stock up.
At Bonus, I bought a sandwich, some chocolate and water, because I forgot my refillable bottle. The sandwich was a pre-made sandwich. In the states, I wouldn’t even consider buying something like that but it looked good and it was. My first meal in Iceland wasn’t glamorous but it was affordable, quick and helped me get on the road quickly. Lunch, water for the entire trip and chocolate cost me $12 USD.
The next morning I stopped for coffee and a croissant near the hostel, (and again the next day) as I headed out of town. Several hours later, after driving some of the ring road and seeing that restaurants were few and far between, I stopped again, at a store in the country and bought meat, cheese, crackers, chips and yes, more chocolate, for the next two days.
If you are going to drive around Iceland you definitely have to be prepared because there are no fast food restaurants and not many places period, once you leave the cities. While my goal was to save some money on food, I also wanted to try a few restaurants. Since I was exploring and driving around so much, I was able to eat the food I purchased during the day and then have a restaurant meal at night. There was one night that I waited too late to find a restaurant and ended up purchasing a burrito from an N1 gas station. Like all Icelandic things, it was very good.
I also love craft beer so brewpubs are something I look for in my travels. I found one in Vik and stopped there as I was passing through. Beer was $10, so I limited myself to only one not just because of the price but also because I was driving a rental.
All in all, I was happy with my food plan. It wasn’t much different than the way I road trip and camp in the states. The restaurants I did eat at definitely weren’t gourmet but I don’t eat gourmet when I travel in the states.
To save money, just don’t drink alcohol. I also could have saved more money if I had eaten cereal or oatmeal that was available at the hostel for breakfast. But I love coffee and pastries and they were two the best things I had in Iceland.
What I spent on food in Iceland:
- Pizza and one beer at Eldofninn in Reykjavik night 1 dinner $33 USD
- Burrito at Serrano at an N1 gas station night 2 dinner $14 USD
- Burger and one beer at Smidjan Brugghus in Vik night 3 dinner $37 USD
- Chicken pasta salad and wine from Mathus at the airport night 4 dinner $24 USD
- Food from Bonus and other stores $30 USD
- Coffee and breakfasts $30 USD
- Fish and chips for lunch the last day $19 USD
- Total $187 USD
How Much Money I Spent on Activities in Iceland
When I made the decision to rent a car, I also decided I wouldn’t do any paid tours. What’s the point in renting a car if you are going to pay someone else to carry you around, right? I already had an idea of what I wanted to see and do and I figured I could work it out, hit the highlights and save tours for the next time.
Briefly, here’s what I did: drove the entire Golden Circle plus some using the suggestions from Iheartreykjavik.net, which by the way is a great resource. I drove the Southern Section of the ring road to Jokulsarlon or the Glacier Lagoon, with stops at several waterfalls. I spent two half days exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula and I wandered around Reykjavik. Everything was free.
The only thing I didn’t do that I really had planned on doing was some hot springs. I went to the Blue Lagoon on the first day, walked around and took photos. I just wanted to have a look around and get a feel for it. It was super crowded and I thought I would try some other hot springs or come back to but it just never worked out.
What I spent on activities in Iceland:
How Much Does it Cost to go to Iceland?
So what did I spend? Adding everything up, I spent just over $1000 USD for four days. I realize that’s kind of expensive at $250 a day. However, keep in mind I was alone. If I had had someone with me, then we could have split the car expenses and that would have saved some money. The same goes for accommodations. I could have upgraded to a hotel or Airbnb and have probably spent about the same if I was sharing with someone.
Everyone has a travel budget and limits but I also think you have to consider what and where you are paying for. In my opinion, you couldn’t pick a better place to splurge. Iceland is gorgeous and was worth every penny. I would do it all over again tomorrow.
Here’s the final breakdown of how much money I spent in Iceland:
- $336 USD ticket to Icleand
- $435 USD car rental and insurance
- $118 USD accomodations for three nights
- $187 USD food
- $0 tours
- Total $1076