Updated for 2021 – Traveling to Iceland might be on your bucketlist but the biggest question most people have about going there is how much is it going to cost? They’ve already read or heard how expensive it is. Especially now. After 2020, there aren’t nearly as many low cost options to get to Iceland from the United States as there were before the pandemic. So, just how much does it cost to go to Iceland now?
It’s not cheap. That’s for sure. But if money is a concern of yours, then knowing exactly how much things cost before traveling to Iceland, can help you plan your 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 just myself. 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 May 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
- Transportation – rental car
- Worth it? – absolutely!
How Much Does a Plane Ticket to Iceland Cost?
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 Expedia.com, the cheapest plane ticket, a month out this summer, is around $800 USD, from Atlanta via multiple airlines. A ticket from JFK in New York City is $460 USD and Boston is $384. Prices from Atlanta are always more expensive, couple that with the prices of food and fuel in Iceland, and it’s definitely a higher priced destination.
Ticket prices can vary greatly, depending on where you live. 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 now that Iceland is allowing vaccinated US travelers. 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 or I’ll travel when I’m already in the northeast like I did this time.
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 to 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 happening, 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 about the same. As of May 2021, gas per liter was $235.005 ISK.
So, for four days, I spent about $150 USD on gas. I drove 1000 miles and went – almost – 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 this time. 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 is 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?
Food can be expensive in Iceland. I would compare it to New York City or London if you eat at a restaurant. To offset the cost of my rental car and fuel for just me, and because it was more convenient when you are in the middle of no where, I decided to purchase food at a grocery store so I would always have food with me.
After I picked up my rental car, I went to a Bonus grocery store in a nearby town. In the states, I would compare Bonus to an Aldi’s. There’s 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 next time, I would take a small foldable one so I could really stock up on food.
At Bonus, I bought sandwich, some waters – because I forgot my refillable bottle – and some chocolate I had read was good. 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 cheap and helped me get on the road quickly. Lunch, water – enough for the entire trip – and chocolate cost me $12 USD.
I ended up stopping again, at a store in the country to buy meat, cheese, crackers, chips and yes, more chocolate, for the next two days.
Eating Out in Iceland
In Reykjavik there are plenty of restaurant choices for any budget but once you leave the city and other smaller towns, the choices dwindle. Besides wanting to save money, that’s one of the reasons I purchased groceries. I would always have something with me no matter where I was.
Even though I wanted to save money on food, I also wanted to try a few restaurants. I ate the food I purchased at the grocery store during the day and then I ate dinner, out. 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 really good.
I also I stopped for a coffee and a croissant near the hostel on two days as I headed out of town. To save even more money, I could have eaten the cereal or oatmeal that was included in the cost of my bed but I love a good coffee in the morning Iceland lattes are really good. If you want to save money on food in Iceland, then book accommodations with a breakfast included.
All in all, I was pretty with how my food plan turned out. It wasn’t much different than the way I road trip and eat in the states. The restaurants I ate at definitely weren’t gourmet but I don’t eat gourmet when I travel at home either.
Alcohol in Iceland
I love craft beer so brewpubs are something I usually search for on my travels. I found one in Vik and stopped there as I was passing through. Beer was around $10 for 12 oz, so I limited myself to just one, not only because of the price but also because I was driving.
Alcohol is pricey in Iceland. So if you want save even more money, just don’t drink any or find a happy hour if you are staying in Reykjavik.
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, with multiple stops. I also drove the southern portion of Highway 1 or the “Ring Road” to Jokulsarlon or the Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. That’s about five hours one way from Reykjavik. I spent two half days exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula and I wandered around Reykjavik. Everything I did was free. The only time I paid for parking was in Reykjavik. For a more detailed account of my itinerary and what I did every day, read my 4 Days in Iceland – Road Tripping from Reykjavik post.
The only thing I didn’t have a chance to do that I really had planned on doing, was 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. Then I thought I would try some other hot springs or come back to the Blue Lagoon but it just never worked out. Next time.
What I spent on activities in Iceland:
How Much Does it Cost to go to Iceland?
So how much does it cost to go to Iceland? For a solo traveler, for four days, adding everything up, I spent just over $1000 USD. I realize that’s kind of expensive at $250 a day. However, keep in mind I was alone. If I’d had someone with me, then we could’ve 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.
When you think about your budget, consider the destination and exactly what you are spending your money to see in Iceland. I don’t know of another country where you can experience the unique variety of the things you can experience in Iceland. It’s a wonderful place and worth every penny in my opinion. And yes, 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
Can US Citizens Travel to Iceland in 2021?
Yes! Visit Iceland has all the details. Check their site often for changes. Remember that you still need a Covid-19 test within three days before you return to the United States. Visit the US Embassy’s website for Iceland for details of what’s required and how to get tested before you return to the states.
Ready to Book Your Iceland Trip?
Are you ready to plan a trip to Iceland? Use Skyscanner or Expedia for the best prices on flights or Travelzoo.com for organized tours. Need accommodations? Booking.com has a great selection of hotels, cabins and even hostels and most have free cancellation right now. Check Tripadvisor for reviews and info.
Iceland Packing List
- The weather changes in a snap. Have a rain jacket or poncho for pop-up showers even in warmer months.
- I packed a rain jacket and a warmer, packable coat.
- Bring a cover or plastic for your camera or phone.
- A small packable tripod for video and photographing the Northern Lights is essential.
- A waterproof bag, backpack or fanny pack is a good idea. I purchased one on my last day at an outdoor store in Reykjavik and I wished I had it with me the whole time.
- A microfiber towel is helpful for drying off on when you get back in the vehicle. Even something dry to sit on is useful.
- Waterproof shoes like Blundstones are best. I wore boots the entire time.
- I’ve seen lots of questions about what kind of pants to wear. I didn’t wear waterproof pants. I wore leggings the entire time and they worked for me because they dry quickly. Don’t wear jeans since they take forever to dry and they are so heavy but the most affordable waterproof pants are these from Academy Sports.
- It can get very windy so bring along a hat or a beanie to keep your ears warm.
- A pillow for sleeping on the plane. This is the one I carry everywhere!
- Good earbuds
- Carry an electrical outlet converter for European standards
- Last but not least, don’t forget trip and travel insurance. Use travelinsurance.com to compare plans now.