How to survive expensive Iceland without going bankrupt

Myvatn Air Iceland (6)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how expensive Iceland is and some of the people that have talked the most about it are people that work in the Icelandic travel industry. Exclamations like: Three star hotel in Iceland more expensive than 5 star hotel in New York and Poor value for money – boo Iceland have been swimming around the interwebs lately leaving me wondering whether this is in fact true. Although I’m not going to argue that Iceland is a cheap destination there are always two sides to every story.

Comparing a hotel in New York and a hotel in the Icelandic country side is first of all like comparing apples and oranges. I’m pretty sure the hotelier in New York doesn’t have to drive tens or hundreds of kilometers for groceries for example (plus the de facto monopoly on groceries in Iceland or at the very least oligopoly) and somehow I suspect that labor costs are probably higher in Iceland too. I’m not saying that the hotelier in New York hasn’t got their own set of problems, I’m just saying that in my opinion these things are not comparable.

You also have to take into consideration the state of the currency, the fact that we import pretty much everything (and how that relates to the state of the currency), import duties, the aforementioned oligopoly and the fact that Icelandic consumers are super lazy and never protest against high prices no matter how unfair they think they are. At least not in public, there’s a lot or mumble and grumble in private though. So although you may sometimes feel cheated because of high prices there can be reasonable explanations for it. Can be – sometimes people are just charging obscene amount of money because they can and they care more about getting rich than the service part of tourism or giving their guests value for money.

Also, if you compare prices in Iceland to many countries around us (Western European countries with a high standard of living and even the US) you’ll probably discover that Iceland, in general, is not that expensive. When I was in the US in February for example I was surprised how expensive it was to eat out. The prices of the food were maybe lower in some cases but with the added tipping (something you don’t have to worry about in Iceland) the prices often came to about the same or even more than what I would pay at home. Other things were of course a lot less expensive (hello three pairs of Converse for the price of one!) but food, accommodation and drinks were similar.

So what can you do to make sure your vacation in Iceland is just the “oh they have to import everything” normally costly and not “oh my god they are robbing me blind” expensive?

Do your research

Don’t just jump at the first thing you see. I’ve seen car rental agencies offer vastly different prices for the same car depending on how or where you book it. Sometimes it’s more expensive to book things through (because of the commission rates) than booking things directly with the hotel. Don’t dismiss hostels because you think you’ll have to share rooms with 30 other people (most of them offer really nice two-bed rooms, often ensuite). Often you’ll find good deals and offers – like by downloading the Appy hour app or like the awesome MAR offer I sent out with my  newsletter recently. I know there’s also the question of your time being money and maybe it will cost more of your time to do research than what you save in krónur but why book a rental car for 20.000 ISK a day when you can get it for 7000 ISK a day?

Do like the locals do

Walk the extra few meters to go to Bónus in Hallveigarstígur rather than buying obscenely expensive stuff at the 10/11 store in Austurstræti. We do most of our serious shopping in the low-cost stores because we know it’s worth it. Ask a local whether they can recommend any good places with good offers on food. Eat at nice restaurants at lunch instead of in the evening (usually only applicable in the weekdays). Pick up your beer in the duty free on your way into the country instead of buying it in Vínbúðin. Go to one of the many amazing geothermal pools around Reykjavík and skip the Blue Lagoon.

Save money by drinking the tap water

I’ve mentioned this before and I will probably mention it again, there’s no reason to buy water in Iceland because the tap water is perfectly safe to drink and also very good. Spend your money on some good wine instead.

Use public transport

I know I’ve not been a big advocate for the public transportation system on this blog but if you are just going from A to B you don’t necessarily need to hire a car for that. Strætó, the city bus here in Reykjavík has recently expanded to the whole country and it’s not that terribly expensive. It may not be the best thing for road trips but if you are planning a solo trip  to Akureyri for example you’ll save a lot taking the bus compared to hiring a car. The bus to Akureyri is 7.700 ISK and they offer comfortable seats and free wifi. Worth looking into.

Alternatively you can also use ride share services like to find someone who’s going where you’re going.

Follow your intuition

The final piece of advice I’m going to give you is just to follow your gut feeling and use common sense. You can sometimes just feel it when someone is taking you for a ride and if that ever comes up just ask someone for a second opinion. There are countless forums where you can ask for advice or answers like the Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum or the Tripadvisor forums where people will gladly help you figure out whatever you are wondering about. If paying an obscene amount of money for something seems unreasonable then just shop around and see what things cost elsewhere. Don’t just open up your wallet without thinking about it.

I’m not going to tell you to send your questions to me via e-mail because I’m so ridiculously busy that sometimes questions like that get buried underneath everything else I have to do but my followers on Facebook are often quite helpful if you post questions there. They usually answer them before I even have the chance to look at them.

Spread the word


53 thoughts on “How to survive expensive Iceland without going bankrupt”

  1. Jan Z says:

    And don’t forget soup and bread! My husband and I were very pleasantly surprised by how often restaurants had an unlimited bread and soup option at either lunch or dinner. Soup was always good, bread almost always freshly made!

    Also, think about the things that are made or grown or raised in Iceland and go for them- they are often reasonably priced- examples include yogurt, lamb, hot dogs:), some cheeses, some veggies, and breads. Buy local when possible!

    1. Shaye says:

      Hotel kriunes is the best place to stay in Reykjavik! The prices and accommodation is unlike many others! It’s also 15mins from the city bus is a 2minute walk. Best p!ace to see northern lights. I suggest renting a car from the airport. Navigation is a must! Plan your own road trip around the country save $$$ from expensive tour companies! Hotel kriunes is beautiful family owned clean place with lake view. First time Iceland stayed 2 weeks. Yes the food is expensive but your not asked to tip.

      1. Auður says:

        I’m glad to hear you had such a great experience at Hótel Kríunes but I would say that for the average traveler it’s not conveniently located. For example, if you want to have a few beers in town and you miss the last bus it’s going to be very expensive for you to take a taxi back – for example. It’s also 46 minutes by bus according to the city bus journey planner.

        Although it’s right that it can be more cost effective to rent a car (depends a little bit on which tours you take though) it’s not the right move for everyone. For example, in winter, some might find it difficult to drive in ice and snow over mountain passes and such.

  2. Heather Linnett says:

    Firstly I’m very bad at math 🙂 Seriously I do not find Iceland expensive at all. One should expect to have things different than at home. if that is a priority, then stay at home. You will be a happier maybe. After 4 tours and having travelled around 7000 kms, in around 50 days give or take, and planning my 5th, Iceland is not expensive to me. Currency rates play a part. So many always say use only credit cards in Iceland, everybody does, well I don’t agree about using credit cards/Debit cards. This question is on Trip Advisor all the time. It get ‘use the card’ . If only people would do their homework, and look at charges. I pay ridiculous charges to use my card anywhere in the world, but NONE at home, so that is the card for me. Then I pay currency exchange, + a charge to use the card, imposed from the bank, plus taxes. It comes out cheaper for me to use only cash, ONE charge to change and I do it in Iceland. As far as food is concerned eat what you want to pay for, don’t compare it is apples and oranges, and it only makes for unhappiness. Self cater look for these places, they are there. Even if they are not, and the hotel does not do that, then buy a loaf of bread , get some meat/cheese, fruit and vegies in a tub cooked and easy to use. Buy some paper plates if you want, take a knife from home, plastic forks. It is easy with a little thought. Eat dinner for lunch its cheaper, then make a snack in the hotel. There are ways. Now woollen products yes expensive but beautiful. Books cheaper, in Iceland. I could go on. Car rental hmmm so many say self drive, then get into trouble, go through a storm, gather damage then scream fraud when they are charged for the damage. Sometimes a private tour is the way to go. All we need to do is think, abou twhat we want to pay for. I say this with the best intentions hoping to help. If one goes on tour, and want to buy from the road places then expect to pay for the service, someone has to make the sandwich you buy there, so make your own. Drink the water, it is fresh, and cool, but not from all the rivers. The Glacial ones are not for drinking. Get it straight off a mountain stream. JUST ENJOY THIS WONDERFUL COUNTRY. it is magnificent.

  3. Jackie says:

    Visiting off season can be a good way to save money. My husband and I went in January with a friend who had visited Iceland in the summer before. We were able to rent an apartment in January for less than the cost of a tiny hotel room he had booked in the summer. I will say that we are from a part of the US that gets hit by some pretty hard winters. Winter averages for our area are -12C, so we are used to cold weather. The 5-6 degrees C we experienced on our trip were mild by our standards.
    We also saved money by only renting a car for two days. Reykjavik was a very walkable city. There were paths along the main roads so we could walk to most of the places we wanted to see in the city.
    The community pools are great too. Way more fun than the Blue Lagoon, in my opinion, and a fraction of the cost.

  4. Thanks for all those pieces of advice !

    I’ve been twice to Iceland with my family and the best way to save money is to rent a summer house instead of going at the youth hostels. It’s far more convenient and it’s really cool to get icelandic neigbours to discuss with on a long summer night ! A location in Iceland costs the same price than a cottage on the french Atlantic coast.

    I confirm children do not see any differences between spas and pools as long as they have fun : swimming pools are really nice and cheap – and most of them have hot pots and sauna. No need to go to the wallet-killer Blue Lagoon (but it would be a shame to avoid Myvatn Nature Baths I think)

    About eating, get a hot dog at the N1 for lunch or buy food at the Bonus discount supermarkets. It’s better to “invest” your money in a reliable car….

    I spread the word on twitter. Thanks for your blog.

    Anne-Sophie from France,

  5. Hann says:

    Whether you find Iceland or Reykjavik expensive depends a lot on where you come from in the first place. For example, Reykjavik doesn’t generally make it to the top ten most expensive cities on the world in most rankings. (Compare it to Paris, London, Tokyo, NYC, Hong Kong which generally are in the top 5). So as far as capitals go, Reykjavik is actually not too bad. If you come from the countryside in your country however, of course Reykjavik is not cheap.

    On the other hand, the quasi-monopoly of hotels in Reykjavik make staying in a hotel extremely expensive. I stayed in two different hotels in 2013 (both Fosshotel of course), and although the hotels are nice, they’re more like clean 2 stars hotels with 4 stars prices than the announced 3 stars.
    So as far as I’m concerned, coming from London, Reykjavik is reasonably “cheap” for most things except for hotels and maybe very touristy things like car rentals (which I didn’t book). But for example long term rents or property prices are very low compared to that of London or Paris (I would judge a fifth or sixth of the prices there).

  6. Tammy says:

    Hey, you should add the ham or salami salad rolls from the bakari in Bergstradastaeti. We are staying down the road while my husband does some work here till next Jan. As a family of five we head out to the bakari, grab ready made rolls for 350kr, some massive choc chip cookies for 250kr (I think), our water bottles and do one of the walks/hikes out of town. Great value! I believe it’s one of the oldest businesses in Reykjavik.

    We have even bought a chook and cooked it in a hostel/guesthouse with an oven (in Husavik I believe). Cook in the evening, pop in fridge and pop it in your pack for pulling apart the next day…pretty cheap. My biggest problem feeding people on a budget is working out what things are….you know translation prob mostly. Oh, and in our first week here we totally followed your lunch recommendation for our main meal and still do when we have time off travelling. Iceland is a great experience but Kronurs don’t go far in feeding a family for a dinner in town very often, but lunch works well.

    Thanks for all the tips.

  7. Ger says:

    I don’t get what you all are trying to say.
    Iceland IS extremely expensive. No matter how beautiful it is.
    A 3 star hotel asking you €400 a day for a double room is simply ridiculous. No matter how much you would save buying soups or bread or swapping dinner with lunch or avoiding the blue logoon.
    That’s it. Just say it.

    1. Jan Z says:

      Don’t stay in a hotel, camp:)

    2. Auður says:

      I don’t agree with you – prices are relative and depend on where you come from. There are certain things that are very expensive in Iceland, other things are just average or even somewhat cheap.

      1. Ger says:

        And I don’t agree with you, still I am the tourist and you are the local, not sure who is more reliable here… 🙂
        The overall cost of a trip is mainly done by three things: flights, accommodations and transportation.
        1. Flights to Iceland are not really cheap, they’re affordable if planned well in advance, still not cheap. I paid a bit less than £200 per person for a return flight from London, you see? Not like it’s for free.
        2. Car rental costs may really vary, I’ve just booked with a car rental company which I hope would have no bad surprises as it really sounds way cheaper than many others (including all the possible insurances), still it’s around €200 for 3 days, plus gasoline.
        3. Accommodations… well again, that’s the only thing I still haven’t been able to book cause I refuse to spend ridiculous prices for a 3-star-if-you-are-lucky hotel in Reykjavik (for something decent I’ve been asked up to €420 per night!) or around €120 per night with no breakfast in a place in the middle of nowhere (which I might like being far from the crowd) with a shared bathroom (which I won’t like as I prefer to socialise elsewhere).

        Now you can argue that I should not rent a car if I want to be in budget and that I can go search for a room in Airbnb, but that would not mean Iceland is not expensive, in fact it would mean that is so expensive I needed to find alternative ways of travelling.

        And again, I don’t know what are the cheap or average things you refer to (would be nice to know tho), but I’m afraid they won’t make any tangible difference on the overall budget. Especially cause I’m not expecting you telling me that these things are gasoline, meals, whale watching trips, northern lights excursions, blue lagoon entrances… Guess what? These are the things that tourists would do, not just spend a fortune in gallons of mineral water 🙂 (Thanks for the tip re tap water tho!)

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited about my forthcoming short trip to Iceland, my eyes and my camera would love it I’m sure and I hope to make the most out of it. I am just saying that it all seem extremely pricey, whatever the reason is, no matter how much you or me are going to heart Iceland.

        Ah, and as per “it all is relative” comment, although I am not an Arab sheikh or a Russian oil dealer I live in London, which I’m sure you know is not listed amongst the cheapest places in the world.

        P.S. I love the guy saying he only pays cash… welcome to the XXI century 🙂

        1. Auður says:

          I guess we just have to agree to disagree then 🙂

          1. Ger says:

            I hope you understand my point of view. As much as I’d love to do “local” things and feel like a “local”, I am not. I am a tourist, and I’m going to do touristy things, spending only a few days in your fantastic Country and trying to do and see as many things as possible. And all those touristy things come with a pricetag.
            Enough, I’ve been moaning far too much on your blog!

            P.S. I’ve just booooooked the accommodation, in the middle of nowhere, it looks fab, and I got a 3×2 offer which lowered the prices a tiny bit. Boom.

        2. Amanda says:

          We are staying at the Hotel Fron on Laugavegur and it’s costing about $120 canadian dollars – about 89 euros, I think. It’s very nice and clean with breakfast included! Very reasonable.

          1. Auður says:

            I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Hótel Frón – people seem to like it.

    3. Pauline says:

      I have to agree. We travel a lot in big and small cities all over the world and have never experienced such high prices for food and accomodations. Me booked our flight wel in advance so there was no sticker shock ther. . I suppose it isn’t just the high prices that worry me. I think what we found difficult was “value for money.”
      Of course, if you are staying in a five star hotel you expect to pay for that but not in a terrible place in Reykjavik – which cost $175/night. It was dirty, dark, had hard narrow cots, a tiny shabby bathroom, towels so rough they were like a loofah brush and scratchy sheets. For the money we paid we expected a very basic, but clean room. Nothing extravagant but something that didn’t make us feel ripped off.
      Yes we loved Iceland, the spectacular scenery, the kind and helpful people. But it is very expensive in both the city and the country. Actually one of the most delicious ns reasonable dinners we had was far out in the National Park.
      Perhaps if you are a young, healthy person who likes to camp and backpack, or share a bedroom and washroom this is the country for you. Or I suppose if you are not as able to rough it you can go on a tour. That includes food and accomodations. We don’t know about the prices for those. But for middle aged folk like us who like to go it on our own lovely Icelavd is is just too pricey. We often had to pay $16 for a small glass of wine in a restaurant. We expect to pay that in a chi chi restaurant in downtown Vancouver. Bottom line: If you are willing and able there are probably less expensive ways to travel in Iceland. Still you need to be wiling to settle for a lot less comfort. Our advice: Go when you are young, agile, and. OK with rough and ready if you want to do it more cheaply.
      The tourism board needs to ask if these prices are sustainable. We would love for others to experience this magical country but only if they have very deep pockets.

      1. Auður says:

        I’m not going even try to argue that Iceland is a cheap place to visit but I definitely don’t agree that you need to be young and a backpacking camper type to visit. The mistake most people make is that they don’t do their research. People constantly complain about the prices of car rental for example and always when I check the amount they state they have to pay for a certain time period I can always find a way cheaper deal with a 5 minute search.

        The point I was trying to make with this post is that you have to take everything into consideration before you accuse people of ripping you off: The cost of living and standard of living in the country you are visiting, the wages, taxes, ease of access to supplies, gas prices and all of these things. A restaurant in the country side somewhere that wants to offer quality food for their guests might have to drive 200 km to the next supermarket to get produce at a reasonable price. Then they are half empty over the winter but they have to pay rent or mortgage the whole year so they have to make sure they get enough profits from the time where they are actually busy to stay afloat over the winter. Just to name a few things to consider. And then it’s the VAT, the income tax, cost of paying staff wages… the list is endless.

  8. Dave says:

    I’m visiting Reykjavik for the first time in February for 17 days, by myself. I’ve booked flights, accommodation
    and a 5 day tour with the Mountain Guides so far…and I’m quite impressed with the room price
    compared to here in Australia. $1500AUD for 17 days? You won’t get a caravan park in Perth for that, regardless of the time of year. My Reykjavik room will be an inner city guesthouse, own bathroom and breakfast included…what’s not to like about that, I say. It’s all relative.
    It probably says more about how expensive Australia is though.

    1. mick proctor says:

      I found buying large beers 2 pints/1 stein more economical than buying larger numbers of smaller buys…and they are unlikely to get warm !

      Enjoy Iceland I did

  9. Dave says:

    Really? Drink the tap water was given it’s own special section? LOL! There is no reason not to drink tap water in any city, except perhaps in some third world countries. Most people when given a taste test can’t tell the difference. Whoever came up with the concept of selling water to drink is a genius. You could sell tap water, put a fancy label on it, and make millions.

    1. Auður says:

      If you would see all the people walking around Reykjavík with water bottles, you too would give it its own section.

  10. Jessica says:

    Hello, I’m new to your blog and would like to begin planning a trip to Iceland. Perhaps in the summertime or late spring. I suppose the answer to this question varies greatly but – have you or anyone found that vacation packages to be cheaper or more expensive than just piecing together a vacation for yourself?

    1. Auður says:

      Sometimes groupon and Icelandair have offers that are really good so you if you happen to see that it’s probably worth it. I would imagine that most of the time you get better prices by booking things yourself, the travel agencies may not always book you the most affordable option when it comes to car rental and such. However, it’s often less hassle buying a package so if you factor in that time is money then maybe it comes out around the same?

  11. Bronna Lipton says:

    Debating whether to drive ourselves or do a private tour. Any thoughts about driving to the South and West?

  12. AH says:

    I’ve been planning a trip to Iceland for the past two months. I’ve read the lonely planet from cover to cover, I’ve read dozens of other smaller travel books. I visited countless websites promoting tours, renting cars, hotels, ferry tickets, restaurants and hot spring pool locations. I have consulted with friends who have visited Iceland, including a friend who runs an adventure expedition every year. When I travel anywhere, I do my research on everything.

    All the research I have done sums up one distinct and overwhelming fact.
    Iceland is very expensive!

    I have rented a basic compact car in Iceland for 5 days in July, with the cost totalling $520 Canadian dollars. That’s over $100 dollars canadian a day for a car………which is boarding on madness. This was the cheapest option I could find. If I wanted and SUV or larger vehicle, the cost would have been $1300 for 5 days.

    To give some sort of comparison, I also rented a car for 10 days in Scotland a week after Iceland, and the total was $190 Canadian dollars. I have a car rental in Vancouver Canada a month later for 8 days totalling $160 Canadian Dollars.

    Anywhere is Canada, the United States and all across Europe you can be guaranteed to find a mid range restaurant with a main dinner plate costing between 14-17 Canadian dollars. You could easily find cheaper food than this, but I am generalizing with a mid range category. In comparison, all the Icelandic restaurant research I have done lists dinner ranging between $27-$50 for a basic main dinner plate.

    A ferry ticket from Dalvik to Grimsey Island is $45 Canadian dollars per person!!!!! It will go down as the most expensive ferry I have ever taken…….and I’ve take ferries in Nicaragua ($6 Canadian Dollars), Thailand ($15 Canadian Dollars), Costa Rica ($18 Canadian Dollars), Canada ($17 dollars), Australia ($15 Canadian Dollars) and Tanzania ($25 Canadian Dollars).
    Something import to note is that the price on this ferry is double for tourist vs. locals. Why? Why does it need to be double for tourist? What does this accomplish in the end, but a resentment towards being taken advantage of.
    Ferries from STYKKISHÓLMUR – BRJÁNSLÆKUR are $47 Canadian per person and another $47 for a car. So a 2 hour ferry ride for one person and their car cost $94 Canadian dollars one way.

    I really want to go scuba diving in Iceland, as the idea of diving at the continental divide is exciting. I have researched all the dive companies in Iceland who offer dives in this area, and their rates fall between $350 – $450 for a two dive package. The average dive cost anywhere around the world for 2 dives ranges around $120 – $150 Canadian dollars. This is assuming you have your license.
    $350-$450 is almost laughably expensive.

    Arguing that Iceland is not expensive is a losing argument. It is expensive on every level.

    In the past three years, I have had a dozen friends visit Iceland for a vacation. Upon their return there were two resounding responses about their trip. 1) Iceland is beautiful and full of breathtaking views. 2) Iceland is crazy expensive.

    I don’t want this post to feel like I am discouraging people to visit. That is not my intention at all. I want people to understand that traveling to Iceland is an expensive endeavour. To say that it is affordable is lie.

    I love to travel and would like to visit Iceland multiple times, but know this trip will be the one and only time I visit. The cost of the trip severely discourages any repeat tourist business.

    Last bit of cost perspective:
    A couple years ago I travelled for 6 months through Europe (9 countries), Africa, India and Thailand. With all flights, accommodation, transport, food, entertainment, and purchases for the entire trip costing around $8,000 canadian dollars.

    5 days in Iceland will cost around $2500 Canadian dollars.

    1. sharviss says:

      AH, where in Canada do you live?

  13. Kris says:

    Hello there, I was in the military and lived in Iceland for almost two years…. Yes it can be exspesive but I have traveled the world and it is still the most beautiful place I have ever seen…. It is extremely easy to tour the country by yourself… Rent a car or hitchike and don’t be afraid to leave the main road and venture to the really small towns in the middle of the island, they are very friendly and welcome visitors. I took 14 days off work from the Navy and traveled the island with a couple of buddie, the people I met are still friends to this day and we still keep in touch, I have been back several times for vacations and it never gets old…. Be sure to check out the night life in the Capitol, it is called the party Capitol of Europe for a reason, beautiful women and amazing times lay ahead for anyone willing to venture out of your comfort zone and see the most beautiful country in the world..

  14. Petr says:

    Iceland in total became very expensive place for a vacation. Plus the service does not follow the price….They are tryinf to sqeeze every single coin from tourists now and soon or later they will regret that… Food in shops is slowly getting expensive again and see that in Iceland are so far only 2 groups of tourists…older people who can afford it or young backpackers what are spending almost nothing… Bus company wants so much for a fare already, bus stops has often no cover to hide under the rain, wind etc…The choise of products in Iceland is limited, overpriced a lot, quality of fruits and vegetables is a big dissaster, hardly can beleive that shops actually sell so rotten fruits ,vegetables…
    Really strange country, always you can hear that Iceland is best, icelandic products are the best, all in Iceland is best but then you find out that it is really bad all

  15. Marcus says:

    Iceland is beatiful but if you think that relatively speaking you can spend similar amounts of money as in other major tourists locations you’d be totally wrong. Sure you can drink all the tap water until you explode. That should redeem Iceland in comparison to third-world destinations, because you can drink tap water in Paris, you can drink it in London, Toronto, Moscow and New York. But as for me, I would prefer to spend $100 dollars a night in a hotel and buy a bottle of water for $1, rather than spend $350 for a hotel and drink all the free water that I can.
    Iceland is ridiculously expensive in my subjective opinion and you will get a feeling that tourists specifically are being targeted to help the country recover from the massive financial crisis. Maybe in Monte Carlo I can find a place to buy a can of Pepsi for $5 and use a public washroom for $3, but in barren land that is Iceland? Seriously?

    Well, good luck Iceland, I can’t afford to visit you again unfortunately until I win the lottery.

  16. Paul says:

    I am In Iceland at the minute, I am finding it very expensive to the point of worrying about running out of money. We are here for 7 days we have been here for 3 and by the end of this day we will have spent over £300 just on food and drink. Everything seems very disproportionately priced. It only cost us £54 for 2 adults to get into the blue lagoon and much less to do whale watching on Sunday but it cost us the equivalent of £8 for 2 packets of crisps and a cookie. We paid just over £13 pounds for two subway sandwiches and the restaurants charge an obscene amount of money. Granted we do come from the north of England which is much more reasonable than the south but the cost is just baffling. However I am having a very nice time with my wife in this breathtakingly beautiful country so far.

  17. Avril says:

    Very helpful comments , thanks all. I am going for a short trip , excursions prepaid in November . Looking forward to it . On another site I heard that you really don’t need cash but that worries me as paying by card can be pricy. Any advice about that ?

    1. Auður says:

      You don’t need cash but if the transaction fees from your credit card company are very high that there’s are both banks and ATMs that you can use.

      1. Avril says:


  18. Tai says:

    We are currently planning our trip to Iceland and I’m in complete shock how bloody expensive it is to tour your country on our own. This is coming from a couple making $300K USD per year in the US living an extremely modest lifestyle (1200 sq ft town home [111 sq m]) which makes up our debt of $200/mth and have never cared for luxury (fancy cars, hotels, meals … it’s not us). My car is 10 years old, and my wife’s is 15 years old! This puts us in the 98th percentile in the US. I’m not saying this to brag, but to give people perspective.

    Looking at the cost of Iceland for the flight and car rental alone and being only a 6h flight away, it is going to cost us nearly double our stay in the French Riviera! The rental car alone for a Jeep is $3000 for ONE WEEK?! This is stupid. Our flights + rental car will cost us $5000 and we haven’t factored in food, or gas. We stayed in the French Riviera for about $3500 for 16 days which included our rented unit in the hills with a view of the mountains and Mediterranean (I love VRBO & AirBnB) + rental car + flights. If we include food and activities we spent (I’m being liberal here) $4500. 16 days in the French Riviera for $4500.

    As beautiful as Iceland is, it’s not at all worth $5000+ for seven days. This would be by and large the most expensive vacation we have ever taken across 17 different countries primarily made up of first world countries.

    Good luck to your recovering economy because if you continue to treat those that want to come to appreciate your country in this manner, you’ll be even worse off than before.

    1. Auður says:

      I’m not going to argue with you, if you find it too expensive to visit then that’s what you feel, but you don’t have to pay 3000 USD for a jeep for a week. First of all you should ask yourself whether you actually need a jeep for where you are traveling, there are plenty of smaller cheaper cars that can go to most places that people visit on a week long trip that would have enough space for a couple of people and suitcases. Second, you can get a Suzuki Jimny jeep, for example, for a week in June through the Budget offer on my blog for around 1300 dollars: You could get a bigger jeep for under 1500 USD at for the same week.

      That’s just one part of your budget. Maybe if you do a bit more research you could lower other parts of your budget too.

      1. Grant says:

        I agree. This guy did not do his research. We have a car for ten days and it is costing us $640 with all of the added insurance. it is not a jeep but if we wanted a 4×4 car, it would have added $300-400 to the total cost. You could have also booked bus tours for cheaper than the cost of renting a car. My flight out of the USA is for less than $500 round trip.

        If you are making $300,000, nobody is going to feel badly for you because you voluntarily paid for a vacation. We make about half of what you make and find the entire vacation to be expensive but no so much that we feel the need to complain about the cost and insult the country.

  19. Tim says:

    Just finishing up a 5 day trip in Iceland.The scenery was beutiful however the general costs were painful.we are not tight but found we got fed up of paying through the nose for food,especially as the service was only acceptable and made the UK look good!even basic type food shops cost a fortune.surely this must be detrimental to the tourism industry? Would like to come back on the summer but will not due to the costs.A shame.

    1. Auður says:

      I think you can find very expensive food and then not so expensive food in Iceland – it just depends on where you look. The service is a whole different matter, I would put that one down on cultural differences. We are very laid back in many ways so things can take their sweet time. The tourism sector is also suffering from lack of manpower which results in restaurants having to settle with just having someone there instead of hiring someone that is maybe best for the job. Business owners also maybe don’t try their staff the way they should. But it’s also because the culture is different.

  20. Yup says:

    I don’t want to get in on the whole “Is Iceland ridiculously expensive?” debate, but I just wanted to mention something about the food. I live in the Pacific Northwest, a part of the world blessed with amazing domestic and international food at every corner. Not always cheap but usually reasonable. Scandinavia (not just Iceland) can be a bit of a shock in terms of both selection and price. But I was just looking at a picture of a lunch I had during a Golden Circle tour my family and I did a few years ago: sweet dark bread, pickled herring, cheese, bananas, and one of those little bottles of Brennivín you can (and should!) buy for cheap at the airport. That’s beautiful food! I really enjoy these simple meals, and to me, they fit the overall atmosphere of this beautiful country much better than some fancy dish I could have in a restaurant anywhere in the world.

  21. Jenissen says:

    hey guys, i’m new to this site.. just applied for my work permit there.. will be in iceland within 3 months.
    I want to know how much dollars or krona should i need for the first month in iceland?

    Thanks in advance!!!

  22. KazooErf says:

    Some helpful comments and notes – thank you all. I’m leaving for Iceland this afternoon from US for a 4 day vacation with a few cousins (who flying in from different parts of the world). We’ve prepaid for car/lodging/airfare so the only expenses we will have are food and drinks. Is there a limit on how much liquor/beer one can purchase at duty free? (I assume there is an option to do that when I land in Reykjavik yes? great chance for me to kick start that weight loss plan I’ve been considering given food prices 🙂 .

    1. Auður says:

      Yes there’s a limit and it’s well documented at the duty free (

  23. Danielle says:

    I’m curious how people make plans. I am an obsessive researcher. My trip is in September, and I’m prepaying as much as I can. Some times I go low with the nicest hostel I can find, other times I go high and splurge on a room ( which is expensive for a solo traveler) and a nicer car. So far, my 10 day trip, is coming about the same price as my last trip to Europe (Amsterdam/Paris/Milan/Lake Como – also 10 days) that I split with someone else. It’s not fair to compare and Western (and Northern) European city to Thailand. If you want that kind of life, then go there. But I’m finding the costs not unreasonable, and there’s so much on the internet that I can make good choices for myself. I believe Audur is right that you make it what you want it to be. I come from Orlando, one of the most tourist laden places in the world, and I believe it’s all in *how* you travel, rather than where you go.

    1. Cori says:

      Totally agree. I’m just starting to plan our trip for late August next year, and so far I’ve calculated that it will cost us around $2000 (Australian) for two people for seven days (not including flights). That includes camper hire and other accommodation, fuel, and food, with some set aside for excursions and miscellaneous costs. Not so bad.

      One area that Iceland makes ground on is sightseeing activities. Most sights are free or ridiculously cheap if you are willing to drive yourself. London, on the other hand, we will have to fork out $20-50AUD each to see the main attractions.

  24. Peggy says:

    We are very experienced travelers and have found costs in Iceland to be shocking. We expected food and drink to be expensive but not exorbitant. We just had one of our cheapest dinners of 3 burgers and 3 glasses of wine for $US 100.
    A special birthday meal at Kopar was over 100 per person (one bottle of wine)
    If you are planning a trip here, be sure to plan a lot for food. We stayed in a VRBO studio apartment (adequate) and made our own breakfasts. But even though we looked for best prices, we never saw a meal at a restaurant (fancy or otherwise) for under 20$ (only the meal for one person).
    Draft beer costs $11.50, glass of house wine $15.

  25. Regina says:

    As said by others above, two things have to be taken into consideration, price and value for money. And I have not felt at all satisfied with neither one. I think tourism is giving the country a new source of income and the landscapes and treasures you have are great, but quality and service has to be superb if you wish to keep receiving visitors. I have made research for many weeks before I came and I have done my best to avoid touristy places but unfortunately, I am a tourist and I do want a bed, a car, a nice dinner, a night out, a tour… I am dissapointed and wouldn’t come back. Very sorry for this post, I also feel bad about the whole experience, after two months planning my holidays. I thought the tips of buying your food in bonus, sharing rooms and eating just chips or soups was an exagération but unfortunately it’s true. Better luck to others.

  26. Sharon Bingham says:

    Can’t believe it. Food and drink is 3 to 4 times the price of it in the UK. Just paid £32 for a pizza. Shared a can of coke and a portion of chips with my husband as it was £8. Also just bought a jar of coffee 899 isk, around £9.

    1. Auður says:

      OK, to be fair – 899 ISK is actually just over 6 GBP.

    2. PJ says:

      Yes it was all a bit shocking to us too. We loved the countryside and the far away little places but oh my goodness good thing we were only there just under two weeks we couldn’t have afforded any more :} Then we went for three weeks to Greece and ate and drank like a king and queen. Contrasts are fun!

  27. Jennifer says:

    I’m going to Iceland in February for 6 nights. I booked air from BWI (Wow Air), 4WD SUV, and 6 nights lodging for < USD$2000 for 2 people. We are doing an ice cave tour (USD$370) and that's about all we will pay for except food and drink and gas (I'm taking liquor from the US). It seems like all of the sights are free. We'll eat out once a day and self cater the other meals. (We do get breakfast most days.) Even if we spend $1000 on food for the week (which I hope we don't), it will still be a very reasonable International vacation.

    We travel a lot and I think the food is pricier than most other locations, but you don't tip so take off 20% right there (if you are in the US) and I have read that everything is fresh! So I'm ok with spending a bit more. Also, I've read that sharing meals is ok.

    I appreciate all of your money saving tips here and I can't wait to visit ICELAND!!!

  28. TT says:

    I thought I must be alone as heard such great things about iceland and couldn’t wait to visit but one of the only countries I have visited to be disappointed in.
    I have travelled all over the world so appreciate different economies and research thoroughly before I go to get the best experience out of a trip. I planed this trip to Iceland, Canada and New York. My hotel in iceland cost more than any in the other 2 places and was by far the most basic and tiny room, but it was clean. It was just on the outskirts of town so not anything extravagant. As others have said it’s not just the high cost, I was expecting that but it’s the value for money, I had researched and did shop where I should, eat at lunch time and made use of the little food stalls and did a couple of tours etc, but this is not how i would normally holiday and have to say that I still found it expensive. I also felt that yes tourism is now the number one economy but very little effort is put in, they seem to charge so much money for very basic service. Like you have said in a previous post it may be as iclandic people are more laid back but at times it did come across as just give us your money and can’t be bothered to interact with you. Maybe it’s because I went to Canada right after which i found very affordable and every single person I met being in the tourist trade or not was so overwhelming helpful and friendly.
    Before visiting I had thought I would return in summer as would like to do the whale watching but I won’t return to Iceland.

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