If you are planning a trip to Iceland, you’ve probably already heard about how expensive it is. Prior to our 2-week Iceland trip, I talked to people who survived off of gas station hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during their stay. We heard that gas was expensive and even basic accommodations would run us at least $100 USD per night.
But what we actually found was that Iceland wasn’t nearly as expensive as we anticipated. There are plenty of discount grocery stores around the country, and campsites are very reasonably priced. Gas is 2-3 times what you pay at home, but the Ring Road that runs all the way around the island is only 828 miles in total, so you don’t have to drive that far.
So we decided to write a comprehensive post about what different things in Iceland will cost, as well as the best places to buy them, to help you budget for your upcoming trip.
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Iceland Budget: How Expensive is Iceland?
Biggest Expenses to Anticipate
Unless you plan on seeing Iceland with a tour group, you will need to rent a car. Having your own set of wheels is imperative as taxis are outrageously expensive. From the airport to Reykjavik you’ll pay about $100 USD for a taxi so best to avoid that if at all possible. It’s much cheaper to book an airport transfer to Reykjavik.
You can get a small vehicle for around $30/day if you plan in advance and shop around. This is a great option if you’re only in Iceland for a short trip or just visiting the Golden Circle.
If you want to do any off-roading, you’ll need to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle as it is illegal to drive on “F” roads in Iceland without it. The expense of gas should be a factor you consider when determining what vehicle to rent. More on that below…
We toured around Iceland in a motorhome for 14 days which came to a grand total of $2,500 (so about $180 per day). This was courtesy of Motorhome Republic, a booking site that allows you to compare models and prices from a variety of rental companies around Iceland. Plus if anything happens to your vehicle during your trip, they have excellent customer service!
Accommodations in Iceland are quite expensive considering what you get for your money. We stayed in an Airbnb for a few nights at the beginning of our trip and at a guesthouse for one night at the end, and in both situations we paid about $100 for a modest room with a shared bathroom.
We would highly recommend renting a motorhome for your trip to Iceland as you will have the ultimate freedom and won’t need to do a lot of advance planning. We would drive as much or as little in a day and then run a search for campsites nearby. There are no shortage of campsites around the island and they always had more than enough space.
Campsites generally cost 1,200 – 2,000 ISK ($10 – 16 USD) per person per night. Most have bathrooms, showers, and shared kitchen facilities.
Gas is another big expense to consider while planning a trip to Iceland. The prices fluctuate of course, but in May of 2019 the price of unleaded was 237.7 ISK per liter and diesel was 228.4 ISK per liter. That’s about $7.50 USD per gallon.
As mentioned earlier, the entire Ring Road around the island is only 828 miles in total so you’ll only need to fill up a few times. Our Motorhome was a bit of a gas guzzler, and we took a lot of side trips off the ring road during our Iceland trip. We ended up driving almost 1,600 miles during our 2-week road trip and spent ~$430 USD on gas.
One of the things you should know about Iceland is if you want to fill up your gas tank when gas stations are closed (in the evening or early morning) you’ll need a credit card or debit card that has both a chip and PIN. Many credit cards issued in the USA don’t have a PIN so make sure you ask your bank about it before heading to Iceland.
If you want to eat out on the town, it’ll cost you in Iceland. Our first and only meal in Reykjavik was at a restaurant called Icelandic Street Food. They only offered 3 kinds of soup (granted, the bowls were refillable) at a price of about $15 USD each. So just to enjoy soup and water cost us $30 USD in total. If we had wanted to add a few beers or get something fancier, the price would have skyrocketed.
The best way to save money on food in Iceland is to cook your own. There are several discount grocery stores all over the country (more on that below) where you’ll find reasonable prices on all the essentials. If you rent a motorhome it’s easy to just cook in your tiny kitchen. Or you can use the shared kitchen facilities that many campsites offer. A lot of the guesthouses around the country also have shared kitchens for guests to use.
We brought a bunch of snacks and instant coffee with us on the plane as we anticipated exorbitant prices. But we were actually wrong. We only ended up spending about $190 USD on groceries for our 2 weeks in Iceland. That covered breakfast, lunch, and dinner for our 14-day trip, excluding one day where we had to try the famous Icelandic hot dog.
If you do rent a motorhome, you’ll use propane to heat your vehicle when the car is off and to cook on the stove. You’ll likely be given a full propane tank and have to replace it if you spend more than a week on the island. During our 2-week road trip, we had to change out our propane tank just once and the price was 5,500 ISK (~$44.50 USD).
Keep in mind that different gas stations have different styles of propane tanks. So you’ll need to find the right station to swap the right tank. You may want to ask your motorhome rental company what gas station yours is from during the pick-up process.
Surprising fact – Iceland was actually under prohibition until 1989! And they still don’t make it exactly easy to buy. The best (and cheapest!) place is at the duty free as you’re leaving the airport. Stores have a limited selection of beers that are low alcohol content. Other than that you’ll need to visit the state-run Vínbúðin shops that have a few locations around the country. Prices are reasonable but their opening hours can be quite strange (we found one that was only open from 2pm until 4pm during the week and closed on weekends).
If you want to drink alcohol at a restaurant or a bar, expect to pay around $10 USD for a draft beer, and $15-20 USD for a glass of wine.
While many of the best sights in Iceland are completely free, there are some that come with a hefty fee.
Take Iceland’s commercial hot springs for example. The entrance fee for the Blue Lagoon is close to $100 USD per person at a minimum. Krauma is 3,800 ISK (~$30 USD) for adults, Myvatn is 5,000 ISK (~$40 USD), and the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring is 3,000 ISK (~$24 USD) per adult. And generally, you’ll also pay extra if you need a towel or swimsuit rental.
If you choose to do an iceberg tour, you’ll pay 6,900 (~$56 USD) per adult for the Fjallsárlón Iceberg Boat Tour, and either 5,800 ISK (~$47 USD) or 9,900 ISK (~$80 USD) depending on the tour package you choose for the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tours.
And parking in the national parks is 750 ISK (~$6 USD) for a car that seats 2-4 people.
Where to Shop
There are three discount grocery stores in Iceland – Bonus, Krónan, and Netto. Netto is found mainly in the north, while the other two mainly have stores around Reykjavik. There are a few Bonuses sprinkled around the island as well. Mark them on your map ahead of time so you know where to stock up on groceries.
We found the prices in these discount stores to be on par with what you would pay in the United States. A few things like asparagus, deli meat, and cheese were quite a bit more than you might expect, but they weren’t so expensive as to deter us from purchasing.
Here is a short list of some shopping essentials and what you should expect to pay for them:
- Loaf of bread: 260 – 350 ISK (~$2.10 – 2.80 USD)
- Box of crackers: 165 ISK (~$1.30 USD)
- Peanut butter: 400 ISK (~$3.20 USD)
- Coffee beans: 895 – 1,000 ISK (~$7.20 – 8.00 USD)
- Salsa: 280 ISK (~$2.25 USD)
- Tortilla chips: 240 ISK (~$1.95 USD)
- Kettle chips: 290 ISK (~2.35 USD)
- Pringles: 190 ISK (~$1.50 USD)
- Onions: 160 ISK per kilo (~$.58 USD per pound)
- Eggs: 515 ISK per dozen (~$4.15 USD)
- Red peppers: 395 ISK per kilo (~$1.45 USD per pound)
- Avocados: 995 ISK per kilo (~3.65 USD per pound)
- Plums: 498 ISK per kilo (~$1.85 USD per pound)
- Pears; 340 ISK per kilo (~$1.25 USD per pound)
- Cereal: 500 ISK (~$4.00 USD)
- Granola: 300 – 500 ISK (~$2.40 – 4.00 USD)
- Diapers: 1,600 for a pack of 64 (~$13 USD)
- Colgate toothpaste: 197 ISK (~$1.60 USD)
- Paper towels; 350 ISK for a 2-pack (~$2.85 USD)
- Toilet paper: 1,000 ISK for 12 rolls (~$8.00 USD)
- Sunscreen: 1,000 ISK (~$8.00 USD)
- Chickpeas: 95 ISK per can (~$.75 USD)
- Baked beans: 80 ISK per can (~$.65 USD)
- Canned corn and peas: 160 ISK (~$1.30 USD)
- Ketchup: 300 ISK (~$2.45 USD)
- Spaghetti sauce: 160 – 220 ISK per jar (~$1.30 – 1.75 USD)
- Pasta noodles: 160 ISK (~$1.30 USD)
- Instant cup of noodles: 100 ISK (~$.80 USD)
- Korma and Tikki Masala sauce: 230 ISK per jar (~$1.85 USD)
- Coconut milk: 200 ISK per can (~$1.60 USD)
- Rice: 110 ISK for 5 bags of instant rice (~$.88 USD)
- Olive oil: 700 ISK (~$5.65 USD)
- Salt and pepper grinders: 500 ISK each (~$4.00 USD each)
- Granola bars: 275 ISK for a box of 6 (~$2.20 USD)
- Chocolate bars: 185 – 295 ISK (~$1.50 – 2.40 USD)
If you want to consume any alcohol in Iceland, you can’t get it at the discount stores listed above. They have a few options for low-alcohol beers but that’s it. The state-run liquor stores (outlined below) are few and far between. So stock up at the duty free as you exit the airport in Reykjavik.
We would recommend buying boxed wine. It’s relatively cheap and easy to enjoy just a glass or two in the evenings without worrying about it spoiling. Plus it’s best not to have glass in your car or motorhome as some of the roads are unpaved, causing a very bumpy ride. We learned this lesson the hard way when a sharp turn caused a bottle of beer to fly out of our refrigerator and smash on the floor.
A box of wine will run you about $36 USD but that’s almost 4 bottles. And a 6-pack of local beer will run you about $13.
If you don’t take our advice and stock up at the duty-free, or if you run out of booze mid-way through your trip, you can always stop at a Vínbúðin, the state-run liquor store. As I mentioned earlier, these stores are few and far between and often have strange hours. And they’re not open on Sundays. So you’ll need to plan in advance to make it to one on the right day at the right time.
We found prices at the Vínbúðin to be about 20% more than at the duty free. Bottles of red wine ranged from 1,600 – 3,000 ISK. One of our favorites, Casillero del Diablo was 2,000 ISK (~$16 USD), whereas it would probably cost closer to $10 in the US.
What NOT to Buy
Do NOT shop at gas stations in Iceland. Not even for snacks. Everything is outrageously overpriced. A miniature can of Pringles will cost you 225 ISK, whereas you can buy a full can at Bonus for 198 ISK. Just a simple packaged sandwich or wrap will run you 775 – 875 ISK. And a small sized Coca Cola is 315 ISK.
And if you want to save some cash, avoid eating out at restaurants altogether. Similarly, avoid drinking at bars in Iceland if you don’t want to pay exorbitant prices.
Our Iceland Shopping List
During our trip to Iceland, we generally ate some oatmeal or a granola bar with instant coffee for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and some kind of vegetable curry or fajitas for dinner. We snacked on pretzels, chips, and fruit during the day.
Here is an example of our shopping list for about a weeks worth of meals in Iceland:
- Loaf of bread, block of cheese, deli meat, a jar of mayonnaise, and a jar of Dijon mustard for sandwiches
- Peanut butter and apricot jelly for sandwiches
- Fruit: four apples, four pears, bananas
- Veggies for curries: 5 onions, 4 red peppers, 5 carrots, one package of mushrooms, 3 avocados
- Two boxes of rice that each contain 5 ready-to-steam-bags
- Sauces: two jars of tikki masala, two jars of korma chicken sauce, two packages of fajita mix, red curry paste, 3 cans of coconut milk
- Four cans of chickpeas, canned corn, two cans of pineapple chunks (for red curry), two cans of black beans
- Snacks: Pringles, bag of pretzels, Ritz crackers, tortilla chips and salsa
- Breakfast foods: granola bars, ready-to-eat-oatmeal, 3-in-1 instant coffee
- Six packages of instant noodles
If you want more information about what we bought or recipes that we used, feel free to email us directly or comment below!
Now you know how much to budget for Iceland! Do you have any money-saving tips for Iceland? Let us know below!
Want more help planning your trip to Iceland? Check out our favorite travel guides!