Iceland. It makes you spellbound as you move from place to place, your eyes overloaded by all you’re seeing. “How could such a tiny place have such a diverse and beautiful landscape?” you think to yourself. It is the land of sheep, northern lights, volcanoes with unpronounceable names (try Eyjafjallajökull), and high prices. It quickly became one of my favorite countries in the world after my first visit. It’s such a beautiful country filled with warm and welcoming people (who are also beautiful). The landscape here is like nothing else in the world. It’s magic! Everyone told me Iceland would blow my mind. It did and I can tell you it will do the same for you too. And, with this travel guide, you can learn how it won’t blow you wallet in the process.
Hostel – Hostel dorms cost between 3,500-7,500 ISK per night and Hosteling International members get 650 ISK off. Private rooms cost around 11,500 ISK per night for HI members, and for non-members it is 12,500 ISK. Most of the hostels in the country are HI hostels but KEX in Reykjavik is an amazing hostel that isn’t part of the HI network!
Hotels – Hotels are generally pricier than your hostels and guesthouses. One thing to keep in mind is that not all hotel rooms are going to have a private bathroom. You can expect to pay around 20,000 ISK and up per night for a double room with a private bathroom, and about 13,000 ISK for a basic room without a private bathroom. Since hotels are so expensive in Iceland, I much prefer to rent a room or apartment on Airbnb. It makes accommodation much more affordable!
Average cost of food – Eating out, even on the cheap, costs about 1,100 ISK or more per meal. Something from a sit down restaurant with service can cost 2,000 ISK or more. Groceries will cost 6,700 ISK per week. For cheap meals, consider the hot dog vendors that line the streets of major cities. They cost about 470 ISK for a basic dog without toppings.
Transportation costs – During the summer months, you can purchase a countrywide bus pass for 42,000 ISK. Car rentals cost about 5,350 ISK per day. Bus tickets range at cost between 3.50 ISK (Reykjavik for a single ride) to being free in some cities, like Akureyri. The popular bus route that runs from Reykjavik to Akureyri costs about 8,800 ISK.
Money Saving Tips
Hitchhike – Iceland is one of the easiest and safest countries in the world for hitchhikers. You can find rides throughout the country. It’s especially easy in the southern part of Iceland. Though harder, it’s also not impossible to find a ride in the off-season or in the less populated north. One way to find rides is ask around in hostels—people are usually driving the main ring road (M1) that circles the country and there are only two ways to go on that! That’s how I found my rides.
Bring a water bottle – The water in Iceland is incredibly clean and drinkable. A plastic bottle of water costs about 350 ISK. There’s no reason to buy water here.
Camp – Camping is available everywhere in Iceland. You can camp in designated campgrounds for about 1,600 ISK per night and some hostels allow you to put up tents too. You’ll need to have your own gear and sleeping bag. Moreover, if you really want to save money, you can also wild camp and not pay any fees (i.e. just sleep anywhere you want!). It’s legal as long as there’s a sign posted to the contrary, or provided it’s not in a protected wildlife area.
Bring your own sheets or sleeping bag – Like in other Scandinavian countries, hostels in Iceland charge you 1,350 ISK for bed sheets if you don’t have your own or a sleeping bag (pillows are free!).
Don’t drink – Due to high taxes, it’s very expensive to drink in Iceland. Save money, don’t drink. Ok, maybe once in Reykjavik since its nightlife is world famous. But other than that, don’t. You’ll save a bundle and feel a lot better. No one wants to hike a volcano with a hangover.