Budget Breakdown: Iceland’s Ring Road Edition
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Ahhh, Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, or what I like to call, the Land that Nearly Makes Everyone Broke. Yes, the rumors are true, Iceland is expensive. Since my trip in November, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to create an affordable Iceland budget for all travelers.
I’m a budget-savvy traveler, so I was determined to stretch my dollar as far as I could while I was in Iceland. Even with my years of experience traveling on the cheap, I found it difficult to remain under budget while on my 10-day road trip through Iceland. Here’s the grand total of all my expenditures and what you can expect to spend when spending 10 days in Iceland.
I flew roundtrip with Icelandair from Minneapolis. My flight was direct and lasted roughly 6.5 hours. When I traveled to Iceland in November, tickets were on average $500-$600. I was ecstatic when I found tickets for $380 on Kiwi — the total cost ended up being $438 after taxes.
If you’re located to WOW Air hubs, that could be a cheaper option for you. For me, the closest WOW Air hub is in Chicago and flights weren’t cheap during the time frame I would be traveling.
Yet, I still end up finding the flight deals using Kiwi‘s app and search system. I love that you are able to set up alerts and find the best prices.
Rental Car: $901.78
If you’re spending more than three days in Iceland, I highly recommend embarking on a road trip on the Ring Road. The Ring Road is Highway 1 that follows the coast. Depending on how fast you travel, you can complete the Ring Road in 7 to 10 days. For me, I was very reliant on how well the weather was that day.
I rented a car for 8 days in November and was able to complete the Ring Road. That averages to about $112.73 per day. So no, car rentals in Iceland are not cheap or budget friendly.
I highly recommend renting with Lagoon Car Rental. They were able to pick me up at the airport and check in and out was quick and painless. There was a slight hiccup in my booking and I ended up with an AWD vehicle instead of a 4WD. This only affected my travel plans slightly, which I was very thankful for. Otherwise, I loved the KIA Ceed I rented from them.
Note: I partnered with Lagoon Car Rental during my road trip. They provided me with a complimentary vehicle for 7-days to see the Iceland countryside. To reflect an authentic budget for Iceland, the total does not reflect the discount or complimentary services I received from Lagoon Car Rental.
Miscellaneous transportation costs $342.55
The largest chunk of transportation costs was my gas, which cost about $327.55. On average, gas costs about $8 per gallon. For a road trip, this isn’t bad at all, if you take into account the Ring Road itself is roughly 830 miles long. I also took a few detours off the Ring Road to see some sights, which added to my total gas costs.
Other miscellaneous transportation costs included $5 parking at Thingvellir Park.
Just as a head’s up, the airport is not located in Reykjavik, but in Keflavik, so take that into consideration. I met some lovely travelers my last day in Reykjavik that gave me a lift to the airport so I could eliminate the 1.5-hour bus ride and the $15 expense from my budget.
Total transportation cost = $1,682.33
For my entire trip, I stayed in Airbnbs throughout the countryside. I found that this was the most cost-effective way for me to travel authenticly and on a budget in Iceland.
I stayed at a total of nine Airbnbs. At the end of my trip, I spent two nights using Overnight.
A full review of each property can be found here, and links to each individuals listing will be included below.
If you’d like to save $40 off an Airbnb stay, use my referral link.
Note: I partnered with and was sponsored by several Airbnb hosts during my Iceland trip. This helped alleviate costs of my trip while I was abroad. To reflect an authentic budget for Iceland, the total does not reflect this discounts or complimentary services I received from Airbnb hosts.
Total accommodations cost = $1,477
Street Food: $26
In attempts to help illustrate how expensive food is in Iceland, I split it up into two categories: street food and groceries.
Street food I qualify as food bought on the street or at an establishment. For me, that was one $8 Icelandic hot dog in Reykjavik, $10 spent on a sandwich at the airport and an $8 beer bought at the Myvtan Nature Baths.
I did my research about my Iceland budget beforehand and knew that eating out was a quick way to rank up the dollar bills. There were a few nights that I was treated to dinner by my Airbnb hosts or I was fed in Reykjavik at a conference I attended.
For groceries, I purchased one bag of frozen peas, a can of soup, a Skyr yogurt and pasta sauce, which totaled $12.
So you’re probably wondering how I ate so well. Well, I was blessed to have a free checked bag with my ticket, so I lugged a huge roller bag across the country and filled it with food. I brought along noodles, oatmeal, granola bars and tuna. I lived off these provisions for the duration of my trip. This was all food I had in my cupboard at home, so it wasn’t an added vacation cost. (I’ll be publishing a blog post more about this in the future, so stay tuned by subscribing below!)
Total for food = $38
Honestly, Iceland has enough of natural wonders that you don’t need to spend much on attractions. I went on a total of four attractions when I was there in November. For each of these activities, I have an exclusive review on my blog.
The first guided tour I embarked on was the Silfra fissure snorkeling tour. The tour was amazing and I highly recommend it. This tour cost $169. The second tour I went on was a whale watching tour out of Reykjavik by Reykjavik Sailors. This tour cost $94.05 and was also definitely worth it.
I also embarked on two self-guided tours. I prefer these tours over guided tours sometimes because of the ability to wander around aimlessly. I started my self-guided tours by soaking in the Lake Myvtan Nature Baths in northern Iceland. I splurged and also purchased a doppelbock beer while soaking in the turquoise waters. To top it off, I enjoyed the geothermal baths during a blizzard. For a day pass it costs $37.74.
The final self-guided tour I paid for was the view at the top of the Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. You can pay $9 to ride the elevator to the sixth floor and it offers some of the best aerial views of the city.
Pro tip: Go at 4:30, right before the ticket office sells tickets and you’ll have the whole viewing area to yourself.
Total of attractions = $309.79
(Note: The whale watching tour was complimentary of Reykjavik Sailors).
Another saving measure I utilized in my Iceland budget was to not buy lots of souvenirs. Instead, I opted to put more money towards experiences instead of material things. I bought my usual fridge magnet and Christmas ornament. I splurge a little and also purchase a lava rock necklace for myself.
Total spent on souvenirs = $51
Total trip cost = $3,069.12
Even as a budget traveler, the cost of this trip astounded me. For my 10-day Iceland road trip, I spent an average of $306.91 per day.
(Note: This total does not include souvenir or flight costs in my total Iceland budget).
What I would’ve done differently
Overall, I think I was very budget savvy on my trip. I was fortunate enough to work with numerous companies and individuals that helped alleviate the costs associated with my Iceland budget.
But for those of you who aren’t travel bloggers, I would recommend focusing on how much you spend on accommodations and food. During the summer, you are able to rent a campervan, which would greatly decrease how much you spend on lodging. Better yet, you can alleviate some of the costs by going with a group to sit the cost of accommodations and transportation costs.
If you are only in Iceland for a few days, there are numerous day tours that you can also book that might be more affordable than a car rental. A few notable companies are Gray Line, Reykjavik Sightseeing and Troll Expeditions.