If you are heading to Iceland on a budget, there are some things you may be forgetting to include! Creating an Iceland budget and saving accordingly is crucial to enjoying your time in the country without breaking the bank. That being said, even the most well-planned budgets have the potential to be blown when visiting one of the most expensive countries on the planet. When you travel, you open yourself up for running into potential extra and unexpected costs that can really drive up your Iceland budget. We have visited Iceland on a budget every trip and it is easy to do if you adhere to budget Iceland travel tips.
Whether you are driving yourself, taking one of the many fantastic tours in Iceland, or just stopping over for a few hours, you should consider all costs. Planning for the unexpected will make running into a potential extra cost less daunting as you will have already set aside a bit of money in the event that you come across the need to use it. If you intend to visit Iceland on a budget, make sure to account for these unexpected trip to Iceland costs in your savings plan.
As a bonus, we have added quick tips for visiting Iceland on a budget after our list of 5 things you are forgetting to save for! By the end of this post, you will be a pro at cutting down on your Iceland budget!
Iceland On A Budget: 5 Things You’re Forgetting To Save For
#1 Remember To Factor In Gas If You Are Hoping To Travel To Iceland On A Budget
Gas is expensive as all get out in Iceland but it is a necessary evil if you plan on renting a car and going on an epic road trip. When we mean expensive, we mean, double or triple the price you are used to paying, especially for Americans. Unfortunately, if you plan on driving in Iceland, there is no way to get around the super high cost of gas in Iceland. If you are hoping to see Iceland on a budget, make sure you save up for gas!
Gas is running Americans around $6.50-$7.50 USD a gallon which is exorbitant and should be factored into your trip cost if you hope to visit Iceland on a budget. Iceland requires a ton of driving to get to all the epic sights and it generally costs a minimum of $70-$80 to fill up a vehicle that is very good on gas. Make sure to leave plenty of cushion in your budget for gas in Iceland because you are going to need it if you are hoping to visit Iceland on a budget.
You may have a general idea that gas is going to cost a pretty penny, but Iceland is quite a large country and requires a ton of driving. You will drive more than you are anticipating. Driving requires gas which requires money. Go into your trip understanding that you can visit Iceland on a budget but that gas is a place that you will be forced to spend some money. Save wisely, friends!
#2 Don’t Forget To Add Tolls To Your Budget Iceland Trip Cost
If you are heading to west Iceland, you are going to get hit with a $10 toll to go through an underwater tunnel [way more boring than it sounds]. The tunnel is actually quite long so it is understandable that there will be a toll to go along with it. If you plan to head back to Reykjavik, you are going to have to pay that $10 again. If you are truly looking to visit Iceland on a budget, you can go around this underwater tunnel and drive around the lagoon that it crosses under, but it will add a few hours to your travel time. We opted to drive the tunnel and it truly did save some time.
While this amount may seem insignificant now, you aren’t going to want to be surprised with tolls during your trip to Iceland on a budget without setting aside appropriate funds for this unsuspecting trip cost. A $20 round-trip toll isn’t something you hear about in Iceland so make sure to save for this unexpected cost if you are planning to visit Iceland on a budget. The cost of travel in Iceland is already high, so knowing about this toll ahead of time will save you slight annoyance when you are in the country!
#3 You Are Going To Want To Save Some Money For Snacks
First off, don’t you dare go out to eat if you ever hope to visit Iceland on a budget. Going out to eat is an unnecessary expense but snacks are a different story. Your trip to Iceland on a budget will most likely include lots of driving, so having food at your disposal is necessary. If you are in a pinch, pick up a snack such as a bag of chips or granola bar at a gas station.
While buying a snack at one of the gas stations in Iceland will still be more expensive than you are used to, it is much cheaper than buying a full blown meal. Forgoing a full meal purchased on-the-go will save you lots of money if you want to travel Iceland on a budget. Food is one of the most expensive costs of travel in Iceland but buying snacks and cooking dinner yourself is a great way to save!
If you think ahead, go to one of the many affordable grocery stores in Iceland and pick up nonperishable snacks in advance. Our favorites: popcorn, chips, Doritos, oranges, and apples. Having snacks at the ready will curb your hunger and will help reduce the cost of your trip if you aim to travel Iceland on a budget! In addition to snacks, we recommend bringing some easy-to-make lunch staples such as peanut butter and jelly and bread in the car with you so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat at a gas station or local restaurant.
#4 Parking Is Another Unexpected Cost To Consider When Traveling Iceland On A Budget
We always strive to visit Iceland on a budget and parking was a totally unexpected cost for us, especially since we were staying at a 5-star hotel in Reykjavik. Turns out, the Icelandic government doesn’t discriminate and guests staying [and parking] downtown all must pay for city parking.We thought this was a very odd Iceland trip cost because many hotels have included parking if you are staying with them. We usually visit Iceland on a budget but were working which is why we found ourselves at one of the more expensive hotels in town, but we were still hit with the cost of parking which we did not plan for!
Parking in Zone 1 [on main streets] is the most expensive, but prices go down a bit if you park in other zones and on side streets. We parked in a Zone 2 and ended up paying around $15+ per day which was a cost we didn’t include in our Iceland budget. If you are hoping to visit Iceland on a budget, simply consider the potential for paying for parking or get outside of the capital where you won’t have to pay as much or anything at all.
#5 Save Your Pennies For Using The Restroom
Yep, you heard that right. At many places in Iceland, it costs money to use the bathroom. You are going to want to factor this into your Iceland trip cost and have some change on hand in case you come across a facility that charges you. If you plan on visiting Iceland on a budget, do your best to stay away from bathrooms that charge you because every little bit counts.
Many locally owned gas stations will charge a couple hundred Kronor and while it is totally possible to run out without paying, it isn’t the best behavior for a guest visiting Iceland. You may also run into bathrooms that charge at heavily trafficked areas such as Gullfoss. Check out our tips on where to find free bathrooms at Gullfoss if you are visiting Iceland on a budget. Pro tip: when visiting Iceland on a budget, visit chain gas stations such as N1 or grocery stores such as Bonus for clean and free toilets.
Quick Tips For Visiting Iceland On A Budget
If You Truly Want To Visit Iceland On A Budget, Visit During The Winter Or Off-Season
Not surprisingly, the summer is the most expensive time to visit Iceland as the price of almost everything is higher than normal. If you are aiming to travel to Iceland on a budget, consider visiting during the winter or during the shoulder season [months such as April or September]. These times are the best time to go to Iceland if you want to visit Iceland on a budget because costs are lower but all the fantastic and memorable sites are still right there waiting for you!
By visiting Iceland during the off-season, you are getting a more private experience at each location won’t be overrun with other tourists and you will spend less time and money fighting for precious hotel space and car rentals. We have visited Iceland on a budget during both the off-season and winter and we promise that the experience is just as magical!
Do Not Ever Go Out To Eat
We have said this before and we will say this again; if you are serious about visiting Iceland on a budget, it is imperative that you do not go out to eat! Going out to eat in Iceland will blow your budget for Iceland really quickly and it is unnecessary. Go into your trip to Iceland with the mindset that this is more of a nature trip rather than a foodie trip [unless you have hundreds of dollars to blow!] Eating out in Iceland can easily cost $50 per person for a simple burger and a lunch of gas station hot dogs will be $18-$20 per person.
If you do the math, you will see that eating out and visiting Iceland on a budget do not go hand in hand. So what do you do instead? If you want to save and experience local life, head to one of the supermarkets in Iceland, as mentioned above. Here, you can purchase a variety of more affordable lunch and dinner options ranging from frozen pizzas, canned soup, pasta and sauce, fresh fruits and veggies, meats and more.
Visiting Iceland on a budget means stocking up on food staples at grocery stores and then cooking yourself. The best part about going to grocery stores in Iceland is that you are really getting a peek into the everyday life that you wouldn’t have gotten by doing out to dinner.
Forgo The 4×4 Vehicle And Stick With Renting A 2×2 Car If You Want To Visit Iceland On A Budget
If you want to rent a 4×4 all-wheel-drive vehicle and you have saved the money for it, go right ahead! If you are like the rest of us who are already in sticker shock at the price of going to Iceland, opt for a 2×2 vehicle. No matter what time of year you are trying to visit Iceland on a budget, from the dead of winter to the height of summer, a 2×2 car will do just fine.
Unless you are going to visit the Highlands of Iceland or drive on any roads marked with an H or F, you will have absolutely no need for an expensive 4×4 vehicle. Not only do 4×4 vehicles cost more to rent, they also suck up gas much quicker and are more expensive to fill than a budget 2×2 car.
We have only rented a 2×2 during our trips to Iceland, including one in the dead of winter with lots of snow. Roads in Iceland are well-kept, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck. If you are planning to drive the Ring Road or even just head to the south of Iceland or drive the Golden Circle, you will not need anything more than a 2×2 vehicle. This is a huge and unnecessary cost to cut if you want to visit Iceland on a budget.
Avoid Drinking Alchohol If You Don’t Want To Blow Your Iceland Budget
Alchohol in Iceland carries a tax of 84% and the state has a monopoly on alcohol productions and sales. This makes buying and consuming alcohol in Iceland extremely cost prohibitive. Our best advice to you if you truly want to visit Iceland on a budget to is simply avoid drinking alcohol, especially in bars, unless you want to spend a pretty penny. One bottle of beer at a store can cost $5-$6USD and the price just goes up when you get to a bar. This is for a simple beer and doesn’t even consider the cost of hard liquor.
If you truly cannot survive your trip to Iceland on a budget without a drink now and again, buy your liquor from the duty-free store in the Keflavik Airport and grab some mixers at the grocery store and create your own drinks. Of course, never drink and drive, but indulging at your lodging is perfectly okay and a little cheaper than purchasing alcohol on the go or at a bar. Either way, if you feel like you are going to want liquor, make sure there is room in your Iceland budget for this splurge.
Stay In An Airbnb Or Go Camping In Iceland Instead Of Choosing A Hostel Or Hotel
There is a common misconception that hostels are cheaper than staying in an Airbnb. You have to do a little research to find the right Airbnb, but the platform is easy to manage and you will most likely enjoy staying in an Airbnb more than a hostel. If you are looking to travel Iceland on a budget, consider the following comparison.
Let’s pretend that a hostel in Iceland costs $35 per person per night for a dorm of 6-8 people. That is $70 per night and you are sharing sleeping and living quarters with lots of others. Now, a nice shared Airbnb [maybe even an entire home!] in Iceland may cost as low as $50-$55 per night for two people. You will get your own private room and may have to share the restroom with less than a handful of other people. If you want to visit Iceland on a budget and aim to grocery shop and cook your own food, Airbnbs allow you to have access to a fully equipped kitchen and dining area where you can make and store your food.
Hotels do not offer any cooking space so you will be forced to go out to eat and spend a ton of money, on top of the money you already spent booking the hotel. If you are serious about traveling Iceland on a budget, you could also consider camping in Iceland. Many people choose to rent a campervan, but if you want to save even more you can choose to tent camp. Tent camping in Iceland is doable but not for the faint of heart. Campsites in Iceland are affordable and you can buy a camping card that gives you access to a variety around the island.
Go With Someone Else So You Can Split The Cost
If you can, plan your trip to Iceland on a budget with a friend, significant other, or family member. Even better? Get a group of people to travel with for max fun and minimal spending. We will never discourage people from solo traveling to Iceland and it is quite affordable, but going in a group will obviously cut costs because you will be able to split the bill with other travelers.
We recommend choosing to go to Iceland on a budget with an even amount of people, so you aren’t stuck booking an extra bedroom or campervan or whatever for one extra person. Of course, if your group indeed is uneven, consider this when figuring out your Iceland budget. Going to Iceland with someone else or with a group will give you someone to split the cost of the car rental, accommodations, food, gas, and more with.
Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle And Save The Earth [And Money!]
The tap water in Iceland is some of the purest and most delicious water in the world. It is fresh and clean straight from the ground so you are good to drink it! Hot water in Iceland comes from the volcanic nature of the island and is heated underground and it is not recommended to drink hot water as sulfur is present.
Since the water in Iceland is so clean and delicious, save yourself money and pack a reusable water bottle so you can just fill up at a nearby sink when necessary. We always recommend purchasing a water bottle with a filter, just in case, and we love our Bobble Water Bottles. They are affordable and have saved us on numerous occasions. Like everything else, purchasing bottled water in Iceland can cost a lot of money and it is completely pointless when the tap water is so safe and tasty. Pack your own water bottle and you are one step closer to visiting Iceland on a budget.
What is your favorite pro-tip for visiting Iceland on a budget? Did you experience anything we mentioned during your trip? Were there any additional expenses that made your Iceland trip cost add up? Let us know in the comments!
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