This is part of a series on Why Wait, called How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
We know that financial considerations are probably the biggest factor you grapple with when planning a trip. Hard numbers can be difficult to come by, especially when everyone has their own unique travel style and considerations.
The goal of this series is to provide you with real budgets people have used for trips they have actually taken. This could be anything from a long weekend in Miami to 6 months backpacking around South East Asia. It’s our hope that by shining a spotlight on what people are actually spending- and the value they get for it, you will have a better idea of what it really costs to travel.
All of the travel budgets will live on this dedicated page.
If you’re interested in contributing to this series please send me an email using the contact form on the site.
Today’s travel budget comes from Jennifer of Luxe Adventure Traveler. She is an Iceland connoisseur.
Where did you go?
Iceland on four different trips, and I’m returning for my fifth time this fall.
Briefly, what was your itinerary?
On my first trip, my husband was living briefly in Iceland on a work assignment. I visited him for 5 days and we explored Reykjavik, the Reykjanes Peninsula and the South Coast as far as Jökulsárlón.
On our second trip we stayed in Reykjavik for a few days to celebrate New Year’s there, then drove the Ring Road for the first time over a 10-day period.
My third trip was 22 days in total and we explored the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Westfjords in a camper van, before once again driving the Ring Road.
How much money did you spend overall ?
On our first 5-day trip, we spent around $1300 for two people.
Rental car: $150
On the ground expenses: $400
How much did you spend on transportation?
Transportation was our biggest expense at around $550 for a 5-day trip.
We lived in Venice, Italy and flights are quite expensive to Iceland. On my first trip, I used a split fare to save over $1000 on the airfare by flying EasyJet to London and then flying Icelandair. I had scored their $199 sale.
Icelandair also has a stopover program, allowing you to stopover on any Icelandair itinerary for up to 7 nights, so it’s easy to combine Iceland with another trip.
You’ll want a rental car or camper van to explore Iceland, especially if you like to travel independently and get off the beaten path. Sadcars is a budget car rental company that rents used cars and is the most affordable option.
What kind of accommodation did you stay in?
We’ve stayed in all types of accommodations in Iceland, including apartments, farm stays, luxury hotels and a camper van.
The camper van is the most budget friendly option, since it combines transportation and accommodation. Iceland has the “Every Man’s Right” law, which means that all land belongs to the people. You can basically camp anywhere, so long as you’re not in sight of a house – and in Iceland, that’s pretty easy. There are also campsites where you can park, get electricity and even wifi, plus have access to bathroom facilities usually for $15-20 per campsite.
Iceland has a few major cities, mainly Reykjavik and Akureyi in the North. You can find apartment rentals and hostels in both of these cities. Otherwise, farm stays are quite popular throughout the country. Farm stays are quite nice accommodation on a farm with bed & breakfast facilities. Most are small with only a couple of rooms and offer a dinner of fresh, local ingredients for an additional cost.
You can find my recommendations for the best places to stay all around Iceland here.
What sort of activities did you do?
The great thing about Iceland is there are a lot of free activities to do. Unless you’re doing something like glacier hiking or snorkeling Silfra, you do not need a guided tour and most of Iceland’s natural sites do not have an entrance fee.
You can easily do a self-drive tour of the Golden Circle, which encompasses the most popular sites easily accessible all year round and relatively close to Reykjavik. It’s popular to combine the Golden Circle with a day trip to Jökulsárlón, stopping at South Coast attractions like Seljalandsfoss, Skógasfoss, Dyrhólaey and Vik along the way.
We’ve also driven the Ring Road, the road the encircles Iceland, in its entirety twice. And we’ve visited the Westfjords, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Westmann Islands. During the brief summer season, you can even take a day trip to Greenland.
Definitely make time to visit some of Iceland’s natural hot pots and swimming pools. Most visitors will say Blue Lagoon in a must, and while it is an experience, we prefer the local pools and natural hot pots.
As we’ve traveled all over the country, find all of our recommendations for what to see and do in our Iceland Travel Guide on our website.
What did you splurge on? Was it worth it?
I highly recommend splurging on snorkeling at Silfra, where you can snorkel in some of the clearest water in the world between the North American and European continents.
What did you scrimp on? Are you happy with that decision?
We’re not really budget travelers, so we don’t scrimp. You never know if you’ll have the opportunity to visit again, so we’d much rather scrimp on things at home than while traveling.
Did you purchase any special souvenirs?
I bought an Icelandic wool sweater. It’s quite an expensive souvenir, but I bought it on my first trip in 2011 and still wear the sweater six years later.
Did you do anything special to save up for this trip?
No. At the time of our first two trips, we both worked full time at well-paying careers and valued going on vacation. It wasn’t something we worried about spending money on.
Do you have any regrets regarding how you budgeted this trip? Would you do things differently next time?
One thing I really wanted to do on the first trip was snorkeling Silfra, but we decided against it. We’ve been lucky to return to Iceland many times now and did it on the second trip, but I would have definitely regretted not doing the snorkeling had I not returned.
Anything else to add?
While Iceland is more expensive than many countries to travel to, it’s not the super expensive destination many people make it out to be. Where things start to add up is booking a bunch of unnecessary tours. Don’t be afraid to travel independently. After all, Iceland has been ranked as the safest country in the world for many consecutive years now and Icelanders are extremely friendly.