Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. Many budget travelers tend to avoid it for this very reason. So, can you really travel Iceland for under $1,000?
Yes, you can!
Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive if you’re on a tight budget. When Hilary and I went to Iceland for five days in October, we were both on a budget. That tends to happen when you have thousands of dollars of student loan debt attached to your name. We splurged a little and still never maxed out our credit cards. It was attempting, though. Glacier walks! Northern light tours! They all had my wallet screaming for adventure.
Before leaving American soil, Hilary and I sat down and discussed our priorities. What did we want to spend our hard earned money on? I didn’t want to go to Iceland without riding the infamous Icelandic horse and snorkeling the Silfra. Hilary was all right with whatever I wanted. That there, kids, is the perfect travel companion!
We set our budgets for roughly $1,000 including airfare. And, we managed almost to stay under budget. A bus ticket from Portland, Maine to Boston to catch our flight and a very expensive 3-course meal set us slightly over budget.
Before I share my secrets of how to travel Iceland for under $1,000, let’s take a look at my Iceland travel expenses.
Yes, I went over the $1,000 limit, but I’m going to share with you how you can save money in Iceland, so you don’t go over your $1,000 budget.
How to Travel Iceland for Under $1,000
(aka. How to Save Money in Iceland)
The biggest expense in most people’s travel budget is the cost of airfare. It’s not cheap. Thankfully, the introduction of WOW Air has driven the cost of flights to Iceland down. You can fly from Boston to Reykjavik for as little as $99 one-way. WOW Air has since expanded to Baltimore/Washington DC, San Fransico, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and Montreal in North America. From Reykjavik, you can fly almost anywhere in Europe for cheap too.
To score an amazing airfare deal, make sure you fly in the shoulder or off season and sign up for their email newsletter to be the first to hear about flight sales. WOW Air is a budget airline so you will have to pay extra for baggage and seat assignment, but for the price, you can’t beat the deal! Which brings me to the next tip…
If you’re flying WOW Air, then you will have to pay extra for baggage. You are allowed one carry-on item up to 5 kg (11 lbs). The airline did weigh our luggage on arrival to both the Boston and Reykjavik airports so be careful. An extra 7 kg (15 lbs.) for carry-on costs $38.99 per leg of flight.
I purchased the extra carry-on limit because of my camera gear. If you’re traveling in the winter months, you will most likely need extra baggage due to the size and thickness of warm winter clothes. Learn to pack light and only bring what you need. And don’t forget to wear your heaviest clothes.
Accommodation in Iceland ranges from free to very expensive. Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Combine safety and the high cost and you have the perfect recipe for Couchsurfing! Couchsurfing is very popular in Iceland, but it can be difficult to find a host because of the demand. Couchsurfing is also a great place to connect with other travelers. For example, I reached out to a German guy who joined us on our road trip around Iceland.
There are plenty of hostels in Iceland, especially in Reykjavik. In the off season, prices drop as low as $25 a night for a bed in a dorm. In the summer months, camping is another budget friendly option. Hilary and I opted for an Airbnb room within walking distance of the city center. A private room for four nights was about the same for four nights in a dorm room in a hostel when the price was split by the two of us.
Rent a car with SADcars
Car rentals can be expensive, especially in a country like Iceland. Skip the big name brands and rent a car with SADcars. SADcars is a car rental company that rents slightly older model, but perfectly functioning cars at a fraction of the price of the other brands. We rent “Robert Benjamin Sputnik” for three days. Since we picked up another traveler, we split the cost of the rental and petrol between three people. It brought our individual costs down to $81.67 per person. Even if it’s just you, SADcars is much cheaper than the other big name car rental companies.
Another tip, make sure you book your car rental on a travel credit card. Most travel specific credit cards offer some free level of rental car insurance. So if you’re feeling like taking a chance and want to save some money, skip the expensive add-on car rental insurance.
Still, can’t afford a car rental? Try hitchhiking or car sharing sites like BlaBlaCar.
Shop at the Supermarkets
Just like everything else, food is expensive. It only makes sense when you live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic. Reykjavik has numerous delicious restaurants, and I do recommend splurging one night. We did one night for tapas. Two tapas dishes and a glass of red wine set me back almost $60. It was worth it, though.
The rest of the time we mainly shopped at the local supermarket for sandwich ingredients and yogurt. The yogurt in Iceland is amazing! I still dream of it today. Hot dog stands are also plentiful and cheap. Make sure you grab a dog at the famous stand that sold the “best hot dog in the world” to President Bill Clinton back in the day.
And skip the alcohol as that’s just highway robbery.
Seek Out Cheap or Free Activities
Most activities in Iceland come with a hefty price tag. Snorkeling the Silfra and horseback riding isn’t cheap, but it is a unique activity that you can only do in Iceland. Thankfully, Iceland is full of free activities. National parks are free to enter, and hiking trails are abundant. Most of Iceland’s main attractions, like the Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon are completely free. You just need a mode of transportation to get there.
I recommend checking out the free walking tour in Reykjavik to get a feel of the city and learn a little bit of Icelandic culture. Plus, Martienn will provide you with heaps of information on where to eat and free things to do. Many of the museums in Reykjavik also offer reasonable admission fees. Admission to the famous church, Hallgrimskirkja, is free, but to see the panoramic views of the city below, you must pay about $6.50 USD.
Pick One or Two Expensive Activities
Like I’ve mentioned above, Iceland is full of awesome and unique outdoor activities that you can only do in Iceland. Pick one or two that you really want to do. Whether it’s diving the Silfra or taking a spin on a helicopter to get a birdseye view of an active volcano, it’s totally worth it to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Iceland should be on everyone’s bucket list. For many East coaster, it’s just a short plane ride away. It’s also a great stopover on your way to mainland Europe. With WOW Air flying to Iceland for as low as $99, there is no excuse not to go.
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to travel Iceland for under $1,000. So, what are you waiting for?