OK, so we’ve all heard how expensive it is to visit Iceland, right? But how about some cold, hard numbers? Here goes, with most of my information coming from this site, from summer 2018. Where I’m sourcing something different, I’ll let you know!
(Proceed to cue up the sobbing soundtrack…)
Right now, in September 2018, one US dollar (USD) equals about 109 Icelandic kroner (ISK). Source, here.
So when I’ve been eyeballing prices on my own, for example in looking at guesthouses, I knock off the last two digits of a price in ISK to determine the price in USD (ignoring any partial unit numbers, which would be cents in USD and I don’t know what they are called in ISK–my ignorance is showing, sorry!)
The price that’s got me shivering in my boots the most right now is gasoline, since I plan to drive most of the way up the West Coast of Iceland and make forays into the interior and out to the tip of Snaefellsnes peninsula. And here it is, folks, as of summer 2018:
$7.50/gal of gas!!!!
Yup, you saw that right! So basically three times as much as the average gallon of gas cost this summer in Ohio USA. Yikes! At least I’ll be renting a subcompact car that will hopefully get great mileage.
And I’ll just have to hope and pray that I don’t get lost very often, or for very long in kilometers (miles to us American hicks).
Let’s move onto something more appetizing:
Food is what I’ve heard a lot about. A friend commented on a FB post of mine that her aunt and uncle went to Iceland recently and didn’t like it, because of their experience with food prices–$28.00 for a greasy omelette was one example she gave.
Here’s a range of restaurant prices. You can see that it’s definitely not cheap:
Meal in a cheap restaurant 1,800 – 2,900 ISK (Euro 10.21 – 23.88 / USD 18.38 – 29.61)
Soup and bread 1200 – 2900 ISK (Euro 9.87 – 23.86 / USD 12.25 – 29.61)
3 course meal medium price 5,000 – 7,500 ISK (Euro 41.13 – 61.70 / USD 51.05 – 76.58)
McDonalds or combo meal deal 1,300 – 1,800 ISK (Euro 10.69 – 14.81 / USD 13.27 – 18.38)
500 ml beer 990 – 1400 ISK (Euro 8.14 – 11.52 / USD 10.11 – 14.29)
Standard glass of wine 900 – 1400 ISK (Euro 7.40 – 11.52 / USD 9.19 – 14.29)
Regular filter coffee 350 – 600 ISK (Euro 2.88 – 4.94 / USD 3.57 – 6.13)
Cappuccino 450 – 600 ISK (Euro 3.70 – 4.94 / USD 4.59 – 6.13)
But I don’t intend to eat out all that much. You’re allowed to bring in 6.6 lbs. of food (no raw eggs or raw meat and no milk) Source, here.
I will be taking hardboiled eggs, flour tortillas, and a jar of peanut butter, some ramen, dry cereal (with a plastic microwave-safe bowl, to use with Icelandic-purchased milk) and I’m not sure what else so far. Suggestions?
I’m not much of a meat-eater, although I’ve heard that Icelandic hot dogs are good and relatively cheap and can be gotten at gas stations, where I’ll be trying to pawn my belongings for a gallon of gas. I could eat a few hot dogs in the interest of not starving.
The site says that the Bonus grocery stores offer the best value, so I’ll look for one of those if necessary, but since I’ll mostly be out in the sticks I’ll be stuck with village shops for the most part, which are more expensive.
But here’s a partial list of the range of grocery prices, which don’t strike me as all that bad, although produce is very high because Iceland is, after all, an island way up in the middle of the far North Atlantic with very little arable land, which means that produce must be imported from very far away without having the kinds of mass transportation facilities as we have in the USA:
1 liter milk 132 – 180 ISK (Euro 1.09 – 1.48 / USD 1.34 – 1.83)
500g white bread loaf 237 – 450 ISK (Euro 1.95 – 3.70 / USD 241 – 4.57)
1 kg white rice 216 – 510 ISK (Euro 1.78 – 4.20 / USD 2.19 – 5.18)
1 kg pasta 300 – 500 ISK (Euro 2.47 – 500 / USD 2.51 – 5.08)
12 eggs 489 – 800 ISK (Euro 4.03 – 6.58 / USD 4.97 – 8.13)
1 kg boneless chicken 1,400 – 2,600 ISK (Euro 11.52 – 21.40 / USD 14.29 – 26.42)
1 kg beef steak 1,900 – 5,000 ISK (Euro 15.64 – 41.13 / USD 19.30 – 51.05)
1kg oranges, apples or bananas 198 – 495 ISK (Euro 1.63 – 4.07 / USD 2.01 – 5.03)
1 kg potatoes 200 – 369 ISK (Euro 1.65 – 3.04 / USD 2.03 – 3.75)
1 kg tomatoes 349 – 700 ISK (Euro 2.87 – 5.76 / USD 3.55 – 7.11)
1 kg onions 80 – 310 ISK (Euro 0.66 – 2.55 / USD 0.81 – 3.15)
1 kg carrots 350 to 650 ISK (Euro 2.88 – 5.35 / USD 3.56 – 6.60)
Pack of salad leaves 199 – 800 ISK (Euro 1.64 – 6.58 / USD 2.02 – 8.13)
Single lettuce 200 – 400 ISK (Euro 165 – 3.29 / USD 2.03 – 4.06)
Cucumber 150 – 400 ISK (Euro 1.23 – 3.29 / USD 1.57 – 4.06)
You can also bring in beer (I didn’t look to see how much, because I’m allergic to it) and up to 2.5 liters of wine, if you don’t bring any other alcohol, which would cut your wine limit to a liter. I may bring a couple of those portable mini-boxes of wine. Venange makes a good cabernet sauvignon in little boxes, so a couple of those in case I meet someone to drink with. I’m not big on alcohol in any case, though, so this item is likely to be completely omitted in favor of other things that would take up space in my luggage….
Lodging varies really widely, although you can depend on hotels being quite expensive. AirBnB runs the gamut, although they are still pricey compared to those offered in the USA.
Guesthouses such as the one I’ll be staying in on Snaefellsnes (see pictures here ) are a good option; yet I’ll be paying a lot ($114.00 USD per night) to share one bathroom in a hundred-year-old home with six other people, although I’ll have my own bedroom.
Hostels are the best bet for low prices, but you are almost always sharing a bathroom as well as a bedroom with others, and the quality of the facilites can vary widely. My advice is to always read the reviews for any kind of accommodation you are thinking of using.
On my first night, which I have decided now will be in Borgarnes at the HI hostel there, I’ll have a room to myself with an en suite bathroom–a real steal at $132.00 USD.
In Reykjavik I’ll be sharing a bedroom and bathroom at Loft Hostel with five other women right in the center of Old Town and off the main shopping strip. That one will cost $76.00 USD for each of the two nights I’ll be there. Both the hostels I’ll be in belong to Hostels International, and the rates I quote are member’s rates. Non-members must pay 11.11% higher.
And of course my HI membership expires right before my trip! Oh well. At HI, you can pay for your membership at the first hostel you check into on your trip, along with your lodging cost. I just have to remember to budget that in!
I’ll also be spending one night at Hotel Laugar in Saelingsdalur, which like the other Hotel Eddas around Iceland function as schools during the academic year and are only available to travelers in the summer. There, I will have a tiny spartan single room with shared bath for $125.00 for the night.
To segue into my next topic, I’ll remind myself that I will also need to renew my AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) membership before April so that I will get the great rate that I reserved a car for. So many things to remember to add to the budget, including this:
Hidden car insurance and VAT costs
In Iceland, the liability insurance you might have bought in the USA when you reserve your rental car will not cover something very important: damage to the car caused by gravel thrown up against it.
If you are not going to be on a single gravel road, maybe you don’t have to worry about this. But I plan to go to a few places that can only be reached on unpaved roads. Ah well.
Additionally, when you arrive in-country at KEF airport and go to pick up your car, you’ll discover that there is also an additional amount for VAT (value-added tax) for car rentals. Last I checked, which was in 2017, the VAT was 24%.
The VAT, and the extra insurance, are going to tally up to a much higher cost for my car rental than the price Expedia quoted me. So beware! You have to pay for both of these things (and who knows what else I don’t even know about in advance) up front, or else you will not be leaving KEF with a rental car… and the places I’m going mostly do not have any bus service.
(Sobbing soundtrack volume goes way up!)
I’m gonna love Iceland! ❤
So I’ll close once again with my favorite, uncredited, photo of Snaefellsnes. I really hope there will be snow on the mountains (but not on the roads) while I am there!