Visiting Iceland is a lifetime experience and it’s best traveled by car. For planning a road trip on a budget, we prepared a guide and some tips for you
I went to Iceland and drove all around the country in 10 days. It was one of the most beautiful road trips I’ve done. However, it was really expensive and at the end I had to skip some activities in order to keep on budget. For that reason, I prepared a guide for a road trip in Iceland on a budget.
How to plan a road trip in Iceland on a budget:
- While being in Reykjavik find a good spot for parking your vehicle and without cost. The capital of Iceland is better to be explored by foot.
- At the same time, parking in Reykjavik from 6pm to 10am is free almost everywhere.
- Visit the supermarkets of Reykjavik before heading out to the wilderness. They tend to be cheaper than in any other Icelandic cities and you will also have the largest variety of products.
- If you are coming from America, get an Icelandic SIM card with internet for 10 USD as many guesthouses and camping spots don´t offer internet. However, if you are traveling from Europe and own a European SIM Card, it should be perfectly work in Iceland
- Bring a sleeping bag or a small blanket. Most hostels charge extra for the bed linen (5-7 EUR)
- Drink tap water. It might smell of sulfur, but it is the cleanest in Europe. Bring your own bottle for the trip – it will be also very useful for long treks.
- Car accidents and damages are very common in Iceland. Don´t save at the wrong end, if there is one place where you want to have a good car insurance, it’s Iceland for sure.
We decided to spend some money on insurances when renting a car in Iceland and it was definitely something not to regret. We bought a ZERO Collision Damage Waiver (ZCDW) insurance, which covers pretty much everything.
- Are you still looking for travel mates that will join your road trip and help you safe costs. Check out Facebook groups for car sharing in Iceland.
Prices in Iceland for common daily things
- Hostel dorm bed in Reykjavik: 30 to 50 EUR without breakfast
- double room in a guest house outside Reykjavik: 80 to 100 EUR with breakfast
- Sleeping bag rental: 7 to 12 EUR per week
- Fast food meal (Pizza, Kebab, Sandwich): 12 to 15 EUR
- 1 course meal in a restaurant: 25 to 50 EUR per meal including one soft drink
- Beer at the supermarket: 2 EUR/500ml can
- Beer in a bar: 9 EUR/pint
Read more: A 5-day itinerary in Iceland
Visiting Iceland’s free attractions
- Travel in a different time zone. With almost 24 hours of sun in the summer, you can easily go to the hotspots at unusual times and have the waterfalls just to yourself. With that said, you can simply cook on the road or prepare bites for along the way.
- Check if your camping site offers cooking facilities and free showers. Some camping sites, like the one in Skaftafell, charge 6 USD for 5 minutes of hot water.
- Free camping is allowed, but make sure you find the right spot. You can also get a camping card for 130 USD and get access to 41 camping sites for 28 nights.
- No Icelander uses cash anymore. Get a credit card without foreign fee and pay everything with a credit card. – I spent 10 days in Iceland and didn´t exchange money at all.
- The blue lagoon is considered by many an overpriced location and a complete tourist trap. Visit other hot springs all around the country. For example, Reykjadalur hot spring next to Reykjavik is completely free!
- You can visit every location in Iceland without booking a tour, except for the glaciers. This was probably one of the coolest experiences I had and I would totally repeat it again. Prices might be a little bit high, but it will be an unforgettable experience you won’t forget.
Icelandic Mountain Guides offers glacier tours at all price ranges and starting around 100 EUR
Being on the road on a budget
- N1 gas stations offer refill coffee cups for only 3 USD.
- Before you start driving check the weather conditions at road.is.
- Car companies offer mini campers for travelers looking to travel around Iceland sleeping in the car.
- Rental prices for GPS start at 10 EUR/day. Better safe that money and use the offline version of Google Maps.
- Don´t risk your life: When Icelanders put “impassable” or “difficult driving conditions” on the road condition website, they really mean it. Take also into consideration that some insurance companies won’t cover the damages if you are driving in an area you were not allowed to.
- Travel in low season. Prices in summer can rise by up to 40% compared to April or May.
- Before booking an accommodation, check if breakfast is included. Many guesthouses charge an extra 11 USD for breakfast.
- Some companies in Reykjavik rent out sleeping bags, tents, electricity converters (from 12V to 220V) and cooking equipment starting 10 EUR per day.
- This might not be a budget tip, but it will definitely help you. Weather is unpredictable in Iceland. Bring good waterproof hiking shoes and a rain jacket.
Car rental prices for a road trip on a budget in Iceland:
- SIM Card with 2GB Internet: 10 EUR
- 2-wheel drive compact: starting 200 EUR per week and up plus add-ons
- 2-wheel drive mid-size: starting 400 EUR per week and up plus add-ons
- 4-wheel drive van or SUV: starting 600 EUR per week and up plus add-ons
- Additional insurances: around 10 EUR per day
- Gasoline: Iceland has the third highest gasoline prices in the world. For 2019-20 prices are around 1,70 EUR/liter.
- Parking fees: usually free