Bicycle Touring Pro's Ultimate Bike Tour Training Course

Europe

Traveling In Iceland: How Much Does It Cost?

on

European travel doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I proved that once before, when I traveled through Europe for nine whole months and spent an average of just $1,250 USD per month.

This year I’m working to prove this theory again, as I’m back in Europe on another multi-month bicycle touring adventure. And like in 2009, I’m once again keeping track of every single cent that I spend along the way and reporting back to you on a regular basis with the costs associated with European travel.

I started my bicycle touring adventures this year in the island nation of Iceland. Once there, my travel companion, Brandon, and I spent twenty-five days cycling around the country, eating the food, meeting the people and generally enjoying ourselves.

The following is a detailed breakdown of how much money I spent along the way along with some tips that you can use to keep your costs low when and if you ever travel to Iceland for yourself.

Airfare – $666.87 USD

As with just about every trip to an island nation, the journey began with the purchase of an airline ticket. For this particular trip to Iceland I wouldn’t be traveling round-trip, but would instead be flying from Los Angeles, California to the International Airport in Keflavik, Iceland… and then twenty-five days later be flying from Iceland to London, England, where I would continue my bicycle travels in the rest of Europe. Therefore, the cost of my first and longest flight from LAX to Iceland was $450.70 USD and the cost of my second and much shorter flight from Iceland to England was only $216.17 USD.

Shipment Of My Bicycle – $0 USD

I booked my ticket to Iceland with the airline known as IcelandAir, so before I even purchased my ticket with the company I had a look at their policy for flying with a bicycle. According to the website, IcelandAir charges $40 USD per direction to fly with a bicycle. With many other airlines currently charging $80, $100 and sometimes as much as $350 per direction to fly with a bicycle, $40 USD seemed like a very reasonable price to pay in order to get my bicycle to and out of the country.

As it turns out, however, I was able to finagle my way out of paying for the shipment of my bicycle entirely. How I did this is kind of a long story, so if you aren’t interested in this part, feel free to skip ahead.

When I arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport early in the morning for my flight to Iceland, the woman behind the counter insisted that I have in my possession a return ticket to the United States.

“We need proof that you are going to be coming back to the USA,” the woman told me.

But I didn’t have a return ticket to the USA with me at the time, because I was planning to fly to London after my time in Iceland was over… and I planned to cycle around Europe for the rest of the year after that. In fact, I wasn’t even planning to come back to the USA for at least a year or more, so booking a ticket that far in advance was almost entirely impossible. Nevertheless, the woman insisted that I have a return ticket to the USA at some point in the future before she would let me check into the flight and board the plane to Iceland.

With this news I ran around the large international airport in search of an Internet connection so that I could book a return ticket to the States. It took me nearly a half-hour before I could find a computer and search for a flight that might work for my return trip home. But just as I was about to spend a ghastly amount of money on a return ticket I might not even use, my dad (who had dropped me off at the airport and was with me when the woman explained that I needed a return ticket in order to board the plane to Iceland) ran up to me with sweat on his face and screamed “Don’t book the ticket!!!”

“What’s going on?” I thought to myself?

My dad quickly explained that the woman from IcelandAir had asked a supervisor and she was wrong in her assumption that I needed a return ticket to the United States. As I had suspected all along, the policy is not that you need a return ticket, but that you simply need to have a ticket showing that you will be headed somewhere else (in my case: London, England) after my time in Iceland was up.

Since I did indeed have a ticket for my flight from Iceland to England, I returned to the ticket counter where I was met by the same woman from IcelandAir. Upon my return, the woman casually checked me into the flight, never once apologized for her misinformation and the stress it had caused me, but she did offer to fly my bicycle to Iceland for free as a means of saying “I’m sorry.”

And so my bicycle was put on the plane for free, arrived in Iceland the next day, and after assembling our bikes at the airport, Brandon and I were on our way.

On the flight from Iceland to England, however, I was once again expecting to pay the $40 fee to get my bicycle out of the country. When I checked in at the airport, however, on the morning of the flight, I used one of the automated check-in machines to check-in for the flight… and when it came to the screen that asked me how many bags I wanted to check, I pressed the number “2″ (one bag was my bicycle and the other was a box full of my clothes, camping gear, etc.). There was no option for sports equipment or over-sized luggage, so I simply pressed the number “2″ and a few seconds later the machine printed out two large tags that I was to attach to my luggage.

After putting the baggage tags on my bicycle box and my other box of belongings, I simply dropped both items off at the baggage area (where I was never asked to pay for the over-sized bicycle box) and walked away. Later that day, my bicycle was rolled out of the over-sized baggage area in London’s Heathrow airport and it was then that I knew I had just flown my bicycle to Europe for absolutely no cost at all.

Food – $364.40 USD

After the cost of air travel, food was by far the largest expense I had in Iceland. While I was for the most part positively surprised at the affordability of the Icelandic food, the cost of food in Iceland was a bit more than I am used to paying at home.

A 12-inch pizza at a restaurant, for example, cost about $9 – $22 USD. The soft serve ice cream that is so popular at the gas stations and tourist traps in Iceland cost anywhere from $2.50 – $6 USD for a small to medium sized portion.

I was able to keep my food costs under control, however, by shopping at supermarkets whenever possible, cooking my own food most nights (I ate a lot of soup and bread) and only eating out a dozen or more times during the entire trip. In the end, I paid just under $15 USD per day for my food in Iceland.

Lodging – $18.73 USD

If I were a normal person who cared about soft beds, warm showers, and keeping myself constantly clean and refreshed, I might have shelled out a massive amount of money to stay in hotels each night while I was in Iceland. Instead, I camped in a tent every single night… and this was the number one way that I was able to keep my expenses low while traveling in this cold and isolated  island country

The good thing about camping in Iceland is not just the fact that the camping locations are plentiful and scenic, but that they can be had for free almost anywhere around the country (with a little effort).

We saved a lot of money by wild camping at night. We saved a little money by camping in closed campgrounds on other nights (Because they were closed, we didn’t have to pay anything to be there). And in the end, I paid for just two nights of camping in Reykjavik. The total cost for 23 nights of lodging in Iceland was less than twenty US Dollars.

Transportation (Via Bus) – $101.45 USD

If it hadn’t been for a road closure that prevented us from returning to Reykjavik on one of Iceland’s more remote inland roads, we wouldn’t have had to spend this money at all. But the road closure did happen and instead of cycling back the way we came for days on end, Brandon and I decided to load our bicycles into a bus and return to the city of Selfoss where we could continue our journey by bike.

This short 6-hour bus ride from Jökulsárlón to Selfoss cost just over one-hundred US Dollars, but it saved us days of effort and enabled us to visit a few more places in Iceland that we wouldn’t have been able to see if we had simply been backtracking that entire time on our bikes.

Entertainment – $19.26 USD

While in Reykjavik, Brandon and I were barraged by posters all over the city saying that the Reykjavik Arts Festival was currently taking place. After seeing so many of the posters, I jumped on the Internet and did some research to find out what the event was all about. After a little digging, I thought it might be fun to attend one of the shows that had been listed as part of the festival… and in the end, Brandon and I did attend a short and very strange Icelandic dance and song performance (the strangest performance I have ever seen in my entire life). While the show was beyond bizarre (and in a language I couldn’t understand) I had a lot of fun at the show and it set me back only $19.26.

Showers – $19.56 USD

Because we were camping the entire time in Iceland, we didn’t have access to a daily shower like those staying in hotels might have. This meant that we had to pay for showers along the way. Luckily, there are a number of sport centers scattered around Iceland that offer group shower facilities at affordable prices for travelers like Brandon and I. While I feel very uncomfortable showering (nude – is the way they do it in Iceland) in front of other people, this is the way that it is done in Iceland. Or you can shell out $19.56 USD like I did and pay to use a private shower at a hotel. Either way will get you washed up and out the door in a hurry.

Gas (Petrol) – $1.96 USD

My final small expense in Iceland was for the gas I put into my camp stove. I filled the small 1 liter gas can twice while I was in the country and it cost me less than two USD to do so.

Other Expenses – ???

It should be noted that this breakdown of travel costs does not include the items I brought to Iceland with me from the United States (such as my clothing, bicycle, camping equipment, or anything like that). Instead, this is simply a breakdown of the money I spent getting to the country, while in the country, and leaving the country before continuing on to my next destination. Were I to factor in the cost of the items I brought to Iceland with me, this list of expenses would be much, much higher.

Ultimately, however, my travels in Iceland cost me a total of just…

Total Costs: $1,192.23 US Dollars

For a memorable and possibly even once-in-a-lifetime 25-day bicycle touring adventure in Iceland, $1,192 USD is not a whole lot of money. If you break that down to the cost per day, I was averaging a total cost of about $47.69 USD.

If you have any questions about my  travel expenses in Iceland or about the expenses you think you might incur while traveling in this country, feel free to leave a question or comment in the box below.

About Darren Alff

Darren Alff is a world-renowned authority on bicycle touring and is the founder of BicycleTouringPro.com - the world's most popular bicycle touring website and how-to information source. He is the developer of "The Ultimate Bike Tour Training Course," and the author of four additional cycling books: The Bicycle Touring Blueprint, The Essential Guide to Touring Bicycles, Winter Cycling and Stretching for Cyclists. Darren has dedicated his life to helping others conduct the bicycle tour of their dreams. His websites, books, email newsletter, products and public appearances now inspire and assist hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.

Recommended for you

23 Comments

  1. Steve Herrmann

    June 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Darren,

    Great adventure! I am waiting to read the continued story.

    For the last three years my son (now 16) and I have gone on an annual tour. 2010: Budapest to Fertõd Lake (near Austrian border). 2011: Nagy Kanizsa Hungary to Triest Italy (and beyond). 2012: Sopron Hungary (on Hungarian border) to Munich Germany. As my son gets older we have been able to take on more aggressive rides. This past year nearly killed his desire to do any more tours. It rained 5 days out of the 9 riding days. All of the dripping wet days were in VERY hilly terrain. I thought I was going to have to do future tours with one of my daughters or solo. :( Recently my son said, “On our next tour I want to go over the Dolomites.” Yippee! I have my riding partner back!

    We live in Budapest, but will be in Seattle for the summer. If you get this way, I’d be more than happy to put you up – with FREE showers and Hungarian meals.

    Enjoy! Ride safe and take a lot of pictures. :)

    – Steve Herrmann

  2. Toby

    June 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

    great read man. do you have more comments on the Icelandic culture anywhere?
    this reminds of my 5 week sojourn to the isle of Jamaica in Nov. I was walking alot, no bike, using shuttles/taxis to encircle the whole island. sleeping in the bush or on beaches remain a highlight as well as meeting all the fisherman. the next time I go back a bike will make the trip as well. Jamaica would be a great place to bike tour the hospitality would be immense. and the food…….g’waan eat!

  3. Marty

    June 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Did you carry Medical insurance during this trip and if so what type of coverage and how much did it cost? I have been told that when traveling some countries require a medical coverage card, is this correct or ??

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      June 24, 2012 at 5:49 am

      Marty, I am carrying some medical insurance with me through this company here: HTH Worldwide http://hthworldwide.com/ I pay about $70-$80 per month I think. My regular health insurance company back in the USA said they wouldn’t cover me if I was outside of the country, so I dropped them and am using HTH at the moment instead. I haven’t had a chance to actually use them yet, so I can’t tell you if I would recommend them or not.

  4. Rhonda Leduc

    June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for a very informative article! I am wondering what the cheapest form of accommodation for a solo cycle tourist in Europe might be. I am wondering what the cost of camping at a campground is compared to cost of staying at a youth hostel. As a solo female cyclist, I am a little fearful of wild camping on my own. Any comments? Thanks!

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      June 24, 2012 at 5:47 am

      Rhonda,

      Camping in Europe is a great way to go. I have paid anywhere from 5 – 12 Euros for a camping site in Europe. It’s a great and inexpensive way to go. Another option would be to stay with strangers via the http://www.warmshowers.org or a similar travel/hosting website.

  5. Pingback: The Velo Hobo Weekly Reader « The Velo Hobo

  6. bob dixon

    June 24, 2012 at 1:21 am

    Well done Darren.Iceland sounds great and a lot cheaper than I imagined.
    bob

  7. Derek

    July 3, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Sounds like a great trip and economical too.
    It won’t be so easy in mainland Europe.
    I remember travelling around the US way back in 1974 in a campervan on $10 a day!
    Good luck and safe riding.
    Derek

  8. Ed Catt

    July 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks for the interesting look at some of the issues of traveling by bike. Would it be a good idea, before trying a longer, multi-day bike trip, to take some over-nighters to closer locations, like area lakes? That seems like a good way to try such a thing without the huge investment in time, so that a person would know if they really wanted to do long stuff. What do you think?
    Thanks,
    Ed

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      July 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

      Yes Ed, some shorter bicycle trips near home is a great way to introduce yourself to bicycle touring. You might also want to try a short guided bicycle tour. That is another great way to be introduced and guided through the bicycle touring process.

  9. javad

    August 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    I am javad and from Iran . I watch your wedside . that is good and nice . I have 52 years old . and Iam retire teacher . with lovely greeting .

  10. Richard Lapierre

    August 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    What impress me the most about the spending for you trip ,is that you paid only $450,70 from LAX to Iceland !! How is that possible ? I’ve been living in Mexico (Queretaro ) for 2 years now for the job and I’ve gone back home (Montréal ) 4 times now and the cheapest i’ve paid is the one for my forthcoming trip at $495 (wich is extremely cheap ,I pay around $ 700 normally ) for a 5 hour flight. LAX to Iceland must be at least 10 hours (I guess ) . I would of tought you would of paid aorund $1000 at least . And by the way, Iceland is a place I would like to visit and from Montréal I’ve never seen price lower than $ 750 I think. So let us know how did you get that price ?

  11. Pingback: Wild Camping Along Iceland’s Golden Circle

  12. james

    November 8, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    what kind of panniers/rack setup did you use?

  13. Jeff

    December 16, 2012 at 11:54 am

    What time of year did you go to Iceland that it only cost $450? I just looked online for August and the airfare was over $1100.

  14. Bicycle Touring Pro

    December 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I went to Iceland in May, but I purchased my flight several months before. And remember, the $450 USD was just one-way. I was not flying round-trip.

  15. Matthew

    January 28, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Your trip sounds awesome and was amazingly informative!

    I had a few questions myself however. I just booked my flight to Iceland for May and am super stoked about it. $807 using Icelandair for anyone interested round-trip, so he is on point with that.

    I am trying to make a budget for my trip and as most people tell me, over budget for most expenses. I do not however plan on using a car and will rely on “public” transport. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what the best way to get around the island is. Currently I have found Flybus and they seem affordable and have a various amount of packages (about $130-400 for ring passes) but I am unsure how many cities I should visit/want to visit. The main ones of course. Reykjavik, Akureyri, and would like to make it to the eastern side near Skaftafell if possible.

    Do you have any suggestions? What to expect?

    A lot of people have been telling me I am WAY OVER BUDGETING but I would rather be safe than sorry so I am allocating $60/night for 15 nights.

    Thanks in advance and I am not afraid to camp if that helps, provided I somehow find a sleeping bag and tent.

  16. Pingback: How To Travel In Europe For Less Than €700 Euros Per Month

  17. Melissa

    July 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Hey! I’m set to leave for Iceland in a week (booked one way), and I’ve never heard anything about needing a ticket to go elsewhere. Could you elaborate a bit on that? I’ve checked a few online resources and no one has ever mentioned it, including my travel agent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>