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.