With airlines such as WOW air offering trips from major U.S. cities to Reykjavik, Iceland, for a mere $99, you might find yourself daydreaming about hot cocoa under the Northern Lights. But although the beauty of this nearly untouched land is certainly worth the visit, don’t let the cheap airfare fool you. Iceland can get pricey — fast.
GOBankingRates spoke with world traveler, award-winning blogger and Smart Money Squad member Sebrin Elms about her experience traveling to the icy country with a group of girlfriends. Despite her adventuring prowess, she admitted that she greatly underestimated the cost of the trip.
“I didn’t realize how expensive it was going to be,” Elms said. “We were shocked to find that an average meal was $20, and that got us fish and chips.” Similarly, a burger, something you can get for a couple bucks at a fast-food chain in the U.S., cost the women about $16.
Worse than dining expenses was the country’s exceedingly high gas costs. The group traveled the famous Ring Road, a route that circles the country’s perimeter, offering breathtaking views. “We had to fill up our gas tank four or five times to go around the whole island,” Elms said. With gas prices at $100 to $120 per fill-up, it took its toll. “It was definitely a culture shock to my wallet.”
So why the sky-high prices? According to Elms, the high costs can be attributed to the country’s isolation. “Everything is going to have a lot of importation taxes,” she said. It’s true — the country’s cost-of-living index currently hovers around 112, making it the eighth-most expensive country in the world to live in.
More on High Cost of Living: The World’s Most Expensive Countries to Live In
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, however. Despite having underestimated the overall price of the trip, Elms loved every minute of it — even the hours she spent stuck in a snowdrift — and is quick to recommend it to fellow travelers. “It’s just very natural; lots of pastel colors everywhere. [It’s] very beautiful, almost Mars-like,” she said.
She suggests skipping visiting the country in winter though, which comes with heavy snowfall, making for slower going and, consequently, more gas fill-ups. If you travel during the summer, you can still see the country’s rugged mountains, volcanoes and waterfalls, and, as Elms said, “… you don’t have to spend money on lodging because you can go camping.”
With all that said, she’s quick to remind fellow adventurers: “If you have the opportunity to bring more money with you to Iceland, you should probably do so.”
More From Our Smart Money Squad