Posted by: neilh10 | December 30, 2010

Is Iceland becoming expensive again?

An article written by Carol Pucci, in the Orlando Sentinel has caused a bit of a stir recently. Pucci describes Iceland as ‘one of the loneliest places on earth’, with its capital Reykjavik ‘more New England fishing village than cosmopolitan capital’.

The article isn’t critical of Iceland as such, but it does portray Iceland as a being an expensive place to visit. This is something that has been picked up by the Iceland Review

Pucci … complains about the pricing; quoting one local saying the only thing cheap in Iceland is the heating, mbl.is reports.

She takes the price of beer as an example, reasoning that paying USD 7 (ISK 800, EUR 5) for a glass of beer is too much. Yet, she is relieved that she didn’t have to pay the double amount as was the case before the banking collapse.

Pucci compares Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík’s landmark church, to a rocket ship and quotes a local saying Icelanders are depending on tourism counteracting the seven-percent unemployment rate.

Pucci’s article has raised questions as to whether Iceland’s image is returning to what it was before the economic boom and subsequent collapse.

It is true that if you spend your entire trip in the tourist centre of Reykjavik, you might leave with the impression that Iceland is an expensive place. There are a lot of gift shops that cater mainly to tourists, along with the type of bars and restaurants you would expect in any cosmopolitan urban centre. It’s pretty similar actually to the centre of London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Shanghai etc, apart from Iceland has a tiny population, and everything works on a much smaller scale.

But, if you venture outside the main tourist centre, there are actually lots of good value for money options in Reykjavik. On my frequent visits to the city I normally stay at the Hotel Cabin, and have been able to book good quality rooms on the internet, with an all you can eat buffet breakfast, for as little as £20 per night. Even in the restaurants downtown, off Laugavegur, you can normally get a decent meal for less than 2000 kr (£10). Its true that beer is normally very expensive, about 800kr (about £4.50) per pint, but if you ask around you can usually find somewhere where it is on offer, and can cost as little as 400kr per pint (about £2.25). If you are a coffee addict you will have very little to complain about – whilst a decent coffee
will set you back around 300-400 kr (£1.5 -2), you can normally get free refills.

All in all, in my experience, the cost of visiting Iceland is about the same as anywhere else in Western Europe, and it is quite possible to visit Reykjavik comfortably and on a budget. Whilst there has been some inflation in Iceland, the only time I have really noticed this is while shopping in the supermarket, where some things are significantly more expensive than the UK.

If you are travelling to Iceland on a budget, you shouldn’t be put off by people like Pucci. There are a lots of ways you can visit the country inexpensively. For instance, you can rent a second hand car for as little as £25 a day, and it is always possible to camp for cheap/free. You could quite easily run up a big bill in the supermarket or the alcohol shop, but this will be a relatively small proportion of your total costs, when you factor in the cost of the flight.

Overall, Iceland really is a great place to visit, and its best attraction – the nature – is completely free.

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Responses

  1. One of the most expensive countries I have ever visited. Not worth the money and will not return.

    • Vince, All I can really say in response is that I’ve been travelling to Iceland for over two years, and I don’t find it any more expensive than the UK, except for food. I’m sorry you had a bad experience: perhaps you were trapped in the overpriced tourist industry, or perhaps you are comparing it with much cheaper countries.

      More generally, I wrote this post over nine months ago, I still consider it to be accurate and up to date.


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