Iceland

Blame Eyjafjallajökull for high Iceland prices

Let’s talk about Iceland! Specifically the cost of visiting (and living) in Iceland! It’s really expensive! Holy shit!

I was prepared for sticker shock in Iceland. Everyone who has visited the country has only one thing to say about it: It’s expensive. You rarely hear stories about how kind Icelanders are or how fluent they are in English or how beautiful the country is because all of these things are overshadowed by the price. It’s a shame really.

The volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 which brought air travel to a screeching halt for multiple days is the event that put Iceland on the tourist map. Prior the eruption, no one really knew about this tiny island (just a bit bigger than Ireland) with the most northern capital city in the world and 500,000-800,000 free roaming sheep. When that eruption happened, everyone got intrigued and tourists started pouring in by the tens of dozens. Iceland having just gone bankrupt in the 2008 shit storm realized that tourists are like free money and poof! Up the prices went! The saddest thing about the price hike is that it affected residents. I asked two lifetime residents if they pay “residents rates” at restaurants, shops, bars, etc. and both told me very sternly, “No. We pay the same prices.”

I was shocked.

Anyway, I have a theory which has been confirmed by one lifelong resident. I believe that the tourism market in Iceland is going to tank in 5-10 years, mostly due to price. First, there is only a small pool of people who are willing to travel to such a remote place and who can also afford to visit Iceland. Second, Peter and I consider Iceland a “one-and-done” country, meaning it falls into that category of countries that we would not visit again – there’s just too many other countries yet to explore.

So, when you think about the already small pool of possible tourists and the likelihood that Iceland sees very few repeat tourists, their tourist market is going to dry up. It just will, unless, of course, they get their heads on straight and bring the prices down which will open up their tourist pool. The lifelong resident I chatted with about this said that they have already started to see a dip in tourism. He actually said, “A lot of Germans are backing out of visiting. They say it’s too expensive.” Um, yeah?

Iceland, please get your act together now to avoid a repeat of 2008!

Anyway, of all the blog posts and articles I read about Iceland, no one quantified what “expensive” meant. Expensive means something different to everyone, so I decided I’d fill in the gaps that all other bloggers have left out and I kept a detailed ledger of what we bought, ate, and drank. I’m afraid to add this up to be honest with you but here goes.

Oh, and before I start, one important thing to note Iceland does not have a tipping culture and we never tipped which felt really strange because even in Europe we would tip, even if it were a small amount and we always tipped tour guides. Tipping in America it OUT OF CONTROL.

First I’ll start with a few random grocery store items and their prices.

DescriptionUSD
6-pack of 330 ml Coke (cans)$4.40
500 ml of Coke (bottle)$1.40
1 pound of Driscolls strawberries$6.00
1 French baguette$1.20
18-pack AA Energizer batteries$11.00

Next, our hotel and my airfare costs. Please keep in mind that the airfare is slightly overstated because I flew to London via Reykjavik and then flew back to Seattle via Reykjavik with a four-night stay in Iceland. Peter’s roundtrip flights to/from London were paid for by his employer, so we only had to spring for his roundtrip airfare between London and Reykjavik.

DescriptionUSD
Four nights at a nice city centre hotel$1,631.34
Camie flights (SEA-KEF-LHR-KEF-SEA)$1,440.04
Peter flights (LHR-KEF-LHR)$410.00
2x airport roundtrip transfers$116.00
Total$3,597.38

And finally, our day-to-day expenses.

MealDrinks/FoodUSD
Happy hour4x glasses of wine
3x 500 cl of beer (draft)
$54.00
Dinner2x bowls of ramen
8x gyoza
2x 330 cl of beer (bottle)
$60.00
Day 1 total$114.00

Day 1 actually ended up being the “best deals” day. We soon realized that the happy hour at our hotel was one of the best in the city and we would have paid the same price for dinner at a comparable Seattle restaurant. By the end of day 1, we were thinking that all this shit about Iceland being expensive was a bunch of rubbish.

MealDrinks/FoodUSD
Brekkie (at hotel)2x cappuccinos
2x continental breakfast
$76.00
Tour2x Superjeep Golden Circle tour$758.00
Lunch1x 500 ml of Coke (bottle)
1x 500 ml of lamb stew at Haukadalur
$22.50
Happy hour2x 500 cl of beer (draft)$12.00
Coffee2x small lattes$16.00
DinnerCup of popcorn
Lamb shank and fries
Hamburger and fries
1x glass of wine
1x “dark & stormy” cocktail
* see itemized receipt below
$132.00
Day 2 total$1,016.50

Day 2 was a very expensive and long day. I’ll go into more detail in a later post but the Superjeep tour was not worth the price. Here’s a photo of the lamb stew container – napkin holder for comparison. I really hope that sentence does not kill their business.

And here is our dinner receipt.

Day 3 brought with it another expensive tour but this tour was a unique experience and worth the price.

ActivityDescriptionUSD
Brekkie2x lattes
2x plates of eggs, bacon and toast
$46.00
Tour2x Inside the Volcano tour$840.00
Happy hour2x glasses of wine
6x 500 cl of beer (draft)
$72.00
Snack1x slice of cake
1x scone
$17.00
Dinner1x 500 cl of beer (draft)
2x mojito cocktails
1x margarita cocktail
Baby back ribs starter/appetizer
Lamb tenderloin and mashed potatoes
Duck leg confit and mashed potatoes
* see itemized receipt below
$194.00
Day 3 total$1,169.00

And below is our dinner receipt from day 3. Mojitos (a steal at only $18 each!) were poured from a draft. The standard going rate for a mojito anywhere in the city centre was $25!

Day 4 turned out to be a day of slowly walking around the city centre (hint: there’s not much to see or do) killing time before our appointment at the Blue Lagoon at 8pm. We were so bored that we actually went to a museum. I cannot recall the last time we went to a museum. We are not museum people. Maybe to see the Statue of David in Italy back in April 2012? I don’t know. It’s been a long time and I am a-ok with that.

One of the best things about Day 4 was that we consumed about $100 worth of drinks and food while at the Blue Lagoon but, for some reason, the charges were not hooked up to our e-bracelets and we left the Blue Lagoon owing $0. We were dishonest and said nothing about the missing charges and quickly shuffled our feet out of the facilities and to the bus stop.

ActivityDescriptionUSD
Lunch2x sandwiches$15.00
Museum2x tickets$40.00
Coffee2x small lattes$14.00
Dinner1x 16-inch pizza
1x glass of wine
1x bottomless Coke
$38.00
Transport2x roundtrip transfers to the Blue Lagoon$90.00
Tour2x Blue Lagoon luxury package tickets$530.00
Day 4 total$727.00

Day 5 was our last day in Iceland and it was only a half day. I flew Icelandair and they are a low-budget airline. For my regular coach ticket, food was available for purchase so I stocked up with sandwiches at the airport. Peter flew back to London where he would stay one night at an airport hotel and then he flew back to Seattle the following morning.

ActivityDescriptionUSD
Brekkie (at hotel)2x continental breakfast$60.00
Coffee2x small lattes$14.00
Lunch/dinner2x sandwiches
1x 500 ml of Coke (bottle)
1x yogurt pot
$40.00
Day 5 total$114.00

Our grand total for four nights in Iceland was ~$6,738.

Was Iceland worth $6,738? No. I would have rather been on safari. Or in Prague. Or many other places but as Peter has reminded me several times now, I’ve wanted to visit Iceland since roughly 2013 so I need to just be happy that it actually happened.

Next up, my thoughts on the Iceland’s Golden Circle.

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