Counting Króna in Iceland

Króna is the currency of Iceland, and it has a pretty good exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, roughly 100 króna to 1 dollar. (Note: This was the rate at the time of our first visit; check current exchange rates here.) To calculate prices, you just shifted the decimal two places to the left; for example, if something was 1,000 króna, it was about $10 USD.


Mike’s new Icelandic t-shirt. (photo: Gullfoss)

It was a little shocking at first to hear a clerk tell you, “That will be four thousand three hundred ninety-three, please,” when you’re buying a t-shirt. And then it was shocking all over again when you realize that t-shirt just cost you $44.

As I mentioned in the previous post, our lunch for three people at the Chuck Norris Grill in Reykjavík was 9,300 króna, or $93 USD. It was surprisingly good food (who knew what to expect with a name like that?), but that’s still quite expensive for a pulled pork sandwich, a dozen wings, fries, a salad, a soft drink, and two beers without gratuity included. Thankfully, the portions were large, and we were able to take half a sandwich, four wings, and two-thirds of the salad back to the hotel for dinner. We did the same thing with leftovers from yesterday’s $85 pizza lunch in Vík.

Taking a to-go box is one of the ways we’ve saved money in this very expensive country. We also brought snacks from home, which has saved us money not only in Iceland but also in overpriced airports. Nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, chocolate, and even apples travel well and make good snacks or small meals.

Our breakfasts, however, are never small. Most Icelandic hotels include them in the cost of your room or offer them for around $20 per person as an add-on, and it’s completely worth it. You’ll typically find eggs, a wide variety of breads, sliced deli meats and cheeses, fresh vegetables (usually cucumbers and tomatoes), cereal, milk, juice, coffee and tea, and sometimes other items such as bacon or hummus. Since it’s all-you-can-eat, you’ll want to eat all you can. Our friend Steve from Colorado also suggested taking a “Dagwood” for later in the day (shhh … we won’t tell).

Our friend Steve from Tennessee travels to Iceland frequently as an award-winning art photographer, and he recommended that we stop by the duty-free shop at the Keflavík airport for any alcohol we might want on the trip. When you arrive at your gate, you’ll pass the first few shops you see nearby, which are small and only for departing passengers. Make your way toward the baggage claim area, and you’ll find a very large shopping area for new arrivals.

Mike always likes to land in a new country with at least $300 USD in the foreign currency so he’s prepared for taxis, tips, and other early encounters where there might not be an ATM handy. Many American banks will halve the conversion fee if you’re exchanging $300 or more, and we’ve found that to be a pretty reasonable amount of cash to have on hand. While we did this before Iceland as usual, we found more favorable exchange rates at Icelandic banks with no fee, so it was worth it to exchange additional cash in Reykjavík rather than paying foreign transaction fees on our check card. Saving money on money is always good!

We rented a car, which was not cheap, but it allowed us to visit sites all over the country at our own pace, and it was significantly less expensive than paying for group tours.

As always, we did some of the same things we do on every trip to save money: we travel only with carry-on luggage to avoid airline baggage fees, we pack clothing that can be washed in the sink if necessary to avoid expensive hotel laundry charges, and we maintain a pretty flexible schedule that allows us to take advantage of last-minute deals and opportunities.