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How Expensive Is It To Live In Iceland As An Expat


by Susann Freese



Living in Iceland can be a dream come true for many adventurous expats. With its stunning landscapes, vibrant cultural scene, and high standard of living, it’s no wonder that Iceland is a popular destination for those looking to relocate. However, before making the move, it’s important to consider the cost of living in this Nordic island nation.


Iceland is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, but it also comes with a price tag. The country’s remote location, small population, and high quality of life contribute to the overall cost of living. While the cost of living in Iceland may be higher compared to some other European countries, it’s important to note that salaries and public services also reflect this higher cost.


When considering the cost of living in Iceland, it’s essential to take into account various factors such as housing, food, transportation, utilities, healthcare, education, and entertainment. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with a detailed breakdown of these costs, helping you make an informed decision about your potential expat life in Iceland.


It’s worth mentioning that the Icelandic króna (ISK) is the currency used in Iceland. When converting prices to other currencies, it’s important to consider the exchange rate fluctuations.


Now, let’s dive into the details of the cost of living in Iceland and explore each aspect to help you better understand the expenses you may encounter as an expat.


Cost of Housing

When it comes to housing in Iceland, the cost can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Reykjavik, the capital city, tends to have higher rental prices compared to other smaller towns.


For a one-bedroom apartment in Reykjavik, you can expect to pay around 150,000 ISK to 200,000 ISK per month. If you prefer a larger apartment or a house, the prices can go up to 250,000 ISK or more. Keep in mind that these prices are for long-term rentals, and short-term rentals or furnished apartments may cost more.


If you’re considering purchasing a property in Iceland, you should know that the prices can be quite high. The average price per square meter in Reykjavik is around 1-2 million ISK. In other towns and rural areas, the prices can be slightly lower, but they still tend to be on the higher side compared to some other European countries.


It’s essential to factor in the cost of utilities when calculating your monthly housing expenses. The cost of electricity, heating, water, and internet can add up. On average, expect to pay around 20,000 ISK to 30,000 ISK per month for these utilities.


Keep in mind that finding available housing in Iceland can sometimes be challenging, particularly in Reykjavik and during peak times. It’s advisable to start your search early and consider working with a local real estate agent who can assist you in finding suitable options within your budget.


For those who prefer a more affordable housing option, there are alternatives such as house sharing or renting a room. This can help reduce your housing costs, but it’s important to carefully consider the lifestyle factors and compatibility with potential roommates.


In summary, housing in Iceland can be relatively expensive, especially in major cities. It’s important to budget for your monthly rent or mortgage payments, as well as the additional costs of utilities. Starting your housing search early and exploring different options can help you find a residence that suits both your budget and preferences.


Cost of Food and Groceries

When it comes to food and groceries in Iceland, prices can be higher compared to other European countries. This is due to the country’s remote location, which makes importing goods more expensive.


If you choose to dine out frequently, be prepared to spend a significant portion of your budget on meals. Eating at restaurants in Iceland can be quite pricey, with the average cost of a meal at a mid-range restaurant ranging from 3,000 ISK to 5,000 ISK per person. However, there are also more affordable options such as fast-food restaurants and casual eateries that offer cheaper meals.


To save money on groceries, many locals and expats in Iceland opt to shop at discount supermarkets or grocery stores. These stores offer a wide range of products at lower prices compared to other establishments. Examples of discount supermarkets in Iceland include Bónus, Krónan, and Nettó. On average, a weekly grocery bill for a single person can range from 15,000 ISK to 20,000 ISK, depending on your dietary preferences and shopping habits.


Imported products, especially those from outside of Europe, are generally more expensive. However, locally produced items such as dairy products, fish, and lamb can be more affordable. It’s worth exploring Icelandic cuisine and incorporating local ingredients into your meals to enjoy a taste of the country without breaking the bank.


Another cost-saving tip is to take advantage of seasonal produce. Iceland has a short growing season, but during the summer months, you can find fresh fruits and vegetables at local markets. This is not only a more budget-friendly option but also a great way to support local farmers and enjoy the freshest produce available.


In summary, while the cost of food and groceries in Iceland can be higher compared to other European countries, there are ways to minimize costs. Shopping at discount supermarkets, cooking at home, and incorporating locally sourced ingredients can help you maintain a balanced budget while still enjoying delicious meals.


Cost of Transportation

Transportation in Iceland can be a significant expense, especially if you rely on private vehicles or choose to travel frequently. Here are some key factors to consider:


1. Public Transportation: Reykjavik has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses. The prices for single tickets vary depending on the distance traveled, but a single adult fare typically ranges from 470 ISK to 570 ISK. There are also monthly passes available for regular commuters, which can provide more cost-effective options.


2. Car Rental: Renting a car is a popular choice for exploring Iceland’s stunning landscapes. However, it can be quite expensive. Daily rental rates for a small, economy car start at around 6,000 ISK to 8,000 ISK, while larger vehicles or 4x4s can cost significantly more. It’s important to factor in additional costs such as fuel, insurance, and potential toll fees for certain roads.


3. Fuel Costs: Fuel prices in Iceland are relatively high. The average cost of gasoline (95-octane) is around 230 ISK per liter. This means that traveling long distances by car can quickly add up in terms of fuel expenses.


4. Taxis: Taxis in Iceland are also quite expensive. The starting fare for a taxi ride in Reykjavik is around 600 ISK, with additional charges based on distance and time. It’s worth considering alternative transportation options or pre-booking taxis to get more accurate pricing estimates.


5. Flights: If you plan to travel within Iceland or explore the remote parts of the country, taking domestic flights may be necessary. While prices can vary depending on the distance and time of year, expect to pay a few thousand ISK for a one-way domestic flight.


6. Alternative Transportation: Bicycles have become increasingly popular in Iceland, especially in Reykjavik. Renting or purchasing a bicycle can be a more cost-effective and eco-friendly means of transportation, especially for shorter distances within the city.


Overall, transportation costs in Iceland can be significant, especially if you plan to own or rent a car. It’s important to carefully consider your transportation needs based on your lifestyle, location, and frequency of travel. Exploring public transportation, carpooling, or utilizing alternative options such as bicycles can help minimize expenses and provide a more sustainable means of getting around.


Cost of Utilities

When it comes to utilities in Iceland, expenses can vary based on factors such as the size of your residence, usage, and location. Here are some key utilities to consider:


1. Electricity: The cost of electricity in Iceland is relatively high. On average, monthly electricity bills can range from 8,000 ISK to 12,000 ISK for a small apartment or studio, and higher for larger homes. It’s worth noting that Iceland derives most of its electricity from renewable sources such as geothermal and hydroelectric power, which contributes to the higher costs.


2. Heating: Heating is a significant expense in Iceland, given the country’s colder climate. Most homes are equipped with geothermal heating, which is considered more environmentally friendly. The cost of heating can vary depending on the size of your residence and the extent of insulation. On average, monthly heating bills can range from 10,000 ISK to 20,000 ISK.


3. Water and Sewage: The cost of water and sewage is typically included in your monthly utility bill. Expect to pay around 5,000 ISK to 7,000 ISK per month for these services. It’s important to note that Icelandic tap water is of top quality and consumed directly from the tap.


4. Internet and TV: The cost of internet and TV services in Iceland can vary depending on the provider, package, and speed you choose. On average, monthly expenses for internet and basic TV packages can range from 8,000 ISK to 12,000 ISK.


It’s worth considering bundled packages that offer multiple services, as this can often provide cost savings. Additionally, some landlords include certain utilities in the rent, so it’s important to clarify which utilities are covered before signing a lease agreement.


Keep in mind that while utility costs in Iceland may be higher compared to other European countries, the quality and reliability of these services are generally excellent.


Overall, the cost of utilities in Iceland can add up, so it’s important to budget for these expenses when planning your finances as an expat. Being mindful of your energy consumption and exploring options for cost-effective plans can help you manage and minimize these expenses.


Cost of Healthcare

Healthcare in Iceland is highly regarded, and all residents, including expats, have access to quality medical services. It’s important to note that healthcare in Iceland is primarily funded through taxes, meaning that most basic healthcare services are covered for residents.


As an expat living in Iceland, you will need to register with the National Registry and obtain an identification number. This will entitle you to the same healthcare benefits as Icelandic citizens.


In general, visits to primary care doctors and consultations with specialists are covered by the Icelandic healthcare system. However, there may be some out-of-pocket expenses for certain treatments, medications, or specialized services.


It’s essential to have comprehensive health insurance as an expat in Iceland to cover any potential costs that may not be fully covered by the public healthcare system. Private health insurance can provide additional benefits such as coverage for preventive care, dental treatment, and certain elective procedures.


If you are employed in Iceland, your employer may contribute to your health insurance or provide a group health insurance plan. It’s advisable to check with your employer regarding the terms and coverage of your health insurance.


It’s worth noting that the cost of prescription medications in Iceland can be relatively high. The Icelandic Medicines Agency regulates drug pricing, which can result in higher costs compared to some other countries. However, public healthcare does provide some coverage for medications, though there may be co-payments required.


Overall, while the healthcare system in Iceland provides comprehensive care for residents, it’s important to have appropriate health insurance coverage to ensure access to a wide range of services and manage any potential out-of-pocket expenses. It’s recommended to explore different health insurance options and consult with insurance providers to determine the best coverage for your specific needs as an expat in Iceland.


Cost of Education

Education in Iceland is highly regarded, with a strong emphasis on quality and accessibility. The Icelandic education system follows a structure of compulsory education, pre-primary education, primary education, lower secondary education, and upper secondary education. When it comes to the cost of education, it’s important to consider both public and private educational institutions.


Public Education: Public education in Iceland is tuition-free for Icelandic citizens and legal residents. This means that expat children who are legally residing in Iceland can attend public schools free of charge. Public schools in Iceland offer high educational standards, and most expat families choose this option for their children’s education.


Private Education: Private schools in Iceland charge tuition fees, and the cost can vary depending on the school and the level of education. Private schools often provide additional services and specialized programs. The tuition fees for private schools can range from 150,000 ISK to 350,000 ISK per year. It’s essential to research and compare different private schools to find the best fit for your child’s education and your budget.


In addition to tuition fees, you may also need to budget for additional expenses such as school supplies, uniforms, extracurricular activities, and transportation to and from school.


For higher education, Iceland boasts several reputable universities and colleges. Tuition fees for higher education in Iceland vary depending on the institution, program, and nationality of the student. Icelandic universities generally offer competitive tuition fees for European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) citizens. Non-EEA/EFTA citizens can expect higher tuition fees, typically ranging from 700,000 ISK to 2,000,000 ISK per year, depending on the program of study.


It’s important to note that there are scholarships and financial aid options available for both Icelandic and international students pursuing higher education in Iceland. These opportunities can help offset tuition costs and provide support for students who demonstrate academic excellence or financial need.


Overall, the cost of education in Iceland can vary depending on whether you choose public or private institutions and the level of education. Public education for residents is tuition-free, while private schools and higher education for non-residents may involve tuition fees. It’s important to carefully consider the options available and budget accordingly to ensure your child receives a quality education that meets your family’s financial circumstances.


Cost of Entertainment and Leisure Activities

One of the perks of living in Iceland is the abundance of natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities that are easily accessible. While enjoying the stunning landscapes comes at no cost, there are other entertainment and leisure activities that may require some budgeting. Here are some common forms of entertainment and their associated costs:


1. Outdoor Activities: Exploring Iceland’s natural wonders, such as hiking, camping, and visiting national parks, is often a favorite leisure activity for both locals and expats. Many of these activities can be enjoyed at little to no cost, apart from possible transportation expenses and equipment for specific activities.


2. Cultural Events: Iceland is known for its vibrant arts and cultural scene, offering a variety of concerts, theater performances, art exhibitions, and festivals throughout the year. Ticket prices for cultural events can vary, depending on the type of event and the venue. It’s advisable to check event listings and book tickets in advance to secure the best deals.


3. Museums and Attractions: Iceland boasts a range of museums and attractions that provide insights into its history, nature, and culture. Admission fees for museums can vary, with some offering discounted rates for students and seniors. Popular attractions like the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle may also have entrance fees or tour costs, so it’s important to factor these into your entertainment budget.


4. Dining Out: Iceland has a growing food scene, offering a variety of restaurants and cafes to suit different tastes. Prices for dining out can vary depending on the type of establishment and the location. While fine dining can be expensive, there are also affordable options such as casual dining and local eateries that offer delicious meals at more reasonable prices.


5. Fitness and Sports Activities: Keeping active and staying fit is important to many individuals. Gym memberships and fitness classes are available at various price points. Outdoor sports equipment rentals, such as bikes or kayaks, also come with a cost, but they offer a great way to explore Iceland’s natural beauty while staying active.


6. Cinema and Entertainment Venues: Cinema tickets in Iceland can range from 1,500 ISK to 2,500 ISK per person, depending on the location and film. There are also entertainment venues that offer activities like bowling, billiards, and arcade games, which may have hourly rates or per-game charges.


It’s important to note that there are also free or low-cost entertainment options available, such as local community events, hiking trails, and public parks. Additionally, taking advantage of seasonal activities like Northern Lights spotting or attending local street festivals can provide unique experiences without breaking the bank.


Overall, the cost of entertainment and leisure activities in Iceland can vary depending on your interests and preferences. Budgeting for these activities and exploring a combination of free and paid options can help ensure a balanced and enjoyable lifestyle while living in Iceland.


Cost of Dining Out

Dining out in Iceland can be a delightful experience, with a variety of restaurants and culinary options to choose from. However, it’s important to note that the cost of dining out in Iceland can be relatively high compared to some other European countries. Here are some factors to consider when budgeting for dining out:


1. Fine Dining: Fine dining establishments in Iceland offer exquisite cuisine and unique dining experiences. Prices for a meal at a high-end restaurant can range from 7,000 ISK to 15,000 ISK per person or more, depending on the location and menu selection. It’s important to note that beverages and gratuities may not always be included in the menu prices, so it’s advisable to check before dining.


2. Mid-Range Dining: Mid-range restaurants provide a more affordable option for dining out in Iceland. These establishments offer a variety of cuisine types, from traditional Icelandic dishes to international flavors. Prices for a meal at a mid-range restaurant can range from 3,500 ISK to 7,000 ISK per person. It’s worth exploring different options and checking online reviews to find delicious meals at reasonable prices.


3. Casual Dining and Fast Food: Casual dining options, such as cafes and bistros, offer a more relaxed and affordable dining experience. Prices for a meal at a casual dining establishment can range from 2,500 ISK to 4,000 ISK per person. Fast food restaurants are also available throughout Iceland, with prices for a basic meal ranging from 1,500 ISK to 2,500 ISK.


4. Beverages: Alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, can be quite expensive when dining out in Iceland. Prices for a pint of beer typically range from 1,000 ISK to 1,500 ISK, while a glass of wine can cost around 1,500 ISK to 2,500 ISK. Non-alcoholic beverages like soft drinks and coffee generally range from 300 ISK to 800 ISK.


5. Tips and Service Charges: It’s customary to leave a tip in Iceland, expressing satisfaction with the service. However, tipping is not as common or expected as it is in some other countries. A tip of around 10% of the total bill is a generous gesture. Some higher-end establishments may include a service charge in the bill, so it’s important to check before leaving an additional tip.


To save money on dining out, consider exploring lunch specials or early bird menus, which are often more affordable than dinner options. It’s also worth noting that many local grocery stores offer ready-to-eat meals or pre-packaged food options, which can be a budget-friendly alternative for some meals.


In summary, dining out in Iceland can be a memorable and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to budget accordingly for the higher costs. By researching different dining options and considering the type of establishment, mealtime, and menu choices, you can find a balance between delicious meals and staying within your budget while exploring the unique culinary scene in Iceland.



Living in Iceland offers a unique and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the costs associated with everyday life in this Nordic island nation. While the cost of living in Iceland may be higher compared to some other European countries, it’s important to consider the higher salaries and quality of life that come with it.


When budgeting for life in Iceland, it’s crucial to consider factors such as housing, food, transportation, utilities, healthcare, education, and entertainment. Understanding these costs can help you make informed decisions and plan your finances effectively.


While housing costs can be relatively high, especially in major cities like Reykjavik, there are options available to suit different budgets, including shared accommodations or renting in smaller towns. Food and groceries can also be expensive, but by shopping at discount supermarkets and cooking at home, you can save significantly on your monthly expenses.


Transportation costs in Iceland can also add up, particularly if you choose to own or rent a car. However, public transportation and alternative options like biking can offer more budget-friendly alternatives. Healthcare in Iceland is comprehensive, with most basic services covered through taxes, but it’s essential to have adequate health insurance to manage any additional costs.


Education costs depend on whether you choose public or private institutions, with public education being tuition-free for residents. Entertainment and leisure activities in Iceland can range in price, so it’s important to explore both free and paid options to create a balanced lifestyle that suits your preferences and budget.


In conclusion, while living in Iceland may come with higher costs, it’s important to consider the high standard of living, safety, and the natural beauty that surrounds you. By understanding and budgeting for the various expenses, you can fully enjoy all that Iceland has to offer as an expat.