Known as the “land of ice and fire,” Iceland is an amazing country full of breathtaking and drastically varied landscapes just waiting to be explored. Before you visit, however, there’s some important things to know before visiting Iceland.
Iceland is Not a Budget Travel Destination
One of the most important things to know before visiting Iceland is that the country is expensive. Expect higher prices than you’re used to on everything, from bars and restaurants to grocery stores to really any store. An individual pizza or a burger will cost you at least $20. Iceland is a place where you’ll want to save your money for experiences, so don’t blow your budget on buying things. If you have the budget, I would recommend spending the money on some delicious food.
There’s No “Best Time” to Go
You may be wondering when the best time to go to Iceland is. The truth is there’s no real “best time,” as it mostly depends on what you want during your visit. If you’re looking for the midnight sun or warmish weather for hiking, then the answer is summer. Wanting to see the Northern Lights or want less crowds, go during winter.
The Water’s Clean So Bring a Refillable Water Bottle
Bring a refillable water bottle. The water in Iceland may smell a bit like rotten eggs in some places, but it’s 100% drinkable and some of the cleanest water in the world. There’s plenty of geothermal energy in Iceland and the smell comes from the sulphur.
Credit Cards Are Accepted Everywhere
Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Iceland and not once did I ever use cash while in the country. While it can’t hurt to have a little cash on you, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need it. Make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees before you go! I recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Not only do you not have to worry about foreign transaction fees, you also get double the rewards points for travel and dining.
Don’t Plan Too Much
The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. One minute it’s clear and sunny and the next it’s pouring down rain or completely foggy. With weather that can change as drastically as the country’s various landscapes, it’s important not to plan too much in advance. Plan for the unexpected by leaving a couple of days in your itinerary empty.
If nothing goes wrong, then you have another day or two to see even more of the amazing landscapes of Iceland or extra time to explore Reykjavik. For example, if you book a trip to try to see the Northern Lights and you don’t see them the first time, most tour companies will offer a free second trip (within a certain timeframe. So unless you plan on visiting Iceland again within a somewhat short period of time, you’ll want an extra day free for the second attempt.
Iceland is Safe
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, so you won’t have to worry too much while exploring the city or the rest of the country. It’s one of the best places for solo travel. The thing you need to look out for here isn’t crime, but Mother Nature. The weather in Iceland is notoriously unpredictable and can be life threatening, particularly during the winter. Use your head while hiking or exploring wilderness areas, and be sure to be careful around waves. Several tourists have drowned after being swept away by the current at places like Reynisfjara.
Bring an Eye Mask During the Summer
If you’re visiting Iceland during the summer, you may want to bring an eye mask just in case your hotel room doesn’t have blackout curtains. It will still be light outside well into the night. June is basically 24 hours of daylight.
You’ll probably need the basic winter essentials no matter what time of year you visit Iceland. This means a warm jacket, gloves, and a hat. A scarf would probably be good, too. You don’t want to arrive unprepared. Otherwise, you’re going to spend a decent amount of money.
I figured I’d be good with a jacket in June and was completely wrong. While it’s not warm, the high wind is the main problem in the summer. I ended up buying a hat and a base layer to wear under my rain jacket. If you want to spend some time in the geothermal pools, remember to bring a swimsuit as well.
Fuel is Expensive
While renting a car is the best way to really see Iceland, it’s important to know that fuel is expensive. Remember to budget for fuel cost, which is about $2/liter or $8/gallon. Plan out your route carefully so you don’t waste fuel and money.
Reykjavik Isn’t Your Typical Capital City
Reykjavik isn’t your typical European city. There’s much more of a laid-back atmosphere and no high rises, surrounded by the mountains and ocean. If you’re short on time in Iceland, it’s easy to base yourself in the city and venture out to explore the country on day trips. Just be sure to save a day of your trip to explore the small, walkable capital city.
Don’t Mock Their Belief in Fairies and Elves
More than half of Icelandic people believe that magic folk exist, which means you’ll likely meet someone who believes in fairies or elves. This topic of folklore is a sensitive one for Icelanders, so don’t mock their beliefs or mess with their superstitions. Theories as to why Icelandic people believe in mythical folk are centered around the struggles of early settlers trying to endure their isolated existence.