Iceland is a distinctive location with a spirit of adventure. Although it is a popular tourist destination, organizing a trip there for the first time requires some planning. Iceland is still somewhat obscure, unlike visiting Paris or Rome, where everyone is familiar with the major sites.
Due to its popularity, it frequently experiences overcrowding, which strains the area's meager supplies and infrastructure for tourists. Hotels, activities, and restaurants are pricey and often booked months in advance.
So, we have gathered 14 useful Iceland travel tips that will be your savior throughout the journey.
14 Useful Iceland Travel Tips You Should Know
There are many wonderful things to do in Iceland, so hopefully, with these travel tips, you will be prepared and enjoy the trip. Here are the ways through which you can prepare yourself beforehand.
1. Booking in Advance
Hotels in popular locations book out six months in advance, especially during the summer when tour companies reserve most of the available inventory. It is still a popular location. Therefore it is a good idea to make reservations in advance even though this has substantially improved as new hotels have been built and Iceland's tourism infrastructure has been strengthened.
It helps to plan because, unless you are living in Reykjavik for the duration of your vacation, finding the availability and dates you want is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
2. Do Not Walk on The Moss
While many of Iceland's natural treasures are powerful and majestic, the moss that covers the lava fields is incredibly delicate. Even minor damage is severe because the moss only grows 1 cm yearly under ideal conditions.
Unfortunately, Justin Bieber's journey to Iceland to film the music video for his song “I'll Show You” negatively impacted the ecosystem. The fact that he deviated from the trail to play in the moss fields inspired other tourists to do the same.
3. Get Off the Beaten Track
There are many unique locations in Iceland where you can experience complete isolation.
You will undoubtedly have a beautiful meeting with the country's real essence if you travel outside the most well-known tourist destinations.
Let's discover Iceland's oldest landmasses, the Eastfjords, and Westfjords. Travelers wanting an authentic travel experience can find several hiking paths, breathtaking mountain vistas, and historic fishing outposts in the Eastfjords and Westfjords.
4. Make a Budget For Yourself, as Iceland is Quite Expensive
Without a doubt, Iceland is a costly country. There are ways to travel more cheaply in popular tourist regions, but if you want to visit rural areas, there are fewer lodging options, which raises the cost of travel. Hiring a campervan can help because, in general, hotels are pricey; yet, by adding overnight camping costs, your lodging budget will stay the same as you may expect.
Your Icelandic vacation will be less expensive if you can prepare meals in your van. It would help if you also packed lunch on day trips.
5. Dress Appropriately for Hikes and Properly Pack Outdoor Gear
Bring accurate maps and the right equipment. Consider a specialized cold-weather or hiking packing list. Think about whether you would be warm and dry in what you wore if you didn't have access to a car or structure. No glacier climbing without sufficient training, no fording rivers in subcompact cars, no hiking in jeans, and no camping without extremely waterproof tents. Then, with no need to be afraid, unwind and take in all that beauty.
Being prepared can let you access wonderful natural regions like the stunning Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords, which is well-known for its Arctic foxes, impressive birding cliffs, and unspoiled hiking and camping.
6. Rent a Car
The weather in Iceland is incredibly unpredictable and dynamic. The majority of Icelander's practice following the weather when planning domestic vacations. This implies that they travel in the direction of the region of the country with the most favorable weather at the time of departure.
Without time spent driving the wide-open highways of the countryside, no journey to Iceland should be regarded as complete. To have full independence and control over the pace of your trip, consider renting a car. Self-drive vacations provide you with the most flexibility.
7. Choose Your Activities Wisely
There are many things to do, and you can take advantage of Iceland's breathtaking natural features, like its hot springs, waterfalls, national parks, and lava fields, for nothing at all. Choose prudently if you intend to take excursions because they can be costly and quickly increase expenses. Rent a car and explore independently rather than remaining in Reykjavik and only doing tours.
But there are some circumstances in which a tour is a must. For instance, if you want to stroll on the glacier, you must join a tour.
8. Before Dipping in the Hot Springs, Take a Shower With Soap
The fantastic natural hot springs you'll find, from the town center to the fjord side, are one of Iceland's unique gifts. A near-national activity is to visit the neighborhood hotpot, soak, and talk. But before donning your swimsuit and entering the hot springs and pools, washing properly with soap is necessary. Since most pools are not chemically cleaned, cleanliness is an important consideration.
There is no faster way to disgust an Icelander than to jump in filth at the well-known Blue Lagoon or the isolated Krossneslaug. As you enter the changing room, you should also take off your shoes and place them on the rack.
9. Stick to Appropriate Roads While Driving
Be aware of the roads that your particular car can access. Fingers of gravel or paved roads extend to most settlements beyond Iceland's central Ring Road (Route 1) until you reach the F Roads, rough roads only accessible by 4WD.
Small automobiles are genuinely risky on F roads. You void your insurance if you drive on them in a hired 2WD. Similarly, trying to cross a river in a 2WD or low-slung 4WD is a recipe for disaster. Avoid it; hire a 4WD or travel in a super-Jeep or 4WD bus.
10. Get Your VAT back
Get a form to request a VAT refund if you buy souvenirs costing more than 6,000 ISK (value-added tax). It is simple to handle this at the airport even if you don't. This is typical in Europe, but if this is your first time doing it, this is how you go about it.
Before you check your bags at the airport:
- Find the signs for the Arion bank or the VAT refund office.
- Fill out the form.
- Drop it off.
Before approving it, they might need to see the goods, but more often than not, they will ask if you want a credit or a check. This is straightforward and can help you save money.
11. Attend a Small-town Festival
Until the second part of the 20th century, Icelandic towns and villages were mostly cut off from one another due to general poverty and an underdeveloped transportation system.
Almost every tiny Icelandic city and hamlet hosts festivals all year long that are themed with the historical and natural environments from which they originated. The population is tiny, and most people venture close to their hometowns. Each little town thus evolved its traits in line with its natural surroundings.
12. Appreciate the Local's Creativity
Most Icelanders are tough, liberal, and have a dry yet lively sense of humor. They frequently have perfect English and are up for a talk or to share their recommendations for local attractions. Respecting local customs and laws will go a long way in making them like you and creating opportunities for local connections, along with refraining from complaining about the weather or how difficult it is to reach the natural beauties.
They have a wide range of interests; half of the Icelanders are in bands or engaged in creative endeavors. They're accustomed to having fun and having great ideas. Come on out and join them.
13. Craft an Itinerary
People who wish to travel freely and explore are drawn to Iceland, and that's fantastic. However, it would be best to plan a little and know what you want to do unless you are camping.
Since everything is dispersed, you'll need to plan your schedule to reduce driving time. It takes some time to understand the different destinations; therefore, we strongly advise utilizing a suggested itinerary or mapping software to record the locations and plot the distances so you can gauge how much time you will need and where you may stay.
14. Experience Sleeping in a Farmhouse
Another fantastic option to experience Icelandic culture directly and authentically is to stay the night at one of the many farm stays scattered throughout the country. Many farms provide guests with bed and breakfast accommodations.
Farm stays include a range of accommodations, from straightforward shared rooms to individual huts and cottages. It's also important to point out that local food is virtually always accessible.
Numerous farmers also provide guided horseback rides and strolls, and some are even open to letting you take part in farm activities.
Iceland is a fantastic location to discover, but knowing the travel tips if you are traveling for the first time is essential. So, consider these Iceland travel tips, and it will be easy.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.