16 Iceland Travel Tips to Know Before Your Trip
Ready to have the most epic trip to Iceland? I can confirm the island of fire and ice is most definitely amazing. With that being said, there are quite a few Iceland travel tips you should know before visiting.
Below, I am covering the top Iceland travel tips you should know before visiting. After reading this Iceland guide, you will be prepared to experience the best Iceland has to offer. From beautiful waterfalls, volcanic beaches, and wildlife to glaciers, the Northern lights, and road tripping, you will be set to explore!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 16 Iceland Travel Tips to Know Before Your Trip
- 1. Is Iceland Expensive
- 2. Iceland Weather Travel Tips & Packing
- 3. Renting a Car in Iceland
- 4. Driving the Speed limit in Iceland
- 5. Bathrooms on Your Icelandic Road Trips
- 6. Icelandic Currency
- 7. Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland
- 8. Iceland Midnight Summer
- 9. Eating in Iceland
- 10. Exploring More than Just Reykjavik
- 11. Booking Top Iceland Attractions
- 12. English in Iceland
- 13. Drinking the Water in Iceland
- 14. Animal Spotting in Iceland
- 15. Use Your Credit Card
- 16. Tipping in Iceland
- Other Travel Tips and Facts About Iceland
- Additional Iceland FAQ’s
- Iceland Travel Tips Wrap-up
1. Is Iceland Expensive
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the rumors are true. Iceland is an expensive country to visit. To put it into perspective, our tiny eco-car costs around $70 USD to fill up the tank, as opposed to $25 USD back home.
Additionally, when you go out to eat, almost everything on the menu was around $20 USD from what we saw.
So you might wonder if you can still see Iceland on a budget, and the answer is yes. A few ways you can save money in Iceland are by renting a van to stay in, camping, staying in an Airbnb, and cooking your own food.
2. Iceland Weather Travel Tips & Packing
The weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable, and that wind…..lol. The wind could be so strong a car door could fling off!
So with that being said, it is important to have layers, even in the summer. Packing waterproof clothing is a must. Even during the summer, if you want to stand near some of the waterfalls, you will get completely soaked without some rain gear.
Some things I would recommend adding to your Iceland packing list include waterproof hiking boots or snow boots, waterproof jacket, and potentially waterpoof/wind-resistant pants. If you are visiting Iceland during the winter, you may even want to pack crampons that go on the bottom of your boots to help grip the ice better.
Additionally, you also want to be careful while driving in Iceland. Storytime.
We were driving on the main highway that goes through a mountain. We had driven on it a couple of times before, but on our last day in Iceland, we were either driving through fog or clouds, and we could not see A THING!
Oh, and did I mention these highways have no guardrails?
The only way we were able to really see was what our GPS was showing us on where the road was supposed to turn. So while I highly encourage getting a car in Iceland, please be careful.
3. Renting a Car in Iceland
Since we are talking about driving in Iceland, we might as well talk about how amazing it is to rent a car! Seriously, if you want to see all that Iceland has to offer, you need a car.
And one of my favorite travel tips in Iceland is to rent a car that has wifi! We did this, and we had amazing service everywhere. It was such a game-changer with our GPS, or even calling friends and family in the car.
Depending on if you are planning to visit Iceland during the winter or summer, it is also important to know if you will need chains on your tires or even 4×4.
During our road trip through Iceland in April, we did not need chains, but our rental car did have little spikes/studs in the tires. We also were fine without 4×4, and we drove most of the South Coast of Iceland.
4. Driving the Speed limit in Iceland
With all that open road with not a car in sight, it can be tempting to punch the gas to turn your 3 hr destination into 2 hrs. However, I urge you not to do this.
Why you ask? Because Iceland has speeding cameras on most major highways (aka) the highways, you will be driving. And a speed ticket in Iceland is extremely expensive.
5. Bathrooms on Your Icelandic Road Trips
Iceland was the first European country I had ever visited. So when we arrived at Vik’s beach, I was shocked to learn I needed to pay to use the restroom.
So you will want to keep some króna (ISK) on you along with a credit card just in case you find yourself needing to pay for the facilities.
6. Icelandic Currency
Speaking of Icelandic currency, unlike other European countries, Iceland uses the króna and before you ask, no, they do not accept USD or Euros as currency.
However, a good Iceland travel tip is to know that credit cards are a very popular form of payment and are widely accepted.
I’d also recommend downloading a currency app for your phone. I use Currency + on my iPhone.
7. Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland
Dreaming of seeing the Northern lights during your vacation in Iceland? Then you will want to keep this Iceland tip handy!
The best time to see the aurora in Iceland is from November to the end of March.
We went at the very beginning of April and saw the tiniest glimpse of them, but was nowhere close to the full effect. That’s why I feel that March is really the cut-off.
Also, keep in mind that you are not guaranteed to see them, but your best bet is to do a Northern lights tour since they will know the best places to spot them. You can even use this aurora link to check the forecast for the lights!
Additionally, if your goal is to see the Northern lights in Iceland, it is recommended to stay for at least 4 days in Iceland.
The last thing to keep in mind when seeing the northern lights in Iceland is that it takes your eyes a while to adjust to the darkness. They recommend not looking at phone screens or any other source of artificial lights for 30 minutes before looking for the lights.
Another thing to remember is that the lights might not appear as bright as they do in photos. This is because cameras can see light that the human eye can’t.
8. Iceland Midnight Summer
Ever hear of countries having a midnight summer? During Iceland’s summer solstice, usually from May-August, nighttime in Iceland has daylight since Iceland is so far north. So it’s basically daytime all day. Pretty neat, right?
This makes the Midnight sun a super popular time to visit Iceland! On the contrary, during winter months, Iceland will only see about 4-5 hours of sunlight. This makes it a great time to see the Northern lights.
9. Eating in Iceland
Iceland easily had some of the most interesting options of food to eat on their menus. Basically, anything you see in Iceland, whether that be adorable Puffins, Icelandic horses, or goats, will almost most likely be on the menu.
Some dishes you may see include:
- Fermented shark (Hákarl)
- Dried Fish
- Sheep Head (Svið)
- Skyr (Icelandic Yogurt)
- Also well-known for their hot dogs
10. Exploring More than Just Reykjavik
While the capital of Iceland is most definitely a cool city, make sure to get off the beaten path and explore Iceland. This country has so much to offer whether you are swimming between two continental plates at Thingvellir National Park, driving the Golden Circle, or taking a road trip to Glacier Lagoon.
With 7- 10 days, you might even want to consider driving the entire Iceland Ring Road, which is the full perimeter of Iceland!
11. Booking Top Iceland Attractions
Iceland has become a bucket list destination for many people. If you are planning to do any paid tours or the Blue Lagoon, I’d recommend booking your tickets in advance. I know many travelers who showed up to the Blue Lagoon without a ticket and were denied entry.
These tickets need to be purchased at least a couple of weeks in advance. Some popular Iceland tours include:
- The famous Blue Lagoon
- Climbing Glaciers
- Walking through Glacier tunnels
- The Northern Light tours
- Silfra Fissure Snorkeling
- Whale Watching
Find Iceland tours here.
12. English in Iceland
The people in Iceland speak Icelandic, shocker. However, English is taught as a secondary language, therefore, it is pretty easy to communicate. We didn’t run into any language barriers during our trip to Iceland.
It never hurts to learn how to speak a few words in Icelandic!
13. Drinking the Water in Iceland
Something I usually look up to every time when traveling is if the water is safe to drink. I am happy to report the water is completely safe to drink in Iceland, but there is a catch.
The water can have an “egg” smell to it because of its geothermic origins. With that being said, Iceland is known to have some of the cleanest drinking water.
While traveling around Iceland, especially by geysers, you will notice this “egg” smell often.
14. Animal Spotting in Iceland
This one is for all the animal lovers. It was my goal to spot Icelandic horses, and I was so nervous I wouldn’t see them. Well, I am here to tell you it would be almost impossible not to see Icelandic horses during your trip to Iceland (unless you don’t leave Reykjavik).
Want to see Icelandic Puffins? Try mid-April- September.
Whale watching can be done all year, but most peak times are during the summer (April- October). Some common whales you will see include Minke whales, Humpback whales, and Orcas.
15. Use Your Credit Card
Using a credit card is the best way to pay for things in Iceland. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, so you won’t have to worry about taking out cash from the ATM. There is an instance where gas stations may ask for a card with a pin.
This didn’t happen to us, however, you can call your credit card company and ask about the process of having a pin on your card since you are traveling to Iceland.
16. Tipping in Iceland
You do not have to worry about tipping in Iceland. It is not expected, and if gratuity is expected, they usually add it to your bill.
Other Travel Tips and Facts About Iceland
- Here is some other fun Iceland tips and facts about Iceland to get excited about your trip!
- Iceland has quite a few black sand beaches. One of the most popular is in Vik and Diamond beach on the South coast.
- You can explore Basalt Columns in Iceland.
- Horses are not allowed to be imported to Iceland, and exported animals are not allowed to come back in.
- Many Icelandic people still believe in elves.
- Iceland has been voted the safest country in the world.
- There is no Mc Donalds in Iceland.
- Iceland is the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates.
- You should try to spend at least 4 days in Iceland.
- There are 130 volcanos in Iceland, with about 30 active volcanos.
Additional Iceland FAQ’s
If you don’t see your question below, let me know in the comments so I can answer it!
If this is your first time visiting Iceland, you need at least 4 days minimum. You can see my full 4 day itinerary below!
You don’t need a car in Iceland, however, having a car is the best way to explore the country. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, many tours leave out of Reykjavik.
No. Using a credit card is your best option when visiting Iceland.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between the months of November to March. It is not guaranteed, so staying a few days in Iceland will up your chances.
The most popular time to visit Iceland is during the Summer (July and August) when you can experience 24 hours of daylight. November and December are great months to visit if you want to see the Northern Lights.
Iceland is famous for its volcanoes, waterfalls, the Northern Lights, yogurt, hot dogs, Icelandic Horses, black sand beaches, the Blue Lagoon, having some of the cleanest drinking water, and being rated one of the safest countries.
Iceland Travel Tips Wrap-up
Now you are ready to experience the best that Iceland has to offer! For more Iceland inspiration and travel guides, see below!
Find the best Iceland flights using Skyscanner – my go-to for finding the best prices!
The Golden Circle Roadtrip Guide
Beginners Guide to The Blue Lagoon
Roadtrip to Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
8 thoughts on “16 Iceland Travel Tips You Need to Know Before You Go”
Iceland has so far been my favourite trip abroad. I definitely agree that you need a car if you want to explore more areas because public transportation is just non-existent mostly!
Iceland is a top on my list too and yes, would be so hard to really experience Iceland without a car!
What an interesting post Sam! I didn’t know so many things about Iceland, for example, that it’s the safest country in the world. This fact makes me want to go there even more! 🙂
You would love it Lina!
Such great tips for Iceland! It is one of my fave countries to visit and hope to be there again soon.
In that case, take me with you!
Iceland sounds so amazing! I would love to see the Northern Lights!
We were able to see them a little bit, but I’d deff like to see them again in full action!