16 Iceland Travel Tips You Need to Know

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 16 travel tips you should know before visiting Iceland!

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland. Iceland travel tips to wear waterproof clothing.
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

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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 cost around $70 USD to fill up the tank, opposed to $21 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 be wondering if you can still see Iceland on a budget, and the answer is yes. A few ways you can do this is by renting a van to stay in, camping, staying in an Airbnb, and cooking your own food.

Iceland travel tips is to see icelandic horses when you drive the golden circle
Icelandic Horses

2. Iceland Weather Travel Tips

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 along with water-proof jackets, boots, etc.

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.

Visit Gullfoss Waterfalls while driving the Golden Circle
Gullfoss Waterfalls

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 gamechanger 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.

Road to Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon
Road to Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon

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 by 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.

Walk down the black sand beach in Vik, Iceland
Vik’s Black Sand Beach.

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 Euro’s 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 look at phone screens or any other source of artificial lights for 30 minutes before looking for the lights.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the lights might not appear as bright as they do in photos. This is because cameras are able to see light that the human eye can’t.

see the northern lights in Iceland between November - March travel tips.
Iceland Northern Lights – Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

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?

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)
  • Whale
  • Puffin
  • Skyr (Icelandic Yogurt)

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 full perimeter of Iceland!

View of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
View of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

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 Blue Lagoon
  • Climbing Glaciers
  • Walking through Glacier tunnels
  • The Northern Light tours
  • Silfra Fissure Snorkeling
  • Whale Watching

Find more Iceland tours here.

Guide to Blue Lagoon Iceland travel tips to get tickets ahead of time!
Outside the Blue Lagoon

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.

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.

Geysir in Iceland on the Golden Circle route
Geysir on the Golden Circle.

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 to not 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.

You will definitely see Iceland horses with 4 days
Icelandic Horses can be found everywhere throughout Iceland

15. Iceland Travel Restrictions

Since we are living in a new world of traveling (thank you 2020), it is always important to look up countries’ travel restrictions.

As of March 25th, 2021, Iceland has opened up its border starting on April 6th, 2021 to vaccinated non-Schengen travelers from travel restrictions.

This means that fully COVID 19 vaccinated people will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to border measures, such as testing and quarantine.

As we know, things are forever changing, so please check Iceland’s travel restrictions here.

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 are some other fun travel tips or facts about Iceland to get excited about your trip!

      • Iceland has quite a few black sand beaches. One of the most popular being 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.
Diamond beach in Iceland
View of Diamond Beach in Iceland

Shop Iceland Looks

 

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!

The Golden Circle Roadtrip Guide

Beginners Guide to The Blue Lagoon

Roadtrip to Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach

4 Day Iceland Itinerary 

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8 thoughts on “16 Iceland Travel Tips You Need to Know”

  1. 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!

    Reply
  2. 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! 🙂

    Reply

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