15+ Iceland Travel Tips You Need to Know Before You Go

15+ 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 travel 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!

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 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.

Take a seat on the Basalt columns on Vik, Iceland's black sand beach

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.

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 get a car rental 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 whether 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 roads on the South Coast of Iceland. However, if you plan on doing the entire ring road, you may want to consider having 4×4.

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-hour destination into 2 hours. 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.

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 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 it was nowhere close to the full effect. That’s why I feel that March is really the cut-off. This past March, we saw a much better show of the Northern Lights in Finland.

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 remember 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.

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 heard 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)
  • Whale
  • Puffin
  • 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!

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

Find 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.

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.

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 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.

Iceland horses on the golden circle

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.

17. Visiting Hot Springs in Iceland

No matter what time of year you visit Iceland, you should always consider visiting at least one hot spring. Iceland is known for its high concentration of geothermic activity, which is also why the water sometimes smells like rotten eggs.

There are dozens of hot springs to visit. Some of the most popular hot springs have been made into paid attractions, such as the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon. However, there are also plenty of free hot springs in Iceland that most locals will enjoy, such as Reykjadalur Hot Spring and Seljavallalaug Hot Spring.

Table area Blue Lagoon

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.
Diamond beach in Iceland
View of Diamond Beach in Iceland

Additional Iceland FAQ’s

If you don’t see your question below, let me know in the comments so I can answer it!

How Many Days do you Need in Iceland?

If this is your first time visiting Iceland, you need at least 4 days minimum. You can see my full 4 day itinerary below!

Do you need a car in Iceland?

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.

Do you need cash in Iceland?

No. Using a credit card is your best option when visiting Iceland.

When can you see the Northern Lights in 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.

What are the best months to visit Iceland?

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.

What is Iceland famous for?

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!

Do you have any questions about these travel tips for visiting Iceland, or feel like I missed something that should be added to help future travelers? Please let me know in the comments or via DM/email below!

Found these Iceland Travel Tips helpful? I’d appreciate it if you could share this post below!

16 travel tips to know when traveling to Iceland
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

8 thoughts on “15+ Iceland Travel Tips You Need to Know Before You Go”

  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!

  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! 🙂


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