Know Before You Go: Iceland

By Michelle Yastremsky

So you’ve finally made the decision to check Iceland off your bucket list. Good news – you’re in for an experience of a lifetime. In between deciding what to see and where to go, you’ll want to be prepared for any other curveballs the country may throw your way. Here are 12 things to know before your vacation to Iceland.
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Reservations are Necessary

Thinking of simply booking a flight and finding reservation while you’re there? It's a risky move, especially during high season. Hotels, guesthouses, and hostels will mostly likely all be booked up in the more popular areas.

It’s not only accommodations that require pre-booking. If you wish to visit the Blue Lagoon, you absolutely must make a reservation ahead of time. Don’t be stuck with entry tickets outside of your convenience just because you didn’t book ahead.

Budget Bigger

It’s important to have a budget during your vacation. In Iceland, your budget will just have to be… a bit bigger. According to surveys, Iceland is the world’s 4th most expensive country to live. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the splendors of the country! Rather than eating out every meal, take advantage of your hotel’s included breakfast, or head to the supermarket in town and pick up some smart eating options during the day so you can splurge at night.

Everyone Speaks English

Can’t pronounce thakka ther fyrir (thank you)? Not to worry! Icelanders are fluent in English, and are known for being extremely helpful and friendly.

Prepare for any kind of weather

They say tourists in Iceland are most recognizable by the umbrella in their hand. Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s best to dress in layers that you can mix and match along the way. This includes accessories such as hats, socks, and under armor.

Driving? Get a 4X4

Dreaming of seeing the black sand beaches of Vik or the plane crash ruins at Solheimasandur? If you’re not booking a guided Iceland tour, you’ll need access to a car. While the most popular natural sites are easily accessible, many of Iceland’s smaller roads can be difficult to manage with a smaller car. Give yourself the flexibility of exploring Iceland’s more hidden and remote destinations by renting a 4X4. And always remember, off-roading is illegal in Iceland!!

No Tipping Necessary

Keep those extra Krona to yourself! There’s no tipping necessary in Iceland, the waiters will serve you with a smile regardless.

The Water is Smelly, but Safe

Tapwater in Iceland may smell a bit like sulfur, but not to worry – it is absolutely safe to drink. Bring your thermos and fill ’er up!

Season Matters

Are you chasing the Northern Lights in the winter or enjoying the 24-hour sun in the summer months? Depending on when you go to Iceland, your experience will greatly change. Take into account the weather, summer vs winter activities in Iceland, and of course number of daylight activities (in winter it can be dark up to 18 hours a day!) when planning your day.

The Northern Lights Follow no Rules

Even if you come in the dead of winter on a dark, clear night, you may not see the dance of the Aurora. Although there are several ways to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, there’s no way to guarantee they will show. If you miss out on the light show, Iceland will still wow you with its natural beauty.

Make a Plan, But Be Flexible

Create your Iceland bucket list and itinerary, but be prepared for weather to change your plans. Don’t be upset when your day of hiking turns into a day exploring Reyakvik’s many museums; it’s just a detour to your adventure.

Nudity is Required

Not everywhere, of course, but if you wish to take advantage of one of Iceland’s many pools (geothermal or otherwise), you’ll be required to bath in the communal showers first. Lather up!

Enjoy Nature without the Bites

Did you know that Iceland is the only country in Europe without mosquitoes? In fact, Iceland has very few insects in general, so you can leave that can of bug spray at home.

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