Just getting back from Iceland I and I have three things to say:
- It is MUCH MORE AWESOME than I ever expected it to be
- I didn’t know much about the country before I went now for the first time
- Unless you have a lot of money to spare, whatever you do, DO NOT speed when driving in Iceland
Cris surprised me with a trip to Iceland for my birthday back in January 2019. Initially, we had planned on going during Christmas time, but I ended up deciding going home to Brazil as it had been a long time since I had been home (one of the issues about working a corporate job abroad: the limited amount of days off during a year in which I can take off to visit my family).
If I can be completely honest, I was a total ignorant about Iceland before going for the first time.
When I first went, I had no idea what to expect besides some instagrammable places I had seen around my feed lately.
Moreover, considering how popular Iceland tourism seems to be becoming, it is becoming more and more frequent for us to stumble upon some spectacular posts about Iceland on social media.
Our trip this time was meant to be short and intense: We had 4 days to cover as much as we could of Iceland by car.
This meant early-morning wake up calls, breakfast and lunch inside the car, and LOOOONG hours of driving from one destination to another. We couldn’t be more excited!
Cris and I are constant travelers and we managed to have an extremely comfortable and romantic trip, all the while saving money where we could, and seeing everything we wanted with the time we had.
I truly believe these valuable tips for traveling around Iceland can be extremely helpful in case you are also planning a trip to this fantastic country, be it winter or summer time.
However, as neither of us had ever been to Iceland before, we committed some rookie mistakes that had we done some basic research before going, could have meant avoiding these unpleasant situations (such as getting an 800 € fine for speeding).
DO NOT SPEED
This was so astonishing to us that I had to write a whole post talking about our experience being fined in Iceland. In any case, as this is a post about all the things I wished I’d known before going to Iceland, this is a point I simply must write about again.
It seems they are extremely strict ($$$$$$) in Iceland regarding speeding. And it is easier to get caught by speeding than you would think.
There are two ways in which you could get royally screwed by speeding:
- the infamous speeding machines, that are spread out around the country
- Police cars that go around the highways, just waiting for their next tourist car to stop and fine
Considering the road speed limit in Iceland is 90 km/h, you can imagine it is easier than you’d think to get a fine for speeding.
When I went with Cris we had very little time to explore and we wanted to discover as much as we could of Iceland with the time we had. This meant speeding up a bit. This also meant an 800 euro fine.
BOOK THE BLUE LAGOON IN ADVANCE (but careful not to over-plan too much. Iceland is very unpredictable)
As Iceland is such an unpredictable country, I would never suggest overplanning, especially if this means paying for anything in advance.
This means that if you book to go to the Blue Lagoon at 15h and you are in the other side of Iceland, you can end up missing your appointment (especially if you face a snowstorm on your way there).
However, a word of advice: Cris and I did not book the Blue Lagoon in advance and when we went we had to book it for the following day, night time.
Needless to say I was crushed that this meant I would not be able to go into the lagoon during the day (at night you really can’t admire the water color the same way).
I wrote a whole post with valuable tips and all you need to know about the Blue Lagoon in Iceland here.
STAY OUTSIDE OF REYKJAVIK (good deals for accommodations outside of the city)
Do you want to know how long we spent in the city of Reykjavík ? Half an hour.
We literally just arrived, bought something to eat, and drove away.
You’re in Iceland!!! The country is all about nature and exploring. Not only is the town super small and overly expensive, there is so much more to Iceland than Reykjavík.
Furthermore, you can get better deals in Airbnbs that are outside of the center. This means you will get a more interesting experience sleeping surrounded by nature, with less tourists around you, AND cheaper prices (win-win-win).
STAY AT A COTTAGE
Each day we slept in a different part of Iceland. That meant, each day we had a different cottage in a remote location to stay.
We would explore during the day and when there was no more light left, we would go to a local supermarket to buy food to cook inside the cottage’s kitchen.
This not only meant we were saving precious money from eating out in expensive Icelandic restaurants, but it also meant relaxing after a busy day inside a comfy cottage with someone you love.
It’s like the perfect ending to a perfect day in Iceland.
Tip: We would buy some chamomile tea and some veggies to throw into a pan and make a nice, yummy veggie soup. Find this handy soup recipe here!
EAT IN GAS STATIONS
Going back to the prior point, unless you have a lot of time to spare (and money) I would not recommend interrupting your day of exploring to go eat in a restaurant.
Not only restaurants are not exactly easy to find, but keep in mind that depending on what time of the year you go, the amount of daylight can be quite limited.
You’ll be surprised to know that the convenience store food in Iceland is quite amazing! No joke!
Cris and I were obsessed with a tuna sandwich that you can literally find in any gas station there.
It was so tasty and so filled with tuna that it became our go-to-meal during the day time (we would occasionally vary it with a ham and cheese sub, but we were addicted to the tuna one).
Takeaway: Don’t waste your time and money having lunch in restaurants during your time visiting Iceland. Just buy something to go in any gas station convenience store and carpe diem!
YOU WILL GET WET
Oh yes, you will most probably get wet and staying dry really does not seem optional. If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother checking the weather forecast for Iceland before you go, because everything is so unpredictable that you can have all the 4 seasons in one day alone.
Add to that the vast amount of majestic waterfalls and a violent sea full of ice, you’ve got yourself a perfect combo of getting wet.
Wear adequate clothes (and waterproof boots!!!).
IT CAN GET (VERY) WINDY
Moreover, from the point above, I also wouldn’t be too bothered in bringin an umbrella. You will quickly notice that even though there is a lot of rain in Iceland, no one exactly wears an umbrella.
Why is that, you may ask?
Simply put, the winds in Iceland can get so strong that car doors have a word of caution to be aware of unpredictable winds. That means that a poor umbrella would be of very little help when you visit Iceland.
Best to stay warm with a water proof vest + hoodie.
ALCOHOL ON WEEKENDS
Ok, I don’t know about you, but I would love to share a nice bottle of red wine in a cottage at the end of a very cold day of exploring.
Add to this that Cris and I were celebrating one year of our story, I was really looking forward to a glass of red with some cheese before dinner.
However, it seems that they do not sell alcohol in Iceland during the weekends!!!!!!
You won’t find alcohol of any kind in any supermarket during the weekends (the most I found was light beer!!!!!).
I was so disappointed, I wanted to cry.
There seems to be a few solutions for this though:
- Go to any restaurant and ask to buy and take away a bottle ($$$)
- Buy it in advance before the weekend (and that is why I am writing this post, so that I can warn you)
- Buy it in the Duty Free upon arriving to Iceland
DON’T BUY WATER IN ICELAND
Did you know that the water in Iceland is one of the purest in the world??
This means that drinking water directly from the tap is just as delicious as drinking a freshly bought mineral water.
This was one of the few things that I was prepared for, from researching Iceland in advance.
This means that, when Cris and I were in the airport of Barcelona going to Iceland, I told him to keep the water bottles we had so we would just refill them during the trip.
As a result, we never spent one euro in water during our whole time in Iceland (mini wins to compensate the 800 euro speeding fine)
WINTER DAYS CAN BE VERY SHORT
I’ve briefly mentioned this before, but keep in mind that if you go in winter time it can be especially hard to explore, considering just how short the days can be.
A full day of fun in December can mean a good 3h and not much more than that.
Keep that in mind, especially if you don’t have a lot of days to remain in the country.
NO NEED TO TAKE OUT CASH IN THE ATM (BUT KNOW YOUR CONVERSION)
You can pay anywhere in Iceland with card. I kid you not when I say I didn’t even see Icelandic currency during my time there. It is very easy and convenient to use your card in Iceland (even to directly pay 800 speeding fine).
THE PLANE WRECK
LOL, LOL, and more and more LOL
The plane wreck….
Ok, don’t get me wrong, it is AMAZING and an absolute must-see if you are ever in Iceland. If I had to walk again to see it, I most certainly would.
However, it seemed like Cris was misinformed when we went and he said we would have to park the car and walk around 10 minutes to the site of the crash.
And so we went…
1h later, all wet from the rain and cold from the wind, we arrived to the crash.
No, it is not a 10 minutes walk. It is not even a half an hour jog (we jogged twice on our way back to the car haha)
What you face is an endless path of black terrain, under strong current of winds and an occasional rain shower right on your head.
Ahh, and did I mention we went in February? (so not exactly the warmest weather either).
I cannot emphasize this enough: the walk really is endless. You walk, you jog, you laugh, you cry and you’re still not there…
Take a sneak peak inside the plane wreck.
THE PLANE WRECK SHUTTLE
Good news for you, ma friend, is that there IS an alternative (yes, the Iceland tourism board does not want to kill all of its tourists who wish to visit the plane wreck).
There is a shuttle that goes by every hour and takes you to the crash, and brings you back to the warmth of your car in no time.
Enjoy the comfort of the ride and laugh at the people who are making their way walking to the plane.
This is it guys. My 12 absolute valuable tips that can for sure make a whole difference to your trip to Iceland.
It is such a fantastic place and I really was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. I really can’t wait to go back ASAP (hopefully this summer again with Cris).
Be sure to check my Instagram to see more amazing pictures and details about our Iceland trip.
Have you ever been to Iceland or planning on going and know some tips that I’ve missed out? Share them below in the comments.
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