Cool Tips for Iceland

Cool Tips for Iceland

With only three days in Iceland under my belt, I’m by no means an expert on travel in the cold country! However, I did a little bit of research and picked up a few Iceland tips along the way. Here’s a summary of a couple easy things to ready yourself for an amazing time in this tranquil landscape.

Get the right stuff

  • This is the first country I needed no cash at all! Iceland is a card economy and I had absolutely no issues paying credit card for everything. Even the toilets take credit card. And another tip, avoid using toilets out of the city, as most place will charge anything from 100-300ISK.
  • Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather, with a solid jacket. Umbrellas are okay, but you’ll find the winds often too severe.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen also super important.
  • Pack snacks! The sandwiches (and everything else) are so expensive. You’ll do better bringing in food from your country or filling up at a local discount supermarket (Bonus). But never go to a 10-11 store. It’s a 24 hour supermarket that stings you with its prices to a new degree.
  • Bring waterproof shoes with good grips for scaling the rocks and waterfalls.
  • Don’t take water, but do take a bottle. The tap water is the best in the world next to Switzerland.
  • The cheapest alcohol is found at the airport! So stock up on duty free before heading into the city, you can buy up to six units.
  • But if you run out or just want to head out, download the Appy Hour app to find which bars are offering cheaper drinks for Happy Hour.

Getting around

  • I took the Flybus service from the airport to the BSI terminal. This was alright, but quite expensive. My choice was mainly down to the convenient timings as they have different scheduled. Book via your hostel or your airline provider as they sometimes had better prices. All take 45-50 minutes.
  • I found Kefllavik airport nice and efficient so two hours ahead of flight time would be plenty (subject to conditions, flights, time of day etc etc).
  • Walk! Reykjavik is a small city so you won’t have issues getting to and from on foot.
  • Avoid taxis, a trip to the airport is at least going to set you back $150 USD! (This might actually work out if there’s heaps of you that is)
  • Free Wi-Fi is offered at every cafe, restaurant and museum. It’s also much faster than the cellular service. They also quite good with charging points.
  • Hitch-hiking is quite possible in this country and you don’t often have to wait too long either.

On tour

  • With Iceland the top spots of the country are largely out of the city. But they’re not far. If renting a car is an option do that, if not then you’ll need to organise some tours.
  • These can be booked in advance, or you can try for a last minute booking too.
  • I shopped around a number or providers. There’s not too many and they all seem to get good reviews. Your first choice is whether going for a big bus format (Gray Line, Reykjavik Excursions) or a smaller group (GeoIceland, Iceland Tours). liked the intimacy of a smaller group and it’s efficient going from place to place. Our guide also designed the route to avoid the bulk of the tourist crowds. Apparently it gets insanely crowded in the summertime.
  • Prices are similar across the board but GeoIceland was running a 15% off offer for April/ May that I took advantage of, it ended up being slightly cheaper.

Tours

  • Golden Circle – loved this tour. The most popular one and covers off the biggest highlights of the country (the Ring road).
  • South Coast – a bit longer, covers off a bit more of the country. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Golden Circle but nicer weather might have changed that. Lots of scenery. There was one component for a glacier walk, but I deemed that a bit too expensive for my tastes.
  • Blue Lagoon for spa and water activities- (also see Secret Lagoon at Flúðir which is a cheaper, less crowded option)
  • Whale watching/ puffins – the latter only available in the summer nesting season.
  • Northern Lights – only in season, and moody at that.

Food

Everything is expensive here, a big Iceland tip – be smart with your money.

  • Brauð & Co. – bakery with delicious smells (500ISK or so per item)
  • Reykjavik Roasters – favourite coffee shop of the trip (coffee 500ISK)
  • Reykjavik Chips – 750ISK for a cone of frites
  • Mai Thai – not kidding, one of the best Thai meals I’ve had in a while 1800ISK
  • Noodle Station – satisfying bowl of beef noodle soup for 1650ISK
  • Hlemmur Food Hall – small but lots of hipster eateries. I enjoyed my liquid nitrogen ice-cream from Isleifur Heppni for around 500ISK.
  • Aktu Taktu – McDonalds-like knock off. 2000 ISK for a meal with fries and drink
  • Emilie and the Cool Kids – cookie/ coffee shop but a bit expensive at 1300ISK for a scone and coffee
  • Icelandic Street Food – top rated thing on Tripadvisor
  • Svarta Kaffid – bread bowls of soup 1800ISK
  • Ramen Momo – a bit more to the west but sounded good too
  • Hot dog stands – everywhere!  450ISK

Attractions

  • Hallgrímskirkja – the big church. Worth going up for a view of the city.
  • Sun Voyager – boat sculpture
  • Harpa Concert Hall – come back at night as it’s illuminated like the Northern Lights
  • Reykjavik Art Museum – entry gives you access to the three museums (but two are a far walk away) – a couple cool exhibitions if you need indoor time. Btw all museums seem to offer free tea and coffee which is cute.
  • Late night shopping – a lot of the main street is still open up to 10pm
  • National Museum of Iceland – if you have to do one museum, our guide recommended it be this one.
  • Tales from Iceland – didn’t do this one, sound like video heavy
  • Perlan – this was a bit far away, but features a glacier and observation point. A free shuttle is available.
  • Didn’t do this one – Videy Island. You get there via a short ferry (1,100 ISK) and it features pristine natural beauty and art sculptures.

Map suggestions