In the process of penning a lengthy guide about circling around Iceland in 7 days we realized that there were so many tips we wanted to share with you all which lead to this post. Especially if you are traveling to Iceland for the first time, this should cover most of your basic concerns. If you still have questions or want to add a tip to this list please do leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
This is the first part of our 3 part blogpost series on planning a trip to Iceland. Stayed tuned for other other 2 part – Packing list and 7 day itinerary!
TIPS FOR FIRST TIMERS IN ICELAND
1. RENTAL CAR
If you are touring on your own, I cannot stress how important it is to rent a 4×4 vehicle while driving in Iceland. You need a sturdy vehicle for heavy winds that Iceland is famous for, occasional off-roading or in general to deal with other unknown weather conditions. As in most of Europe, if you want to rent an automatic 4×4 vehicle book in advance as the rental companies carry limited quantities of those. Car rental in Iceland is not cheap, another reason to book early.
Ring road, also called Route 1, in most parts is a 2 lane paved highway. Traffic lights appear only in areas around city limits. In remote parts of Iceland, there are single lane bridge crossings over smaller rivers. Watch out for traffic on the other side of the bridge to avoid collision since there are no traffic lights. If the car on the other side has stopped then it is most likely letting you pass the bridge. You will also have plenty of offroading experiences in remote parts of Iceland. Talking about Infrastructure, all hotels and guesthouses/BnBs even in far-off places offer wi-fi and heat. We were seriously impressed by how advanced the infrastructure and facilities were in the remotest of towns.
Locals in Iceland speak excellent English. We really didn’t have to struggle with learning Icelandic. Also, a lot of people we met there, especially our various tour guides, had settled in Iceland from other European countries and spoke English very well.
4. CREDIT CARD USAGE
This might come as a surprise but even the remotes of places in Iceland accept credit cards. So heed this advice and don’t carry too much cash unless you want to have a loaded wallet. From grocery stores to the gas stations, we never really had to take out our cash which meant more airport souvenirs 😉
5. TAP WATER
Cold Water: Pure glacier water delivered straight to the tap. After all, it is the land of glaciers. Buying water at a store might actually get you a few glances, we can tell you that from experience 😉 We bought our first bottle of water at a gas station’s convenience store and the kind cashier reminded us of how fresh the cold tap water in this country was. In our defense, we forgot to pack our water bottles. Now you know what else to pack – A water bottle!
Hot Water: On the other hand since it is also the land of geothermal activities, hot water coming straight from the tap might smell a little funny. Don’t worry it’s just the smell of sulfur coming from the springs. It’s absolutely safe for bathing but DON’T drink hot water from the tap.
Whether or not you are camping outdoors it’s a good idea to stock some quick food/snack in your car or luggage. We carried granola/ protein bars with us which came in handy more times than we imagined. You can also pick up snacks and fruits whenever you pass a gas station. You just never know how far the next gas station would be. Which brings us to another great tip – Ask your rental company to give a map of all the gas stations on your route. Hotels and BnB’s do offer meals but some of them have early kitchen closing time and there won’t be any restaurants around once you are out of city limits.
7. WARM CLOTHES
Doesn’t matter what time of the year you are going, you better pack those warm clothes. Or end up shopping for them in Iceland.. at twice the price. We went in summer and yet were snuggled in multiple layers of clothing. If you don’t currently live in a place that gets too cold and are not sure what we mean by layers – think thermals, sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets, warm pants. Perhaps you might not need it all in one day (or perhaps you will) but better be safe than sorry. Also don’t forget those accessories – scarves, gloves, warm hats, warm socks etc, they can be lifesavers. We are penning an extensive packing list for Iceland so stay tuned for that. TIP: Carrying a waterproof jacket will go a long way in Iceland, same goes for waterproof hiking boots.
8. WATERPROOF CAMERA CASING
We are not even going to remind you to carry your cameras. You are going to Iceland, the most beautiful land on Earth, that’s probably the first thing you should pack. But what we highly recommend is you carry a waterproof casing for your camera. Whether it is a DSLR or a cellphone camera make sure it has some water protection. The weather in Iceland is so unpredictable that they even have a saying – “If you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait 5 minutes.” Not only can it rain any moment but the numerous waterfalls that are going to be on your list will have a splash on your camera gear. On that note, carrying an underwater camera or a go-pro is also a great idea especially if you are going to swim between the tectonic plates.
You could rent a camper van and pretty much park anywhere safe off the road and call it a night. Or without a camper van, you can put up your tent at any safe spot you like off the road. Best part of camping in Iceland is that it’s free to camp anywhere, just don’t know how long will it last with growing tourism. Don’t forget your camping etiquette and clean up after you leave.
Finally, we want to mention that even though we didn’t see a single cop car for hundreds of miles at a stretch, we felt safer in Iceland than anywhere else in the world. From a wildlife perspective, the only wild animals you’ll probably see here are beautiful looking horses and sheep. There are no bears, no snakes, no deadly creatures on this island. Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world and with the increase in tourism let’s all pledge to keep it this way!
We hope these quick tips were useful. Do leave us a comment below or on our facebook page if you think we missed something important or if you have any questions. If you liked this post we would love to hear and don’t feel shy to share it with your friends 😀