Iceland is a beautiful country with a rich history in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a small population of only 375,200 people. The country is known for its dramatic landscape and abundant natural resources, making it one of the popular travel destinations for tourists worldwide. Tourism contributes over $3.5 billion to the GDP of Iceland. Iceland is different from our typical holiday destinations like Maldives or Bali.
Here are some things I, Irina Bukatik, wish I’d known before visiting Iceland. These will help you make your trip more memorable and Incredible Travel Experiences! Happy reading!
You’ll Rarely Need Cash
The currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Krona (IKR). Currently, 1 USD is equal to 141.89 Icelandic Króna. The best part about Iceland is that people rarely use cash, as most transactions are completed using credit cards or mobile payment systems. This goes for restaurants, grocery shops, gas stations, public bathroom stalls, and everywhere else in the country.
However, a few places don’t accept cards, so it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand when you encounter such situations.
Make sure to download Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone and set it up in advance so you can pay for things like food and public transport on the go.
Consider Not Going to Blue Lagoon
If you’re considering going to Iceland, we assume you’ve heard of Blue Lagoon. It’s a popular geothermal spa that millions of people visit every year from all over the world. However, of all the travel destinations in Iceland, Blue Lagoon is the one that is least impressive and isn’t worth the trip. Blue Lagoon is hyped by Instagram celebrities, and it is because of the heavy advertisement of the spa and the high price tag.
Blue Lagoon is extremely expensive and not a natural hot spring pool but water waste from a nearby power plant. Of all the natural geothermal pools in Iceland that you can visit for half the price, you can easily skip going to Blue Lagoon if you have a limited budget. However, if you’re looking for a place to chill and relax for the day, wearing face masks and chatting with the locals, it’s the place for you.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, one of the most recommended cities in Iceland by tourists. Reykjavik is an unconventional city that is calm and very peaceful. If you’re from a big city like New York or another busy European city, you’ll enjoy exploring Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is a small city that is surrounded by oceans and mountains. It has a laid-back vibe to it, and tourists usually spend a few hours there by catching a local bus. In November, Icelanders celebrate their independence by celebrating festivals for several weeks. The festival events range from comedy gigs to orchestra and much more. It would be worth it if you could plan to visit Iceland during that time. You can learn much about the country, the culture, and the people during the festival.
Avoid Eating Out Too Much
It’s no secret that Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit, so if you’re on a budget, you should probably consider not eating out too much to save money to afford other things. A simple breakfast of coffee and a cream bagel will cost you around $19 to $20. An average lunch or dinner will likely cost you around $30 to $75, not including drinks. This is more than what you would be paying in US’s high-end bars. So, unless you are willing to go all out and drain your wallet during the trip, consider making your own meals.
If you want to save money on Top Food Destination in the World and not spend too much on food, consider going to a nearby grocery store to buy some skyr, bread, and coffee.
Mingle With the Locals
Icelanders are very friendly people, and they love meeting international tourists, so don’t hesitate to talk to a local any chance you get. They’re always happy to chat about their beautiful country so you can ask them questions and learn more about them and their culture. Although millions of tourists visit each year, it can be difficult to spot the 370,000 residents; however, you can always head to unpopular tourist destinations to meet the locals or visit during the off-season.
Iceland is SAFE!
Iceland is very safe! Its crime rates are shockingly low compared to other European countries, making it safe to travel solo for everyone. There have been some isolated incidents involving international tourists; however, those occurrences are very rare. Millions of tourists visit the country every year, yet there are no reports of serious crime. Life-threatening situations tend to arise due to the notorious and unpredictable weather and people’s own negligence.
If you’re planning on visiting Iceland in the winter, make sure you’re ready to face the cold weather and have a cell signal available to call for help or dial 112 in case of emergency. We suggest checking the weather conditions before setting a date and planning the itinerary.
Fuel is Very Expensive
Another thing you need to know before visiting Iceland is that fuel is extremely expensive, so it’s best to plan your travel as efficiently as possible. Consider using public transport or hiring a camper van instead of renting a car. This way, you can save money and spend it on other plans instead of wasting it on fuel.
Additionally, the distance between different locations in Iceland is quite short, so you can easily cover them using public transport or walking to the destination.
Find Affordable Accommodations
If we haven’t stressed this point enough, we will do it again; Iceland can be quite expensive. From food to fuel and accommodation. The key is to budget efficiently, so you don’t waste money on these things and don’t get to visit all the destinations in your itinerary.
Instead of booking a hotel for a night or two, we’d suggest finding reasonable accommodation such as a cabin or a small cozy cottage for the night. You’ll find many other affordable guesthouses in Iceland that will cost less than staying in a hotel room. You’ll have all the amenities and will be spending less than you’d have at a hotel. Check out their local Airbnbs before your trip to find discounts on booking in advance.
Pack According to the Weather
This goes without saying but make sure you have all the weather essentials such as gloves, scarves, jackets, and waterproof shoes for the winter and hiking clothes, swimsuits, layers of shorts and sweaters for summer. Being unprepared for the weather will cost you a lot of money as both summer and winter clothing can be expensive. The local saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather but wrong clothes, and it is completely true for Iceland. Don’t forget other items such as towels, etc.
Pro Tip: if you want to save more money during your trip, bring a reusable water bottle with you, so you don’t have to buy bottled water while traveling. Water in Iceland is clean and completely drinkable. You can carry around a water bottle and, instead of buying water, simply refill it. It’s an eco-friendly option too!
Daylight Hours in Winter
Iceland has a 24-hour daylight cycle during the summer months, but the daylight hours are much shorter during the winter months. The sun doesn’t set after only 3 to 4 hours of daylight (between 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.) during wintertime. This means you’ll have only a few hours to visit places you want to see or do during daylight and figure out what to do the rest of the 20 hours in the dark. However, it can be a unique experience, especially if you’re visiting Iceland for the first time.
Undivided Two-Lane Highways
Most of the roads in Iceland are two-lane undivided highways. The road system is quite efficient, and drivers in Iceland rarely encounter heavy traffic. The speed limit in populated areas is 30–50 km/hour, and drivers are expected to wear seatbelts.
Make sure you obey all the traffic rules and never drive faster than the speed limit. Stay in one lane, and don’t use your phone while driving a car.
If you loved reading about Iceland, you could follow the Irina Bukatik blog to read more about me and my adventures. If you plan to visit Iceland soon, follow my food and travel blogs. I can guide you about different locations and must-visit tourist destinations in Iceland and other destinations like the Maldives.
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