Iceland: Tips and Advice

For anyone planning a trip to Iceland, below are some tips that we learned after our two week road trip around the country. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! 

On our trip we brought with us a decent chunk of Icelandic cash, but found it was fairly unnecessary to do so. Everywhere we went cards were expected and used, even at toll booths. Unless you want to order some money just to see how cool it looks or for scrapbooks, you can definitely go without it. Also prepare to spend more than you expected, gas is more expensive, food is more expensive, and the exchange rate isn’t amazing for the US dollar!

Driving for the most part varied between relaxing, and nerve racking. We went during a quieter month for tourists and still had to deal with people pulling over to the side of the road constantly. The one thing Iceland is aware of is how beautiful it is, and they’ve made numerous spots along every road where you can pull over and stop. Most stops even have a picnic table ready for you! The quality of road shifted between paved, dirt, and gravel. The bridges were mostly one lane which wasn’t too bad minus a few instances of large trucks getting stuck waiting before they could cross. We saw one accident the entire 2 weeks, and that caused the 1 traffic jam of about 15 minutes our entire trip (someone drove off the road). There are animals everywhere that roam free or escape their fences, but we never had one jump out in front of us. There were high altitudes, driving over mountains, driving through snow, and high cliffs without guardrails. Its not a difficult drive, but you need to pay attention and act smart. 

Along with driving you need to constantly watch for gas stations. After every stop we made we would fill up for the next leg of our trip. Our hostel in Seydisfjordur warned us ahead of time there wasn’t another gas station for over 100 miles, so we made sure to fill up. There was only one instance where we should’ve filled up and didn’t. We almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but in our defense we had around half a tank when we passed the last station. 

Bathrooms are pretty scarce in Iceland. Unless you’re staying in the city then get used to peeing on the side of the road. Bring at least one roll of toilet paper! For the most part major tourist stops had either an outhouse, or a bathroom. However, with the lack of gas stations, lack of fast food, and lack of civilization there aren’t many choices along the road. Obviously don’t be disgusting, Iceland is beautiful and should remain that way!

Weather can change a lot in Iceland. We had a pretty decent stretch of beautiful weather the majority of our trip. We only once had a rainy day, and once had a light snowy day. The rest were either cloudy or sunny, but always windy. There was a dramatic difference in temperature between the southern and northern parts of Iceland. We went from wearing only a jacket in the south, to wearing gloves, jackets, sweaters, and hats every day in the north. It wasn’t freezing, but being from Georgia it definitely felt like it! Having an umbrella would’ve proved useless with the wind, so I’d recommend a waterproof winter jacket, waterproof pants, or a poncho. 

The language barrier in Iceland is almost non-existent. Almost every single person we interacted with spoke english clearly and had no problem understanding anything we were asking. There was only one spot in the middle of Vatnsnesvegur peninsula where we had some trouble communicating. As someone who also has a food allergy and has trouble explaining it in my hometown, I had zero issues talking with waiters in Iceland. 

Since we went in May we got to experience the Midnight Sun! We didn’t realize just how bright it’d be and how late it’d last. We never really saw it get dark, but rather long lasting sunsets at 2am that would stretch on for a couple hours. Definitely bring an eye mask, however, most of our hostels provided blackout curtains! 

Finally, give yourself extra time in your day to enjoy everything Iceland has to offer. Each waterfall you stop at might require a small hike, might be larger than you thought and require more time to explore, and might be more beautiful than you pictured and take longer to photograph. Enjoy it, and plan a return trip!

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