10 Tips for Planning An Iceland Trip

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by Michael Rozenblit


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Iceland is simply a magical place to travel to. It’s unlike any other place that I’ve visited in the past, both in terms of the amazing sites that you can see but also the logistics associated with travelling around this beautiful country.

There are, however, a number of things that make Iceland a unique travel destination that should be considered when planning an Iceland trip. Here are our top ten travel tips to help you prepare for visiting Iceland!

10 Iceland Travel Tips

1. You need to plan ahead!

I’m a big advocate for not planning too much when travelling, however, in Iceland this will likely get you into a bit of trouble! Therefore, one of the most important travel tips when planning a trip is undoubtedly the need to plan ahead.

This is particularly necessary for accommodation, as the further you get away from Reykjavik, to places like Vik and Jokulsarlon, the fewer options you have. If you aren’t driving a camper van or have a tent then make sure to book lodging as early as possible, particularly in the summer months as otherwise, you might find yourself sleeping outside next to some majestic Icelandic horses. 

It’s also a good idea to book any tours in advance if you don’t have a vehicle, particularly during peak season. Popular tours such as seeing the Golden Circle or other attractions on the South Coast are popular for a reason and it is a good idea to secure your place early!

Icelandic horses
Icelandic Horses

2. Buy groceries in Reykjavik

If like many people travelling in Iceland, your plan involves driving part or all of the Ring Road then try and stock up on groceries before you leave Reykjavik. There are a number of large supermarkets in and around the city where you can buy plenty of non-perishables.

Once you get outside of Reykjavik there tend to only be smaller shops with higher prices so it’s best to avoid these if you want to save money. This is also a great tip for staying on budget in Reykjavik itself!

If you don’t want to cook during your time in the capital but still want to save money, then eating at a hot dog stand or at Noodle Station is a good option for a cheap meal!

3. Have your own transport

Technically it’s possible to see Iceland without your own car. You could base yourself in Reykjavik and take a tour to see the popular Golden Circle stops or even beyond to Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss in South Iceland, however, this simply won’t be the same as doing it yourself.

With the luxury of your own transport, you have the freedom to detour to a random waterfall, pull over at an amazing viewpoint and wake up early enough to have it all to yourself!

Having your own transport is undoubtedly the best way to see this amazingly beautiful country and a crucial thing to consider when visiting Iceland. However, it’s important to remember that driving in Iceland has some unique challenges compared to other countries.

Driving in Iceland
The best way to see Iceland is with your own transport!

4. Don’t withdraw cash

The whole time we were in Iceland, we never once saw the local currency. Whilst this is a bit of a shame as it meant I couldn’t give my mum a local coin as a souvenir, there was just no need to withdraw cash.

All shops, restaurants and hotels have credit card facilities, even the toilets at Þingvellir National Park allowed you to pay by card and our guide on our free walking tour in Reykjavik accepted tips via mobile pay! If anything it’s good training for how surely, many countries will end up in the not-too-distant future!

5. Visit a local pool

The Blue Lagoon see hundreds of thousands of people visit each year, so if you want to have a more local experience then visit a local pool instead! Not only will there be fewer tourists but it will also be significantly cheaper with entrance to some pools only costing a few dollars.

Most pools will have a number of swimming pools, spas and saunas to help combat that Icelandic chill – particularly if travelling in winter! It’s also a great way to meet Icelanders who see visiting a pool as an integral part of daily life in this country!

Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Blue Lagoon in Iceland

6. Pack appropriately

Sounds obvious, right? But in case the name of the country didn’t give it away, Iceland can get very cold! Not only can it get cold, but extreme winds are a problem so it’s imperative that you know what to pack when planning an Iceland trip. 

Items like thermal tops & leggings, a proper coat, woollen socks, an insulating beanie and waterproof shoes are a must when travelling to Iceland for any time of the year! Make sure to put together a packing list that will ensure that you can enjoy this beautiful country without the weather affecting you.

7. Buy a SIM card

If you’re following my third Iceland travel tip and renting your own transport, then I strongly urge you to also buy a SIM card in Reykjavik. The 4G coverage is pretty good around the island and it’ll allow you to have access to maps, weather forecasts and much more as you travel around.

Plus, in the unlikely event of an emergency due to the erratic Iceland weather, you’ll be covered! Just please remember, that even though you have access to the internet, it doesn’t mean you have to use it – so keep off social media and enjoy your surroundings! 🙂

8. Monitor the Northern Lights forecast

If one of the reasons for your trip is to see the Northern Lights in Iceland then it’s worth keeping an eye on the forecast to determine which days during your trip you’ll have the best chance of seeing them.

There are two important factors that impact your chances of seeing the Aurora – one is the level of cloud cover and darkness, and the other is the strength of the Aurora activity. You can monitor the level of cloud cover for the next few days on the Icelandic Meteorological site.

Northern Lights in Iceland
It’s worth planning ahead to see the Northern Lights!

9. Don’t let the weather forecast get you down

One of the most crucial tips to keep your spirits high is to not pay too much attention to the weather forecast. Pretty much any time of year you visit Iceland, you’re going to get erratic weather that will likely change a number of times throughout the day.

The best thing to do is simply make sure you’ve dressed appropriately and hope that when the inevitable bad weather hits you’re not halfway through a day-long hike!

10. If you’re going to drink, buy your alcohol at duty-free

Alcohol in Iceland isn’t cheap. If you’re in Iceland for a week or two then you’re best option to save money is to simply not drink. However, if the thought of a warming dram of whisky on a cold Icelandic night is too irresistible then follow the lead of the locals and stock up on alcohol at duty-free in the airport.

As we were waiting for our bags at the airport, it was common to see many locals buying as many slabs of beer as they were legally allowed! Alternatively, you can always pack a flask in your checked bag as yours truly did. 🙂

A trip to Iceland is simply out of this world and I haven’t visited any other country with the amazing natural and diverse beauty of Iceland. To ensure you’re as prepared as possible, follow these tips to ensure you’re ready to explore this beautiful country!

Are you planning to visit Iceland? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments! 

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael

Comments

  1. Thanks alot for your travel tips. You explained everything about Iceland just like best time to go, about your cash, Blue Lagoon, Visit Local pool. Really thanks alot for this post its really very use full tips about Iceland.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for some useful tips about renting a car. Also, concerning the best time to visit Iceland, I would really suggest visiting country at least TWICE. It’s awesome in summer but it’s also incredible and unique in winter

    Reply
  3. Iceland is one of the most attractive places in this world. This place is mostly for nature lovers. The people who love nature, he/she can very appreciate this place. Thanks for the review of this place and your tips to travel there.

    Reply

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