When preparing my trip to Iceland, I was searching the Internet trying to find out whether I needed to take cash to Iceland. It turned out that it wasn’t necessary. What I also didn’t know, is that the days in winter are not that short. Contrary to what I expected, we had almost 8 hours of daylight mid-November in the Southern part of the island. Furthermore these 8 hours were all perfect for photography as the sun was so low the whole day. I had many questions and struggled to find all the answers in one place. Therefore I created this list with some practical information about Iceland based on my personal experience. It will answer some of your questions and will help you better prepare for your trip to Iceland.
Iceland – money matters
You don’t need cash in IcelandNordic countries are famous for their almost nonexistent cash payments. I recently read an article about Denmark considering to forbid cash payments altogether. Iceland is also one of those countries where you just don’t need cash. Paying by credit or debit cards is possible everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even a 200ISK (1.5EUR) fee for the use of a bathroom in Thingvellir National Park could be paid by credit card. This is probably a bad example because now you think that using a bathroom is expensive in Iceland. Thingvellir is actually the only place where we had to pay for it.
Agreed, having foreign money in your hands might make your traveling experience feel more authentic. But if money is just a means of payment to you, save yourself all the trouble and unnecessary spending at the end of the trip in order to get rid of the cash, and use your credit card instead.
The best things in Iceland are freeThe best things in life are free, and so are the best things in Iceland. There are no entrance fees to any of the most famous landmarks. Waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, national parks – you can visit them all for free.
How expensive is Iceland?Depends on what you compare it to and how you choose to travel.
Iceland is certainly not cheap, but I found that the prices at the restaurants in Reykjavik are very comparable to those of the better restaurants in Western Europe, except for the alcoholic drinks. You will quickly pay 25-35EUR for a meat dish, and around 15-20EUR for a hamburger or a pizza. There are cheaper options in Reykjavik, but the choices can be limited in rural areas. Self-catering is a very good option and can save you lots of money and time. Tipping is not common in Iceland, so the menu price is your final price.
Excursions can be quite pricey. The most popular tourist attraction – Blue Lagoon – will cost you around 35-40EUR without transportation. We paid around 75EUR for a glacier walk and about the same for a half-day horse riding trip. But then remember what I just said – the best things will not cost you a cent.
Hotels and car rental can be pricey as well, but then again, accommodation in all price ranges is available, and you don’t need the most expensive 4×4 to see most of the touristic sights. A compact size regular car is sufficient for most travelers. You will definitely need a 4×4 and very good off-road driving skills if you are planning to go inland though.
ConnectivityMy recent experience was very positive when it comes to connectivity in Iceland. We had mobile network coverage everywhere and all of the hotels and most restaurants had free high speed Wi-Fi.
Iceland climateIcelandic weather is mostly unpredictable and can change from winter to summer in just a day. Gulf Stream keeps Iceland cool in summer and mild in winter. The average temperature in Reykjavik is around 0°C (31°F) in January and only 13°C (55°F) in July.
What to wear in Iceland in winter or in summerYou will need casual clothing in layers for excursions and some smart clothes if going out. Warm wind- and waterproof jacket and a swimsuit are necessary all year round. You can read more about Icelandic weather and packing advice here.
Iceland: languageIf you speak English, you have nothing to worry about. Everyone seems to speak English so you will not need to learn Icelandic. Unless you want to, of course. Remember the impossible name of the volcano that erupted a few years ago – Eyjafjallajökull? Ask Icelanders how to pronounce it so you can impress everyone back home.
Tap waterTap water is safe and really good. You may want to pack a reusable drinking bottle for your day trips and fill it with tap water. There is no reason to buy bottled water in Iceland. All restaurants serve tap water for free – here is a healthy way to save money.
Driving in IcelandIceland has right-hand traffic. Driving in Iceland is very relaxing as there is hardly any traffic outside of Reykjavik. Roads can be very slippery or even inaccessible when it snows, so check the weather conditions. It’s probably not a good idea to do a round trip around the whole island in winter as the roads get closed if it snows a lot, but you shouldn’t encounter too many difficulties in the Southern part of the country.
What time is it in IcelandGMT all year round. In winter you only have few hours of daylight, the end of December having the shortest days. You can expect 4-8hrs of daylight in winter months, and daylight around the clock in summer.
CrimeIceland is a very safe country. Crime rate is very low. To give you an idea, the total prison capacity in Iceland is about 120 prisoners, and it’s more than sufficient. If there is one country in the world where you don’t have to worry about safety, then it has to be Iceland.
Iceland: electricityIn Iceland, the electricity is 220 volts and you have to use European plugs type C.
Have you recently been to Iceland? Feel free to share your experience and advice in the comment section below or let me know if you have any questions.
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