Iceland 101

vestrahorn

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, here are a few things to consider beforehand!

When To Go

Depending on your interests, you may find Iceland equally appealing during the Summer or the Winter. We visited Iceland at the end of May/beginning of June and here’s why we picked May as opposed to any other month.

  • Mid-night sun – There is day light for almost 24 hours during the Summer solstice in Nordic countries. With late May being so close to this time, we had 20 hours of day light during our trip. Even when the sun “set”, it was still light outside. This gave us ample time to see a lot more than we would have during the winter months where the opposite is true and you only get 3 hours of day light
  • Avoiding Summer crowds – Iceland gets super packed in the height of the Summer months from June through August. With accommodation being scarce depending on the location, this can push costs up significantly
  • Weather – We got to experience both Summer and Winter in May so we didn’t really miss out on much! (see below for more on the weather)
  • Northern lights – We knew we would definitely not see the Northern lights in May but there is no guarantee you would see it in the dead of winter either…soooo

All things considered, we felt like we got to experience both Winter and Summer in May with longer hours and more open roads (which I will also get to below)

Lake myvatn
This picture was taken close to mid-night in the Myvatn area of North Iceland

Weather

Weather can be very unpredictable in Iceland even in the Summer months. Icelanders definition of “good weather” is a day with the least amount of wind. Be prepared to see basically all four seasons in one day!

Check out bullet points 4 and 5 of this sticker which was posted inside our rental car!

Road Accessibility

Some roads, especially in the Highlands are only open at certain times of the year. It is always good to consider this before planning your trip. Also, certain roads in Iceland (called F roads can be super rough) and you would need an SUV…which is my next point…

Renting A Car

Driving is Iceland, especially if you are only going to be on Route 1 or the Ring Road is super easy and you could do this even in a compact car. However, there’s so much to see in Iceland beyond the sites along the Ring Road and I would highly recommend an SUV for this. Even with an SUV, we kept bumping the bottom of it on some of the rougher “F” roads.

Blue car rental is probably the cheapest option out there for car rentals in Iceland.

Our good old, faithful SUV – Pictured here on day 7 of our 8 day Iceland road trip

Accomodation

Iceland has a population of about 320,000 people, most who either live in the capital Reykjavik or Akureyri in the North. This means that accomodation options beyond these two locations can be sparse. It’s best to book as far out as you possibly can if you are looking for a hotel or B&B option. This is especially true in the South coast upto about the town of Hรถfn where most tourist venture out to. Accommodation options in the South may not be able to match demand, driving costs up. Most people don’t do the full Ring Road so the demand may be low beyond this point however supply might also be. The only saving grace is that costs may not be as bad as the South coast.

Sleeper vans are also a cool accomodation option if you are up for some adventure!

Money

Iceland money is called the Icelandic Krona. The good news is that you can use your credit card everywhere even for the tiniest of transactions. I didn’t withdraw money even once in Iceland and only needed cash to pay for a hot tub in South Iceland (luckily my friend had some cash and lent me some). I had read of some public bathrooms charging small change to use the facility but we always ended up using gas station bathrooms which were free. Here are my tips for money in Iceland

  • If you need to, pull out cash from an ATM at the Airport or Reykjavik. ATM’s give the best rate! The chances are that you won’t need a lot of liquid cash so don’t pull out a lot
  • Bring a credit card with no foreign transaction fees if possible
  • Inform your credit /debit card issuing company of your travels
  • Get a pin. I can’t stress this enough. You will need a pin to buy gas at the pump

What To Pack

Short answer – Layers!

Click here to see all the details on what to pack for Iceland.

Food

From fermented shark to sheep’s head, Iceland has a lot of offer for adventurous foodies. Fear not if you are not adventurous as Iceland will still blow your mind with the most succulent lamb burgers made with the freshest meat right from the farm next door or delicious fish and chips made right in front of you. Perhaps, what Iceland is most famous for are their hot dogs which you can find in most places. Soups are also famous in Iceland with lamb and seafood being the two favorites. Food can be expensive so be sure to budget accordingly.

If you have the space for it, bring your own snacks from your home country! Iceland is the ultimate road trip and what’s a road trip without snacks?

Snack bag!!

Did you find this guide or any of these tips useful? Please let me know by liking/commenting below or sharing this post on social media! Thank you!!

Check out my Iceland Ring Road itinerary HERE

HERE is my packing list post again!

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