Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Iceland
For tours, if you want to wear jeans you should carry some waterproof over-trousers (pants), just in case. Nothing worse than cold wet jeans! During activities, appropriate clothing is provided.
Take a tour for the Northern Lights. You have to drive way out of the city where there are no lights. People get hit and cars get stuck. For safety and for expertise, take a tour.
Rain pants are essential. They weigh nothing and make a rainy day no problem. Hiking, walking, etc in jeans in wet weather is miserable. No need to spend a lot. But I'd keep the rain pants balled up in a day pack ready to use. Also a jacket with hood to keep rain out. Jackets without hood are not practical-- hats don't keep water off the neck and from dripping inside very well.
You typically will not be automatically brought the bill at your restaurant table. You ask for the check, or pay at the counter on your way out.
Before one decides to rent a car in wintertime, one has to sit down and ask oneself a few basic questions and give oneself honest answers: Do I have the necessary driving experience to drive in Iceland in wintertime? Will I be hazardous to myself, my passengers, or other people on the road?
When you see a weather warning that says STORM, then it means that it's almost a hurricane. YOU DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOOOOOT !!!! DRIVE IN SUCH CONDITIONS.
In the words of those who've been there before ...
Unique, magical, elemental.
There is always something new and exciting to see here, whether you have been here once or several times.
What is the best way to get there?
Keflavik International Airport is located 31 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Reykjavik, in the town of Keflavik. Shuttle buses run from the airport to downtown Reykjavik and you can also pick up a rental car there.
Reykjavik airport downtown Reykjavik is served only by domestic flights and international flights to/from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Do I need a visa?
Check the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration to find out whether or not you need a visa.
When is the best time to visit?
Weather in Iceland is always changeable so make sure you bring warm clothing any time of year. Average summer temperatures in the capital are around 68-77°F (or 20–25°C). Summer is peak tourist season but by early September the biggest crowds are gone. Winter and spring, which bring the Northern Lights, is also appealing and, despite Iceland’s name and latitude, temperatures are mild, with averages being around 14°F (−10°C).
Renting a car is necessary if you want to do any independent travel. Rentals are available at several handy locations including Keflavik Airport and the BSI Bus Terminal. Drivers should be aware of the unique driving conditions imposed by Icelandic’s rugged landscape and obey all signage, such as notices indicating road closures.
For getting around the capital and its suburbs, Strætó, Reykjavik’s public bus system is clean and reliable. If you are planning to use it a lot, get a multi-day pass. If you need to change buses to reach your destination, ask for a transfer ticket (skiptimiði).
Long-distance buses do serve much of the country but this is an expensive and time-consuming way to travel. Services are few and far between and you often have to make inconvenient transfers, which mean you can’t reach your destination in one day.
There is no Uber or Lyft service in Iceland but home-grown carpooling site Samferda lets you request for rides or passengers for your journey around Iceland.
On the ground
What is the timezone?
Iceland observes Greenwich Mean Time all year. There is no Daylight Saving Time.
What are the voltage/plug types?
Standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. There are two plug types, C and F. Type C has two round pins; type F has two round pins, with two earth clips on the side.
What is the currency?
Are ATMs readily accessible?
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes and are typically preferred.
How much do I tip?
Tipping is not obligatory in Iceland, however, a tip for exceptional service is always appreciated.
Are there local customs I should know?
The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20.
Allow others to disembark before boarding. Stand to offer seating to the elderly, pregnant women, or someone with a disability.
If you want to stop along a road to take photos, find a safe place to pull over. Tourists have caused serious accidents by suddenly stopping to snap a photo.
Respect the elements in Iceland. If a sign tells you to stay back from the water, trust that it is for your safety.
Icelanders do not expect visitors to know much of their difficult and little-spoken language, but a few Icelandic words such as halló (hello) and takk (thanks) go a long way.
Use first names
Unlike much of the world, Iceland doesn’t have a family naming system. Even the Prime Minister is referred to by their first name.
Follow the rules and regulations at hot springs and pools
Geothermal pools are popular around the country, but note that you must shower before getting in.
Take your trash with you
Show respect for Iceland’s pristine landscape by not littering.
Do not scare or try to feed the Icelandic horses and sheep you may spot along the side of the road. Take photos from a respectful distance.