Traveling can be tricky. Different cultures, different rules, different food…there’s a lot to consider. If you’re looking for some Iceland travel tips for your upcoming trip, you’ve come to the right place! Here are some basic bits of advice to help, and if you’re looking for more detailed information, I have posts for each day of our trip that detail different parts of the country, and the different adventures you can enjoy.
10 Iceland Travel Tips
- You really don’t need cash. Pretty much anywhere.
Everywhere we went accepted credit cards. The only thing we used cash for was tipping on our adventures, which isn’t required but tipping always makes people happy.
- You don’t need to learn the language, and good luck if you’d like to try.
I tried. I did my usual process of printing information and trying to learn basic words, but I was pretty much laughed at with every attempt (in a very friendly way). Top of my list of Iceland Travel Tips is that everyone pretty much speaks English, and they understand how difficult their language is to learn. So, don’t stress too much. As always, be respectful of the native Icelanders, and try not to be ignorant to their language and culture, but also don’t stress if you can’t pronounce things.
- Rent a car and get off the Golden Circle
If you’re traveling with 2 of you, or more, it makes sense to rent a car and explore on your own if you’re comfortable doing so. In the winter you need to worry about 4WD which can get more expensive, but in October we were fine without, and it really allowed us to see more of the country and get away from the crowds. The Golden Circle is beautiful, but there is far more to see!
- Eat gas station sandwiches to save money
Personally, I don’t think the cuisine in Iceland is one to travel there for. Italy, sure, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of their food. But, Iceland? They’re known for the beauty of their country, not necessarily their food. That being said, one of my main Iceland travel tips is that their gas station sandwiches (the ones in the cellophane that seem sketchy) and quite delicious, and relatively cheap compared to eating out. They don’t look like much, but we were pleasantly surprised!
- Skip the Blue Lagoon.
Seriously. All Iceland travel tips tell you to go to the Blue Lagoon, but I personally feel it’s way over-hyped. If you want more details about the experience, read day 8 of my Icelandic Adventure, but I think it’s overpriced and overrated. There are far more beautiful places you can visit! Especially if you have your own car.
- Go to Grindavik hungry for their unlimited lobster soup for $20
If you don’t like lobster, this isn’t for you. But, if you do, don’t miss out on the Bryggjan. It’s just south of the Blue Lagoon (which I still think you should skip), and for $20 you get as much delicious lobster and mushroom soup, bread, and coffee as you can stomach. And it’s delicious.
- Prepare for wind and weather
I can’t vouch for how it is in the summer, but if you go off-season like we did, apparently it’s windy and rainy/snowy all winter long. We had asked someone if the wind on day 1 was some crazy, abnormal storm, and they basically said nope, it’s just winter in Iceland. And when I say wind, I mean the car rental guy told us that people will sometimes have their car doors blown right off, so he warned us to be careful when opening the door.
- You don’t need to sleep in a campervan to go cheap if that’s not your deal
But totally go for it if you want the experience! We stayed in homestays and hostels and it was quite reasonable, price wise. And, a lot of them include breakfast, which is nice. With all the rain, it was nice not to have to worry about being cramped in a small space with wet clothing.
- If you’re looking to save money, buy alcohol at the Duty Free at the airport
When we landed, as we were waiting for our bags, we stopped into the Duty Free shop and loaded up on some wine and whiskey, and stayed in most nights with a movie and wine vs going out to a bar. Especially in the off season, there isn’t a whole lot open late so this worked out great, and saved us a bunch of money.
- Don’t go to Iceland just for the Aurora Borealis
…because there’s always the chance it will be too warm or overcast to see it. There is so much more to Iceland that a trip there would never be a waste, just don’t have your hopes set on the Aurora. Our week there, we got to see it from the plane right before landing, and very faintly a few other times, but for the most part it was too overcast and warm to see the vibrant colors you see in all the pictures. We were very happy we got to see it dance through the sky from the plane, though!
I hope that that my list of Iceland Travel Tips has been helpful, and enjoy your trip to Iceland!