Looking for Iceland travel tips for your upcoming adventure? You’ve come to the right place!
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, I’m here to help!
Read on for 10 basic bits of advice to help. If you’re looking for more detailed information, I have posts for each day of my 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. Seriously. I did my usual process of printing information and watching YouTube videos to try and learn basic words. Even still, 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 correctly. Because you won’t.
- 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 in Iceland 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. Having our own car really allowed us to see more of the countryside 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. They’re also relatively cheap compared to eating at a restaurant. 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 truly think it’s overpriced and overrated. There are far more beautiful places you can visit on your trip to Iceland. Especially if you have your own car!
- You don’t really need to rent a GPS
Google now has a feature where you can download maps to use offline. Before my trip, I went through and highlighted the sites I wanted to see (you do a search while logged in and hit save – that’s all!). Then, while in airplane mode, I was able to navigate everywhere I needed with my downloaded map. You can do it on your phone or tablet. If you don’t have enough space on your phone for all of Iceland, you can still download portions as you go along. It’s incredibly handy and saves you money on any GPS system the rental car places will try to sell you. Also, Iceland only has a handful of main roads, and plenty of signs for the sights, so it’s relatively easy to navigate in general
- Prepare for wind and rainy weather
I can’t vouch for how it is in the summer, but if you go off-season like I did, apparently it’s windy and rainy/snowy all winter long. I 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. He warned us to be very careful when opening the car 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! I 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. We 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 Northern Lights. My week there, I got to see the Northern Lights from the plane right before landing, and very faintly a few other times. Other than that, it was too overcast and warm to see the vibrant colors you see in all the pictures. I was 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!