Now that we have completed our trip around the country, here is our list of what you should keep in mind for Iceland travel expectations…
1. It’s Expensive
It’s very, very expensive here.
For example, this labor-camp style lodging which offers a closet sized room with only a bed and a shared bathroom cost us $183 per night.
We booked accommodation mostly in hostels and guesthouses, as hotels can range much over $300 per night. We’ve noticed that we are actually some of the youngest people staying in these (which isn’t the usual for the backpacking hostel crowd), and we quickly realized its because these are likely the only affordable option for many people. And sometimes of course there just is no other choice in small village areas!
We’ve been eating much of our own food, and one night decided to make our own dinner in our hostel kitchen. To our suprise, our meat + 2 bell peppers + water came out to $42 at the till. That’s not how a usual ghetto hostel dinner works out…
Gas costs us $100 per tank to fill our SUV. But thankfully it’s a diesel and we get a great amount of mileage on it.
– Cheese (10 slices per pack): $16-20
– 2 Bell Peppers: $7
– Dinner out – Main Course: $30-40+
– Beer at restaurant: $10+
2. The Weather is Crazy
We heard a saying that Icelandic people say that if you don’t like the weather, give it five minutes. We’d agree! It seems that every few hours the weather seems to change and the sky morphs into something new; anywhere from sunny blue skies, to pouring rain with low-hanging grumpy clouds, to wind that knocks you off your feet.
If you don’t believe us, just look back at some of our posts and pay specific attention to the different skies/weather throughout the day!
The great thing about it is that if you wake up to cloudy skies, you know this won’t last long and you can often look forward to sunny moments ahead!
Best way to prepare for this is to dress in light layers that you can quickly add or take off when needed. A rainproof windbreaker is a must.
3. It’s Very Visitor Friendly
I’ve been so impressed with tourism here. There are no admission fees, and no excessive rules governing what you can and cannot see/do. You are allowed to explore at your own risk, with the trust that you will respect the environment and use common sense to protect yourself and the sights.
This has made travel here a dream! I only hope that with time these things don’t change, and that future travellers don’t make it so they have to.
4. You Always Feel Safe
I think I read that there is maybe one murder in Iceland per year, and often over a jealous love triangle (I probably read that from Wikipedia so you’re welcome to question the reality of that statement). Either way, that’s how safe it feels here. We often leave our car with iPhones and iPads in plain view (once even with the keys in the ignition… oops!) for hours and don’t for a moment doubt it’s safety.
Even hitch hiking is a very reasonable option for travellers wanting to get around on a budget.
5. You Don’t Really Need Cash
Things run on credit cards here. In our whole time here we haven’t been to one place that doesn’t accept them. Even Granny’s seem to carry card machines in their purses.
This is great in a place with its own currency (the Icelandic krona), as it means you can avoid exchanging money.
6. Driving Around is Easy
Driving around Iceland has been great. There is of course the one main ring road that makes it hard to get lost, but even the small turn-offs into villages have a sign with a map of the local area.
Gas is available 24h a day. You wouldn’t think that a random solo pump in the middle of a field would be working in the middle of the night, but as long as you have a credit card, you can fill up anytime of day.
Of course there are some challenges to keep in mind, such as the fact that driving here requires manoeuvring on loose gravel at times and bridges are often one lane only. Or that you have to stick with the 90 km/h speed limit due to numerous traffic cameras and steep fines; which is harder for some to abide by than others…
7. Customer Service Isn’t Always What You’d Expect
Sometimes people come off a little gruff, and don’t necessarily offer information needed unless you ask. I think this leave some people complaining about customer service. I agree it varies from other places, but of course there is a language barrier and I don’t doubt that people will help when needed.
8. You Can Get By With English
I can’t think of another foreign country where everyone seems to speak English so ubiquitously and so well! Which has been a relief, as Icelandic is a very challenging language to learn and speak despite our attempts. So, if you are an English speaker, you’ll be able to get by just fine on your visit here…