Sjáumst síðar, Iceland

I’ve only been in the country for two and half days, and I’m already in love with Iceland. A decade ago, it seemed that people dismissed it as just a “frozen tundra”. Recently, the Internet and media have featured it as a popular destination for sight-seeing. Icelandair has contributed to the country’s economy by allowing people from Europe and the United States stopover at no additional cost. Ultimately that caught my attention to visit, along with the incentive to visit some countries in Europe. Before I take-off, I want to share some tricks and pointers that I learned – hope these will help you plan your next vacation, should you choose to visit (or stopover) in Reykjavík.

I’ve only been in the country for two and half days, and I’m already in love with Iceland. A decade ago, it seemed that people dismissed it as just a “frozen tundra”. Recently, the Internet and media have featured it as a popular destination for sight-seeing. Icelandair has contributed to the country’s economy by allowing people from Europe and the United States stopover at no additional cost. Ultimately that caught my attention to visit, along with the incentive to visit some countries in Europe. Before I take-off, I want to share some tricks and pointers that I learned – hope these will help you plan your next vacation, should you choose to visit (or stopover) in Reykjavík.These tips are in no particular order:

Icelandair Stopover

  • When looking for flights to Europe from US based hubs, consider Icelandair with a layover in KEF.
    • Flights from the US arrive early in the morning, and flights to the US depart in the afternoon. This allows for quick connection times to/from Europe.
  • Flying through in the winter? Layer-up!
    • Even if you’re not staying in Iceland, bring a coat if you have a layover in Iceland. All international connections at KEF will deplane/enplane via air stairs instead of a jetway.
  • Live in an area far away from an airport that serves international flights? Book a roundtrip ticket to an airport that serves Icelandair, WOW Air, or Delta (seasonal at JFK), and then book an Iceland stopover from that airport
    • Example: Flights from IND to KEF were quoted at $1,200. Google Flights would try to route you through New York, then Dublin, then Keflavik. Instead, I booked a roundtrip flight from IND to Chicago ORD, then booked the Icelandair stopover from ORD to anywhere in Europe (in my case, London). That cost $550 + the roundtrip flight from IND to ORD, which cost me $700. That strategy alone saved me $500.

Car Rentals & Driving

  • Consider renting a car instead of taking a tour bus if you want to go at your own pace!
    • If you carry a driver’s license from the US, Canada, or a country in the European Economic Area, you’re permitted to rent a car in Iceland
    • Gas is approximately $8/gallon. I spent $70 to fill up my tank before returning it back to the rental car facility
  • Always check road conditions before heading out to your next destination at road.is
    • Like weather in the Midwest US, weather changes in an instant. One second, it’ll be sunny and hard to see due to harsh light, and then the next instant, you’re driving into snow and wind with low visibility
  • Always drive with headlights on (it’s the law)
  • Maximum speed limit in rural areas is 90km/hr.
  • There are a few road signs that are solely in Icelandic. Study the regulatory symbols before driving out on the roads.
  • Points of interest are designated with this symbol (⌘)

Currency

  • Iceland’s currency is the Icelandic Króna (ISK)
  • For simple conversions to USD, divide the ISK price by 100 (1100 ISK ≈ $11)
  • I could pay with a credit card everywhere I went.
    • Consider a credit card with no foreign transaction fees to get the best prices without having to deal with conversion
  • Need to use the restroom? Get ready to pay. Public restrooms (WCs) cost about $4 to use.
  • Tourism is boosting the country’s economy, which makes living and operating a business in Reykjavik expensive.
    • Renting a place in Reykjavik like the housing situation in San Francisco Bay area – expensive, but not as crowded.

Language

  • Iceland’s primary language is Icelandic
    • Even though Iceland is the only country where Icelandic is spoken, the locals take pride in the language, as it resembles part of their identity
  • Every student is required to learn three languages: Icelandic, English, and Danish.
  • All locals will know how to speak English, so fret not – there won’t be a language barrier.

Tourist Attractions

  • Have your Blue Lagoon tickets purchased days before visiting.
  • The Northern Lights are visible on clear nights between September and mid-April. If visiting between then, book a Northern Lights tour for the first night you arrive.
    • Tours will be cancelled if the skies are cloudy
    • Your tour reservation will automatically roll into the next day
    • If all of your tours are cancelled before you leave the country, you will receive a refund (honored by most tour organizations)

Do you have any more suggestions from a recent visit? Share them in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list above!

Iceland has won my heart, and I know that I’ll be back sometime in the summer… in the meantime, it’s off to the United Kingdom for my first visit to England!

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