Iceland is a great place to visit. I think everyone should go there at least once. Flights are cheap so why not? In this post I will share some Iceland travel tips. I am by no means an expert on Iceland or travel, but here are 8 things that I learned during my recent trip to the island.
Iceland Travel Tips
Get a sim card
Probably the most useful top on this list is to get yourself a sim card for your cell phone. Sure, WI-FI is widely available but it’s not always reliable. Sometimes it can be really slow at hotels and restaurants. Plus you might get lost and need directions or have another emergency where you need phone service.
I purchased one right at the convenience store in the airport. They’re located behind the counter so ask a clerk. They are so easy to get set up too. Just pop it in your phone and it should get you on the network right away. I purchased a car from the company Síminn. I highly recommend this company. I had 4G coverage almost everywhere I went.
The price is very reasonable. I paid about $30 for 50 minutes and 5 gigabytes of data. This was plenty for a 10 day trip.
Download maps to your phone
Before you leave for your trip, download maps to your phone. I suggest the free app Maps.me. It’s a totally offline map app where you download the map of the entire country. With this app you’ll have most locations like attractions, restaurants, stores, available to you when you are offline. It even has offline driving directions. Since your GPS doesn’t require cellular service to work you can get turn-by-turn navigation even without cellular service.
This is a general tip I would suggest when travelling anywhere.
If renting a car, a large SUV is worth it
Usually when I travel and rent a car, the small economy option is just fine. However, we upgraded to a large SUV for this trip. And we were glad we did. There are a LOT of gravel and very rough roads in Iceland that you might want or need to drive on. A small car will be fine on most of them but a mid to large SUV will make the ride much smoother. And if you run in to mud or snow you will be glad to have the 4 wheel drive and maybe even snow/mud tires. There are places off the beaten path that we would have never been able to get to without a proper vehicle.
Get the extra insurance
I always, always decline the extra coverage on rentals when I travel to most places. But Iceland isn’t most places. The weather is extreme and natural disasters are talked about like they can be daily occurrences. So I opted for all the extra insurance. The last thing I wanted was to get caught in a sand (or rock) storm and get a bill for a new car because I was too cheap up front. The peace of mind is worth it. Especially with all the rocks that get kicked up by cars with potential to hit your windshield. The rental companies there are also much more thorough checking over the car when you return it.
I usually rely on my credit card to cover rental car insurance. However, I’ve read (but haven’t confirmed) that credit card insurance won’t cover you for most rentals in Iceland. You see, rentals in Iceland all include basic insurance coverage built in to the rental agreement. Credit cards require you to decline coverage. See the problem? If the rental company’s insurance is included and unable to be declined, you might not meet the criteria your credit card company requires for them to cover you. I’m not willing to take the chance.
Maybe someone more experienced with Iceland can clear this up for me???
Book lodging through Airbnb
It seems like almost every farm on the Ring Road in south Iceland is putting up “tiny homes” to serve as Airbnb lodging. We stayed in many of these and they are perfect. They include all the amenities you need like a shower and small kitchen. They are cozy and not for large families, but they worked out well for us.
Save money on food
The food in Iceland is very good but restaurants are very expensive. One way to save money is to go grocery shopping. The prices in grocery stores is very reasonable and pretty much in line with what you’d expect to pay in the United States. When you get to Iceland, stop in a Krónan or Bónus and stock up on things like granola bars, bread and sandwich supplies, snacks, and anything else you would like. By making your meals in your Airbnb you will save a lot of money.
If you are a coffee drinker, it might be worth while to get some coffee too. None of the Airbnb I stayed in had a proper coffee maker, but they all had an electric kettle. So we stocked up on instant coffee for our morning cup. I was a fan of Nestle’s 3-in-1 instant coffee with the cream and sugar in the same packet.
Try the food
You can save money by shopping in grocery stores but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out for dinner a couple times. The food is really good. Try the char. It’s a local fish that kind of reminded me of salmon. Meatballs are also common and very good.
Watch the weather
Since most of your trip to Iceland will be visiting outdoor locations, watching the weather is very important. You can use whatever weather app you prefer, but I would suggest getting the app Veður. It is available in your app store and is managed by Iceland’s own weather agency. I think this is where you will get the most accurate forecasts.
Take proper safety precautions
Safety is the most important thing to remember while in Iceland. The rugged landscape, rough seas, and ever changing weather make Iceland a dangerous place if you are not careful. The good thing is with basic safety precautions you will be just fine and have a great trip.
Check Safetravel.is and familiarize yourself with that website. There you will find a plethora of information including current weather and road condition alerts.
I hope these Iceland travel tips are useful in your planning. Iceland is a truly magnificent place and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
To see more of my images from Iceland, check out my Around the World gallery.