Practical Travel Tips: Iceland

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Iceland is a beautiful place. We know this because we are currently here! It is a country definitely worth visiting, especially with Icelandair and WOW having good sale fares, thereby making flight very affordable. Do note that it is very expensive once you are actually here. Gary from CatchGifUCan recently went and here are his practical tips.

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Iceland is not a country that comes to mind for many when thinking of vacation destinations.  It is cold for a good portion of the year, there is not much of a party scene, there are not many historical landmarks, and did I mention that it is cold?  However, I found myself planning a trip to Reykjavik with about 100 other travelers, who caught the same flight deal as I during the early stages of winter in the United States.  Because the flights were so cheap, there was a dramatic influx of tourists who added Iceland as an unplanned vacation spot for the early part of 2016.

While researching the country, I was surprised to discover the many cool things that can be done in Iceland, not to mention how remarkably beautiful the country is.  With proper preparation and planning, you can maximize your trip, have an incredible time, and undoubtedly return home with some great pictures.  Here are some tips:

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland - Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland – Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

What to Pack

If traveling to Iceland during the winter months, the key to staying warm and not having an overwhelmingly heavy suitcase is to pack layers.  Leave the huge sweaters at home; instead, opt for the thinner long-sleeved shirts and light jackets to go under your coat.  You should also have a pair of boots as many of the attractions may involve snow or ice.  Instead of taking up space in your suitcase with the boots, wear those on your flight.

Comfortable sneakers may also be a good idea if you plan to do a lot of walking; especially if you opt for one of the country’s walking tours.

The tap water in Iceland is perfectly fine to drink.  Pack a thermos or reusable water bottle and you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of money by filling up throughout your trip.

How to Navigate:

To save yourself some money on car rentals and the hassle of having to drive, try going on an all-day tour.  This is a great way to start your trip.  You will be taken to most of the popular sites and you will be allotted time to get off the bus and take in the scenery at each site.  This is also a good way to get a preview of locations you may want to come back and visit later.

There are a number of sites that will allow you to rent cars for cheap.  When doing this, be sure to specify if you need a car with automatic transmission.  By default, they offer manual transmission cars.  Also, if you rent with your Visa credit card, check to make sure they provide their own rental insurance.  This will save you money as well.  Just be sure to stick to your guns and decline the insurance the car rental companies will try to get you to buy when you are picking up your car. (that is, unless you will be more comfortable driving knowing you are covered by their insurance).

If you have Google Maps on your mobile device, you can actually navigate to where Reykjavik is and download the map.  This will help you navigate when driving, as you may not want to tap into your international data plan to use your GPS capabilities.

If you do not have an international cell phone plan, it may be a good idea to rent a mobile hot spot from the car rental company. You can use the hotspot to stay continually connected at all times.  I even had it in my pocket while on my excursions so that I could post to social media in real time. It is about €10 per day.

What to Do:

Below, are just a few suggested activities while in Iceland.  There are a number of companies that offer each of these activities. Utilize YouTube to get a preview for each activity to see if it’s something that interests you.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland - Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland – Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

  • Blue Lagoon spa (book appointment ahead of time, and definitely book a reservation at LAVA, the restaurant on the resort)
  • Golden Circle Tour
  • ATV Mountain Safari
  • Snorkeling at Silfra
  • Glacier Walking
  • Northern Lights Tour (during cold months)
  • Reykjavik Walking tour (free, with a suggested donation of $15)
  • Food Tour
  • Reykjavik flea market (only open on weekends)
The tenderloin from LAVA Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland - Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

The tenderloin from LAVA Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland – Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

Random Tips to Know:

  • Though pretty much everyone in Iceland speaks English, much of the signs and verbiage around the country are Icelandic. You will have to use context clues or Google Translate to figure out some things.  It was not difficult at all.
  • Tipping is not customary for anything.
  • It is mandatory to always shower before getting in one of the pools or hot springs.
  • Punctuality is important in Iceland.
  • Alcohol is very pricey so if you’re a drinker, it may be a good idea to utilize the duty free shops at the airports.
  • Credit cards are accepted everywhere so there really is no need to have cash.
  • Download a Northern Lights app to get good photos of the lights.  Regular phone cameras don’t do the Northern Lights any justice.
  • Lastly, save your receipts for all purchases over 6,000 ISK because the tax will be refunded at the airport.
ATV Mountain Safari in Iceland - Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

ATV Mountain Safari in Iceland – Photo: Gary Bushrod of CatchGifUcan, All right reserved

About the Author:

Gary Bushrod is a project manager and learning professional from Herndon, Virginia.  He recently relocated to New York City because…well, he wanted to.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Hampton University and a master’s in Instructional Design and Technology from George Mason University.  Though he has a demanding career on Wall Street, he prides himself on being able to find balance between corporate life and wanderlust. Traveling solo relaxes him, but he is not opposed to bringing a couple friends along.  Follow Gary’s travels and read his comedic take on the culture of travel on his blog, CatchGifUcan, Twitter and Instagram.

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5 Responses to "Practical Travel Tips: Iceland"

  1. JC says:

    Aside from Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle, any recommendations on things to do with an elderly relative?

    Reply
  2. chris says:

    how much time have you spent there? because from what i’ve read, reykjavik is one of the more hard-partying small capitals around. a quick google says it has a “notorious club scene”. i don’t necessarily agree 100% with some search engine results, but it’s something i’ve heard bandied about for years.

    Reply
  3. Nicola says:

    Any suggestions on where to stay?

    Reply

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