13 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Visited Iceland

When we booked our trip to Iceland, it was sort of a last minute thing. I found cheap flights, bought them within the hour, and within 3 months we were landing in Keflavik. Between booking and going, we read tons of articles about things we should see and stuff we should bring, but nothing replaces actually being there. After returning, I sat down and thought about all the things that were different than expected and stuff I wish I had known before. If you are in the middle of planning a trip to Iceland, I hope this is helpful as you plan!

1.Food is expensive, but eating on a budget is totally possible!

If you’ve done any research on Iceland, then you have probably heard horror stories about outrageously expensive meals. Before we visited, we were thinking that each meal would be $50 or more per person. We got so nervous that we shoved a box of protein pancakes in our backpacks before we left! (embarrassing, but true)

Once we got there, we found out that food is in fact expensive, but it isn’t that bad. If you are eating a restaurant, expect about a $30-$40 meal with no drinks. We only ate out a couple times and for the rest of our meals we bought food at the grocery store!

We did our grocery shopping at Bonus, a discount grocer in Iceland. Prices were definitely higher than they are here in Missouri, but not outrageous. We stocked up on things we could keep and eat in the car: peanut butter and jelly, granola, chips, some dried fruit, crackers, and some pretzels. We also got stuff for some easy meals inside the AirBNB.

2. The Blue Lagoon is Worth the Ticket

Is it touristy? Yes. Expensive? Also, yes. But if you are in Iceland, you should definitely see the Blue Lagoon. There are other hot springs in the country, but none have the beautiful blue water like the Blue Lagoon. Once you go in, you can spend as much time as you want and your ticket comes with a drink. Take the time to relax, explore the lagoon, try a silica mud mask, and enjoy the company of travelers from all over the world.

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3. In summer, roads aren’t that bad

Every post we read before we left talked about how dangerous the roads were! People talked about terrible winds, treacherous one lane bridges, and sheep roaming freely on the side of the highway. The best advice I can give here is to use your head and you’ll be fine! Yes, there were some spots that were risky, but if you drive slow + carefully, you’ll be fine!

Speaking of driving slow, I highly recommend going the speed limit. They don’t mess around when it comes to speeding in Iceland. There are a lot of police officers, even in desolate areas and they have speeding cameras set up along the highway.

4. There are hidden gems everywhere

While you are driving along the ring road, you will likely find yourself wanting to stop around every corner and you totally should! Some of the coolest things we saw were right off the road, with no crowds. The places you read about online are really cool and you should totally see them, but leave time in your itinerary for spontaneous stops!

5. The easiest way to lose crowds is to drive

I don’t know about you, but I like to be as far away from crowds as I can be on vacation. Views automatically get 10x better when I can enjoy them alone. If you want to lose the crowds in Iceland, leave Reykjavik. As soon as you leave the capital city, the people disappear and it’ll just be you and the untouched scenery of Iceland.

6. Bring a chip and pin card!!

If you are like me and use a credit card for everything, this is a big one for you! Make sure you bring your debit card with a chip and a pin. Most gas stations (especially rural) won’t accept credit cards!

7. Accessing internet + Phone Coverage

The only time I’m ever thankful for Sprint is when I am traveling abroad. Service in the states is subpar, but their phone coverage in other countries is usually pretty good, including Iceland. Almost everywhere we went we had enough coverage to send texts and google things if we needed to!

I can only speak for Sprint’s coverage, but I have heard t-mobile also has good, free international coverage.

As far as wifi was concerned, we had a hot spot that we rented from the airport that we kept in the car in case we got lost and Sprint’s service didn’t cut it. All of our AirBNBs also had internet that we could access for free.

8. Gas is actually expensive

Unlike the food horror stories, the gas ones are actually true! While we were there gas was anywhere between $7-$8 a gallon. If you planning on doing the ring road trip, make sure you factor gas into your budget. Also, you might want to consider a rental car with good gas mileage.

9. Bring good clothes + shoes!

What that should really say is to bring waterproof clothes and shoes. Iceland is known for its amazing waterfalls and if you do your trip right, you’ll see a few a day. Believe it or not, these massive falls give off some water. If you are standing anywhere near them, you’re going to get wet! Make sure you bring a rain jacket, some quick dry leggings, and a pair of good, comfy rain boots.

10. Most of Iceland is untouched

Once you get out of Reykjavik, it doesn’t take long to realize that most of the country is completely untouched. There are horses and sheep roaming all over the place, the land is rugged, and you might see a house every couple miles. It really is one of the most beautiful places to explore, because it feels like you seeing things that no one else has ever seen before!

11. Dangerous areas don’t exist

Iceland is consistently ranked the safest country in the world as far as crime is concerned. It is basically non-existent. Don’t spend too much time worrying about your AirBNB being in a safe area. Spend it trying to avoid sneaker waves or bad weather instead. 😉

12. Everything is closed on Sundays

Unless you are in Reykjavik, don’t plan on any shops or restaurants being open on Sundays. We made the mistake of planning to explore Akureyri on a Sunday and had trouble finding even one restaurant that was open. Make sure you keep this in mind while you are making itinerary.

13. Book early

I wouldn’t change a thing about the spontaneity of our trip, but boy would it have been easier if we booked our flights more than 3 months in advance. Iceland is a small country and tourism in the past few years has spiked exponentially, making hotels hard to find last minute! I recommend booking all your accommodations as soon as you can. This also goes for your Blue Lagoon tickets; book them in advance because good time slots fill up quickly!

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, let me know in the comments! 🙂 I hope this was helpful for your trip!

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