Practical info
4 April 2022

Must-Know Iceland Travel Tips for First-Time Travelers

A captivating country with a rich mythic history, Iceland is the travel scene’s new darling. So today, we’re breaking down 15 Iceland travel tips every first-time visitor should know.

Kerlingarfjöll mountains in Iceland

1. Be Mindful of Midnight Sun and Polar Night

Many people travel to Iceland specifically to experience the midnight sun or polar night. Yet, some first-timers aren’t aware that Iceland only has as little as four hours of sunlight per day during the winter and as much as 22 hours in the summer. So, when booking a trip, be conscious of the time of year.

2. Budget for Food

Food is expensive in Iceland. Actually, that’s an understatement. Food is insanely expensive in Iceland! When planning your trip budget, double the amount you think you’ll spend on grub.

3. Rent a Car

When you travel to Iceland, it’s always wise to rent a car. Not only does it make getting around easier, but it’s also often the most affordable transportation option depending on your itinerary. Besides, one of the best parts about an Iceland vacation is experiencing the majestic countryside.

Before you go, though, familiarize yourself with Iceland’s rules of the road.

4. Explore the Countryside

Reykjavik is a blast, and every Iceland vacation itinerary should include at least two days in the city. But magic — and incredible photographs — await you in rural Iceland.

5. Try an Einstök Beer

The United States has Budweiser; China has Snow Beer; Ireland has Guinness; and Iceland’s hometown brew is Einstök. Make sure you give it a shot! Many Cicerones consider it one of the best white ales in the world.

6. Don’t Stress About Learning Icelandic

Trying to speak a country’s native tongue when traveling can be fun. But take our word: Icelandic isn’t something you’re picking up in a few days. People who’ve lived in the country for half a decade and have taken intensive language immersion classes still struggle with it. But don’t worry: nearly everyone speaks English.

7. Remember That Public Bathrooms Aren’t Always Reliable

Public bathrooms in the Icelandic countryside may not always be open or usable — so pack toilet paper and plastic bags. Modest folks may want to bring a privacy sheet.

8. Prepare for All Weather

A land of extremes, the weather in Iceland changes at the drop of a hat — or pressure system. So, wear and bring layers. Rain ponchos are always a good idea, too — which we’ll explore more below.

9. Don’t Get Lost Behind the Camera

Iceland’s waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, caves, and inlets are breathtaking. Unfortunately, too many people get caught up trying to capture the majesty on camera and forget to soak in the sights right in front of them. Try not to be one of those people. Sure, take your shots, but also put the camera down and enjoy the scenery with your whole being.

10. Wear Rain Gear Near Waterfalls

Iceland sees the most precipitation between October and February, with the western and southern parts receiving the lion’s share. But the emanating mist around waterfalls makes it feel like it’s always raining. So, rain gear is a good idea to have on hand.

11. Bring a Good Pair of Hiking Boots

Much of Iceland has a rocky, volcanic terrain. So, it’s a good idea to have a pair of hiking boots, even for casual walks. Make sure you break them in before traveling or risk debilitating blisters.

12. Don’t Over Pack Your Daily Schedule

Whether it’s a sheep herd in the street or a spot storm that slows you down, getting anywhere in Iceland almost always takes longer than you think it will. So don’t pack your schedule to the second. Be flexible. Go with the Icelandic flow.

13. Check Out the Blue Lagoon

Yes, it’s the Disney World of Iceland — the country’s most touristic destination. And yet, you should run, not walk, to book a visit to the Blue Lagoon. There’s a reason why people from all over the world heed its call! The Blue Lagoon is one of the coolest experiences you’ll ever have.

14. Plan Early

Things book up quickly in Iceland, so don’t wait until the last minute. That goes for your hotel, car rental, and even reservations at well-known restaurants.

15. Know Your Payment Card Pins

Iceland uses a chip-and-pin payment standard. That means you must know the four-digit code for your debit and credit cards.