A Few Things You Should Know Before Going To Iceland
Ok, so everyone is going to Iceland these days....and it's obvious why. Picturesque landscapes, amazing natural wonders, incredible food, fresh air, Northern Lights and more. But, there are a few things you should know before venturing out to the land of fire, ice & northern lights.
If you scroll through your Instagram feed, or search the hashtag #Iceland, you'll find a number of buzzworthy photos from friends, professional photographers, and other wannabe famous IGer's who have made the trek to Iceland. And again, without a doubt, there's no wonder why it's quickly become such a popular tourist destination.
With that said, our team also went to Iceland in 2017 (put us on the bandwagon) and we've begun making trips BACK to this amazing country, so think what you will, but there is definitely some things you should know before going...
That's why we've compiled this list for ya. Let's get to it.
1) Iceland's population is a steady 332,000, while the annual number of tourists who come here number 1.8 million
Kind of crazy to think about, but that's nearly 6 times the amount of residents who live in Iceland. That's almost like if the US had over 2 billion tourists come to our country. Kind of puts it into perspective, right?
If and when you go to Iceland, you'll surely feel at home, because there is A LOT of English spoken here.
2) Reykjavik is cool, but the real beauty lays outside the city
Don't get us wrong here, but Reykjavik, as cool of a small city as it is, isn't the raging pulse of life like most other European city capitals. It's easily walkable, with one main street going through it, and tons of shopping, places to eat, and bars to drink at.
The awesome thing too, is that most bars and clubs don't close till about 4 AM, super helpful if you're there to party and want to have a good time in the summer months. With all that said, you're probably going to Iceland for adventure and can party anywhere, so get up and make the most of each day - and if you're going to do that, you need to get outside and away from Reykjavik.
3) Iceland is outrageously expensive, especially when it comes to food
Not going to sugarcoat this one at all, food in Iceland is seriously expensive. But, what would you expect when it comes to feeding an island country up near the Arctic Circle? Hope you like overpaying for fish....
Tagging onto this, beer is crazy expensive too. Are you into craft beers? Well, too bad. Iceland is short on both options and affordability of your favorite tasty beverage. The country's most popular substance is, Gull - which comes at a regular rate of $10 US for a glass.
More importantly, (and good to know) they do have happy hours where you can pay about $6 for a beer, or can find a bar that has a wheel you can spin in hopes of getting lucky. Some wheels have 8 beers on deck for one wheel spin, which is about $20 per turn. You could end up losing a $20 spot on a 'Nothing' tab, though...
4) The water tastes and smells like rotten eggs (it's the sulfur)
Everyone tells you how beautiful of a country Iceland is (no shit, I can see your Instagrams....) but what they don't tell you is that taking a shower is the most painful part of your day. Not literally, figuratively - and that's because the water is SO FRESH in Iceland, it's practically untreated and smells like sulfur.
Sulfur, in case you didn't know, is great for your hair, skin, and even teeth, but it absolutely smells like rotten. fucking. eggs. And taking a shower of steaming hot sulfur water is something (as an American, at least) you will not get used to in a week spent in Iceland. That's just how it is. Maybe you find a hotel that has a workaround for this, maybe you don't. Either way, it's definitely something to ask at the front desk, and just decide to get over it pretty quickly.
Sorry. Good luck.
5) It may look like another world, but you'll feel right at home
Iceland is most definitely a European country by any definition, and like most European country's these days, there is plenty of English spoken here. From downtown Reykjavik, to the adventure tours, to every sight you could see, you won't be far away from having a normal, everyday conversation in English.
It's just how it is, and also makes it super easy to get around, have a lovely conversation, and ask interesting questions.
Did we mention the Icelandic language is pretty tough to learn? Enjoy the welcome atmosphere and try to learn a phrase or two of the local language no matter where you go.
6) Iceland's natural wonders always have a lot of tourists
You might feel like you're in a whole other world, but damn, there is a LOT of tourists. 1.8 million a year in fact, and with that many people in Iceland throughout the year, there is a lot of 'waiting' around to see what you are there to see. The infrastructure hasn't quite caught up yet, and while that's ok, you should ALWAYS try to get to where you're going early, and be there first - if you can.
Did we mention the highways are still only two lanes?
7) You're going to spend a lot of time in a car (or a bus)
That's just how it is in Iceland right now. So much to see, so much to explore, yet the whole country is connected by a ring-road that's only one lane in some spots. And while nearly every tourist here rents a vehicle during their time there, you're going to spend a lot of time on the road going from place to place.
The Western part of the country and Southern coast are definitely the most traversed areas of the country, but if you're aching to get to the East coast, and even North near Akureyri, then definitely be prepared for a long haul. Either way, plan your trip accordingly. There are ample spots to camp, despite there not being a thousand places to camp or stay at.
8) There is a lot of construction, yet nowhere to pee
This one's a bit easier for males to deal with than females, but outside Reykjavik, there's seemingly nowhere to pee! Bathrooms in Europe have a habit of costing money to use (but are always so clean), so you're better off carrying a bit of cash if you're venturing outside of Reykjavik.
That said, Reykjavik is under a MASSIVE influx of construction for new hotels, bars, restaurants and more. With the nearly 2 million tourists here a year, people are looking to invest in the infrastructure of this amazing country. You'll notice a difference when you go to the city center between the 'old' and 'new,' for sure.
9) everyone in the world seems to have been to the blue lagoon
I'm sure you've seen a bunch of your friends post Instagram-worthy photos of them in the Blue Lagoon posing with loved ones, or by themselves, but here's what they won't tell you. There are actually HUNDREDS of people all around you.
The blue lagoon is huge, but there's literally almost no free space if you go during peak hours, and it can definitely feel a bit claustrophobic. You still have to go, for sure, though. Just know, everyone else in the world has been in that pool. People you like, and people you probably don't. :)
10) everywhere takes credit cards
Finally. A European country who has fully accepted the 21st century (Italy, what's still wrong with you?).
Drop the Krona, you don't need to go to Iceland with cash in hand, nor do you have to worry about tipping your bartenders. Unless, you really want to.
11) The Northern Lights Are REALLY hard to come across
Yes, they call it, 'The land of fire, ice & northern lights,' for a reason, but there is actually a number of things that have to happen in order for the lights to be visible. Add in the fact that the lights are better captured by a camera than the human eye, you're going to have to have a lot of luck to see them.
In order to heighten your chances of seeing them, you need to get away from downtown Reykjavik as well. So, be prepared to spend some long cold nights outside of the city in order to try and spot them!
12) The weather is crazy, but somehow nowhere near as bad as winter in New England
Thanks to the jet stream, the weather is still somewhat mild in Iceland during the winter. Yes, they have considerably less daylight in the winter, but the temps do not dip as low (as say, Boston), so you'll be in luck no matter what time of the year you go.
Do be warned, however, that the wind changes (and really blows) often, and the rain comes and goes, just as quick as the sun shows up and disappears. Being a weatherman in Iceland must be a damn tough job. It changes multiple times a day.
13) Last but not least, you're going to have the time of your life
It may be packed, crowded, and expensive as hell, but you're going to have a damn good time no matter what you do here. I would even go as far to say as you won't have a bad time, only good ones. The people are super friendly, straightforward, welcoming, and want to chat with you. More importantly, they are happy as hell, and want to travel just as much as you do, so be sure to let them know where you are from and tell them how beautiful their country truly is.
Don't forget your manners, too. It goes a long way when you travel. And most importantly, DON'T FORGET TO SMILE!