What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Iceland

Are you planning a trip to Iceland or wishing to go there sometime in the future?  If you aren’t, WHY NOT?  It’s filled with beautiful landscapes, untouched nature, volcanoes, hot springs, glaciers, hiking, geysers, and waterfalls.. a nature lover’s paradise ♥  So before you go, here are the answers to some common questions you might have before your trip! 😉turz1891


  • MONEY:

Iceland’s official currency is the Icelandic Krona (ISK).  Coming from the states, I did not exchange my money prior to arriving.  AN ATM HAD THE LOWEST EXCHANGE FEES BY FAR.  I transferred some USD to ISK at the airport counter and soon realized the fee was much higher than it was when I used the ATM at the same airport.  ATM exchange is the way to go.  They also widely accept credit/debit cards everywhere.  There will be a small percentage international fee for each transaction if you don’t have an international card though, so be careful there.

1 USD$ translates to about 112 ISK. 1 Euro translates to about 118 ISK. So if you buy a sandwich for around 1000ISK, that its just about 9 USD$ or 8.5 Eur.  Food was a little pricier than in the states, but gas is what was WAY more expensive (see “getting around” section below).


  • VISA/PASSPORT:

Coming from the USA, I did not need a VISA.  Just my passport.   However, there are over 100 countries that do require a VISA to enter Iceland.  To check if your country is one of them, click here . Customs was very quick and efficient compared to other places I’ve been.eitq1528


  • GETTING THERE:

International flights fly into Keflavik International Airport.  It is located about 40 minutes from the busiest city of Reykjavik, so it is best to have your transportation planned prior to your arrival. IcelandAir & WOW airlines definitely fly there most often for the best prices.  There are other airlines that fly there (Norwegian, American, JetBlue, British, Delta, Berlin, and SAS), but they most often will be more expensive with less departure time options.  I flew IcelandAir direct from Orlando, FL for around $500 roundtrip with no additional fees for baggage or anything.  WOW airlines flights typically cost less, but they have many additional fees.

HINT: Keep an eye on Skyscanner.com and use the “whole month” option to see which dates are cheapest to fly in the month you want to go! My fav travel website.


  • GETTING AROUND:

Although public transportation is readily available, especially for all the touristy tours, GET A RENTAL CAR.  I can’t stress my opinion on that enough.   With tourism on the rise, there is definitely not a shortage of tours or buses to take you around.  HOWEVER, then you’re stuck with a million other people when you get to the locations you want to see (crowds suck), you have to leave the locations when the bus tells you to, and you can’t pull over if you see something along the way.

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Our little hatchback did just fine in winter months, although cars with 4wheel drive are safer

As I drove the southern coast, I stopped on the side of the road multiple times for photo ops.  Sunrises, sunsets, horses, random waterfalls, beautiful landscapes, local things, etc… some of the prettiest things I saw was when I pulled over.  You’ll definitely want to do the same, trust me!  You cannot do that in a tour bus and miss out on so much!

ONLY downfall is gas prices.. I’d say I paid around 200/liter for gas which translates to about $6.72 USD/gallon. SUPER pricey!  Totally worth it though.  I drove around constantly all day for 8 days and only filled up twice… that’s cheaper than any tour bus will charge you to see all of the things that I did 😉

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Pulled over to see these beautiful horses
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pulled over for random waterfalls like these

I found the rental car on the generic site rentalcars.com.  When I went, Budget/Avis definitely had the best prices, with the terminal conveniently located in the airport.  If you know how to drive manual, it will be cheaper.. but automatic cars are available.  OH, and they offered a wifi device to be part of the rental.  I recommend spending the extra $ on this as there is not always phone service in the remote parts of the country.  The wifi was SO HELPFUL to use for accurate directions from place to place everyday.  Didn’t get lost once! 🙂


  • LANGUAGE:

Iceland’s official language is Icelandic.  However, everywhere I went (hotels, points of interest, restaurants, etc.) somebody spoke English… so majority of Icelandic people also speak English.  Most restaurant menus had English on them and the gas pumps even had an option to select your language.oeac5607


  • WEATHER/DAYLIGHT

I went during their winter in January.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  The sun rose around 10:30am and set around 4:30pm.  However the skies stayed semi-light until about 6pm.  Just a few weeks earlier it stayed darker much longer.  In summertime this is of course opposite.  In the peak of summer the sun does not set until nearly midnight and rises about 3 hours later at 3am.

I recommend simply googling the sunrise and sunset times in the month you are going.  In winter be sure to use an alarm to wake up (I NEVER oversleep and I accidentally overslept nearly everyday there because it was dark out).  In the summer most places will provide blackout curtains (or just put some over the windows if they don’t).  The country is absolutely beautiful in both winter and summer.  I definitely will be going back to see it in the summer time as well.


  • WHERE TO STAY

Most people opt to stay in downtown Reykjavik for it’s convenience and then drive out to their destinations from there each day. There are plenty of hotels, hostels, and apartments there.  I ended up staying in an AirBNB in Reykjavik for my first 2 nights and it was cheap and wonderful.  Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, so it is also one of the safest places to use AirBNB as well.

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downtown Reykjavik

 I HIGHLY recommend getting away from the city for at least a couple of the nights you are there.  This 1) allows you to take your time and actually enjoy the sights you see and visit instead of having to drive multiple hours back to Reykjavik each morning and each night and 2) You will be away from city lights to significantly increase your chances of seeing the northern lights!! (How to Chase the Northern Lights)

I always use hotels.com to search for places in my budget in the areas I’m staying.  My trip was along part of the west coast and all of the south coast so I stayed in the towns of Vík,  Fludir, and Reykholt.  You can also stay near Hofn.

If you want to splurge, STAY IN A BUUBBLE! I got the opportunity to sleep in one.  Check out their website for more details.


  • WHAT TO DO

There is far too much to do and see in Iceland for one blog post.  I have multiple other posts you can refer to though! Such as:

The Blue Lagoon Vs. The Secret Lagoon

How to Chase the Northern Lights

6 Beautiful Waterfalls in South Iceland

and I am working on my entire southern coast road trip itinerary that will include details of everywhere I stopped.  Coming soon! Stay Tuned ♥img_5704


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Hope this helped you! Happy Travels!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram & Twitter 🙂

-Kellylovelifememories

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