Iceland – what to know before you go…
The speed limit is 90 kilometers (56 miles) an hour and is enforced by cameras. If you plan to do the golden circle you will have to do it at 90 kilometers an hour. So if you plan to do it in a few days you will be spending a lot of time in the car. We had planned to do it in four nights and changed our mind. We would recommend a minimum of 7 nights preferable 10. (We asked about the speed limit and were told to adhere to the 90 or we will end up getting a speeding ticket in the mail)
It is very expensive for food, beverages, and souvenirs. This is not an understatement. We have traveled to many places and to date this is the most expensive country we have visited. I did not care for the local beer so I bought a Corona at a local bar and it was $11 US dollars. My husband ordered 2 eggs, toast, and 3 strips of bacon and it was $20 US dollars. You must purchase beer and wine from a liquor store (groceries stores do not sell) and the prices are better than bars but still very expensive. Even shopping in the local Bonus we found food prices outrageous.
English is very common. If you are worried about a language barrier – don’t be. Pretty much everyone we spoke to spoke English. It is very common to meet people who are on holiday from England. Especially in Reykjavík Icelanders spoke English very fluently.
Parking in Reykjavik can be expensive: You can park on the streets in Reykjavik but you must pay from 9am until 6pm. Outside of those hours parking is free. You pay at a parking meter and if you don’t you will get a ticket.
Outside of Reykjavik most towns are quite small. Vik was one of the towns that looked much larger on the map than it was in actual person.
Icelanders are extremely friendly. Everyone we met was wonderful. It is not uncommon to find expats in Reykjavik.
Credit is widely accepted. Everywhere we went people were paying with their cards, even in the smaller bars. If you are just drinking most bars expect payment at the time of service.
Hot dog is a must try. I more so than my husband love hot dogs. I always considered myself a hot dog connoisseur. On our last night in Reykjavik we decided to try one. We asked a local to suggest the best spot. It was AMAZING. French Fried Onions are considered a regular topping. It was heaven in our mouth.
Shop the duty free when you get off the plane. Hit the duty free shop on the way out of the airport – you won’t even need your passport to pick up beer, wine, or liquor. It is very affordable compared to prices once you leave the airport. The airport is small for servicing the largest city in Iceland. You will find the duty free after your arrival gate and before the exit.
Trees are scarce in Iceland. Once we landed we picked up our rental car and drove to Blondous which is about a 3.5 hour drive. We saw very few trees and found it odd. When we asked we were told that they burned all the trees to heat their homes and most trees were still very young. Icelandic joke – What do you do if you get lost in a forest in Iceland?? Answer: Stand Up.
Take a coat. Even in the warmer months the weather can change quickly. Take a warm coat. If your coat doesn’t have a hood then don’t forget your umbrella.
Car rental is inexpensive and they drive on the right hand side of the road. Even though food, beverages, and other items were extremely expensive car rental was inexpensive. We paid $140 US for 5 days for an economy car. We opted for an economy car because of petro prices. Petro prices were close to $2 US dollars a liter. So around $7 US a gallon.
Most bars in Reykjavik do not sell food. If you are hungry grab something to eat before you start drinking. Another option is to bring something to the bar. Most did not seem to mind outside food.
Smoking in Iceland. All places are non smoking and very few provide a smoking area. In Reykjavik the Irish Pub the Dubliner did provide a patio. Only a small section of the patio was covered. There were no heat lamps. Smoking on the street was fine.
Request a VAT refund form when shopping. They will not ask you if you need a VAT refund form. If you are spending more than 6,000 (about $60.00 US) then request a VAT refund form. Here is a great link. KEF Vat Refund Information
You can do Iceland on a budget if you shop the duty free, buy your food at the local market, and stay at campgrounds or cottages.
Note: They say you do not have to tip in Iceland but they are very appreciative when you do. We usually left 10% or the change left after paying.