Iceland — The Basics
Borne of the adventurous spirit of its early settlers, Iceland is a unique destination for a one-of-a-kind adventure! Although it’s a small island of only 360-thousand people, it is a land of colossal excitement and wonder.
Sights and Attractions
The capital of Reykjavik is home to a swarm of modern architectural marvels. The Hallgrimskirkja , the largest church in Iceland, stands at a whopping 244 feet! Looks like the Icelandic Lutherans were reaching for Heaven when they built this! Little known fact: Iceland has their own state-affiliated church — the Church of Iceland. This Lutheran church stands as a grand monument to this aspect of Icelandic culture.
The Perlan looks like something out of a pulp retro sci-fi publication. This imposing glass-domed observation platform constantly revolves, giving visitors a continuously changing view. Below the restaurant are a number of exhibits on Icelandic geography and natural wonders
If you’re going to be in Iceland, don’t just travel to Reykjavik. There is plenty to do outside the capital. A number of famous hot springs dot the island. Beautiful fjords and hills await daring backpackers! The natural beauty of Iceland is as widespread as it is distinctive.
When braving the Icelandic outdoors, always heed the warning signs. While the terrain of Iceland is beautiful, much of it is treacherous. Travel along with someone. You don’t want to be alone if you happen to fall and break your leg in the midst of Iceland’s vast wilderness!
Iceland Travel Tips
Iceland Currency Considerations
Iceland uses the Icelandic Krona. Your leftover Euro currency won’t help you here! You may notice that many countries use similar terms for their currencies. There’s the Danish Krone, the Czech Koruna, and the Swedish Krona. All these words mean “crown” in their respective languages. It’s a fun relic of the past, and it still reflects on some of these countries’ still-extant monarchies.
If you’ve just traveled through Europe before hitting Iceland, remember to swap your cash at a Euro currency exchange service. Icelanders will not be able to accept your Euros, as they are not legal tender in Iceland.
If you can, try to stock up on Kronas while you’re still at home. You’re likely to get a better rate than at some tourist hotspot. Kronas are not useful anywhere else in the world, so keep that in mind as you budget and stock up on currency.
As you travel in Iceland, you’ll find that most things can be somewhat expensive. Lodging is no different, especially for those who travel to Reykjavik. Search through your hotel, hostel, and homestay options before you travel to Iceland. A bed can burn through a disproportionate chunk of your travel budget if you’re not careful. In more expensive countries, don’t fly by the seat of your pants unless you have a lot of extra money to spend.
Flights and Transportation
When you travel to Iceland, it’s almost always by plane. You’re almost certain to land at Keflavik Airport. It’s only about 30 miles south of Reykjavik. If you planned to travel to Reykjavik, you won’t be too far away. Several buses go directly to downtown Reykjavik from the airport. Taxis and vehicle rentals are available as well. Generally, waiting a few minutes for a bus is a better value than a taxi. Before you travel to Iceland, keep in mind that there is not a public railway system. You’ll probably want to rent a car or figure out your bus routes ahead of time.
The three populated islands of Iceland are accessible via ferry. Make sure you check the ferry’s schedule ahead of time. You don’t want to sink all your time traveling to the landing just to miss the last ferry!
Icelandic is the national language of Iceland. The Icelandic people are incredibly proud of their language. To avoid the dilution of their language by foreign loanwords, Iceland often holds competitions to come up with unique Icelandic words! Extremely unique old-Norse-derived words exist for even the most technical of terms.
Computer, a new concept, is a loanword in many languages. In German, it’s computer. In Russian, it’s komputer. In Japanese, it’s konptuta. In Icelandic, it’s tolvu. One of these things is not like the other. Makes sense. Iceland is one of a kind, and so is their language!
All students in Iceland study English and Danish. Communicating with the people of Iceland is extremely easy. You are nearly guaranteed to find an English speaker anywhere you travel in Iceland. Rarely, there will be difficulty with very precise, technical terms. A quick online translator or search should be enough to get the point across.
Tips for Travel in Iceland
Make sure you follow traffic rules and regulations. Iceland is a sparsely populated place, and you may not see someone for miles. That doesn’t mean that no one sees you. Speed cameras are hidden all over Iceland. If you speed, you will be caught. Those fines tend not to be cheap, and you need every dollar you can scrape together in Iceland.
Tours and taxis really add up. Oftentimes, you can do some research on a destination and forego the tour. If you’re having fun in the city, and your destination is not too far away, hoof it! You’ll save money, and you’ll get a closer glimpse at the streets of Iceland. You didn’t come all this way to gaze out a taxicab window, did you?
Want to get your drink on? Don’t start at the bars. A pint can easily run you 10 or 12 dollars. While it’s still not very cheap, alcohol from the liquor store is a fraction of the price. Pregame beforehand, and space out your drinks at the bars. The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” isn’t just for the sake of your poor liver — it’s good for your wallet, too. Also, forget about grocery store beer. At little over 2.5% ABV, it’ll take a dozen to even catch a buzz.
Don’t take the weather for granted. Iceland can have very cold winds. While the thermometer may read a comfortable temperature, strong enough winds can give you hypothermia! Don’t spend your trip in the hospital. Carry a backpack, and bring some warm clothes along just in case.
Icelandic water is renowned for its drinkability. Pure, clear, and tasty. Given the drinkable tap water, you have no need for bottled water. It’s expensive, and you can meet your hydration needs with a canteen and a faucet.
Before soaking in any public hot spring, be sure to shower. You will not be allowed in a public hot spring without showering first. It may seem excessive, but that’s what keeps these hot springs so fresh and sanitary.
Don’t tip. Service workers are paid a decent wage, so they do not rely on your tips to survive. They don’t expect a tip, either.
Follow the traffic regulations, keep some extra layers handy, don’t try to pay with the Euro currency, and keep a close eye on your budget. If you follow these simple tips, your adventure in Iceland should go off without a hitch!
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