Iceland Travel Tips – 25 Things to Know Before You Go

Are you planning a trip to Iceland? Check out these helpful Iceland travel tips to help you get ready for an amazing trip. From finding a home base to maximizing your chance of seeing Northern Lights, and how to save money on food, you won’t find these in many Iceland guides. Pack your bags and head over to Iceland for an adventure of a lifetime!

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1. Road Trip or Reykjavik?

Before you head to Iceland, decide what type of trip to Iceland you would like. In the winter season, most people stay in Reykjavik for 3 to 4 days and take day trips out of town. In the summer, many travelers drive the Ring Road and stay in hotels on the road. However, even if you are visiting in the summer for just a few days, a base in Reykjavik is probably your best bet.

Car driving on a road in Iceland, renting a car in Iceland travel tips.
A road trip in Iceland is a bucket-list-worthy experience.

If you decided to drive the Ring Road, check out: Ring road in 6 days, a comprehensive guide.”

2. Maximize your chances of seeing the Northern Lights

If you are staying in Reykjavik in the winter, book the northern lights tour for the first night of your arrival. If the weather is inclement most companies will give you a chance to go the next night and the next free of charge.

iceland travel tip:  how to see the northern lights.
Seeing the Nothern lights in Iceland is a bucket list experience.

3. Before you rent a car, read the reviews!

Always check out online reviews for car rental car companies in Iceland. Some companies in Iceland are shady and will charge you for damage you didn’t cause. The internet is full of travelers who spend thousands on paying for car repair because they didn’t read the reviews. This is an Iceland travel tip that can save you a lot!

Compare Iceland car rental prices

4. Don’t skimp on insurance

If you are driving in Iceland, gravel insurance is a must. Gravel roads are everywhere, and almost everyone gets a dint in their car. Car rental companies in Iceland examine the cars very closely and try to find even the smallest damage. Double-check to make sure the policy you get covers the windshield too.

Travel Insurance
Iceland travel tips - a small waterfall on the side of ring road.

5. Dine during happy hour to save major dough

Reykjavik is expensive. However, every bar in town offers happy hour specials. From 4 pm to 6 pm, certain food and drinks are only half price. If you are looking to save, eat during happy hour.

6. Read the airline’s fine print

Before you book a flight to Iceland read, the fine print. Many airlines to Iceland offer basic economy fairs that do not include a carry-on. This means you might have to pay more for even a small bag. Know the policies so you can compare apples to apples when you book your flight to Iceland.

If your airline places a low weight limit on carry-ons, buy very lightweight carry on luggage and a scale to make sure you won’t have to pay extra.

Dyrholaey black sand beach overlook, Iceland travel tips
Dyrholaey, day 2 of Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

7. Pay for your bags online

If you purchase basic economy fare, paying for your bag online is significantly cheaper than doing so at the airport.

To avoid paying baggage fees, check out this roundup of carry-on suitcases under 5 lbs.

8. Eat at gas stations

Many gas stations in Iceland feature small restaurants. The food at the stations is fresh, cheap and good. If you are driving around Iceland, it’s the best way to keep yourself fueled.

Boats in a small town in Iceland, iceland travel tips.
Boats in a small town on Iceland’s North Shore.

9. Reserve the Blue Lagoon Early

Book Blue Lagoon tickets at least a month in advance. If you are short on time, book the shuttle to take you from the airport to Blue Lagoon and afterward to your hotel. It’s all included in the price.

Iceland, blue lagoon - travel tips for Iceland
The Blue Lagoon

10. Maybe skip Blue Lagoon altogether

If you are doing the Ring Road, you will have an opportunity to visit less crowded hot springs about half-way through your trip. Myvatn Baths are much cheaper too!

11. Bring warm clothes

Even if you are traveling in the summer, bundle up. Weather changes quickly and without warning. A hat, gloves and a jacket are a must – even in the summer.

Hviteserkur in Iceland, helpful travel tips and money saving tips.
Hvitserkur, Iceland’s north shore

12. Hiking shoes are a must

Even if you are not planning on hiking, do not skimp on your shoes. Iceland is wet, and the rocks are very slippery. The last thing you want is to find yourself at the wrong end of a waterfall. Wear good hiking shoes!

13. You don’t need a car in the winter

If you are staying in Reykjavik, save yourself the money and the hassle of a car rental, and take day trips with tour companies instead.

Looking to save money in Iceland and meet new people?
A small red home on a field in southern Iceland under dramatic sky.
A typical Icelandic home on a field in Southern Iceland.

14. Camping is an inexpensive way to travel in Iceland

If you are comfortable with camping, bring your equipment. You can sleep virtually anywhere – most hotels and many private homes offer their grounds as camping sites. The cost is usually about $10. If there is no campground nearby you can camp anywhere.

15. Do the golden circle first

If you are doing the road trip, do the golden circle first. It’s just not very impressive compared to all the other incredible things you’ll see.

16. Maybe skip the golden circle

If you are pressed for time and are doing the ring road, don’t bother with the golden circle. Compared to the other sites it is just ok. South Shore is way more impressive. If you only have a few days, spend them doing the South Shore instead.

Glacier on Iceland's south shore.
This glacier sits next to the famous Diamond Beach, on the South Shore of Iceland.

17. Budget well

Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. A very low budget trip will run about $1000 a person for a week.

18. Get ready for hitchhikers

Hitchhiking in Iceland is very common. Feel free to pick up passengers – or try it yourself for an ultimate budget trip.

19. Drink the water

Iceland’s water is clean and tasty – bring your own water bottle and fill it up in gas stations and stores.

A home with a red roof in Iceland.
A small Icelandic home on the water.

20. You don’t need cash

Almost all merchants take credit cards. If you need some cash with you get it at an ATM machine – even with bank fees its cheaper than exchange rates.

21. Follow the tunnel rules

Ever seen 2-way tunnels with only one lane? You will in Iceland. Drivers take turns letting each other pass. Be nice and play by the rules.

22. Do not speed – especially in the tunnels

Tunnels are equipped with speeding cameras. If you see a flash – you just got a free picture. The ticket will come in the mail in about 3 weeks. Be careful!

Coastline with water and cliffs in Iceland.
A dramatic coastline on Iceland’s South Shore.

23. Beware of the dark

If you are visiting in the winter you’ll only get a few hours of daylight per day. This can be exhausting and depressing if you are not used to the environment. Get yourself ready.

24. Get a Lopapeysa

The iconic Icelandic sweaters are perfect for Iceland – no matter the time of the year. They make a great souvenir too.

A woman wearing a traditional Icelandic sweater petting a long haired horse in Iceland.
Lopapyesa sweaters make a great Iceland souvenir.

25. Just knock

If you really need shelter for the night just knock on someone’s door. Iceland is very safe and many people will let you sleep in their farmhouse or they will send you to the village bed and breakfast.

26. Bonus Iceland travel tip: Behave yourself

In the summer, Iceland’s population swells to more than twice its winter size. As you can imagine, not all tourists behave themselves. Be kind, considerate and respectful and the local people will be glad to welcome you.

One last thing…

If you made it this far, I have an easy favor to ask. Please click here (this will take you to the homepage). This last click at the end of the page lets search engines know you enjoyed the article and read all the way to the bottom. It’s like a vote of confidence and really helps me out. Thank you so much for reading see you on the road, Viktoria aka Traveltipster.
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2 Responses

  1. All the tips that you have mentioned in your blog are very helpful and useful I didn’t know that Iceland is such a beautiful place but after reading I want to visit this place with my friends. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

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