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Top Things to keep in mind when travelling to Iceland

While travelling to Iceland detailed planning for the trip is key for an unforgettable experience. We meticulously planned our trips months before our travel. According to our planning and experience of travelling to Iceland here are the top things to keep in mind when travelling to Iceland.

  • Car Hire

Iceland is a country that demands exploration at your own pace. And for that, the best option is to hire a car and drive, especially during spring and summer months. It gives you the freedom of customising your itinerary and allows you to spend as long or as little time at an attraction as you want. As most of Iceland’s attractions are scattered throughout the island along the ring road, exploring Iceland with a car is the best possible way to cover most of the popular and less popular attractions.

Self driving in Iceland with hired car

The best way to explore Iceland is self driving

We travelled during late spring and picked up our hire car from Keflavík International Airport and dropped it back at the airport at the end of our trip. 

  • Traffic rules and driving in Iceland 

If you decide to drive, it is important to get familiarised with the traffic rules in Iceland. Like any other European country and the US, its right-hand side driving in Iceland. All roads have maximum speed limits which are clearly sign posted on the side of the road. The speed limits are based on area and nature of the roads. The speed limits are as follows:

  • Built up area (Towns and Cities): 30 – 50 km/hr

  • Gravel road: 80 km/hr

  • Highways (Ring Road): 90 km/hr

Speed cameras are present in many of the major roads in Iceland. And over-speeding will usually land you with a hefty fine. So, keep within the limits to avoid these hassles.  

In many parts of the country, especially outside the city of Reykjavík there are roundabouts on the roads. The rules are slightly different from UK where the roundabout goes in anti-clockwise direction and in case of multi-lane roundabouts cars in outermost lane are required to stop to give way to cars existing the roundabout. 

So, is it easy to drive in Iceland? The simple answer is ‘Yes’. Most of the roads around the country have very light traffic which helps drivers to get used to the driving conditions which you really cannot prepare for beforehand!  Cities like Reykjavík have slightly heavier traffic, but if you keep within the speed limits and follow the driving rules city area driving isn’t bad at all.  

We suggest you check Iceland official website for roads and traffic which gives real time and up to date road conditions for driving, road closure etc. for commuters. This is great to prep before you travel and quite handy while you are there!

One point worth mentioning here is that it can be quite overwhelming as well as risky to drive around in Iceland during winter months and requires experience and skill to drive in snowy condition and  specialised vehicles.  April to September months can be considered easier to drive. 

  • Accommodation

Reykjavík and Keflavík area have several accommodations ranging from budget to luxury. However, further afield in countryside options are limited and can be expensive based on the time of the year. Summer months are the peak of tourist season and prices for accommodation goes up significantly. So plan and book early to keep it budget friendly! 

Cabin accommodation in farmland in Iceland

Our stay at a farmland cottage - The view and experience, both were unique

During our trip to Iceland, we avoided staying in Reykjavík and Keflavík area apart from the first night as we arrived late in the night. As most or all the major attractions are located away from Reykjavík and Keflavík area, staying in one location and travelling to and from attractions isn’t a good idea. We stayed in different accommodations along the Ring Road each night based on where we were ending our day. So we found cottages in farms in small villages, which was a great experience in itself. These types of cottages have their own kitchen and it was indeed quite fun (and cost efficient) to cook and wind down at the end of day.   

  • Food/Eating Out

Eating out in restaurants is usually quite expensive in Iceland compared to mainland Europe. A dinner or a lunch with a drink at an average restaurant can easily be over 25 euros (around 3700 Icelandic Kronur) per person and significantly more at fine dining restaurants. Therefore, eating out thrice a day can easily get to 60 or 70 euros per person in Iceland. So cooking your own food might be the way to go unless you wants to splurge! During our trip to Iceland, we used to eat sandwiches or wraps as lunch from supermarkets and prepared our own breakfast and dinner in the cottage where we stay overnight. 

Local Icelandic cuisine

Eating local Icelandic cuisine is a delicious experience that come with a cost attached to it

However, we did eat at restaurants a couple of times to try some local favourites  like lobster soup and grilled fish. 

  • Shopping at Supermarket 

The main  supermarkets in Iceland are Bonus and Kronan. Both have large stores across the island and are stocked with good range of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, diary and breads. We found everything we needed to cook good meals during our trip from these supermarkets. 

Icelandic supermarket

Icelandic supermarkets offer a wide range of fresh produce at reasonable price

Icelandic supermarket

Kronan is one of the big supermarket chain in Iceland with branches located all over Iceland

The prices of food items in supermarkets in Iceland seemed to be roughly 10 to 15% higher compared to mainland Europe. 

  • Consider time of the year for travelling to Iceland

Iceland can be considered as a year-round travel destination, though the activities can be widely different depending on the time of the year. During the winter months when the entire country is under a blanket of snow and day lights hours are very short, it’s the best time to catch northern lights (if you get lucky that is!) and enjoy a number of winter spots. However, due to extremely short day there isn’t enough time to  enjoy most of the attractions. During winter travellers are required to stick to the various tour programs sold by travel companies in Reykjavík. 

However, during late spring and summer months, with milder weather condition, very long daylight hours (specially in month of late June with around 22 hours of daylight) and suitable driving conditions, it’s much easier to drive around the island and explore all attractions at your own pace. 

Icelandic landscape and wild lupin bloom

End of May - early June is the best time to see wild Lupin blooming in Iceland

We visited Iceland during last few days of May and start of June. This time collides with Iceland’s wild lupin season when wild lupin flowers blooms into full glory for a few weeks especially in south of Iceland. We found plenty of beautiful lupin fields randomly by the side of roads, and near many attractions. When we visited Iceland the daylight hours were long enough for us to be out and about till late (sometime till 10 pm). The bright sky in the late hours was quite an experience!  

  • Packing Clothing Accordingly 

What you pack in your suitcase when travelling to Iceland varies completely based on what time of the year you are travelling to Iceland. Winter travel to Iceland requires specialised winter clothing. 

Icelandic wilderness

What cloths to pack while travelling to Iceland changes significantly by season

We travelled during late spring, early summer when the temperature is generally pleasant and daytime temperature stays around 11 to 12 degrees centigrade. So, we packed jeans, long sleeves t-shirts and light jackets. Late spring, early summer months also bring in the occasional rain, so packing a rain jacket is always a good idea. 

Iceland involves a good amount of walking on gravel roads and on beaches while visiting the sites. Hence a good pair of waterproof walking or hiking shoes are essential while travelling to Iceland. 

  • Attraction Entry Fees and Opening Time

Entry to majority of the tourist attractions especially natural attractions like waterfalls, beaches, lagoons is open 24 hours and requires no entry fee. Car parks for some of the attractions have minimal charges.  

Icelandic waterfall

Almost all natural attractions in Iceland are free to enter and enjoy

Attractions like blue lagoon and museums in Reykjavík have an entry fee and a specific opening time. Blue lagoon keeps its doors open from 7 am in the morning till midnight during the months of June to August and 8 am to 10 pm for the remaining months and visitors need to book tickets in advance and book timeslots to enter the lagoon. We would suggest you check opening hours for attractions such as blue lagoon, Hallgrímskirkja or museums in Reykjavík on their official website before visiting.

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