Tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed in the last decade thanks to stopover deals offered by Icelandair and cheap flights on WOW airlines. But with the Northern Lights, Blue Lagoon (more about that one later) and many other natural beauties to see, it’s kind of surprising Iceland hasn’t been a trendy tourist destination from the get-go.
If Iceland has made it to your travel bucket list, keep on reading because I have some tips that I have yet to read in any travel guide:
1. Iceland is F*cking Expensive!
The exchange rate from USD to ISK isn’t terrible, but imagine New York City prices with an extra $10 tacked on top. An entreé for dinner at a sit-down restaurant can easily cost you about $30 per person. So unless you’re made of money or have intentions of balling out every night, here are a few of my favorite cheap eats:
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – the world’s best hot dog (and I’d have to agree)
- BioBorgari – high-quality organic burgers
- Kaffi Vínyl – vegan café and record store
- Café Babalú – café in the heart of Reykjavík with a lamb stew to die for
2. Do Not Speed. I Repeat, Do NOT Speed
I got caught by a speed trap on my first full day in Reykjavík. We were driving the Golden Circle and I didn’t realize I was speeding. By the time I saw the speed limit sign it was too late. There was a bright flash and they got me – fingers crossed it was just a warning.
All throughout Iceland, I noticed that the speed limits will suddenly change from 90 kmph to 70 kmph to 50 kmph with a speed trap right behind the last sign. If you’re not actively pressing on your brakes, you’ll be sure to get a ticket.
3. The Northern Lights are Not a Guarantee
Some of the most iconic photos of Iceland feature the Northern Lights. It’s a beautiful sight to see, if you can catch it. Witnessing the Northern Lights strongly depends on the weather conditions and when it comes to Iceland, weather is unpredictable.
The best time of year to witness the Northern Lights is between September to April. There must be as little light pollution as possible, so you should either drive to or stay somewhere outside of Reykjavík. Finally, you should reference the aurora forecast and cloud cover forecast to make sure there’s enough solar activity and little to no cloud cover, respectively.
4. Get a Raincoat. Your Umbrella is Useless
My friend told me that when he was in Iceland he saw someone’s umbrella get whisked away in an instant into the open water. The winds can be so strong that it’ll rip your car doors open. The wind also causes the rain to fall practically sideways, so an umbrella won’t do much in keeping you dry.
Aside from the strong winds, when you’re hiking around the waterfalls you’re better off having a raincoat. The mist they generate know no bounds and it can leave your clothes feeling damp. And if you’re in Iceland during prime Northern Lights time, the last thing you want is to be cold and damp. This raincoat from Uniqlo kept me dry and looking stylish while I was there.
5. There are alternatives to the Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon is the geothermal spa that all the influencers go to when they visit Iceland. It’s beautiful but incredibly expensive, especially if you don’t book in advance. I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute and they were charging 8100 ISK for entrance and a towel.
Instead of paying around 78 USD for close to bare minimum at Blue Lagoon, I decided to go to an alternate spa along the Golden Circle – Laugarvatn Fontana. It may not be as luxurious and picturesque as the Blue Lagoon but it was incredibly relaxing and half the price. If you’re traveling on a budget but you still want to experience the geothermal spas of Iceland, there are many other ones scattered around the country.
Hopefully these tips have left you more informed, but if you’re looking for inspiration feel free to watch my Iceland vlog below: