Iceland Travel FAQ!
Here are the most popular questions I’ve been asked about Iceland travel…all answered in one place! Welcome to your official Iceland Travel FAQ! Forget going to ten different websites for Iceland info (like I did!)…all your Iceland questions are answered here. Questions are broken into categories, to make sorting through them a little easier. Either read the whole thing ~ or skip to the section that interests you.
Iceland Travel FAQ…Let’s Go!
Safety & Solo Travel
Q: Is Iceland safe?
A: Yes. Iceland is, in fact, the #1 safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI). Let me say that again: statistically speaking, Iceland is the SAFEST COUNTRY in the world! Check link here. Crime is virtually unheard of in Iceland. About fifteen people are in jail ~ in the entire country. Women leave their babies on the street while they grab coffee. Personally, I felt perfectly safe in Iceland, both solo & with friends. Something to keep in mind: though you’re unlikely to encounter human danger or theft, you are more likely to encounter danger from harsh weather conditions, i.e. like having your rental car door blow off in a windstorm (more on this later). So though crime is low, you still may encounter safety issues related to dangerous weather conditions.
Q: Is Iceland a good place to travel solo?
A: Yes & no. In terms of personal safety & lack of crime, Iceland is a great place to travel solo ~ particularly for women. Iceland has a very progressive view towards women, & they are regarded as equals in society. On the other hand, Iceland is extremely expensive. Which can be prohibitive in terms of solo travel, unless you have an unlimited budget. To give you a frame of reference, I spent $3,200 during a month in Iceland, including flights. Not terrible ~ but also not super cheap like Central America or Southeast Asia. Accommodations like the Akureyri Backpackers Hostel helped keep my budget down ~ where rooms were $22/night. Also, though Iceland is safe in terms of crime, the weather (& the WIND!) is entirely unpredictable & potentially dangerous. So, would I want to drive the entire Ring Road or go on a long hike by myself in Iceland? No. Neither of these sounds like a very fun or safe idea. That said, I enjoyed my solo time in Iceland tremendously, & would recommend it to other solo travelers ~ even those on a budget.
Weather & Packing Guidelines
Q: HOW windy is it in Iceland?
A: Deafeningly, crazily, eerily, howling-ly, maddeningly, wondrously ~ WINDY!!!! It’s CRAZY. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. Without my thick winter jacket & wool scarf, I would’ve been absolutely chilled to the bone (I was there in October). But the best answer to this question comes from the guy at the rental car place. Some young kids had rented a flimsy Suzuki jeep. The guy at the counter pulled his glasses down, & said, “When ye open the car doors ~ hold on to them, lads, otherwise they might fly off!” My friend & I snickered. The poor young lads looked terrified. Bottom line: the wind is SO STRONG in Iceland, it has literally ripped doors off cars, & blown cars off roads. I promise. Look it up on YouTube here.
Q: Would you ever camp in Iceland?
A: HELL NO. We rented a tent & sleeping bags, fully intending to camp. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! Here are two main problems: 1) The freaking wind! Try setting up a tent in 75-mph winds. Then try sleeping with this howling wind practically blowing your tent away! And, 2) In October, it got dark around 6PM. Inevitably, we were eating dinner, still driving, sight-seeing, or in a hot spring at 6PM ~ meaning we’d have to set our tent up in the dark, with major wind. Not happening! Certainly, people do camp in Iceland. It’s probably easier to camp during the summer ~ but overall, I’d have to say that if you don’t like camping at home, DON’T EVEN THINK about camping in Iceland!!! You’ll probably hate it. A good compromise would be to rent a camper van, especially if driving the Ring Road. But be aware that many campgrounds close in the winter, showers can be hard to find (you’ll need to find natural hot springs!), & that small space can start to feel confining. But hey ~ it’s an adventure, right?! Camper vans will run you about $120/night.
Q: Is it always raining in Iceland? When can I get the best pictures?
A: During a one-month trip in October 2016, it rained or snowed nearly every day, at least a little. Which makes sense, since Iceland’s heaviest rains come between October-February (also peak-Northern Lights season). Iceland has the least amount of rain in May & June. Typically, the rain began early in the morning & lasted until mid-afternoon. Mornings were always overcast ~ hence, not great for picture-taking. I found the afternoon & evening, particularly around sunset, ideal for picture-taking. My sunsets in Iceland were phenomenal. Like, ridiculously phenomenal. They definitely made up for the bad weather in the mornings.
Q: Does it really rain sideways?
A: Yes. Absolutely. Think about it: it’s almost always windy in Iceland, therefore, it MUST rain sideways! It has to. For this reason, I would NEVER bring an umbrella to Iceland ~ it will likely get mangled & probably take your eye out in the process!
Q: How should I pack for Iceland?
A: Two words: LAYER UP!! I’ve actually written an entire post on this very topic ~ click here for a detailed “Iceland Packing List.” Bottom line: it’s pretty chilly year-round in Iceland, so the packing list will apply whether you’re visiting in summer or winter, with minor adjustments. But always bring a bathing suit ~ there are natural hot springs all over the country that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.
Read Next: How to Pack for an Iceland Trip!
Iceland Travel FAQ ~ The Blue Lagoon!
Q: Is the Blue Lagoon worth it (worth the money)?
A: In my opinion, yes. Unless you’re on a super tight budget, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Why? Simply put, there’s no place like it in the world. We went to several other hot springs around the country, & none are remotely as picturesque as the Blue Lagoon. That’s just my personal opinion ~ you may feel differently. But the photos you get here will be unreal. Also, the sheer SIZE of the Lagoon is something to behold, & after spending hours in the warm water, you’ll be so relaxed, you’ll just want to melt into bed…
Q: How far is the Blue Lagoon from the International Airport? How far is it from Reykjavik?
A: The Blue Lagoon is about 20-25 minutes from the International Airport in Keflavik. There are many buses & tourist shuttles that make this route, & I would recommend taking them versus taking a taxi ~ taxis in Iceland are ridiculously expensive! The Blue Lagoon is about 45-60 minutes from Reykjavik, depending on traffic & weather conditions. Because of its proximity to the airport, it’s best to visit the Blue Lagoon the day you arrive in Iceland, or the day before you leave.
Q: What are the closest hotels to the Blue Lagoon?
A: The closest hotel to the Blue Lagoon is the Northern Lights Inn, just 2km away from the Lagoon. The nearest town is the quaint & small Grindavik, set right on the coast. There are several lodging options in Grindavik, including darling guest houses like Lagafell Guesthouse, & more modern options, like the Geo Hotel Grindavik. Search all Grindavik hotel options here.
Q: What does the Blue Lagoon cost compared to other nature baths?
A: The minimum price for the Blue Lagoon was about $55 US dollars ~ $90 if you want a robe, towel, & amenities. Other nature baths around the country will range from $5-8 (for a public pool-type facility), to $15-25 for scenic baths like the Secret Lagoon, near the Golden Circle. Myvatn Nature Baths, another popular option in Northern Iceland, is $20-25+, depending which package you choose. So the Blue Lagoon is considerably more expensive than other nature baths, & definitely more touristy ~ but in terms of beauty, I think it’s worth it.
Q: Does the Blue Lagoon wreck your hair?
A: The short answer is yes ~ it absolutely does. They say it won’t ~ but it does. Your hair will feel coarse, & like horse hair if left in the Lagoon too long. Some of my hair actually broke off, near the bottom, sooo…that was less than ideal. But! I finally figured out how to fix the problem ~ & I ended up writing a post all about it: because with the wrong shampoo & conditioner, my hair felt coarse for weeks. Read the article below, so that your trip & hair can feel a little smoother than mine did…
Read Next: How to Fix Blue Lagoon Hair!
Accommodations & Wi-Fi
Q: What are typical hotel prices like in Iceland?
A: In certain places, it’s hard to find a room for less than $100/night, particularly in Reykjavik. But it’s not impossible! To get under $100, you’ll likely need to find a great hostel, B&B, Airbnb, or even try Couchsurfing ~ these are your best options for getting under $100/night for accommodations in Iceland. In Reykjavik, standard hotel prices range between $100-300+. Rooms tend to be small, too.
Q: What were your favorite places to stay in Iceland? How much did they cost?
A: In Reykjavik, I loved both the Radisson Blu Saga as well as the Hilton. Both rooms were booked free with points ~ but would’ve been in the $150-200+ range. Highlights at the Radisson include their amazing breakfast buffet, while the Hilton offers free massages in their hot tub. Heaven! If you want to keep it under $100/night in Reykjavik, try Kex Hostel or Loft Hostel ~ two of the most highly-rated, happening hostels I’ve ever seen (Kex offers private rooms). In Keflavik, near the International Airport, I stayed at & LOVED the Nupan Deluxe Guesthouse. I returned here no less than four times ; ) It’s charming, family-owned, walk-able to downtown Keflavik, & offers single rooms for $45-50+, double rooms for $80-90+. In Grindavik, near the Blue Lagoon, we stayed at the charming Lagafell Guesthouse. Rooms are white & serene, & cost about $45-50 for a single, or $90 for a triple (with shared bathroom). Up in the north, I stayed five nights at the Akureyri Backpackers Hostel, for $22/night. A better deal than this simply CANNOT be found in Iceland! The hostel is located right in the heart of downtown, with an adorable restaurant & bar that’s perfect for socializing or working on your laptop. Showers are HOT, & they have plenty of recommendations for local sight-seeing. All ages were staying here ~ not just kids in their 20’s. Highly recommended. I wrote an entire post about finding budget accommodations in Iceland, which can be found below!
Read Next: Best Budget Accommodations in Iceland!
Q: Where’s all the action happening in Reykjavik? What’s the main street in Reykjavik?
A: Laugavegur Street. It is filled with TONS of fantastic bars, restaurants, & shops.
Q: How is the Wi-Fi in Iceland?
A: Excellent. For being a rock in the middle of the ocean, all by their lonesome, they have some pretty fantastic Wi-Fi. With T-Mobile’s International Plan (which is standard), I got service in Iceland with or without Wi-Fi; I could pull up Google Maps & navigate myself easily around the country whenever. My friends with regular Verizon service, however, couldn’t text or pull up maps unless they were on Wi-Fi.
Q: What kind of electrical outlet does Iceland use?
Q: What are the showers like in Iceland?
A: Hot, with good water pressure. Iceland is basically heated (for free) by geothermal energy, so hot water is plentiful all over the country. You may even find that the ground in some hotels is heated by this geothermal energy, a pleasant surprise when coming in from the cold.
Iceland Travel FAQ ~ Renting a Car
Q: How much does it cost to rent a car in Iceland?
A: I rented a small, economy-size car through Orange Car Rentals in Keflavik, which cost just over $50/day. In Akureyri, when traveling solo, I rented an economy-sized car on short notice through Avis, & it cost me $100/day. Then, with friends, we needed a larger car, & rented a Land Rover Discovery, which ran us about $100/day. So the short answer is: renting a car in Iceland will cost you between $50-100+ per day, depending on the size of the vehicle & any extras you purchase. Camper vans will start at about $120/day, & go up from there.
Q: What’s it like to drive in Iceland?
A: For the most part, it’s pretty easy. You drive on the right side of the road, just like the States ~ only there’s a heck of a lot less people on the road! You’ll probably see more horses than you do people. Your main problem with driving in Iceland is going to be issues with weather & poor visibility: whether from wind, snow, sleet, or sideways rain. If you’re uncomfortable driving in wintry conditions, then you may want to think twice about driving a car in Iceland ~ especially if traveling by yourself.
Money & Prices
Q: How much cash do I need in Iceland?
A: To be honest, in a month of Icelandic travel, I didn’t take cash out ONCE. Not once. I used my credit card everywhere ~ from gas stations, to hot dog stands, hotels, grocery stores, tour guides, car rentals….literally everywhere. Because it’s so expensive, I wanted to earn miles on all my purchases. If you decide to take cash out, I’d keep it pretty minimal.
Q: What is the Icelandic currency?
A: The Icelandic Krona. The current exchange rate is approximately 113 Krona to 1 US dollar. For instance, $20 US dollars = 2,200 Krona. My personal trick? Move the decimal place over 2X, to get an approximate price. 2,200 Krona turns into roughly $22 US dollars (a close-enough approximation). Click here for a currency converter, from dollars to Krona. Because prices are so high in Iceland, you’ll want to be prepared before your trip, so you don’t get ripped off or confused! The decimal trick should save you some money.
Q: What are typical food prices like in Iceland?
A: Expensive. Particularly if you want to eat healthy (virtually nothing can be grown in Iceland ~ the soil is volcanic sediment). A salad will run you about $25, entrees with protein like fish or chicken will run you $35+, a cheap bottle of wine is about $50 (alcohol is SUPER expensive here) ~ & even soup will set you back about $10-15. The cheapest food you can find in Iceland is a hot dog, which is about $5-7. Shopping at the grocery store is the easiest way to cut food costs dramatically. We typically ate two meals out per day, & bought food from the grocery store to snack on between meals. Eating out three meals per day in Iceland will quickly turn your trip into a very pricey one.
Q: How can I save money on food in Iceland?
A: You’ve got some options here. First, you can bring about 6 pounds of food into the country. Pack nuts or Kind Bars, crackers ~ anything that will pack easily in your bag. Then, if you’ve got a car, stop off at a Bonus Market ~ you can find them in Keflavik, in & around Reykjavik, & randomly around the countryside. I bought apples & nuts to keep in the car ~ prices were comparable to U.S. grocery stores. A couple other healthy options in Keflavik & Reykjavik: Lemon & Joe and the Juice. I particularly LOVE Joe and the Juice: they’re hip, play great music, & the food & green juices are TASTY. Plus, prices are reasonable for Iceland ~ meaning it’s like $10-12 for a smoothie or sandwich! Ha! But at least it’s filling, healthy food.
Q: Do you tip in Iceland?
A: No. They include it in the price, which is also why the prices are so high.
The Northern Lights!
Q: Where did you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
A: We saw them in Grindavik, ten minutes south of the Blue Lagoon. It was 8:30PM, & some guys in our B&B spotted them ~ so we grabbed our boots & ran out the door! We also saw a more aurora-type formation, like a huge, hovering green arc in the sky, rising over the mountains near our hotel in Selfoss. Again, the time was about 8:30PM. We stayed up to watch them, hoping they’d turn into the Northern Lights ~ but that night, they did not. Technically, you can see the Northern Lights just about anywhere in Iceland. I know people who’ve seen them in Keflavik, at the lighthouse by Gardur (a really popular spot for Northern Lights tours), at Kirkjufell Mountain, up north in Akureyri, & at the Blue Lagoon. I even know people who’ve seen them in Reykjavik, when they were especially strong. It all depends on the weather & visibility that night.
Q: How do you “find” the Northern Lights?
A: Check the Aurora Borealis forecast for Iceland. Seriously! They “forecast” the Northern Lights, based on weather patterns, & rate your chances of seeing them every day. If the number is “5” or higher, you have a good chance of seeing the lights that night. Grab your warmest jacket & some hot cider, & prepare to camp out! It gets very chilly waiting for the lights outside ~ you may even want to bring a sleeping bag. Another, easier way of “finding” the Northern Lights is to request a “Northern Lights Wake-up Call” from your hotel. Many hotels offer this service ~ they literally call you & let you know if the lights are spotted that night! This is a heck of a lot easier than Option #1 : ) Also, the Northern Lights tend to be active for 1-2 nights, then inactive for 3-5 nights. So, if people report seeing them on Monday ~ there’s a good chance you’ll be able them again on Tuesday.
Q: Is a “Northern Lights Tour” worth it?
A: Ehhhhh….I heard mixed reviews on this. The problem is: tour guides can’t control the Northern Lights. I know many people who paid for tours, waited for hours, & never saw them. Then, what do you do? You’re out $100, & no closer to seeing the lights. If you have a car, I’d suggest going it on your own. Talk to locals & ask where they’ve seen them, & check the Aurora Borealis forecast yourself. Ask your hotel for a wake-up call. Exhaust these options before jumping into a tour.
Q: What are the Northern Lights like?
A: The best way I can describe them is: it looks like the sky is alive & dancing. The lights we saw were greenish, & they looked like two dragon’s heads coming together, then shape-shifting. They were wayyyyy high up in the sky, so even a camera on a tripod most likely wouldn’t have captured them. I was with two friends at the time, & we’d driven out to a deserted lighthouse near Grindavik. The whole experience was incredible, & with our heads craned up towards the night sky, we were in complete awe. It’s an experience that’s very hard to capture in words: you simply must see for yourself.
Q: Will my IPhone capture the Northern Lights?
A: Unless they’re SUPER bright ~ no. I tried taking pictures with my phone ~ but they came out like blurry green flashes. My Go Pro didn’t work either. Bottom Line: if you want great Northern Lights shots, you’ll need a tripod & a “real” camera. Keep in mind: many of the jaw-dropping Northern Lights pictures you’ve seen on Instagram are heavily, heavily edited. The lights, in real life, are stunning ~ but many photographers have doctored the images to make them as dramatic as possible. Just something to keep in mind, with regard to managing your expectations on getting an amazing shot ~ especially if you don’t have pro gear.
Read Next: How to Take Photos of the Northern Lights!
Iceland Travel FAQ ~ Conclusions
Q: What were the highlights of your trip to Iceland?
A: Seeing the Northern Lights, visiting the Blue Lagoon, all the magical sunsets, snuggling with wild horses, witnessing spectacular, lonely lighthouses, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon (if you ask Icelandic people, this is often their #1 highlight), Godafoss Waterfall, in Northern Iceland ~ my absolute, favorite waterfall of all; & of course, drinking with friends on Laugavegur Street.
Q: Would you recommend Iceland to other travelers?
A: Absolutely! It’s a spectacular country, perfect for people who love adventure & nature. If you’re more of a city person though, & nature bores you ~ it wouldn’t be my first choice for you. You’re better off exploring one of the European capitals. Aside from Reykjavik & to some extent Akureyri, there is very little night life in Iceland. But, for true adventures who love nature & the feeling of discovering something new ~ then Iceland is meant for you.
Iceland Travel FAQ!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Iceland Travel FAQ! I know I had a ton of questions before I took off for Iceland ~ I hope this guide saves you some time, money, & helps you pack properly for your adventure! Let me know how it goes for you in the comments below.
Read Next: Top 5 Best Waterfalls in Iceland!
Why I Use World Nomads Travel Insurance
Whenever I travel ~ especially if I’m traveling solo, I always get travel insurance. It gives me the peace of mind to go out and have all kinds of adventures, because I know someone’s got my back. Who do I use? World Nomads. They cover you whether you’re sky-diving, spelunking, or volcano-boarding in Nicaragua: they’re not your average insurance company. Read more about travel insurance here.