Iceland Travel FAQ!
Here are the most popular questions I’ve been asked about Iceland…all answered in one spot! Welcome to your official “Iceland Travel FAQ!” Forget going to 10 different websites for travel info (like I did)! Questions are broken down into categories, to make sorting through them 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 the #1 safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI). Crime is virtually nonexistent in Iceland. About 15 people are in jail…in the entire country. I felt perfectly safe in Iceland, both solo & with friends. The most danger you’re likely to encounter will be from harsh weather conditions (wind, snow, etc.), rather than from theft or crime.
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. On the other hand, Iceland is extremely expensive. This can make solo travel pricey. For 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. Places like the Akureyri Backpackers Hostel helped keep my budget down ~ where rooms were $22/night.
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 entire life. Without a thick winter jacket & wool scarf, I would’ve been chilled to the bone (I was there in October). For reference, the guy at Avis rental car gave us this instruction: “Hold on to your car doors, otherwise they might fly off!” The wind is SO STRONG in Iceland, it has literally blown cars off the road!! No joke. 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!!! Two problems: 1) The freaking wind! You try setting up a tent in 75-mph winds. Then try sleeping with that wind. And 2) In October, it got dark around 6PM. Inevitably, we were either eating dinner or still driving ~ meaning we’d be setting our tent up in the dark. Not. Gonna. Happen. Certainly, people do camp in Iceland ~ particularly in the summer. But overall, if you don’t like camping at home, then DON’T EVEN THINK about camping in Iceland!!! Try renting a camper van instead.
Q: Does it always rain 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. Iceland’s heaviest rains come between October-February (also peak Northern Lights season). You’ll find the least rain in May & June. My mornings in Iceland were overcast, & usually raining. I found the afternoons & evening, especially around sunset, ideal for picture-taking. My sunsets in Iceland were across-the-board phenomenal. They definitely made up for 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. DON’T 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!! Click here for a detailed “Iceland Packing List.” Bottom line: it’s chilly year-round in Iceland, so the packing list applies whether you’re visiting in summer or winter. But always bring a bathing suit ~ there are natural hot springs all over the country that you’ll definitely want to hop in!
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 highly recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon. Why? Because there’s no place like it in the world. We went to many hot springs around the country ~ but none are as picturesque as the Blue Lagoon. That’s just my personal opinion ~ you may feel differently.
Q: How far is the Blue Lagoon from Keflavik International Airport? How far from Reykjavik?
A: The Blue Lagoon is about 30-35 minutes from the International Airport in Keflavik. Several buses & tourist shuttles make this route; take them, not a taxi. Taxis in Iceland are ridiculously expensive! The Blue Lagoon is about 45-60 minutes from Reykjavik, depending on traffic & weather conditions.
Q: What are the closest hotels to the Blue Lagoon?
A: The closest hotel to the Blue Lagoon is the Northern Lights Inn, just 2 kilometers away. The nearest town is quaint Grindavik, right on the coast. There are several lodging options there, including cute guest houses like Lagafell Guesthouse, & more modern options, like the Geo Hotel Grindavik. Search all Grindavik hotels here.
Q: What does the Blue Lagoon cost compared to other nature baths?
A: The minimum price for the Blue Lagoon is about $55 US dollars ~ $90 if you want a robe, towel, etc. Other nature baths 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, in Northern Iceland, is $25+. The Blue Lagoon is definitely more expensive, & 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 ~ 100%!! They say it won’t ~ but it does. Your hair will feel like coarse, horse hair if left in the Lagoon too long. Some of my hair actually broke off. But, I finally figured out how to fix the problem! Read this article for the solution!
Accommodations & Wi-Fi
Q: What are typical hotel prices like in Iceland?
A: It’s hard to find a room for less than $100/night, particularly in Reykjavik. But it’s not impossible! To get under $100, try searching for hostels, B&B’s, Airbnb’s, or even Couchsurfing. In Reykjavik, hotel prices range between $100-300+/night, except at hostels. 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 the Radisson Blu Saga & the Hilton. For under $100/night in Reykjavik, try Kex Hostel or Loft Hostel ~ two of the most happening hostels I’ve ever seen (Kex offers private rooms). In Keflavik, near the airport, I LOVED Nupan Deluxe Guesthouse. It’s charming, family-owned, & offers single rooms for $45-50+. In Grindavik, near the Blue Lagoon, we stayed at the charming Lagafell Guesthouse. Rooms are serene & cozy, & cost about $45-50 for a single, or $90 for a triple. Up in the north, I stayed five nights at Akureyri Backpackers Hostel, for $22/night. A better deal than this CANNOT be found in Iceland! It’s located right downtown, with a great restaurant & bar.
Q: Where’s all the action happening in Reykjavik? What’s the main street in Reykjavik?
A: Laugavegur Street. It’s filled with TONS of fantastic bars, restaurants, & shops.
Q: How’s the Wi-Fi in Iceland?
A: Excellent. For being a rock in the middle of the ocean, they have pretty fantastic Wi-Fi. With T-Mobile’s Standard Plan, I got service in Iceland with or without Wi-Fi. My friends with regular Verizon service, however, couldn’t text or pull up maps unless they were using Wi-Fi.
Q: What kind of electrical outlet does Iceland use?
A: A two-prong, as pictured to the right.
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, 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: A small, economy-size car rented through Orange Car Rentals in Keflavik, cost just over $50/day. In Akureyri, I rented an economy-sized car on short notice through Avis, & it cost me $100/day. Renting a car in advance in Iceland (like most places) will SAVE you money!! With my friends, we needed a larger car, so we rented a Land Rover Discovery; this ran about $100/day. Renting a car in Iceland will cost you about $50-100+ per day, depending on vehicle size & extras purchased. Camper vans start at about $120/day ~ & are a great way to go if you want to save money by car-camping.
Q: Is it necessary to rent a car in Iceland?
A: Looking back at my trip, I can’t imagine NOT having rented a car in Iceland. All of my favorite memories came from renting a car ~ like chasing the Northern Lights, pulling over to meet wild horses on the side of the road, witnessing Godafoss waterfall at sunrise AND sunset, & of course, visiting Jokulsarlon. The distance between all these sights is hundreds of miles, so unless you choose to go with a big tour company: you’ll need to rent a car. Check rental prices here.
Q: What’s it like to drive in Iceland?
A: For the most part: pretty easy. You drive on the right side of the road, & there aren’t too many people on the road. The main problem you may run into is with weather, wind, & poor visibility. Because of this, most Iceland car rental companies will include insurance to specifically cover these type of issues ~ but check with your rental company.
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. I used my credit card everywhere ~ from gas stations, to hot dog stands….literally everywhere. Because it’s so expensive, I wanted to earn miles on all my purchases! If you decide to take cash out, keep it minimal.
Q: What’s 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.
Q: What are typical food prices like in Iceland?
A: Expensive. Especially if you want to eat healthy (virtually nothing can be grown in Iceland ~ the soil is volcanic sediment). A salad costs about $25, entrees with protein about $35+, a bottle of wine around $50 (alcohol is SUPER expensive) ~ & even soup will set you back about $10-15. The cheapest food you can find in Iceland is a hot dog ($5-7). Shopping at the grocery store cuts food costs dramatically.
Q: How can I save money on food in Iceland?
A: You’ve got options. First, you can bring about 6 pounds of food into the country. Pack nuts, Kind Bars, crackers ~ anything that packs easily in your bag. And if you’ve got a car, stop off at a Bonus Market in Keflavik or Reykjavik. I bought apples & nuts ~ prices were comparable to U.S. grocery stores. Other healthy options: Lemon & Joe & the Juice. I LOVE Joe & the Juice: they’re hip, play great music, & their food & green juices are TASTY. Plus, prices are reasonable for Iceland ~ meaning it’s like $10-12 for a smoothie or sandwich!
Q: Do you tip in Iceland?
A: No. They include it in the price, which is why prices are so high.
The Northern Lights!
Q: Where did you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
A: We saw them in Grindavik, just 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 rising over the mountains in Selfoss. Again, it was about 8:30PM. 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 popular spot for Northern Lights tours), at Kirkjufell Mountain, 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. 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!
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 people who paid for tours, waited for hours, & never saw them. Then, what? 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. Ask your hotel for a wake-up call. Exhaust these options before taking a tour.
Q: What are the Northern Lights like?
A: It looks like the sky is alive & dancing. The lights we saw were green, & they looked like two dragon’s heads coming together, then shape-shifting. The whole experience was incredible, & is one that’s very hard to capture in words: you simply must see for yourself.
Q: Will my phone’s camera capture the Northern Lights?
A: Unless they’re SUPER bright ~ no. I tried taking pictures with my phone ~ they just 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. Read this article for exact instructions on how to get the best shot.
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; Godafoss Waterfall; & of course, drinking on Laugavegur Street.
Q: Would you recommend Iceland to other travelers?
A: Absolutely! It’s a spectacular country, ideal 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. You’re better off exploring one of the great European capitals. Aside from Reykjavik, & to some extent Akureyri, there’s very little nightlife in Iceland. But, for true adventurers ~ Iceland is meant for you.