16 essential Iceland travel tips

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There are so many things written about Iceland what to do and what not to do. Everyone has a different idea and expectation about things to know when travelling in Iceland. We visited Iceland in January.

We were told it was an expensive place to visit but we were still not prepared for the cost of a trip to Iceland. We were told it was beautiful but we never imagined it was going to be so different from place to place.

The amazing attractions in Iceland just keep coming, Þingvellir National Park, The Blue Lagoon, The Golden Circle Ring Road, Gullfoss Waterfall, The Black Beaches near Vik and so on. We have been to places that keep us wanting to travel and Iceland is one of them.

So we have put together a little easy post of travel tips for Iceland we think may come in handy when you are travelling in Iceland. Everyone will have different Iceland travel advice, we suggest take it all in and do what works for you.

 Do– Save some extra money for travelling in Iceland

People told us that Iceland was expensive but they did not tell us just how expensive everyday items could be. While we had enough money for me it was still a worry.

If you can save a little extra to have in the kitty I highly recommend it. With this, you can have an extra meal out or pick yourself up an extra souvenir to take home. The prices in Iceland are expensive for everything. The best thing to bring to Iceland is extra money!

traveling in Iceland
No Iceland Visit is complete without eating the lamb

Don’t– Leave Iceland without trying the lamb

Use some of that extra cash you saved up to sample the famous Icelandic lamb. It is highly recommended when you visit Iceland. We finally had some on our last night, and it was magnificent, but it was seriously expensive. I think one serve was $60AUD and there are 4 of us that needed to eat. It was very much one of the best things to do in Reykjavik but it was a costly one.

Do– Buy the vouchers booklet if you fly Icelandic Air

This is a little book worth 8 Euro that you can buy on your Iceland Air flight that provides you with discounts within the Reykjavik area at bars, restaurants, and some other places.

Some range from 10% off up to 30%, others have bought one get one free or a discount on entry. It does have limited use by date so just check that it will cover your entire stay.

We found this great to use when we ate out as our apartment wasn’t the easiest to cook in. Little things like this can bring down you Iceland vacation cost. This is one of the best Iceland travel tips if you plan on eating out regularly

⇒ You might like our related article, What does a vacation in Iceland cost 

Don’t– Forget to read the small print

Some of the places in the voucher booklet will have certain times or set days where you can use the voucher. It pays to mark the places you would like to go and check if the discounts are available then or plan ahead using the booklet as a guide. You can save a good amount of money if you plan ahead and use your vouchers. This is one of the best Iceland things to know

Do– Have faith your fellow travel companions don’t smell that bad in the bathroom!

If your teenagers in Reykjavik complain about the smell of the water don’t worry! The hot water comes straight from the geothermal pools and smells like rotten eggs. Poor Mark got a few dirty looks until Willow showered next and we read the sign on the bathroom door! The water does not make your skin or clothes that you wash smell.

traveling in Iceland
Travelling in Iceland you will see things you have never seen before

Don’t– Waste your money on buying bottled water

It was the one thing that we were constantly told about Icelandic water when we got there. So we finished off the bottled water we already had from the airport and topped it up from the tap in our room. They say Icelandic water is one of the freshest purest water sources in the world!

Travelling in Iceland – Do get a bus transfer from the airport

Pre-book convenient and economic bus transfers between Keflavik Airport and your hotel in Reykjavik city. Let the driver negotiate the Icelandic roads while you relax in our modern and comfortable coaches. The airport is 45 minutes from Reykjavik so a taxi will cost you an arm and a leg. 

Do– Find the barcode scanner in the Supermarket

While we were wandering around trying to figure out how much some meat was going to cost us in the supermarket called Bonus a local came up to us and showed us the barcode scanner.

This was a lifesaver for us as it was starting to get hard to find prices on some things, especially in the large fridge section. We ended up using the scanner to check everything and add it as we went. This also helped us stick to a budget when we were buying.

⇒ Did you know the Blue Lagoon is 50 minutes out of Reykjavik? We have an article on Getting to Blue Lagoon Iceland by car, bus and tour ⇐

Don’t– Go crazy at the supermarket or at the little convenience stores

On our first night, we arrived late and the weather was turning bad so we just bought quickly. It was a very expensive exercise and one we learnt from. If you have to go only by small bits at a time and then pick it up as you need it. But know your prices. We paid nearly 4 times the amount at the convenience store than we did at the supermarket.

Do– Take a change of clothes

We rented a car for a couple of days and on the first day, I did not take any extra clothes with us for the day. It was a decision that I would regret later on in the day after going to two waterfalls and a beach! They would have been used a few times and the next day when we were out they came in very handy for three of us…I won’t name names!

 Don’t- Think that waterfall will allow you to stay dry

If it has even the slightest chance of drenching you within seconds it absolutely will. We thought we were totally safe, no wind, no splashing, no access to the water (to keep Marley dry) and BAM a gust of wind picks up out of nowhere at the perfect moment and we are all drenched!

traveling in Iceland
Waterfalls are everywhere while travelling in Iceland

This is one thing to be careful of in Iceland, getting wet! The poor car heater just could not dry that amount of water, the perils of travelling in Iceland with kids. Just another amazing Iceland tourist spot to visit.

Do– Read the fine print for Car Hire in Iceland

If you are unsure of anything do not leave the office until you know or understand exactly what you can and can’t do. I asked plenty of questions before we left and I was very nervous that we had missed something.

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The best way to travel Iceland is by Hire Car

Don’t- Think you will be covered for everything

There were so many things that I thought you would be covered for that you just weren’t, even though we got the highest possible coverage. We were lucky that I asked a heap of questions and our provider was more than happy to go over all the little details with us. You may not be covered for

  • Wind damage
  • Hitting an animal (which apparently is more common in summer)
  • Damage to the chassis of the car
  • Any driving on gravel including car park

We also discovered after a couple of adventures that our car was not suitable for two of the main tourist roads out of Reykjavik. These two roads were the main tourist roads as well which I thought was quite strange. Car rental Iceland is available in Reykjavik and from Iceland Airport Keflavik.

 Do- Get a place where you can cook or prepare some meals

As I have said above Iceland is very expensive, so I would recommend staying in a place where you will be able to make some of your own food either at night or to take with you during the day.

We stayed in Downtown Reykjavik Apartments where we had a fridge and some cooking facilities. We were in Iceland during winter so we were able to leave things in the car without worrying that they would get hot or go bad.

Don’t- Think fast food will be the cheaper option

After a day of sightseeing, we decided that going to KFC for dinner would probably be a cheaper option and a quick one too. I was really impressed with how quickly we got served our food but yet again the cost was crazy. We got a family meal there which was 12 pieces of chicken, 2 medium chips (fries), a 1.5l Pepsi, 2 small coleslaw and a pot of gravy.

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Marley had a small popcorn chicken and Willow and I had a piece of corn each. This meal in Australia would cost between $25 and $30. With the conversion from Australian dollars into Icelandic Krona, it ended up costing $100 Australian dollars…I nearly choked on the piece of chicken I was eating. I thought that this may give you a real idea of the true cost.

Also, another tip if you are at a fast-food restaurant sometimes you have to get a number to be served 

Do- Book a tour in Iceland

While we were in Reykjavik we took advantage of the free city walking tour with Eric. It was a brilliant way to see and learn about the history and culture of Reykjavik

Iceland tips, Traveling in Iceland, family travel in Iceland,

We also went on a Grayline City tour that took us out of Reykjavik and to some of the surrounding towns. This was an amazing tour as we were on a small minibus and our guide Tanja was absolutely brilliant. She spoke to us as we cruised around and answered any questions we had. For the people up the back of the bus we just passed down their questions and Tanja answered them over the little pa system she had.

Luckily we visited the best time to visit for the Northern Lights Iceland. Hence we did an Iceland Northern Lights Mystery Tour as well. This was a brilliant tour and the best bit is if you do not see or have what is deemed not a great view of the lights you are given the option of returning until you do get a good viewing! We had 2 nights available during our stay. We recommend a Gray Line Iceland Northern Lights tour. You can read about our experiences HERE.

 Don’t- Think you will be the only ones on the tour

Best time to visit Iceland? We visited in winter and it was still so busy. We think winter is the best time to visit Iceland. Everywhere we went there was a minimum of 5 large busses.

traveling in Iceland
The crowds gather around the statue of Leif Eriksson

When we were on the walking tour it was also one of the largest groups Eric had ever had. In saying this though it did not stop us from going to all the places we wanted to and had seen in other people’s photos.

Yes, we did most of the touristy places and we really enjoyed them despite being there with a lot of people. Our guides did tell us in some places we were lucky as there were only about another 50 people there at the time we were there. So I can only imagine how crazy it would be visiting Iceland points of interest during the summer months.

Travelling In Iceland – Where do we stay in Reykjavik?

Down Town Reykjavik Apartments have accommodation for doubles and families. The apartments are fully self-contained with your own cooking facilities. You are located just on the edge of the city centre and close to food and transport options.

For more information and booking click HERE.

Iceland is a beautiful country and we don’t want to scare anyone off visiting there as it is one of the most beautiful, unique places on the planet. But we hope that these tips will help you manage your cost of a trip to Iceland. Help you budget your money better so you are able to see more, do more and experience more while you are there.

Where to stay in Reykjavik

Reykjavik has accommodation options for every budget from Hostels, to apartments and hotels rooms.

Hostels in Reykjavik can start from as little as 25 Euro a night for a shared dorm room.

You can search Airbnb for there Iceland offerings. If you have never used Airbnb before get yourself $50 credit by signing and booking a stay right HERE

Hotels in Reykjavik generally start from around $209.00 a night for a double room 3star and increase incrementally as the luxury rating rises towards the 5-star average price of $271.00.

You can compare and book your stay on Trip Advisor

Iceland packing essentials

Packing for Iceland is essential to having a successful trip. We can tell you first hand that the weather can change in an instant. I think one misconception about the Iceland weather is that it is one of the coldest places on earth.

Well, that is just not true, you will find Central Europe much colder in the winter months. Still, our Iceland travel advice for packing is to do so with cold weather in mind.

Travel to Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. Reykjavik is located in South Iceland. Travel to Iceland is via Keflavik International Airport. The airport is 50 kilometres from Reykjavik. 6.8 million people travelled through Keflavik airport in 2016,

The main carriers at Keflavík are Icelandair and WOW air

You can check the prices of international flights to Iceland with cheapOair.  Domestic flights are operated out of Reykjavik city airport which is 2 km from the city

The Airport Express return service between KEF airport and both Reykjavik and Akureyri is operated by Gray Line Iceland. Book your transfer HERE

You can book an airport transfer with Suntransfers who we have personally used on many occasions.

You can reserve a rental car and have it waiting for you at Keflavik International Airport.

Getting around Iceland and Reykjavik

The city buses in Reykjavík are yellow. The Icelandic word for them is strætó, which is short for strætisvagn (street car). These buses are the only public transport in the city.

The Reykjavik Hop on hop off bus is another excellent option for seeing the sites of the city and surrounding area. Check the current prices HERE

The Reykjavik City Card entitles you to entry to some of Reykjavik’s major attractions and free public transport on the buses. More information is available here

We hope this article from us here at Wyld Family Travel has you inspired to visit Iceland. We hope our experience in Iceland will help you navigate the do’s and do not’s while you are on holiday in Iceland. For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in Iceland click through to our Iceland Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.


Some more travel inspiration for your trip to Iceland


More about the Author

Bec Wyld is a mother, wife, community care worker and once reluctant traveller. But now Bec has been to over 35 countries across the globe and is always seeking more adventures. She has planned, stressed, laughed and chatted in all of them. Bec’s writing can be found on Wyld Family Travel, as a guest poster on popular sites and contributor on travel websites including Lonely Planet Kids.

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16 essential Iceland travel tips

29 thoughts on “16 essential Iceland travel tips”

  1. Stick to the speed limits, even if the locals are blasting past you. Photo radar are located everywhere and your rental company will charge you credit card when you get home.

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  2. One of the nice things about living in an expensive city is that there’s no price shock when going to Iceland!

    I’m always fascinated to see the prices of groceries in different places, as they vary so much from country to country and you can get an idea of what industries are subsidized and which rely on imports.

    You make some great points about renting a car! I’m always worried about the fine print, although luckily my credit card provides extra insurance.

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  3. It’s defenitely true that people have so many mixed opinions about Iceland! Since I’m working at a travel agency, I hear a lot more from people who’ve been there. On one side, it’s better to travel there in summer (because then you can go into the inland of the country), but on the other side It’ll be less crowded in winter. However, now I’m reading your article it’s actually very crowded with tourists in winter as well, haha.

    I really like the tip about buying the vouchers booklet from Icelandic Air. That can be so handy! Especially since Iceland is very expensive.

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  4. These are really great tips! I just got back from a trip to Iceland and so many of these points I though, yes, absolutely! The fine print on the car is a big one. We were sure to get the extra insurance with our rental because people had told us that they rented a car and got some gravel damage, but they counted it as wind damage and charged them a lot extra for it. I don’t often get the extra-extra coverage, but it was great to have the peace of mind. I loved our time in Iceland and am already planning another trip in the summer! Cheers!

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  5. It is awful when you go somewhere and discover that your expectation of prices is totally off. I have just returned from Korea and some things were super cheap (local food) but other stuff was totally rip off. The skiing, whilst admittedly the venues for the 2018 Winter Olympics was seriously expensive!

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  6. You are right, Iceland is not cheap. However, coming from another Nordic country, nothing feels too expensive. Hahaha! I recommend renting a car from the airport and returning it back there. It gives you freedom to go wherever you want and you don’t have to worry about public transport or booking a tour for example to Blue lagoon or Golden circle.

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  7. I love how you wrote in detailed for the do’s and donts in Iceland. I also heard its expensive but never thought how expensive it is after reading your post, Man that KFC food is expensive seems like I should bring more from outside the country to Iceland.. hahahaha.. I will definitely try Lamb! it must be the must for food

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  8. We’ve just come back and adored Iceland but the tourists are mad, there are so many. We explored South and West and found out of the golden circle route there were less. Great tips, it is so expensive isn’t it? We took a flask with us for day trips an ended up saving nearly £4 for every coffee.

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  9. I especially love your trip about DO NOT buy the bottled water. It is a very rare place where I will do that. I always carry a refillable water bottle with a filter. Anyway, Iceland’s water is the clearest on Earth and so fresh.

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  10. Great tips, guys! We came very close to making it there this winter (brrrr! say Californians), but hope to another time. I will bookmark these for future reference!

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  11. Thank you for these great tips. I haven’t been to Iceland yet even tho I am from Norway. It looks so nice and I completely agree with your tips here on what I know about Iceland. Iceland and Norway have their similarities, especially when it comes to prices and yes it is not needed to spend money on bottled water 😀

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  12. Great tips I will file away if I ever make it to Iceland. Cool to know about the bar scanners in the stores. Also, reading the fine print. Helpful in any case. Especially when renting a vehicle.

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  13. $100 for KFC! That is super crazy. I knew Iceland was expensive, and these sound like great ways to save some money while you are there, or at least, spend it more wisely. Thanks! Saving!

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  14. Love the concept of this post! Agree to go on the Reykjavik City Walk tour with Eric (you can tip in any currency)! Also hadn’t heard about the coupon booklet with Iceland Air. Did you save more than the 8 euros you bought it for? I’m always afraid that when I get coupon booklets I won’t really use them.

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  15. We absolutely loved Iceland when we visited but the cost of certain things definitely dented the bank balance. We also hired a car and learnt early on that if you got a coffee from the garage you were entitled to as many free top ups as you wanted which meant we started going there for our morning coffee as I could have a couple of cups. We also read up on places that did things like botttomless stew and soups which mean, should we wish we could get second helpings and fill ourselves up for less.

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  16. Hey Rebecca,
    Thanks for this blog post. My wife and I are trying to figure out what to do on our next trip. Morocco is on the list and Europe but were trying to narrow it down. Iceland has been on the list for sometime but the costs are insane! We’ve just opened up a hotel so are needing a vacation but not one that will kill us on the budget. A lot of this I didn’t even know about such as the convenient store versus supermarkets, and the coupon book! Solid post, very much appreciated.
    Cheers,
    Mark

    Reply
    • Thanks very much, Sasha!
      We really appreciate you taking the time to make a comment and we really hope you got some great tips on Iceland for your holiday.
      If you have any other questions please feel free to message us and we’ll do our best to help you out.
      Have a great day.
      Bec

      Reply

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