Visas, money and must dos – a first timer’s guide to Iceland
Often referred to as the land of Fire and Ice due to its dramatic landscapes featuring volcanos, hot springs and glaciers, Iceland is on many traveller’s bucket lists. And it should be on yours. Famed for its proximity to the Northern Lights phenomena, this small island nation has so much to offer travellers.
Here is your definitive guide to travelling to Iceland…
Do I need a visa to travel to Iceland?
Probably not, but you can check out the list of travellers who do require a visa to visit Iceland here. Passport holders from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK are all exempt for up to 90 days. Iceland is part of the Schengen area, made up of 26 European countries with common entry and exit requirements meaning travellers can move freely between member countries.
What currency does Iceland use?
In Iceland, the local currency is the Icelandic Krona (ISK), but many tourist hotspots will also accept US dollars, Canadian dollars and Euros too. Icelanders rarely carry cash and prefer to use credit or debit cards to pay for everything, so you won’t need to worry about this too much.
For reference, £1 = 158.50 Icelandic Krona, $US1 = 120 Krona and €1 = 136 Krona.
Is Iceland safe for travellers?
Iceland is one of the safest countries to visit in the world. As an indication of safety, it is common for mothers to leave babies outside to sleep while they have a coffee in a café. Most Icelandic children will spend time sleeping outside every day from a young age as they believe it promotes good health due to the fresh air, and while we wouldn’t recommend it, it really is a testament to how safe this country generally is.
Language Basics for Iceland
The native tongue is Icelandic but Iceland is also renowned for its high literacy rate and nearly all of the locals speak perfect English. The Icelandic alphabet has kept two old letters that are no longer used in English and comparatively some of the vowels are pronounced differently.
Even so, it’s always nice to be able to make a bit of an effort to learn a few local phrases:
- Thank you – Takk
- Hello – Hallo
- Goodbye – Bless
- Please – Vinsamlegast
Where exactly should I visit in Iceland?
Reykjavik – Iceland’s capital is the starting point for most travellers. Renowned for its bars, colourful houses, restaurants and nightlife, Reykjavik is also a great base for visiting the Golden Circle, the famous Blue Lagoon and search for the Northern Lights.
Skaftafell – Largely consisting of the Skaftafell National Park, this is a popular area for hikers visiting Iceland due to its position at the root of the biggest glacier in Europe.
Vik – Considered the warmest part of Iceland (although when it’s below freezing can anywhere really be considered warm?) Vik is the southernmost seafront village in Iceland. With just 300 permanent inhabitants, this small village with black sand beaches is the perfect destination to get a feel for the true nature of the Icelandic people.
Can I drink the water in Iceland?
Tap water in Iceland is 100% safe to drink. In some areas it is said that warmer tap water has a slightly sulfuric scent—this is due to the geothermal origins of the water and it can be minimised by letting cold water run longer, but it is still perfectly safe to drink. Iceland has been ranked as one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world; most Icelanders are incredibly sustainably minded and would never buy bottled water.
What should I pack for a trip to Iceland?
Regardless of when you travel, Iceland will be cold. Make sure your luggage includes plenty of layers including thermals, warm socks, scarves, gloves, a beanie and a warm jacket. Also be sure to pack a swimsuit if you plan on visiting any of the hot pools!
Keep in mind that summer in Iceland is known for its ‘midnight sun’. A sleep mask might help to block out the extra light if you have trouble sleeping.
What are some etiquette tips in Iceland?
- It’s not necessary to tip in Iceland, the tip is already built into the cost of your meal. If you do want to tip you can but it is not required.
- Do not touch the swans! The wild Icelandic swans can break a person’s arm to protect its young so it’s best to just admire from afar.
- The thermal pools in Iceland are a top attraction for locals and tourists alike. To keep them in top condition they have strict hygiene rules so do remember to shower well before you enter.
- Some of the traditional food in Iceland might seem a little crazy. While items like sheep’s head, whale, puffin and fermented shark might not be to your taste, to avoid offending locals it’s best not to scream out in disgust.
See the best sites across Iceland in the 6 day Fire and Ice Contiki trip! You’ll see diverse natural wonders and get to experience the best of Iceland’s culture and people. You might even see the famed Northern Lights while you’re there!