Are you planning to go to Iceland, the land of fire and ice? If you think, it is a land where nature dances to the tune of magic, you are absolutely right. Iceland’s travel experience cannot be replicated anywhere else. I have been there twice and each time I left a piece of my heart there. Its beauty is raw, untouched and untarnished, and that’s what makes it alluring. I have compiled some free tips to plan your trip.
Where to stay?
Iceland is a small island with a population of 3.2 lakhs, with only its few parts inhabited. Its tourist load each year exceeds the total population. So, you can imagine how expensive and difficult it is to get good accomodation in Iceland. Hence we made our reservations about 6 months before going and got amazing deals. Most of the tourists either book hostels, or stay in apartments. Hotels are few and exorbitant. Hostels are mid-range and usually have the best locations. We saw a lot of tourists even staying in tents and camper vans. The camper vans are quite popular in Iceland; the only falling point is its instability in windy times. And Iceland boasts of frequent and strong winds.
Getting around Iceland
One hardly finds public transport in Iceland. There are no rails or Uber cabs. The capital city, Reyjavik has city buses, but if you want to travel to other places you have to either book a tourist bus or drive your own car. Hiring your own car is most economical. There is no hassle of getting an international driving licence. Any driving licence in English is valid. Driving is easy as there is not much traffic. We hired a car from blue car rentals which is one of the best car rental services in Iceland. You can find several car rentals just a few metres from the Keflavik international airport. However you need to take a 4WD vehicle if you are going to highlands or on F1 roads.
Please remember to take ‘sand and gravel’ insurance for your car especially if you are going to the volcanic eruption prone south Iceland. Don’t waste money on taking theft insurance as Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. However please be careful with the car doors. Whenever you open the door, keep it held, or else it can simply fly away with the wind. That’s how strong the winds are in Iceland! And there is no insurance against this windy damage!
Budgeting in Iceland
You must have heard that Iceland is quite expensive. Yes right it is. It is as expensive as the rest of Scandinavia. However the best part in Iceland is that most of what you want to see is nature, and that is free. Parking at many places is free of cost. At least I don’t recall paying for car parking ever in Iceland. But that was a year ago.The tours and experiences like whale watching or walk inside a volcano carry charges, of course. Food is costly. We stayed in apartments, cooked our own food and drove our own car. That helped in limiting our expenses.
Take these mobile apps seriously
If you are planning to go to Iceland, you must download three necessary apps, maps(dot)me, vedur(dot)is and road(dot)is. Maps.me is the best navigation app for Iceland. Your google maps may not work as effectively. We used Vedur.is and Road.is to check weather and road conditions before planning our day. The weather of Iceland is quite unpredictable. Therefore, please take any sort of weather warning and road condition seriously.
Explore the geothermal culture
You just cannot miss the thermal baths if you are in Iceland. It’s an Icelandic culture. These geothermal baths are akin to the pubs in our city. Once the day is over, locals go to thermal baths to relax and chat. Even we enjoyed thermal baths almost every evening. There was something magical about being inside warm water when the air around you is freezing. I can imagine it being more fun in winters when you can just run to the pool half naked and bare feet on snow and dip into the heavenly warm waters of Iceland. The tiredness of the entire day used to just melt away from the body.
Before heading to an Icelandic geothermal pool, please be aware of pool etiquettes. Icelandic people are cautious about their thermal baths. They want to keep it naturally hot and clean, so they don’t use any disinfectant. One is expected to take proper shower (without swimsuit) before heading to the pool. There is minimal concept of privacy. You have multiple showers in a single row. There are no shower cubicles. Some areas might have curtains at the most. But don’t worry, there are separate men and women bathrooms.
Blue Lagoon is the most famous, touristy and expensive natural pool. However, if you are going to North Iceland, give blue lagoon a miss and go to Myvatn nature bath. It’s as good as Blue Lagoon and cheaper.Though every city and village has its own public pool (Sundlaug), but Blue Lagoon and Myvatn have a natural, surreal ambience. Your Iceland trip is incomplete without a dip in the nature bath.
So, start planning your Iceland trip. I will be coming up with more posts including detailed itinerary, cost saving tips, places to see and my unforgettable experiences in Iceland. Please feel free to ask your queries if you are planning to go to Iceland. I will be glad to help.