Five things to keep in mind for first time visitors in Iceland

On a recent visit to Philadelphia and New York City I remembered how intimidating it can be to visit a new city/country for the first time. When I was younger I would jump on a plane without giving it much thought (I once decided to move to England on a Thursday and was there on the following Tuesday) but nowadays I have to know certain things about my destination before I commit to anything. In case there are any kindred spirits out there I compiled this list of five things that is good to keep in mind for first time visitors in Iceland.

1) Drink the Icelandic tap water

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: If you’re one of those tourists that go straight from the plane to the supermarket to buy 10 liters of water for your stay – we will secretly make fun of you behind your back. Drinking the Icelandic tap water is completely safe and there’s nothing in it you have to worry about. You don’t need to filter it and you most certainly don’t need to buy water. The reason you can even buy water at the supermarket is that someone has caught up on your water insecurities and is trying to gain from it financially. It’s the same water!

You may find a smell that many say resemble rotten eggs (where have all these people been in contact with rotten eggs is my question) but that’s the smell of the geothermal hot water (sulfur to be exact) and not the cold. If you can smell it when you run the cold water just wait a few seconds and you should get rid of it. In some areas the cold water will smell a little, like in Borgarnes for example,  but even when it smells it’s still safe to drink

2) Icelandic money

1000 krónur

The currency in Iceland is called Icelandic króna, written ISK or sometimes (incorrectly) IKR.  The Euro, despite popular belief, is not an official currency in Iceland. Many tourism companies will only display their prices in Euros (which I believe is illegal according to Icelandic law but that’s a different story) but that’s mostly for your convenience. Once you’re in Iceland you’ll have to use Icelandic krónur in most places.

Icelanders are not big on carrying money though so our preferred payment method is either debit or credit cards. Many people, myself included, hardly ever use money and you will be able to use your cards almost everywhere. The only exception I can think of right now are the city buses where you’ll have to pay the exact amount as they can’t give change.

Because there are not a lot of banks outside of Iceland that carry the Icelandic króna you’ll be happy to know that there’s a bank and an ATM at Keflavík Airport where you can exchange your currency into ours. .

3) Buying alcohol

Christmas Beers

You can’t buy alcohol in supermarkets in Iceland. In fact the only places you can buy alcohol are the state owned alcohol shops called Vínbúðin. You can find small Vínbúðin outlets in many towns around the country but if you are staying in downtown Reykjavík the closest one is Vínbúðin Austurstræti, across the street from the Laundromat Café. There’s another one in Kringlan Shopping mall (Smáralind also) but the exact locations of the alcohol shops can be found on Vínbúdin’s website.

4) The whole showering naked debacle

athugið

I’m sure you’ve heard, either from you horrified friends that visited before you or at one the many sites that offer information about Iceland, but if you want to soak in one of those super nice Icelandic geothermal pools you will have to shower naked before entering. My advice is to just get over it because there’s no way around this.

I for one hate the walk from the showers to the pool more than the showering part (when my wobbly bits are on display for all to see, not just the women who happen to be showering at the same time as I) and I don’t really see the big deal with other women possibly catching a glimpse at my lady-parts. It’s not like a bikini covers much anyway.

After visiting America again earlier this year I also find it kind of funny that it’s mostly Americans that complain about this but they all happily use the public bathrooms in America with their gaps in the stalls where everyone can see you do your business (seriously, what’s up with that?). If I had  to choose between peek-a-boob and peek-a-poop I’d happily flash every time.

5) Abandoned baby carriages

Last but not least, if you see a seemingly abandoned baby carriage while strolling down Laugavegur, fully equipped with a sleeping baby, don’t call the police until you’ve made sure its parents are not sipping coffee at a nearby coffee house. It’s completely normal in Iceland to leave a sleeping child outside (most Icelandic children sleep outside every day from a young age) and rest assured there is someone watching that baby, either through a window or a baby monitor. It’s not child neglect, nobody is going to steal that baby and all is well with the world.

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133 thoughts on “Five things to keep in mind for first time visitors in Iceland”

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m a bit puzzled at the toilet stalls with the large gaps that you can see through, I’ve never come across one like that. Where did you encounter them?

    1. Auður says:

      It was like that in most public bathrooms I came across: at JFK and The Empire State to name a couple. The worst bathroom related incident in the States this time around was when I was sat at a toilet in Burger King (I think) on 5th avenue in NYC when one of the staff members decided to open the door from the outside. Fun times 🙂

      1. Zayra says:

        I laughed sooo hard when I read the part about the gap in the stallsky because here in Houston, TX it is so true!! But I do have a question, How are Icelandics towards colored foreigners? I’m a Tan Mexican American and I want to visit so bad!

        1. Auður says:

          I think we are pretty nice to most people. I had a American of Indian decent at one of my dinners one night and he mentioned to us that he was so pleasantly surprised how nice everyone had been to him and how his race didn’t seem to matter at all. So his experience was good at least.

        2. TNT says:

          the Chinese and there behaviour is unbecoming very popular, watched chinese throw cigarette butts out at the Ice Lagoon , just about murdered them myself. also a menace on the roads, almost lost our lives 3x by chinese tourist muppets driving across the centre line.

          1. Auður says:

            I don’t think we should be singling out certain nationalities – I’m sure there are plenty of respectful Chinese tourists. But bad behavior is bad no matter where you come from.

        3. Robert says:

          We are in Iceland right now (leave tomorrow) and I’ve found the people here to be extremely nice and incredibly tolerant of everyone, much more so than the tourists we see all around us.

          There are certain races/nationalities that I’ve gotten pretty sick of on this trip due to behavior and not knowing/learning how to drive courteously. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing or not, one nationality in particular is extremely nice in person but if you see a car partially blocking the road, cutting you off, etc. you can almost count on it being them.

          For god’s sake people, don’t block the road so your entire carload can exit the vehicle and take pictures of the horses! We came around a blind curve to see a car blocking half the lane on a small road with no shoulders and everyone (including, I assume, the driver) taking pictures of horses.

          Enough griping from me, it’s a beautiful country and we will be back.

          1. Ray Prescott says:

            I can guess who you are referring to 🙂 we had the same experience. if it is who I think it is I would say it is a cultural thing as whilst I grew up thinking this particular nation was extremely respectful ( from my personal dealings with them in my country’s capital ) I subsequently found that when travelling abroad in various other regions, not so much. it may be a generation thing – I find myself increasingly frustrated at the modern trend of being completely oblivious to anyone around you.

    2. danielle says:

      ive been visiting the states regulary since 1990 and almost every public bathroom stall has had massive gaps in the side. i really really hate it. toilets need privacy!

    3. Meghan says:

      The worst bathrooms are the ones with the gaps from the floor that are on a level with the seats. The door gaps are no biggie, because it’s not like people are trying to peek through them anyway, but those floor gaps? The worst! The bathrooms in Pike Place Market in Seattle are like that. I hate it, and I’m from here. I’m for peak-a-boob all the way!

      Also, thanks for the tips :). The baby thing is weird.

    4. Thijs says:

      I’m actually a bit puzzled that you don’t seem to know them. In all the years I’ve spent in the US, I’ve hardly ever come across a public restroom that DID have basic standards of privacy that I was used to growing up in Europe.

      It starts with basically having one room with all toilets in them, separated by not much more than a piece of pressed wood, sometime more than a feet from the ground. And if you’re unlucky, with a huge gap between the door and the wall and a lock that’s half-working.

      I must say, I have gotten over a lot of shame and anxiety, I guess, but I still thoroughly hate it and can’t rhyme it with the fact that Americans are prudish about everything else. (Except maybe having cleavage and short skirts… 🙂 )

      1. Gwendolyn says:

        Exactly! Nothing worse than your American board going to the bathroom with you at the same time and continuing her conversation with you while you hear her pee!! Disgusting and unprofessional. And yes it has happened to me more than once.

    5. Michelle says:

      I live in Los Angeles and have traveled to almost every state. It’s common to have 1/2″ gaps in toilet stalls. I have never understood if it’s simply laziness in design or some passive aggressive method to make sure one can’t get too comfortable in a stall. The first time I experienced a properly enclosed European stall, I was amazed.

  2. Alicia says:

    Don’t forget that you can also buy alcohol at the airport duty free store on your way into the country (I saw returning Icelanders seemingly stocking up as I passed through the last time).

    1. Auður says:

      That’s right Alicia, I’ve talked about it so much before that I forgot to mention it here 🙂

      1. Ólöf says:

        I was just going to suggest you edited that into the original post – definitely useful information for tourists! 😉

    2. Jordan says:

      I’m flying in from the UK – do I buy the alcohol in the UK airport or at the airport when I land in Reykjavík? Thanks

      1. Auður says:

        I don’t know what they do in the UK airport but in the airport in Iceland you don’t have to pay the taxes or duties of the alcohol in the Duty Free so the difference in price from the alcohol shops in town is dramatic.

        1. Jordan says:

          Thanks so much for your swift responses 🙂

      2. Jo Ann Switzer says:

        Either, I discovered. I visited last week…Zurich to Reykjavik to Toronto. No big deal.

  3. lisa sophie says:

    I know what you mean about the gaps in stalls. I’m going to be in Reykjavik for very brief stay and appreciate the advice. Thanks! The water point amused me, as I very occasionally buy water in bottles – Icelandic water ;-). It transports me there magically in my imagination. I plan to drink tap water when I’m there, however.

  4. Trisha says:

    I went it iceland for 3 wonderful weeks. I do not recall nude soaking, which although I’m American I prefer it. Suits were required. Where are the clothing prohibited soaking pools?

    1. Auður says:

      Uhhh, I think you are misunderstanding me. You need to shower naked before you put on your bathing suit and then you go to the pool. Just don’t actually swim naked 🙂

      1. tahiti says:

        Thanks for the information. I am thinking of travelling to Iceland so this is useful.
        I also thought you meant you had to be naked in the pool. In Japan at open air hot springs you have to be naked to go in the pool (but there are separate mens and womens areas and you can’t see each other). Also in Japan, you have throughly shower before you can get in.

  5. Ryan says:

    “Peek-a-poop.” Have to add that to my vocabulary. Unfortunately, I think we’re all used to the door gap at this point. But on the rare occasion I’ve walked into a stall with door and walls to the floor, I wonder why the hell that’s not the norm.

  6. Wilson says:

    About money, I spent two weeks in Iceland without using any actual cash – only credit cards – and then had to get cash on the last day to pay a parking ticket… (getting the cash was easy, as was paying the ticket, once I got someone to translate it to me)

  7. susan ainsworth says:

    I am coming to Iceland for the first time this may on vacation. I can t wait. I am knitter so am looking forward to doing a bit of yarn shopping and also seeing the sites. Will be an American woman traveling alone but from all that I have read it will be perfectly safe to do so. I will follow your blog…lots of good info here. Thx Susan Ainsworth

    1. Auður says:

      Hey Susan,
      You might want to check out my walking tour: http://www.tours.iheartreykjavik.net/the-i-heart-reykjavik-walking-tour/. It’s a perfect activity for a solo traveler like yourself – getting to know the city with some fellow travelers 🙂 And me 🙂

  8. Lenka says:

    Is it required to remove waterproof make-up before entering the pool?
    I usually swim wearing it for more than hour (in the chlorinated water) and everything stays on its place..

    1. Auður says:

      Nobody is going to tell you to clean your face before entering – just do what you feel is appropriately hygienic 🙂

  9. EuroTripTips says:

    ” If I had to choose between peek-a-boob and peek-a-poop I’d happily flash every time.” That is pure gold. I will remember this sentence when I visit Iceland in July!

  10. CJ Stotts says:

    EXCELLENT information!!

  11. Wendy says:

    Thank you for your advice. I am travelling to Iceland for the first time in just 2 weeks. I will be going with my husband, his brother and his girlfriend and his sister and her husband. My husband’s great-great grandfather immigrated to Canada from Iceland in the 1880s so I’m calling this trip “The Return to the Motherland”. I even tracked down a long lost relative who will be bringing us to meet other relatives while we are there! But I digress – I love your blog and found it a few weeks ago when I was doing some planning for our trip. You have given me such good advice and it really comes across how much you really do Heart Reykjavik.

    1. Maria Egilsson says:

      Wendy,

      My husbands grandparents came to Canada in the late 1800’s as well! We are travelling to Iceland in 6 weeks. I look forward to reading about your experience and any further tips & pointers for “us” fellow Canadians.

      1. Wendy says:

        I will be happy to share my experience with you. Let me know how to get ahold of you and I’ll put you on my list for updates. I am trying to get my blog going so if that works I’ll send that URL to you too.

        1. Maria Egilsson says:

          Wendy, there is a “comment” form on my web at: http://www.mariaegilsson.com and if you forward your blog, when it is up and running, I will be sure to look up your posts.

          Awesome!

          Maria

  12. Maria Egilsson says:

    Great info about the money seeing that we are coming over near the end of May. I love your posts by the way!

  13. journeynator says:

    Not just Americans! Us uptight Brits none to keen on getting bits out in public either, I was incredibly relieved to find the blue lagoon had cubicles for washing!

  14. Susie79 says:

    OMG, I just about died. Finally someone who notices those darn gaps in the bathroom stalls!!!! I moved to the US from Germany and have always been puzzled about this. Thanks for the shower advice, had no clue. My best friend and I will be traveling to Iceland in a month, we are so excited.

    1. Janette says:

      I’m with you Susie! I moved to the US from Germany too. Hate the gaps. And while we’re at it, I really despise having to look under the gap to see if someone is in there. I wish more American doors had green/red (vacant/occupied) indicators like European locks. I’m always so relieved when I get back to Frankfurt airport and can have a private moment. 🙂

  15. Ashley says:

    Hi! As an American, I’ve never even given the gaps in the stalls a second look. It is just common courtesy not to look through them. Sure you CAN see through them, but you are never supposed to LOOK. I’ve been to Germany but don’t remember what the bathrooms were like? I can’t wait to see what they are in Iceland haha. And we need the gap under and above the door. Have you never gotten trapped in a bathroom stall and had to crawl out under the door? Yeah that happens… 🙂
    Love your blog!

    1. Kimberly Conner says:

      Haha! This comment is a bit old, but I have to add my 2¢. As an American, I both dislike and appreciate the under-door gaps (the side gaps can be gotten rid of). The most useful feature of the gap is for toilet paper passing. Who hasn’t sat on a toilet, only to realize too late that the toilet paper is empty? The gap is a life saver! No need to get up, just ask someone (preferably a relative or close friend) to pass it under. Also, although I’ve never gotten stuck or had a medical issue, I was always comforted with the idea that I could crawl out or in during an emergency. Honesty, the only things you can see in those gaps are shoes, socks, and maybe underwear if someone lets them drop to the floor (eww), it’s not that embarrassing.

  16. I love Iceland, – went there back in 2008. reading your article made me travel in time. I actually want to visit it again. soon. greetings from Rio de Janeiro!

  17. Arnav says:

    Recently visited Reykjavik for a week, great experience! The blue lagoon did have private showers 🙂 the doors didn’t lock, but private stalls nevertheless. Updating my blog as we speak!

  18. Katie says:

    Awesome article! Very entertaining! I personally really liked #5. Being from a small town I can somewhat relate to being in a place that is safe enough to leave a baby in a carriage semi-unattended although I have to admit I laughed out loud! I can’t wait to visit Iceland!

    Cheers,
    Katie

  19. Kasey Farris says:

    Thanks for the tips! I am planning on visiting Iceland in the next few years and have just started researching. The money is very interesting; can you post more pictures? The directions were also helpful. Do you wear a swimsuit in the geothermal pools?

    1. Auður says:

      Yes, you were swimsuits in the swimming pools – you just have to shower first.

  20. Jess says:

    I am so glad that I have now been forewarned about both the naked showering as well as the baby strollers! I’m glad to hear from the British poster that the Blue Lagoon has private cubicles, that’s where we’re planning to go. I’m also going to suggest the idea of your tours to my husband, I think it would be a great idea to go on a tour of the city for a couple of hours on our first day there, that way we’re still getting out and exploring but not doing anything too strenuous like hiking around for miles while we’re adjusting to the 6 hour time difference from Denver to Iceland!

    I am happy to have discovered your site and look forward to hopefully meeting you in the near future! 🙂

  21. Samantha says:

    I love this post! I love the way you write, i’m so sick of long winded travel blogs that have little of interest to your average traveller. I’ve never been to Iceland and didn’t have it on my list but I do now 🙂 do you write books? Because you should.

    1. Auður says:

      Hi Samantha,

      Thank you so much 🙂 When I was young I always thought I would become a writer – I even started a guide book to Iceland in my early twenties (when there still were no guide books to Iceland and before the tourism got booming). Who knows, I still might publish a b book one day – until then this will have to do 🙂

  22. Richard says:

    hi i too am travelling to Iceland but in March 2015 its part of a package tour but my girlfriend and i are more of an adventure seeking couple and like the unbeaten path if that makes sense . could you suggest anywhere to visit and will there be any financial surprises like hidden cost that i need to be aware of x we recently visited Venice and were almost crippled by the cost of water taxis , any info is much appreciate Richard .

  23. julie small says:

    Hi thank you for this information its great. We are going mid Dec any must do or see tips. Never been before so very novice. Thank you

  24. mcamcamca says:

    Question; I guess this is because I’m so vain haha, can you shower after the pool? I have curly hair so it gets so frizzy if I don’t put any conditioner on it. So, after the pool, can I go shower again so I can put conditioner? thanks!

    1. Auður says:

      Of course you can 🙂

  25. maria helena teixeira says:

    Thank you for all your tips. I’m just preparing to arrive Iceland in 2 weeks.

  26. Aimee says:

    This is an awesome write-up. I’ve been in Reykjavik for about a week now and wasn’t aware of a couple of these. Dumb question though… so I went to Sundhöllin the other day and was kind of confused by the order of things when showering. They don’t have anywhere for you to put your bathing suit or soap while showering. Are you supposed to return to the lockers/changing area *after* showering to put your bathing suit on and THEN go to the pool after that?

    1. Auður says:

      No, you just bathe, put it on and go out. I haven’t been to Sundhöllin in a while but usually I just hang the swimsuit on the thingymajingy where you turn the water on and off 🙂 And I use the soap provided so I don’t need a place for soap 🙂

  27. Awesome tips! Thanks, Auður!

  28. Jóhann Þór says:

    Strætó (the bus company) has recently released an app that allows passengers to pay with a credit card. So carrying currencyi s absolutely unnecessary in Iceland.

  29. danielle says:

    i dont have a probably showering before going to pools, but i just dont understand why there cant be stalls to do so – even prisons have a modesty curtain in the showers! i appreciate its a cultural thing but i am unbelievalby insecure and i do not want to shower naked with my friend! if it was just boobs then ok, but everything? i have nightmares about being naked in public places so it’s just so terrifying to me. you mention a bikini hardly covers anything, i wear a full swim suit and swim shorts when i go in pools, that’s how much i am not comfortable being in public in not a lot of clothes. i know you can pay extra at the blue lagoon for private rooms, but just all i want is flimsy curtain :-(((

    1. Auður says:

      Now of course I don’t know what your story is but maybe if you would have grown up in an environment like we have here in Iceland, where the naked body is a natural thing, you wouldn’t feel like that about your own body. As much as I have things about own body that I don’t like I think this system we have is healthy and instead of feeling bad about myself when I go to the pool I am often reminded that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that’s OK. I’m not saying that I want to be naked in front of people all the time but you know what I mean. I’ve also never once witnessed someone being intentionally mean to anyone at the pool. And if someone stares or says something that is inappropriate they would probably feel more embarrassed about it than you if you just politely tell them that this is not cool.

      Maybe this is also part of this Nordic egalitarian approach to life: It doesn’t matter who you are, the president or a nobody, we all have to go through the same thing to go to the pool.

      1. Aimee says:

        I think the problem is that America tends to sexualize all forms of nudity for some reason so the concept of nudity ends up getting deemed as “private” or “intimate” when there’s really no need for it to be. I was visiting Reykjavik for 5 weeks and any time I went to Sundhöllin or the locker room at the crossfit gym, everyone was very casual and carefree. When I was leaving, I stopped over at Blue Lagoon and overheard so many Americans devising ways that they could hide their bodies on the way to the showers (“Just put your towel over your shirt and then take it off!” or “Here, I’ll make you a privacy curtain while you change!”) — as an American myself, it was really embarrassing and weird to overhear… I was aware of it before then, but visiting and doing the geothermal pools really made the whole thing more obvious.

      2. Danielle says:

        I understand what you are saying, and understand that it probably sounds disrespectful to Icelandic culture (and that’s the last thing I’d want to do) to have such a problem with it. For me, I don’t know where my issue stems from, but it’s not really about thinking anyone is doing to mock me or point at me or whatever. I dont go to gyms, swimming pools (hate swimming) or anything so it’s not something i encounter very often, and my issue with it is probably why. And when i saw i have nightmares about it, I mean, its a reoccurring theme throughout dreams/nightmares i have. I just wish there was just a few areas with a modesty screen, as well as the communal area, and then the relaxed and groovy folk can be relaxed and groovy and those of us with issues can have an area too. I may be troubled, but i can be trusted to wash my bits, even if im behind a modesty curtain.

        1. Auður says:

          If you hate swimming then there’s no problem, you just skip going to the pools 🙂

          There is actually a stall or two in the Laugardalslaug pool where you can get more privacy. I really do feel bad for you if this terrifies you so much. Maybe you need some help with that?

          1. Danielle says:

            I enjoyed the Blue Lagoon, and the hot tub thing at a guest house in Vik – i like bobbing around in hot pools etc – but i don’t enjoy swimming so i dont go to pools at home where i might get used to changing rooms and nakedness – is what i meant 🙂

            its been a while since i went to BL (2006 & 2007) but there was a private cubicle in the changing areas, but not in shower area which made no sense to me.. from the comments above, maybe there are privacy stalls now. i dont plan on going back though 🙂

            yeah maybe 🙂 it’s just tough when tourists get blasted or made fun of for having an issue with it, when just some options would help and that it’s not that we are dirty old hags, its just scary and we dont mean any insult to Iceland by being freaked out about it, so i get a bit defensive 🙂

          2. Danielle says:

            btw on further reading i think there may be more options at blue lagoon for privacy so maybe one day i might venture a long again if i’m feeling rich 🙂

        2. Ashley says:

          I was at the Blue Lagoon just a few months ago. There were a number of totally private shower stalls with 3 walls and a door, and some more that were the same just without the door. No one should miss out on this place because of modesty. Maybe they have just updated it recently? I wish more people knew this! I wrote a post about it recently as well as I think a lot of people hold off on these activities because of the assumption that nude is the only way. 🙂

          1. Danielle says:

            Thanks for the info. I should have checked properly what the status was there now, as it was 7 years ago now, and I forget how much tourism has progressed & how much development has taken place.

            I’m glad to have an update as I wouldn’t want to misinfirm anyone, as it did put me off because the sort of hoo har that surrounds it (or that I created for myself!)

            Going back isn’t a priority when I visit, as there’s so much to do & I’ve been twice but its good to know there are more options for those of us with issues, but still plenty of space for the relaxed & groovy too 🙂

  30. Peter Hobley says:

    It’s funny how so many people have mentioned the one observation about American toilet stalls! As an Englishman living in the States, I HATE the toilet stalls here! As well as the gaps at the sides, it’s the gaps above and below that also annoy me. What’s the price of a little dignity?! 🙂

    1. Ray Prescott says:

      I’m with you Peter. I moved to Philly from SW London 7 years ago and I still fail to understand some things. for a country that is so prudish in some ways it seems contradictory to have that lack of privacy where you would most want it. And yet they sexualize everything way more than most cultures – maybe it’s due to the censorship levels ? weird.

  31. Miss LeTour says:

    I’ve spent the better part of this evening reading through your various posts. Long ago I had dreamed of visiting Iceland and only recently that far-flung wish was rekindled. After reading your pages, my desire to visit Iceland has become an inferno, if you can imagine. You truly are an amazing ambassador!!! Thank you for all the hardwork and dedication you’ve put into these pages. I sincerely hope to visit late this winter. Cheers from Tokyo!

    1. Auður says:

      Thank you for the kind words 🙂 Hope to see you here in Iceland soon!

  32. Remy says:

    I’m so glad I found your post, it’s really helpful 🙂

    I have some questions that I would really appreciate your help with if you don’t mind?

    We’re traveling to Iceland for a wedding in November with a toddler in tow. I’ve been before in the summer and it was amazing, I absolutely loved it 🙂 however it was so cold even then that now I’ve no idea what to dress the baby in for winter in Iceland (maybe just dress her in everything??)

    Also, we thought that the golden circle tour and blue lagoon would be great things to do with a baby but can you suggest anything else baby friendly?

    Good to know we can leave her in the buggy outside cafés if she’s asleep. We don’t do that in England so I’ll have to prepare myself for it 🙂

    Thanks again!

    1. Auður says:

      Maybe this post would be helpful to you: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2013/01/from-my-readers-reykjavik-with-a-toddler-by-jenn-pici-falk/

      I’ve never had a toddler myself, I didn’t meet the princess until she was about five, so I am maybe not the best person to ask about how to dress one. I know that children here wear a lot of wool (merino wool as base layers and maybe wool sweaters) and fleece. If you don’t have those things both Cintamani and 66°C have a lot of options when you get here. I would also absolutely bring a waterproof trouser and jacket. I also often see small children wearing overalls that are weather proof (both for water and the cold).

  33. Raul says:

    Hello Auður and greetings from Toronto!

    I will be travelling and celebrating my birthday in Iceland in late March for a week, then Norway and Sweden…

    I just stumbled upon with your website and find it fascinating!! Good job with all the tips and tricks we should know (specially before going).

    My plan is to travel around (driving) as much as possible and my idea is to spend one day in the “west cost” then another day in the “south cost”, one day doing the golden circle… do you, from your experience, think this is possible? I might be a bit ignorant in terms of distances, so any help from you would be appreciated.

    I also heard that some of the tours can be extremely expensive, so it is better to rent a car and do it your own. Is that true?

    Lastly, if you were to pic 7 places in Iceland (with a few hours driving distance), what would those 7 spots will be?

    Thanks so much!

    Raúl

    1. Auður says:

      Yes this is possible, you might want to read these posts: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/tag/drive-it-yourself/. Regarding whether the tours are expensive that entirely depends on the tour, how many you are and such. If you plan to do the golden circle with one person then its probably less expensive to rent a car in winter but in summer the rental price might be higher than what you pay for the tour.

  34. Angela Doman says:

    Hi! Your blog is amazing. My husband and I will be arriving in Iceland at 6:40 am on This Monday. We really wanted to do the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport but the website says it is not open until 10am. Is there anything we should do in the airport prior to going or other places around the Blue Lagoon that we can experience before it opens? Is it very far from Reykjavik? Also, we were interested in your walking tour but are not very in shape. How strenuous is it.

    1. Auður says:

      Hi Angela,

      Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been out of town and just returned. If it was summer I would advice you to just drive around the area and see some of the sights but it’s going to be pretty dark until around 8:30-9:00 so you won’t see much. But you could drive into Grindavík, it’s a pretty cute town and maybe they have a bakery where you can have breakfast before you head to the lagoon.

      As for my tour, it’s not strenuous at all – you’ll be fine. I have people all ages, shapes and sizes and so far they’ve all managed just fine 🙂

  35. Lenks says:

    So… you’re saying that there is not even BEER on stock in supermarkets? What about alcohol free beer?
    Anyway I’m more than thrilled to go there on june!!! How is whalewatching? Can you see whales on every boat tour?
    Do you know if there is going to be any concert of Sigur Ros around end of june and start of july?
    Do you know how your camping sites works? It is good to order the Icelandic camping card? Do you pay for persons and car or just for place to stay in camp? Is there extra charge for showers?
    Is it wild camping forbidden? How long is day light on june?
    Thanks

  36. Jesse Boulet says:

    Found this article very useful. I’m traveling solo at the end of April for the 1st time and I can’t wait to explore everything Iceland has to offer. I arrive at 6:40am and then hoping to grab a bus into town to drop off my luggage. Would love to take your tour 1st thing that morning was just curious whether or not you think I can make it there by 10am? My rental is only like a 5 min walk to the church.

    1. Auður says:

      Sorry, I somehow missed your comment 🙂

      People do come to my tour straight from the airport basically every day so it should be fine 🙂

  37. Susan says:

    First time in Iceland & planning to drive the ring road. I’ve checked out the Drive-It-Yourself site on this blog (thank you!), but is there another source for planning how long to spend where? We’ve got 10-14 days and will travel in a camper van.

    1. Auður says:

      Some things you just have to decide for yourself because no one can tell you how much time you need to experience different things. If you just like to see things and then drive off you need little time there but if you like to take a little walk around the area or sit down and really enjoy something then maybe you need more time.

      If you are having a hard time planning your trip yourself it might be a good idea to get help from a travel agency that can tailor make your trip.

  38. Gi says:

    Great tips – thanks!
    Question regarding cards/money: You can use standard UK debit cards you mean? Or would you recommend a travel credit card? I only use cash normally to travel to avoid hidden charges or cards not being accepted.
    Thanks!

    1. danielle says:

      I don’t know what your take on credits cards is, but I took out an aqua rewards credit card – it is one of the few cards which does not charge fees abroad for purchases. They have a few cards, only this one and one other has no fees. It starts with a low credit limit that can be increases every 6 months & the Apr is high so it has to be paid off every month – but I just use it for travelling & any foreign transactions I make in the UK.

      I’ve thought about travel money cards but they all need to be front loaded and I don’t really manage my money that way.

      1. Auður says:

        You just have to find the best way for you – whether it’s a credit card or something prepaid.

        1. Danielle says:

          Oh for sure, was just recommending a UK card that’s not that well known or publicised for it’s no foreign fee.

    2. Auður says:

      As long as they have chips I would think you can use them. I can use my debit card when I travel but I prefer using my credit card because the rates are better for me (I have a card designed for travel because of all the traveling I was doing when I got it)

  39. Alice says:

    Hi, thanks for info! i’m off to iceland this sunday- still not sure what to do about money altho the general consensus like yourself, appears to be just pay for everything with a card- my only concern is how much will i be charged by my bank hsbc? will they be able to tell me? does it vary from bank to bank!? don’t want to get loads of charges..! is the exchange rate better this way?
    thanks,
    alice

    1. Auður says:

      The only way to know is to check with your bank how much they charge. I’ve had e-mails from people where they tell me they get a better rate exchanging their currency to Krónur once in Iceland than back home but I don’t know which rate your credit card issuer uses. The Exchange rate my credit card company uses is usually a bit more unfavorable than the bank rates but not so that it stops me from using my card abroad.

    2. Danielle says:

      When using

    3. Danielle says:

      oops, i hate using mobile devices….

      i was going to say when using a credit card in the states and other places ive travelled, ive usually got a better rate then if i had exchanged cash for the trip. i dont know if this happened for iceland as i didnt not exchange any cash.

      my credit card doesnt charge for overseas transactions – but i think most usually end up about 3%, and some kind of charge per transaction if you are taking out cash, so if you are taking out cash its best to do it all at once, rather than as you go along. you’d thikn HSBC as “the worlds local bank” you wouldnt get international fees! I’ve spoken with them before about travel when i had an account with them so im sure there’s someone friendly at the end of the phone waiting for your call 🙂

  40. janet says:

    Hi, I’m travelling to Iceland on Tuesday and feel better prepared after reading the comments above. Can anybody tell me about travel adaptors as I want to be sure that my camera is fully charged at all times!
    Many thanks

  41. John-Bruce says:

    My family and I will be traveling to Iceland in July, and I have enjoyed all of the comments. Do I understand correctly that the shower would be unisex? If so that should be OK with us, having done the Japanese hot springs already. I grew up in the states, and the gaps are pretty much everywhere. I never considered the issues with the gaps in the stalls, it’s always a unisex bathroom, so never thought it was a big deal, I guess it’s just what you grow up with. To extend that discussion, I feel compelled to mention a recent trip to North Western Italy, and seeing a train station bathroom, with no door on the stalls, and a broken door to the platform (straight through visibility) along with a hole in the floor you squat to use (instead of a toilet). After having to stand guard while a family member used the facilities, I am feeling pretty OK with our unisex 1cm USA door gaps. 🙂 Of course, it would be better to raise the bar up to make everyone comfortable (especially in an airport with so many different cultures coming together).

    Anyway, on a totally unrelated note, we have some vegetarians in our family, that is to say that some of us do not eat anything from the animal kingdom (cows, pigs, chickens, fish, jellyfish, spiders, worms, etc). 🙂 Is this something that we need to plan for? Is vegetarian fare commonplace? I suspect that we’ll be hitting grocery stores and making veggie stews with a little hot pot as we go, but I thought I’d ask.
    Thanks so much,

    1. Auður says:

      No, the changing rooms are not unisex – there’s a male changing rooms and female changing rooms.

      There’s not a great selection of vegetarian options in Reykjavík but there’s definitely something.

  42. Michelle says:

    Americans do not understand that our bathroom stalls are weird until we travel outside the country. My first time in a European stall I was thinking, “Woah, I’m inside a closet!” But it wasn’t until I lived in another country for over a year that I realized just how open our bathrooms are. When I returned to the US I was freaked out.

    Very happy to hear that I can drink the tap water in Iceland. I’ve been to a lot of places where drinking out of the tap is a no-no. And I hate buying bottled water (odd for an American, I know).

  43. Laura says:

    Hello – just wanted to stop by and say how great your blog is. A friend and I are heading to Iceland this Thursday (eeek) and have been using your site for tips. Sadly, I don’t think we will spend much time in Reykjavik this time around, but if that changes, we will definitely be in touch to book your tour!

    I have one question I wonder if you can help with – if, during our route around the ring road, we spot a small warm stream/river and decide to take a quick soak, would it be frowned upon to use shampoo/body wash? Obviously we wouldn’t do this is designated ‘pools’…

    Can’t wait to see your beautiful country!

  44. Reuben says:

    Speaking of Icelandic currency, I managed to get Icelandic Krona from an American Express Foreign Currency Exchange Branch. I live in Australia, so you can imagine my surprise when I asked them and they said they had it! I was definitely expecting to get a no! However, Visa/Mastercards work perfectly fine in Iceland!

  45. John says:

    I am planning a trip in August. Your tour will be one of the first things on my Itinerary! I have learned more information on what to do and where to go from reading your blog than a day of searching the Internet on my own! I especially like the discounted Budget car rental! I was looking at 120 US a day for a 4×4! Way cheaper through you and Budget! I’m planning a short 4 day jaunt through the Southern portion of the Island for the first time there. Backpacking, camping, farm experience etc. I want to see a lot of the regional offerings, waterfalls, beaches, landscape, etc. I want to take some landscape photographs of the region as well. Great post! Thank you so much for this site! It is definitely helpful to a first time traveler! Following you on Facebook and Instagram!

    John.

    1. Auður says:

      Glad you enjoyed the blog and that you found a good deal on car rental. Happy travels!

  46. I learned so much reading your blog. Heading off to Iceland in about 3 weeks now. I have a question about the Whale Watching tour. I have one booked but am concerned about how cold it will be. I am a senior and heading off to London for 10 days after and don’t want to arrive sick. Do you or does anyone have any pointers on the tour and just how chilly it gets? Thanks so much. Really excited about my visit.

    1. Auður says:

      It shouldn’t be that cold in three weeks so if you layer up you should be fine. The boats also have overalls you can borrow if you get really cold.

    2. John says:

      I recently spoke with a tour guide about open camping…. he told me the weather currently there is 9 celsius for the low and approximately 14 celsius for the high.

  47. Jo Ann Switzer says:

    In 5 hours I fly from Switzerland to Iceland on my way back to Canada (Toronto). I am booked on a Great Canadian Tour for 4 days and am travelling alone.
    I am very excited for this part of my trip and thank you to all who have participated both with the wonderfully informative blog as well as comments.
    Jo

  48. Jordan says:

    When paying by card is there a typical minimum spend required before you aren’t charged a fee?

    In the UK most shops and pubs etc. charge a fee if you spend less than £10 in any one transaction so it always makes sense to carry cash. Does this practice not exist in Iceland for small purchases like hotdogs etc?

    1. Auður says:

      No there is no fee for smaller purchases

  49. This is really great information.I really did’nt know any thing about it…I’m taking a five night solo trip to Iceland next month and this was all very useful – thankyou!

  50. Ray Prescott says:

    excellent article, thanks for the tips. I did know about the water and I am generally anti bottled water anyway. the showering thing is fine – it’s just about getting the right mindset and not allowing yourself to be insecure. As a Brit now living in the US I see the differences in US culture vs European and it amuses me frequently. My wife and I will be visiting early Feb and so far have just booked flights. so far we have not planned anything particular. we have 5 nights and of course hope to see the Northern lights. I am guessing the daylight hours are still minimal in early Feb so one question – is it worth hiring a car? we will probably hang out in Reykjavik and take a couple of trips. just not sure about driving at that time of year. if the daylight is only a couple of hours it seems that sightseeing is minimal. I also am trying to decide on accommodation. I am leaning towards an apartment in Reykjavik but probably not for all 5 nights. is it worth staying by the Blue mountains for a night? or two? ( again – if daylight is minimal the scenic view will be limited so weighing that up against the possible lack of nightlife….? ) Any tips for our trip are most welcome cheers 🙂

  51. Robert Dinwoodie says:

    My wife and I have recently returned from a week in Iceland, it was wonderful. It was good reading your information before we went out, it was really useful.
    One thing we did not realise was that the Northern Lights are not always really colourful.
    We booked an evening tour to see the Northern Lights, however it was not until the 3rd time of going out did we see them. We were pleased that the tour companies allow you to rebook for free, if you don’t get to see the Northern Lights on that evening.
    It was not until the 3rd time out did the guide actually tell us what to look out for.
    The pictures we took on our camera, using a long exposure, were great as they showed some of the colours.

  52. John says:

    I’m a bloody Yank from Pennsylvania who doesn’t peek through bathroom stalls and doesn’t care if someone sees him naked. I’d liked to thank you for all the “good” information on your site. My wife and I coming over to ur Land of Fire/Ice in Late Oct for 7 days and though I’m chronologically old (71 not dead yet) I’m looking forward to renting a vehicle and driving around the Golden Circle and scuba diving. I was going to rent a SUV 4×4 but since reading your blog think I’ll down size the car and spend extra on alcohol. Keep up the good writing. Thanks, John

  53. sharon collins says:

    I just wrapped a day visit … ICELAND is WONDERFUL … I am 77 and traveled with 72 year old sister and in his 30s grandson … We got a Suzuki with PHENOMINAL mileage and enuf room …we were at an AirBNB by the sea … like Seltjanes (Audur can correct that) We saw the Glacier !!!!! We went out for whales and instead got a riotous wild boat ride (I liked it – quite a few got sick) grandson used his replacement voucher next day and did see Minkes and dolphins … the in-Reykjavik hot pool place is the best (one in our N-Hood was closed !) Think name started with L … BUT – go to Secret Lagoon ! THIS WAS MY #1 FAvorite. and Geysir and Gullfoss ! OH MY OH MY … FIRST thing to do when you get your car at the airport (FairCar) is drive to the Bridge over the Continents (plates) … This is an excellent intro to ICELAND … truly another planet ! Money was my downfall … how much ? we learned to drop the last two digits .. then subtract 20% of the remaining digits that .. and you get the US $ cost !…. learned that at HARPA … ASTOUNDING BLDG ! My sister is planning her return ! Now I am in Amsterdam … LOVE THIS CITY … also Sensible ! Have a great visit … only regret .. I did not get to meet Audur … nor learn how to REALLY pronounce her name !

  54. Mark says:

    I understand about showering before entering pools and such. My question – is there anywhere you can go nude? I have read conflicting posts on this and was wondering. I would probably never do it. Also, does Iceland now have a Brewery? I have heard it does and am always interested in that scene.

    1. Auður says:

      There are no nude pools in Iceland. Some pools, like Sundhöllin, has an nude sun bathing area but of course if you find a hot spring somewhere and no one is around there’s nothing that stops you from bathing in the nude.

  55. TonyJ says:

    Hello , Quick question on the Hot Springs … You have to showed naked , and must wear a suit in the water . But my question is where do you put your belonging while to are showering and while you are in the water ? Are there Lockers ? Also is soap and towels provided at these showers or do you need to bring your own ?

    1. Auður says:

      It depends where you are going. If you are going to a swimming pool in town or the Blue Lagoon then yes – there are changing rooms and lockers. If you are going to the hot river in Reykjadalur for example then you just have to leave the stuff where you are kind of.

      Towels are not provided but can be rented and soap is provided but not shampoo.

  56. Helen says:

    Hello and thanks for all of the good information. I am enjoying reading your site.

    My husband and I are heading to Iceland in about a week and I have a question about buying gas at unmanned stations. We plan on driving up to the Westfjiords and across the northern part of Iceland. American credit cards now have a chip, but it doesn’t work the way European cards work. It’s a chip and SIGNATURE system (NOT chip and pin-even if you have a pin number for cash advances, it’s not the same thing). So in a shop we can just sign for our purchases, but what happens at an unmanned gas station out in the country? Is a pin required to be punched into the gas pump in order to buy gas (or diesel)? I’ve read some comments on other sights about buying prepaid gas cards. What would you recommend?

    We are really looking forward to seeing Iceland!
    Thanks so much.
    Helen

    1. Auður says:

      Hi Helen,

      Yes, you will need a pin for unmanned gas stations and you are right: People are buying prepaid gas cards to get around that. As long as you take gas during the day when the stations are open you should be fine.

  57. Whitney says:

    Couldnt be more excited to visit Iceland this winter. Based on your description of the nakedness at the lagoon – im envisioning an epic nude runway show where i would be on display for grimey men (im dramatic, i know) .. i live in europe so Im used to a more free approach to public nudity than in America, but im still American!! And really prefer not to be stared at by men that im not personally involved with. Are there options to cover up? or are you just saying that other women will be able to see you? Thanks

    1. Auður says:

      There are separate changing rooms for the two sexes and you’re expected to wear a bathing suit at the lagoon so you won’t have any men looking at your naked body 🙂

  58. Whitney says:

    What’s the best way to get to Reykjavik from airport? I was going to take the Grayline Airport Express and stay at the Bus Hostel since its near the bus terminal in Rey. Unless there is another convenient recommendation. Flight lands at 17:20 and I need to make it to a boat tour by 21:30.

    Does anyone have recommendations for brewery or coffee house in Rey? And late afternoon/evening bars or lounges that are good for a single girl to mingle with locals on an off day like monday or tuesday?

    Thanks

    1. Auður says:

      The Grayline bus terminal is far away from Bus hostel – the BSÍ, where the Flybus stops, is in walking distance from Bus however.

  59. Amar says:

    A quick comment of avoiding the camera lens getting fogged in the cold when taking photos of N Lights

  60. Ray Prescott says:

    we are coming back for our 2nd visit, for NYE, and will not be stopping at Blue Lagoon or hiring a car for this trip – so my question is, as we land around 5.30am on Dec 31st, should we hang out for a couple of hours at the airport or will there be anything open in Reykjavik at 6.30am or so? I know the bars will have closed around 5am from the Friday fun so where else is good to go? we will not be able to check in to our apt until midday or so……
    cheers
    Ray

  61. Ray Prescott says:

    quick question about duty free – I always thought duty free was purchased at the airport prior to departure. I keep reading about people buying duty free when they land in Keflavik early morning – so it’s fine to just spend time doing some duty free shopping upon arrival in Keflavik? I am still presuming that duty free will be cheaper in at Boston airport than Keflavik right? ( does Keflavik have cases of beer by any chance? that would be cool 🙂 )

    1. Danielle says:

      Yes, unlike most places, you can buy duty free when you arrive, it’s right next to baggage claim. If it’s alcohol you’re after this will be the cheapest place in the country to buy it, as it will taxed heavily elsewhere. Yes they do cases/trays/6 packs of beer 🙂 – i don’t know myself how the prices in Boston will compare, but you won’t be able to buy Icelandic beer there, and if i was going to drink beer in Iceland, i’d want it to be Icelandic!

      1. Ray Prescott says:

        thanks Danielle – very helpful. and I agree – I had some pretty decent Icelandic beer when I was there in Feb and more than happy to stock up with that in KEF 🙂

        1. Danielle says:

          Having only just started to drink beer, in 2013 when I visited when I saw an Icelandic woman leaving with a huge tray of beer, I was highly amusesd – this was before I knew why she was taking the chance to stock up! Ha ha

          Enjoy your trip dude! 🙂 I managed to get some Icelandic Xmas beers imported thru a website here in the UK so I’m looking forward to trying some over the festive season

          1. Ray Prescott says:

            cool – i’ll look out for those while I’m there. I’m an ex-pat now living in Philadelphia and will be catching up with folks back home next year at some point 🙂

  62. Craig says:

    My friend and I are traveling to Iceland in March from Detroit. We can’t wait!
    Being from one of the largest craft beer states in the US, is there any fun breweries that you’d recommend? Or any different places not so “touristy” We both like going where the locals love to go.
    Thanks

    1. Auður says:

      There are not many brewery tours but I know Bryggjan Brugghús has some things for travelers to learn about Icelandic beer. As for bars, try Microbar, Mikkeler and Friends or Skúli.

    2. Ray Prescott says:

      Reykjavik is full of great fun bars and the locals hang out all over. Friday night is the big night , drinking through until 5am. a pro tip is to get the Appy hours APP which will tell you what bars have happy hours and when. generally a lot of them last 3 or 4 hours so it’s fairly easy to stagger them and get reasonable priced drinking from midday until 10pm ish. after that it’s pretty much full price everywhere ( $12 + for a pint )
      Borg is probably the best brewery for tours.
      and don’t miss the Lobster Hut, and the best Hot dog stand – there are a few but there is definitely one that is known to be the best – same with the Lobster – there are good spots but the best for a Lobster sub is only there 2 or 3 nights a week and only for certain hours – you may have a long line but it’s worth it. you will fall in love with Iceland 🙂

      1. Craig says:

        Thank you for this! I’m so excited to go!
        and when you were talking about beer prices, was that in USD or ISK? either doesn’t matter I’m just making sure 🙂

        1. Ray Prescott says:

          during Happy hours you will be paying anywhere from 550 to 950 ISK which is between $5 and $9 ( most are around 700 ISK – so slightly under $7 ) – I normally just knock the last to digits off the ISK price for $ – if you base the exchange rate on 100 ISK to $1 you will be slightly overestimating – but in reality you will be pretty close – and it’s the easiest way. local craft brews such as Borg are more likely to be 900 ISK or so ( I know the English pub doesn’t include Borg in their happy hour – watch out for that ! ) – but you can get Carlsberg / Tuborg etc for between $5 to $7. the Viking classic was pretty good and reasonable prices – and as you don’t tip it works out fine.
          and do grab some duty free when you arrive in Keflavik – not the first duty free shop – you go past that to the bigger one just before the baggage claim 🙂 it’s a great place – enjoy

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