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Iceland Trip: 10 Essential Things you must know

Iceland Trip: 10 Essential Things you must know

When you plan your Iceland Trip, keep in mind that every season brings its benefits, not every store is good for grocery shopping, and the websites in point 5 can save your life.

1. 10/11 is the most expensive place to buy groceries

The prices in 10/11 stores are similar to gas stations. Locals mostly use them for quick late-night shopping, such as snacks and soda. However, you should avoid these stores if you are on a budget. For essential grocery shopping, I recommend Bónus, Nettó, or Hagkaup (with 24h opening at some stores).

2. Tap water is delicious & drinkable, everywhere

You will love Icelandic tap water. It is one of the cleanest, best-tasting waters in the world. Ask anyone living here: they almost certainly do not buy their water bottled. It is 100 % safe to drink from any tab.

10 ultimate ways to save money in iceland

So DO NOT forget to pack your reusable water bottle on your Iceland Trip. And try to stay away from bottled water that claims to be the purest coming straight from the glacier. It is not different from the one coming from the tap.

3. Downloading the “Straetó” will save you time and hustle.

There comes a time when you are trying to get around in Reykjavík without a car. Honestly, parking spaces are rare in downtown, and maybe you want to have a drink or two while staying here. Plus: You will do the environment a favor. Reykjavík has massive traffic every day, which results in bad air quality (no joke).

When you take the public bus, you can NOT pay by card, and the drivers do not carry change. So you are going to need the exact cash amount. Pretty inconvenient? Yes. But with the app, you can not only pay for a single ticket with your credit card, but you can also put in your location and destination address, and the app (Android) will tell you which bus to take and how to get to the bus stop.

Straeto Bus App

4. Save time with the Icelandic Northern Lights Forecast Website

Aurora Forecast: This is the ideal website for you to check for Northern Lights activity. It is customized to Iceland and tells you the best times when the activity reaches its peak. We recommend checking around midday when the maximum is supposed to be and then check again before you leave on your hunt.

The Icelandic Weather Page is another reliable option. In the upper-right box, you can see the kp number. This number indicates the strength of the geomagnetic storm from the sun. In Iceland, you can see the auroras at kp 2&3, and preferable more. Check our Northern Lights Guide for more info.

Bookmark the website before your Iceland Trip so you can have it with you always.

5. Stay up to date with the Weather and Road Conditions

Checking the weather and road conditions is absolutely essential when traveling in Iceland! These websites can save your life.

Winter Driving Conditions Iceland Honest
Driving in Winter Conditions in Iceland by Honest Iceland Guide Steffi

Please bookmark this website and check it daily. By clicking on the yellow Iceland map, you find out if there are any road closures or snow-covered roads. Monitoring this page is key for staying safe on your trip.

You can also find web cameras and latest travel into there.

On this website, you find eventual hazards and warnings. Essential for your Iceland Trip.

Not only food for Northern Lights forecast, the official website of the Icelandic Met Office tells you wind speeds, eventual storm warnings, glacier floods, volcanic activities, and much more.

6. No need for cash/ exchanging money

There is this saying: We don’t have cash, but we got have ash. A reference to all the volcanic eruptions especially the ones after the financial crash. There is no reason to carry much cash with you. You can pay with cards everywhere (except for the bus see number 3.).

Contactless payment is highly appreciated now during the pandemic. Most Icelandic kids don’t even seem to know cash so if you encounter a youngster in bonus searching for change, don’t be surprised.

Iceland is highly developed if it comes to card payment and there are lots of card machines everywhere.

7. Winter has very little daylight

Because the earth’s axis is tilted, Iceland received less sunlight during the winter month when the south pole tilts towards the sun. As a result, Icelandic winter comes with shorter days and less daylight.

Fill up your Vitamin D storage before you visit. But also consider how the darkness will affect your travel plans. The timeframe in which you can see attractions and sights is quite short.

Winter in Iceland dos
Ice Cave in Iceland, Photo by surangaw

Traveling around the island on road 1 can be difficult because of snowstorms and road closure, so be sure to check conditions before you start your trip.

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The darkest month are November, December, and January. On the bright side, it improves your chances to see Northern Lights. And you can visit most Ice Caves that from in the wintertime only.

8. There are no Northern Lights in the summertime

While the winter is dark with very little daylight, in Icelandic summer we get our full 24-hour daylight. Therefore, you will not be able to see auroras in the sky. However, you will see puffins and other migratory birds, the midnight sun with its amazing sunsets/ sunrises, and be able to camp without freezing too much.

Every season has its benefits, but for your Honest Iceland Guides, summer is much easier to manage. The days are long and full of opportunities. On some days we even get to wear shorts/ a summer dress.

If you come to Iceland mainly to see auroras dancing in the sky, you should plan your visit between October and March.

9. Alcohol is expensive and only sold at the government-owned stores

We cover this topic in THIS blog post. Basically, you best buy alcohol at the duty-free at the airport before entering the country. Otherwise, you can only buy it at the so-called Vínbúðin.

So if you want to enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer without going out, then Vínbúðin is the only place. Beers will range from 2 to 4 USD instead of 7 – 10 USD you will pay at a restaurant or bar. Vínbúðin has a good selection of Icelandic Beer: Borg Brugghús, Einstök Ölgerð, The Brothers Brewery, Steðji, and Kaldi are a few good Icelandic breweries.

10. You need to shower naked before entering public swimming pools

Because Icelandic pools use little chlorine and other chemicals, everyone should be as clean as possible before entering the pools.

Don’t worry, no one around you cares how you look naked because everyone takes their clothes off. It is not weird and very common for everyone who lives here.

We don’t really think about it as something peculiar, so you shouldn’t either. Most places have private showers that you can use if you are feeling uncomfortable.

Enjoy your Iceland Trip!


Steffi & Aðalbjörn
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