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The 11 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Iceland

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

As our 35th country with kids, Iceland stole our hearts! Everywhere you turn, you are greeted with gorgeous scenery and endless outdoor activities.  Here are 11 important tips when traveling to Iceland:

  1. The language. Although beautiful to listen to, Icelandic is an extremely difficult language to learn and understand. But no need to worry, everyone speaks English.  In fact most people speak perfect English, which isn’t the case in many other European countries.  We did feel some slight bias at times as foreigners, especially in smaller towns, but most are very kind and welcoming.
  2. There aren’t many people outside of Reykjavik.  According to one tour guide, the human population of Iceland is about 360,000 with the sheep population exceeding 500,000! Most of the country is open and sparsely populated.

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  1. Pack some groceries for your road trip.  Because of tip #2, restaurants and places to eat can be tricky to find.  It’s ALWAYS a good idea to have some snacks that can substitute for a meal. Especially in the summertime, when it’s light until midnight!  I liked to stop at grocery stores in the little cities and stock up on fruit, nuts, yogurt drinks, etc.
  2. Get a hot spot with your car rental.  We rented our car with Blue Car Rental and opted to add on a 4G hot spot.  This was a lifesaver!  We had fantastic connections all over the country and could make our work calls, send emails, and post while we drove!
    Check out the best car rental rates in Iceland here.
  3. Visit the hot springs.  Icelanders love their hot springs!  You can find amazing natural pools in almost every town across the country.  There are a few things to note about Iceland’s hot springs:
    1. You’ll HAVE to shower naked before entering.  You can put on your swimsuit after your shower.
    2. Locker rooms are open, private rooms are nonexistent. They own their naked bodies!  Don’t be the shy American, it’s completely normal there, so just own it!
    3. After your swim, shower again in the shower room, dry off in the dry room and then get dressed in the locker area.

Check out my post on The Blue Lagoon and other popular hot springs near Reykjavik here.

  1. Driving the Ring Road.  Road tripping through Iceland is extremely popular!  It’s easy to do and a fantastic way to see the country.  Here are a few things you should know about driving in Iceland:
    1. You’ll be on two-lane highways almost 100% of the time.  
    2. Some tunnels in the northeast go down to one-lane.  Pay attention to the signs that indicate which direction has the pull-off areas and which direction yields to the other.
    3. Fill up on gas and snacks when you can.  There can be very long stretches between towns.
    4. While the sun stays up late in the summer, most places still close around 8-9 pm.  Be sure to check into your hotel by then or call and make arrangements before the desk closes.  Not many hotels have 24 hour service outside of Reykjavik.
    5. Traffic lights flash a quick yellow light before turning green. This is quite helpful when driving a manual car so you can get in gear! (Most vehicles in Iceland are manual transmission; you will need to specify with your rental company if you prefer automatic.)
    6. Iceland can get VERY windy. In fact, they warn you that your car doors can be severely damaged by the wind. Use caution when entering and exiting your vehicle.
    7. You cannot go off-road unless you have a 4×4 vehicle. We did not have one and there were times I would have liked to venture off-road. Remember this when booking your car and specify in your reservation.
  1. Iceland is expensive.  Beware of this fact before arriving.  Everything is expensive, especially food. Expect to pay anywhere between $15-40 per plate when eating at a restaurant. A gallon of milk is around $5.50. 
  2. The most popular foods in Iceland:
    1. The fish in Iceland is fresh and absolutely amazing.
    2. Lamb is the staple ingredient of most Icelandic foods. Smoked lamb, or Skyr, hangikjöt, is one famous lamb dish here.
    3. Skyr is a thick tangy yogurt, eaten in many forms.
  1. Bathrooms. Bathrooms in Iceland can be a bit difficult to find. Sometimes you have to pay to use bathrooms, especially around the tourist attractions.  (They do accept credit cards.) Make sure to check for toilet paper before you go!
  2. Pack warm layers.  Although we were told it’s usually clear in the summer, we did have a few days of fog and rain.  It’s best to pack layers and be prepared. Keep layers out and easily accessible in the car.  Items you may want pack for your Iceland trip include:
    1. Waterproof rain coat. (This one is great for men, This one for women, and this one for kids.)
    2. Sweatshirt or jacket. (A few of our favorites include this women’s hoodie, this cozy windbreaker, and this men’s pullover. )
    3. Long sleeve shirts. (We used these gender neutral shirts for the kids and I loved this one for me.)
    4. Pants. (These fleece leggings were perfect for Grace and these Levi’s were so comfortable for me)
    5. Closed toed shoes.  Waterproof hiking boots are best! (For young kids, these hiking boots were awesome. For men, these and women, these.)
    6. Hats and gloves. We love this set!
    7. Swimsuit and flip flops for the hot springs. (We love these matching family swimsuits!)
  1. Book your stay in advance.  Although there are plenty of place to stay around the Ring Road, many accommodations will either sell out in advance or close their lobby whenever they want to.  Don’t try to “wing it” unless you are OK with sleeping in the car.
    Find the best deals on hotels around Iceland here.
  2. Bring car chargers and other road trip items. You may choose to do what we did and drive all night long.  Bring items that will help you feel the most comfortable on your trip.  Car chargers are very important. You’ll be using your phone a lot to navigate Google Maps, take photos, etc. We love this charger.
  3. Don’t forget your international wall adapter. This is a packing must for all international travel. Power outlets are unique in each country. This adapter is our go-to and offers adaption options for every continent!

Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and you’re sure to enjoy your trip by following these 11 simple tips! If you’ve been to Iceland, leave a comment below with what tips you found useful!

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Book a flight for your family on Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find affordable hotels in Iceland from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more about Iceland with fun family activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need a car? Rent one on Expedia Rental Cars

Get your family’s travel insurance from World Nomads

Want to have a photo shoot while traveling? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best family memories while traveling with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out other travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

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