Tips for Iceland: AKA Read This If You Don't Want to Die
Ok so after somehow making it out alive beyond the wall and surviving the attacks of the White Walkers, I have plenty of tips for anyone traveling to Iceland. You can expect these tidbits of advice to be riddled with an undertone of dramatics and sarcasm, so read them as such. But really, all jokes aside, if you choose to travel to Iceland in the winter like I did, you need to be adequately prepared so here we go.
We booked our flights through WOW Air, which sounds like a fake, sketch airline, but really it was decent enough for a nine-hour flight. There were no TVs or plugs so bring a laptop/iPad whatever for movies and buy a portable charger ahead of time.
If you do choose WOW Air, be sure to pay for bags before getting to the airport or they’ll cost so much it’ll be like giving up your first-born son.
We stayed at the Loft Hi Hostel and while it’s pricier than your average hostel, it was great. Very clean, beds didn’t make me feel like there were bed bugs all over me and there’s a bar on the roof you can start your night in. Also male only and female only dorms are an option if you don’t want to get frisky.
Iceland’s alcohol is government regulated so buy alcohol at the duty free shops in the airport before venturing into the cities. Otherwise it’s like upwards of $40 for a beer and I ain’t got time for that.
Food in Iceland is also rather pricey, so maybe try to eat granola bars and stuff to save money. I did not do this and spent around $75 a day for food, because apparently I think I’m Oprah or something, but be smarter than me.
Don’t buy bottled water. A nice Icelandic man informed me this is a huge tourist trap because Iceland’s tap water is super pure (makes sense bc all they have there is snow), so just bring a water bottle and fill it up from the sink. It’s not like Asia where you’ll suddenly grow a tape worm from swallowing their ice, you’ll be fine.
Book your Blue Lagoon tickets far in advance. We waited too long and the only times left were at night so it was like being in the ocean with no lights to guide you through the waves, again, be smarter than us.
Ladies- LATHER YOUR HAIR WITH CONDITIONER before going into the lagoon. The silica or whatever it’s called in the lagoon will fry your pretty little locks for a bit if you don’t protect them. But if you do, don’t worry, I just covered my head in the conditioner provided and left the lagoon with a shiny mane.
Remember to pack outlet converters.
Ok, so you can either choose to rent a car, or book a bus for tours to the different attractions around Iceland. We chose to rent a car… a very tiny car at that. And while I LOVED the freedom of being able to drive ourselves around, the weather outside of Reykjavik is no joke and honestly, it was super dangerous for us. So, if you do rent a car, I’d suggest getting a 4x4 instead of the Prius sized car we had. We got stuck in the snow twice and driving conditions were so sketch that I think years were taken off of my life from the stress I experienced.
If you go solo, I’d suggest booking tours because driving alone in that would be a no go.
SERRRRRIOUUUUS PRO TIP: rent a wifi box when renting your car, or find one if you don’t rent a car. The box provides unlimited wifi and you can take it with you anywhere you go and have great service. It was a true lifesaver when it came to mapping out directions and of course, posting Instagrams- only the necessities.
Since we went during winter, the attractions we saw were mainly just really pretty snow formations. But either way, definitely checkout the Golden Circle. We saw the crater, Geysir and then Gulfoss Falls. They’re all about 2 hours from Reykjavik and are worth the (terrifying) drive.
Make sure your car has spikes on the tires. These make it better to drive through the freakin arctic tundra that Iceland is. Most cars are required to have them but just check.
Bars I suggest: Lebowski Bar, definitely a tourist bar but there’s a fun drink menu, creative theme and packed dance area; Pablo Discobar- the name alone should entice you, but this spot has numerous dance floors, strobe lights and well, it was a good time; Loft Hi Hostel has a pretty popular rooftop bar, which is convenient if you stay there, and they have fun nights like Karaoke and Drag Queen competitions so can’t go wrong there. Then apparently American Bar and Kex Hostel are both good too. But we went to Kex too late and the bar was closed and American Bar was just too touristy for us, but according to others, they’re fun.
Food- like I said food is expensive, but it’s still pretty good. Their lamb soup was amazing (but, I LOVE lamb so others might disagree), and believe it or not, their hot dogs are what they’re famous for. They put this weird brown mustard and dried onions on their hot dogs and omg I think I had two a day I loved them so much. You can get them at stands along the street or at the convenience stores… both are equally as fabulous.
The temperature in Iceland is warmer than Chicago, for reference, so when walking around the city you just need a good coat and gloves, but when you journey to the Golden Circle etc, chances are it’ll be a lot windier so bring some layers and a warm hat.
If you really want to be prepared, you can get snow tracks for your shoes from Amazon which are just spikes of metal that you strap onto the bottom of your boots and help you avoid slipping as you walk. We bought them and didn’t use them once, but they’re an option anyway.
Bars don’t get going until midnight or later so pace yourself and don’t leave early.You can see Reykjavik in like half a day so don’t expect to have a ton to do in the city – see things like the church, the Harpa orchestra and then go around the different bars or museums and that’s about it. Also walk around Old Harbor, just a harbor by the water but it’s pretty with all the boats in the frozen water.
Don’t go to the Ion Adventure Hotel. Just don’t. It was a waste of money and the only “adventure” it offered was the drive to get there.
Stay in hostels and save yourself some dollars.
Alright so yeah, Iceland is known for it’s Northern Lights, right? Wrong. Apparently, the Northern Lights are really hard to see in Iceland thanks to weather conditions in the winter and winter is the best time to see them, so clearly it’s a hoax. We “saw” them our last night there and it was pretty much just a streak of clouds that looked greenish. If you want to see Northern Lights, consider Switzerland instead. We booked a tour to see them and the tour cancelled on us last minute, but if you want to see that white streak, then a tour is the way to do it since you won’t know where to drive to look for them yours
I suggest splurging and going Ice caving or something, I didn’t because I’m poor, but woulda been a fun activity to tack on.