Ultimate Guidebook: To ICELAND
Iceland Air – I know a lot of people fly WOW Air to Iceland which is a budget friendly airline which is a perfect embodiment of a “no-frills” airline. So if you want to save a few coins & don’t mind having a Spirit Airlines equivalent flight experience then by all-means go with them. I actually will be flying with them for a future trip so I will check back in to let you guys know how it goes. I flew with Icelandair all for a mere $352. They allow a stopover in Iceland for up to 7 days, COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE! So in retrospect all I paid for was my trip to Sweden. This is all a strategic move Iceland has made to get tourism rates up, which they have been very successful at in the last couple of years. Icelandair was a pleasant flight experience. I flew from Detroit to JFK on United then JFK to Rekjavik on Icelandair. No bag fees, nice legroom, great customer service. The only slight disadvantage I could think of is their lack of food service aboard. This wasn’t an issue for me as I took a red-eye flight & was sleep 80% of the time & almost always eat before I get on a flight.
Keflavik Airport & Transport to Rekjavik – If you are staying in Iceland, then the airport won’t be as much as a hassle but otherwise be prepared for the hustle & bustle. I got to the airport at 9am & couldn’t check into my hostel until 2pm. So I lodged at the airport for a couple of hours. It was a little chaotic. This could be attributed to the fact that Keflavik is a transient’s airport & there is just not enough space to accommodate the traffic. Not enough space to sit, eat or even go to the restroom. They do have a lot of nice restaurants at the airport & also free wi-fi. My favorite spot was Joe & The Juice mainly because they play non-stop trap music through the day. Enjoyable but again crowded. As far as transportation, you can catch the Flybus to and from the airport for a mere $50. It is clean and convenient and leaves every 30 minutes. There is heat and wi-fi on the bus as well. You will see the Flybus kiosk/desk as you are exiting the airport and this is where you can buy your tickets. The bus dropped me off right at my hostel. Took about 45 minutes to get there. You can also take the Airport Express which is the same concept.
Currency/ATM – I did not exchange currency in Iceland. I recommend you don’t either. Iceland is pretty plastic friendly. You can use your credit card almost everywhere. I even remember one of our tour guides saying he hasn’t seen real cash in so long because everyone uses their cards in Iceland. In any case though, never exchange your money at the currency exchange desks. They charge you ridiculous rates. Go to the ATM instead & save some money & save some time on waiting. Money is useful to have for tipping although tipping in most European countries is not common, especially Iceland. It is literally frowned upon as the tax & gratuity is almost always already included anyways. Some people feel better if they have a little bit of the local currency on them though. So use your discretion but I got by fine with just my card.
Communication – My T-mobile plan allows me to send free text messages & I communicate verbally over Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. Wi-Fi is also very easy to find in Iceland. Even the tour buses had free Wi-Fi.
Lodging – I suggest doing an Airbnb and securing that in advance. Like well in advance! I tried booking an Airbnb 2 months prior & most were already booked. The cheapest I could find was one for $70/per night & it was inside a luxury tent in the wilderness. No ma’am. This was a huge mistake on my part so I opted for a hostel instead. Now hostels are great to stay in, especially in Iceland, if you want to save a little money. I am a person who doesn’t really care for certain luxuries but I value privacy. So if I could get a room with just a bed that’s all mine, I’ll be fine. So hostels aren’t always my first choice. In this case though even the hostels were almost fully booked. I had to go with a 16-bed hostel/mixed at Kex Hostel. It was in a very convenient location in Rekjavik with a very nice atmosphere & I met some amazing people in the process. Hotel rooms were astronomical prices but if you enjoy that luxury, by any means, do what suits your boujee-ness.
Excursions – Since I was based in the capital city of Reykjavik, it was very easy to do day trips. First, I would recommend doing a free walking tour of Rekjavik. Great way to see the city. On the tour, take a stop at the Phallological Museum. It’s the only one in the world & very interesting may I add. For day excursions, I used BusTravel Iceland & GrayLine Tours. Booked both through Viator. The Bustravel Tour was a Southern Iceland tour which was very nice. It included waterfalls, glaciers, volcanos & historical sites in Iceland. The Grayline Tour group was the company who took me to the Blue Lagoon. Very convenient experience as the buses left every hour. Both of these tours picked & dropped me off right from my hostel in a smaller bus then took us to the bus terminal where we boarded a bigger bus. Bustravel & Grayline have a nice northern lights tour as well on the nights that visibility is high. Would be amazing to experience that. I recommend booking all tours through Viator as they have very good customer service if your tour falls through. If you are an adventure enthusiasts, go on a Silfra Dive between the continents or go on an exclusive volcano tour. Most people do the Golden Circle tour but that tour didn’t seem too exciting to me but it is a popular one so if you have time, put it on your list. Excursions were very expensive so many people recommended renting a car & doing the excursions on your own. That’s one way to do it especially if you aren’t solo. If you love Game of Thrones, they also have an excursion dedicated to this on Bustravel Iceland.
The Blue lagoon excursion was great. The Lagoon is man-made & an experience to witness. If you opt for the Blue Lagoon excursion, book online at least a few days in advance as the Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most visited attraction which means tickets sell out quick. I’d say go before 3pm before the “tours” start. There are several other geo-pools u can try in Iceland. Secret lagoon is one & it’s less touristy, crowded and less expensive. If you rent a car, this may be a better option.
Food – Food is overall one of your biggest expenses in Iceland. Bring snacks to offset the cost or do a quick grocery store run & cook for yourself. Many hostels & hotels also serve breakfast for a fee much cheaper than what the restaurants will charge you. Everything I had in Iceland may have been expensive but it was well worth it as everything was delicious & fresh. When in Rekjavik, search along the main street and you should be able to find something that fits your fancy. Look up food suggestions on Tripadvisor before you go to make your life a little easier. You can find places to eat traditional Icelandic food (fermented shark/whale and all-things fish) but I am extremely allergic to fish so I wasn’t interested. But if you are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, you won’t have a problem finding food that adheres to your dietary restrictions. You can drink the water straight from the tap too. It is perfectly safe and clean. Pure Icelandic water straight from the springs. Places also tend to close early, so try to seek dinner as early as you can or make reservations in adavance.
Durum – Breakfast, brunch, & lunch place with a variety.
Bravo – Right on the main street, Lauvagenour. Great atmosphere & cozy.
Grillmarkadurinn aka Grill Market – A nice, fancy restaurant. Try the Meat Gourmet (lamb, duck, beef) with potatoes & greens.
Eldsmidjan – Great pizza spot. They have a lunch special. Medium 2 toppings for $16. But try the Rustica. Very good.
Braud & Co. – I had the best cinnamon roll here amongst other pastries. Iceland loves their pastries, dairy, and coffee.
HAPPY HOUR: You MUST download the app Reykjavik Appy Hour so that you can find where the affordable drinks are for happy hour. This is especially good if you do a day where you explore Reykjavik the city. There are some pretty dope spots to have a drink in Reykjavik.
- Iceland is a ridiculously clean country.
- Take a South Coast Excursion. Hike the waterfalls, go to the black sand beach and marvel at the beauty.
- When you buy your souvenirs try to do it at 1 place if you spend more than 6000ISK (around 60USD) at select giftshops you turn your receipt in at the airport and get the taxes back.
- Be prepared to travel 1-2 hours just to get to most tour locations outside of Rekjavik. I strongly suggest that you pack a lunch and/or snacks for the tours that average from 5-10 hours. This will save you a lot of money. If you stay at a hostel, pay the breakfast buffet fee & pack a deli sandwich from the buffet.
- Everything in Iceland is about 3-4 times what you would expect to pay in the US. Budget accordingly.
- There are lots of Americans and people from the UK visiting Iceland. Those two regions make up about 60% of the tourists to the country. In this case, take the opportunity to meet new people.
- Iceland is the safest country in the world. The crime rate is almost non-existent here.
- Be open-minded & explore.