Today we’re talking about 10 things that you need to know before your first trip to Iceland.
I get a lot of questions every day from my readers in the form of email, direct messages, Facebook messages, Facebook group messages. So I thought it would be really easy to make a video, and just help make your trip really easy, because that’s what I’m all about here – trying to make it really easy for you to plan your trip.
The number one thing that you need to know is that it is super easy to get around with English. So, obviously the locals speak Icelandic, but English is taught in the school system, and so everyone knows it. I say that as a very general overstatement, but I’d say at least the places that you’re planning on touring to you’re going to have no problem speaking English.
I’ve had a few readers that tell me that they want to learn some Icelandic for their visit, and more power to you. But, did you know that Icelandic is in one of the top five most difficult languages in the entire world to learn? I’ve tried, and it’s super hard. I mean, like I said more power to you, but just don’t go out of your way. Moving on.
Speaking of speaking, learn how to say the basic words. Now I just told you to not learn Icelandic, but there are some very common words that get mispronounced, and I want to clarify those just really, really quickly. Number Vik. So Vik is the town that is in south Iceland where the Black Sand Beach is. Right here. A lot of people are traveling to Vík on their trip, but they say it Vik. So it’s not Vic, it’s Vik. Usually that rule applies when there is a I with a dash over it. That means that you have to make the I an E sound.
Another one that gets people often is Snaefellsnes. Snaefellsnes is the peninsula in west Iceland, right here. I have heard all of the things when it comes to pronouncing this peninsula, including Snuffleupagus, snaffle. You get the picture. I know it’s a hard word, but now you know. Snaefellsnes.
Next up is Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is one of the big famous waterfalls in south Iceland, so it’s very likely that you’re going to be seeing this waterfall. A lot of people are wanting to say Seljalandsfoss. Which is close. I mean, relatively speaking, but the J is soft. So you say it with a -yah. Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss. So easy.
Another famous waterfall, but not so easy to pronounce is Gullfoss. How do you explain this one? So first of all, Gullfoss is the waterfall that is in the Golden Circle of Iceland. Right around here. The confusing part is that the double L in Gullfoss, is pronounced like you’re spitting out of the back of your mouth. So instead of saying Gullfoss, or Gullfoss, you say Gullfoss. There you have it.
I think what I’ll do next is make an entire video about how to pronounce the most common Icelandic words. That seems like a normal thing to do. Okay, I’ll do that next. Come back another time for that one. Obviously I’m not the person to be taking Icelandic lessons from…
The third thing that you’re going to want to know, if you’re coming to Iceland for the first time, is that Iceland is expensive. I don’t mean like kind of expensive, I mean like really expensive. This might be a little bit of common knowledge, but Reykjavik actually last year was named the number one most expensive city in the world. I don’t know how they do those statistics, but I believe it because it is so expensive.
I think a lot of people kind of know that it’s expensive, but not how much. Things like food, alcohol, souvenir, all of that stuff is really, really just going to add up quickly. So just know super expensive.
The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krona. As of this recording 1,000 Icelandic Krona is about 10 US dollars. Prices are going to look really high when you go the grocery store for the first time. There are a lot of money converting apps, so if you are in doubt then you can just download that before you go and make it really, really easy for your conversion.
It’s so easy to get by in Iceland by using a credit card. This is the all time debate, but I’m serious. I have traveled to a lot of countries and Iceland is by far the most credit card friendly company that I have ever been to. Now when I say credit card I mean credit card or debit card. So basically not cash. If you have a credit card number with a chip in it, then it makes your life really easy, because all you have to do is stick that in, use your pin number. No signing, no percent required. This especially comes in handy at gas stations. Of course, if you’re at a restaurant, or anywhere else, yeah credit card is just fine.
I know a lot of people are wanting to have cash on them. I recommend exchanging at the airport. I don’t necessarily know if it’s going to be the cheapest conversion, but at least it’s going to be really, really easy and you don’t have to run around the city trying to look for a bank that’s opened. Things that you would absolutely need cash for include showers if you’re camping, laundry, and then finally to tip your tour guides.
One really nice thing about Iceland is that there is no tipping. Yeah. Woo, woo. This includes bars, restaurants, coffee shops, you name it. I do know that some people find their tour guide to be very helpful and enjoyable, so they’ll tip their tour guide, but of course this is never expected by the tour guides, only appreciated.
Get out and explore the country. Iceland is incredibly beautiful, and a lot of people are coming to Iceland and only spending time in Reykjavik, or doing the Golden Circle, and I just don’t think that that’s enough. Now of course, I can appreciate if you’re only doing a quick stopover, or you just want to get a taste for Iceland.
But if you have the time I really, really recommend driving at least around Ring Road, traveling into the Westfjords, doing a trip to the Highlands, or any way that you can get a little more exposure to Iceland. The nature is what makes Iceland so incredible. So I really believe in order to get the best experience you should rent a car and do a road trip.
Drink the water. I’m talking like Icelandic water is like the best in the world. Oh my gosh it’s so delicious. I love it. I mean, this includes right out of the tap at your hotel, also when you’re hiking. Yeah, those streams that are coming down from the glacier, that is the most delicious water you’ll ever have. It’s cold, it’s clear, it’s clean, it’s so refreshing. So bring yourself a reusable water bottle, and fill up as often as you can, because you will not get water that good again.
Plan ahead. Now I know what you’re thinking, Jeannie, you are an Iceland travel planner of course you would say that. No. I say that because Iceland is really, really unpredictable. In terms of weather, and road conditions, and all of the things. So you really don’t want to be risking things like not having accommodation planned, hitchhiking, or anything like that. So I know that a lot of you are adventurers, and I love that about you, but Iceland is a country that really requires a lot of planning.
My last tip is really important friends. Be safe. I say this with so much love in my heart for all of you. Iceland is a dangerous country. It’s dangerous because, there are so many opposite forces of nature. You have glaciers, you have massive waterfalls, you have volcanoes, you have beaches with gigantic waves, and a lot of places also aren’t the best about having things roped off, or having signs around. That’s something that the country is working on doing, but sometimes it’s just best to use your own judgment.
Tourists start showing up more and more in the Icelandic news with injuries or even deaths. It breaks my heart to know that some people are traveling to Iceland and having a bad experience. So really when I say be safe, it’s for your own protection. I want you to have the best trip ever, and that means being safe, being respectful of the nature, and just being smart and having fun.
Those are my 10 tips for first time travelers in Iceland. If you guys have any questions on something that I didn’t cover please leave them in the comments below. I’d be happy to answer your questions, and maybe even make another video if we need to. Also, please subscribe to my channel, because there are way more helpful tip videos coming your way. I’ll see you next week, and as always happy planning.