20+ Iceland Travel Tips

Updated: December 2016

Ever since we returned from Iceland I have heard from so many people that are interested in visiting Iceland but aren’t sure where to start planning. Unlike visiting Paris or Rome where everyone is familiar with the main attractions, Iceland is a bit of an unknown. I have so much to share about planning an itinerary, what to pack, reviews of different activities, and the best ages to take kids to Iceland, but first I wanted to start with a few tips for traveling to Iceland. Here are our best Iceland travel tips.

20+ Iceland Travel Tips

20 Iceland travel tips -- what you need to know before traveling to Iceland.

  • Plan early!! Seriously. Hotels book up at least six months in advance.
  • Don’t bother exchanging much cash, if any. You can use a credit card for nearly everything. The only things we paid cash for were tolls (a tunnel on the Ring Road north of Reykjavik) and tips for tour guides.
  • If you have a credit card with a chip and PIN, makes sure you know your PIN, you will need it to get gas.
  • If you purchase souvenirs greater than 6,000 ISK, you should get a form to get a refund on your VAT (value-added tax). Even if you don’t, it is easy to take care of this at the airport. BEFORE you check your luggage, look for the signs for the VAT refund office or Arion bank, fill out the form and drop it off. They may need to see the goods before approving it but chances are, they will just ask if you want a credit or a check — it is simple and saves you money.
  • Tipping is not required, but appreciated. The service and VAT is included in the price, but I know when I’ve tipped, especially our tour guides, it was always welcomed with a smile.
  • If you don’t have a chip and PIN card, stop for gas near Reykjavik, Selfoss or another large town and buy a gas prepaid card because many gas stations around the country are unmanned and if you don’t have a prepaid card or chip and PIN credit card you are out of luck. N1 seems to be the most common brand so I would suggest an N1 prepaid card.
  • Most of the gas stations with convenience stores and facilities close at 9 or 10pm so fuel up early if you are making a long drive.
  • It is very difficult to find a public restroom after the gas stations close so be prepared! The landscape is also wide open so it is hard to find a bush to go behind. 🙂
  • You won’t see many cop cars but there are traffic cameras so watch out! We got a speeding ticket and we couldn’t have been going very much over the limit at the time. We found out from an email from the car rental agency who also tacked on their own penalty fee — not cool.
  • Pack protein bars and snacks. When you are driving through the country you may not see a place to eat for an hour or more.
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41 Comments on “20+ Iceland Travel Tips

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  1. Great tips and a much needed post since as you said it’s not like visiting Rome or Paris. I have to say that after visiting Europe it would be really refreshing to be in a place that hasn’t succumbed to American fast food and Starbucks!

    Love these practical tips for visiting Iceland! I’ve been considering a trip there with their low air fares!

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m filing them away for the trip that we hope to take to Iceland soon!

    These are fantastic very practical tips! I haven’t been, but would like to go. Now I know careful planning (especially with gas and kid-friendly meals) is in order

      Definitely careful planning! More on that coming soon.

    I was just looking at some crazy deals on flights to Iceland! Thinking about a quick trip there, no kids though:)

      The deals on wow are great if you can get them. It is an amazing place with or without kids!

    I love a good road trip AND an exotic destination. Iceland is both! Thanks for the tips!

    Great list of tips, I am dying to go to Iceland and determined to make it happen soon, but as you say, it is a less obvious destination that requires a little more research and planning!

      I just finished up a nearly 3000 word post on all my research and planning so stay tuned!

    Iceland is definitely on the bucket list!

    We loved our visit to Iceland! We did a home exchange that included a car. And the people who owned the home told us all the best places. Even got us passes for a day at The Blue Lagoon. We say, MANY waterfalls, and road the Icelandic Ponies! Great Trip!

      Sounds fabulous! We loved our time there too.

      How did you go about arranging the home exchange? How long did you spend in Iceland?

        We didn’t do an exchange, just rented an apartment and cabin through Homeaway.com and airbnb.com. We were there for 6 days total.

      We are looking for a vacation rental home (not exchange) with car for fall 2015. Any suggestions? This will be our 2nd trip so we want to focus on one area, plus fall is probably not the best time to redo the circle road!

        We stayed out in Geysir, where it is still accessible in the fall. Plus in the fall you could probably see the northern lights. The place we stayed didn’t have a car though.

    Great Tips! We hope to make it to Iceland next year so I’m saving this as a reference!
    Thanks!

      I hope it helps, much more to come that might help with your planning

    What a great list full of fantastic suggestions! Thank you for putting it together, especially the suggestions to buy prepaid cards, packing snacks, and of course obeying the speed limit.

    My husband told me last week that he wants our next trip to be to Iceland. I don’t see that happening due to timing, but we are seriously looking at planning a trip next May (late) or June. Thanks for all your tips. I’ll look forward to hearing more of your experience in Iceland.

      June is a great time to go. In May a few more roads are still closed due to snow.

        We went the end of May clockwise and found it busier on the Golden Circle after June 1 as their school is out May 31 and the tourists on cruise ships come after June 1. One suggestion is to go the end of May but go counter clockwise if you travel the Ring Road around the whole country as we did. Highly recommend doing the whole Ring Road!

          Great tip, thanks! I wish we had more time to do the whole ring road.

    Iceland is totally on my bucket list!!!

    I am leaving for a trip to Iceland next week, and would love to know your favorite things you did while there. Hurry and post the itinerary tips!

      It is going up today! Favorites are hard to pick but I would say dog sledding, the waterfalls, reynisfjara, jokursalon, and dyrhaloey.

    We completed 1275 miles in an RV around Iceland in August and would definitely recommend that trip. Having the RV allowed us to vary the trip by how we were progressing and take a few unplanned side trips based on recommendations of people we met without having to stress about getting to a specific location each night. Plus we only had to unpack & pack once 🙂

    My top picks are Jokulsarlon Lagoon (iceberg lagoon), Godafoss, lava caving, Lake Myvatn (worth a full day or more), Reynisfjara (“black sand beach”) and riding the Islandic horse through lava fields!

      That sounds fantastic! How long were you there? I definitely see the advantage of the RV!

    Me and my partner are going to Iceland for 14 days in Sept, we’re thinking of hiring a car and travelling around, would you recommend agaisnt this? Also is it expensive in iceland?

      It is very easy to rent a car and drive around Iceland, especially if you stick to the Ring Road. Just buy a map! It is expensive for sure, although there are plenty of hostels, no frills guest houses and lots of people camp. Plan on spending about $12-15 on a mediocre burger and if you want a sit down dinner, much more. It is worth it though!

    We just returned from a quick 24 hours in Iceland, loved it so much! Would love to return in the summer and explore a lot more, great tips!

    thanks for the tips. We go on 26 June for one week, and we can’t wait. Got some good advice from your site – and for things I had not even thought about. Thanks again

      Have an amazing time! I’m glad you found the info helpful!

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