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10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

What’s On, in addition to being an amazing monthly magazine about Iceland and the best website on the internet, is also a tourist information and booking center in Reykjavík, Iceland. Working on the floor there, booking people on tours and directing them around town, here are some random and completely subjective travel tips that keep coming up from me, your local expert in Reykjavík.

#1 Sleep in

Sun - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

Icelanders are not the earliest risers.. Stores in the downtown tend to open up at 10 or 11 at the earliest. I think it’s because we’re on GMT, but actually we should be an hour or two ahead. You’re on vacation, no need to work so hard.

#2 Don’t take a Taxi from the airport,
stick with the bus

Bus - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

A taxi costs easily 15.000 ISK, the airport bus costs 2.500 with a drop off at your hotel and takes maybe a half an hour longer. Unless you’re travelling in a group of like 6, in which case take the cab and also check out item number 10.

#3 You don’t have to tip…

Tips - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

…but you can if you want to. I mean nobody hates free money, center?

#4 The price is the price

Kolaportið - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

Icelanders don’t haggle, as a matter of fact they get uncomfortable if you try. That being said, they might get so thrown off that you succeed in lowering the price, but they’ll think you’re really rude and difficult.

The only exception is the Kolaportið flea market, where it’s rude if you DON’T haggle.

#5 Christmas is the Season, too

Christmas - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

High season is June-August, but it’s increasingly popular to come around Christmas and New Years. You definitely want to book your car ahead of time in these periods, and probably your accommodation too. In the winter, a lot of the smaller “farmer’s accommodations” are closed for the season.

#6 For cheaper times of year

Northern Lights - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

Think about November or February for Northern Lights, and May or September for OK weather but cheaper prices.

#7 Drinking is serious business
and takes serious planning!

Beer - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

You can only get alcohol at the liquor store. This is closed on Sundays. Drinks are costly at pubs and bars, so Icelanders tend to pre-party to front-load, and show up downtown blazingly drunk after midnight, to party till the next morning.

#8 Don’t change money till you get to Iceland

Icelandic Money - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

You get a better exchange rate. I think this is because in 2008 our economy crashed, decreasing the value of the ISK by 50% overnight. Understandably foreign banks are reluctant to hold large amounts of ISK as a result, and charge you dearly for the service. In Iceland you change money at the banks, who do such a good job that there’s no market for local “moneychangers”.

Banks tend to be closed on the weekend though, but ATMs are easy to find and you can use your cards everywhere—literally if you want to buy a snickers bar, you can use your VISA card.

#9 Don’t miss the local pools

Swimming Pool - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

Public pools in Iceland are nothing like your gnarly foreign swimming pools. They are warm and nice and full of interesting people who talk about politics in the hot tubs…. just check it out.

Bonus tip: don’t pee in the pool. It’s gross. For more about pools, click here.

#10 In a group? Do a private tour!

Super-Jeep - 10 Icelandic travel tips from a local expert

In general, and especially for super jeeps, tours need to charge a price per seat which turns a profit even if they don’t fill the car. Hence, if you’re in a group of 5-6 or more, the price per person might be lower if you just hire the whole car and a driver. If you want price quotes or help setting this kind of thing up, just drop us a line.

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