Know before you go: Iceland edition

Iceland Aerial road on brads backpack travel blog

If you want a country that has it all, Iceland is the place to go. Stunning landscapes, incredible food, relaxing lagoons and a sense of adventure. Iceland is a place that has something for everyone. But to get the most of your experience it’s worth knowing a few things. So with that heres everything you need to know before you go to Iceland.

Shower before the Lagoons

the Secret Lagoon, oldest swimming pool in the Golden Circle, Iceland

Across the entirety of Iceland, you’ll find various pools and hot springs to take a dip into and warm your bones. Icelanders take their cleanliness very seriously though and before being allowed entry you are expected to have a full shower to wash off any chemicals or dirt you may bring in with you. A lot of the lagoons will provide body wash for you to use and remove any chemicals. I found the ones at the Sky Lagoon to be so luxurious I wish I bought a bottle home!

You don’t need cash

Money being counted

It was rare I used cash in Iceland, in fact, the only time I really had to pay with cash was when we gave our tour guide a tip at the end of the week, or when we paid our host for the drinks when we stayed in a hostel in the middle of nowhere. The rest of the time I used my Revolut card, it made me a lot less worried about my money as I knew it would be secure there. I tried to get rid of the majority of my notes quickly but I accidentally withdrew £200 instead of £60 as I got the exchange rate confused. 

It’s not as expensive as you think

Budget planner

After the words “oh wow it’s amazing there” if you tell people you’re heading to Iceland, they usually follow up with “it’s so expensive though” and they are right, it is. But that is very dependent on the activities you do and where you go. There are loads of cheaper options or alternatives. Take a look and you can find some hidden gems.

It’s cold and rainy

Rain on a deck Know before you go to Iceland

I know when we picture Iceland, it’s thick blankets of snow and clear skies. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is it’s cold the majority of the year (it is called Iceland for a reason) but they get a lot of rain in Iceland too. From May to November Reykjavik averages around 20 days of rain each month.

Summer nights stay light

Iceland Aerial road on brads backpack travel blog Know before you go to Iceland

If you visit in the summer you can expect a long day, with at some points there even being 24 hours of daylight. The sun never fully sets, if you want to experience this the best time to visit is July. From 3AM until midnight you can expect the sun to be shining. This can be dangerous though as it can throw your sleeping out of sync as there’s no indication it’s getting late. Make sure you keep an eye on the time and allow plenty of rest, but it does have the benefit of being able to see some of the natural wonders whenever you like. You won’t feel as pressured for time and will still be able to capture that amazing shot without worrying about burning daylight.

And winter daylight is short

Northern Lights on night sky Know before you go to Iceland

Just as they have the midnight sun in the summer, in winter they have eternal night. With the longest day in December only achieving 5 hours of sunlight. This can make it hard to see some sites, however the moments of light Iceland offers have some staggering views. The towns and cities compensate for the lack of sunlight by decorating with lights of their own and Christmas decorations.

Don’t buy bottled water

A plastic water bottle for travel blog Brads Backpack

Iceland as a country is very proud of its water, so proud in fact it may raise a few eyebrows if you actually pay for a bottle. Their tap water is incredibly pure and refreshing. So much so that Iceland even runs adverts for it (which are hilarious and I highly recommend watching them). So I would saw its important to know before you go to Iceland to bring a reusable water bottle!

Don’t mess with swans

Swan head

Icelandic swans are strong enough to break a man’s arm, and they won’t hesitate to do so to protect their young. If you are wearing a cast the first question anyone will ask you will be “so how did you break your arm?” And as hilarious as it would be to everyone else to have to explain that a swan did it, it’s better to just avoid that altogether and leave them in peace. 

Do know your roads

4x4 in the Snow Know before you go to Iceland

You should really know before you go to Iceland about F-Roads. These roads should only be accessed if you have a 4WD or 4×4. Most of these roads are open mid-June to the end of September, but this is subject to the weather. F-Roads can range from gravel to bumpy, to even river crossings so don’t take them lightly. Before attempting any of these make sure you research in advance what type of car that particular road needs and if your car is capable.

Do your research

Reykjavik Lighthouse with mountains Know before you go to Iceland

There is so much to see in Iceland it can be hard to fit it all in. But with an average stay length of 7 days this is plenty of time to fit in the main attractions. But still, with ever-changing weather, it’s good to remain flexible. When I visited I booked a day tour involving a volcano hike and a soak in the Blue Lagoon. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse, and they cancelled the trip. We were unable to rebook onto the Blue Lagoon and as a result, missed our chance to view it. Luckily we had done our research in advance and knew our airline had offered us a discount on the newly opened Sky Lagoon. Without missing a step we were booked and hadn’t lost any precious vacation time.

And thats the full guide! Iceland is an incredibly beautiful country and a must visit for any style of traveller. Can you think of anymore tips? Feel free to comment or email in if you have any suggestions of things to know before you go to Iceland.

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