It’s now been two weeks since I was in the glorious, gorgeous and world wonder-filled wonderland of Iceland. I’m still reeling from this trip, so I felt it necessary to reflect and share some pointers for those who want to follow in my footsteps. If you follow these tips, you’ll make the most of your money, make your friends want some peanut butter for all that jeally, and hopefully leave behind slightly less smelly footsteps (read on, I’ll explain).
Krona > USD Conversion Rate. I had more trouble understanding the Krona to Dollar conversion than any other currency I’ve used. 1,000 Krona is about $7.50. It’s not easy to get bills that are 37,650 krona and quickly determine how much you’re spending (about $28) – and it’s easier to just keep spending (when in Rome, right?).
ICELAND IS SO EXPENSIVE. Or is it? We heard this and read this over and over in preparation for the trip. And you’ll be pleased to know, we strongly disagreed. While the quick-serve food was a little pricey, quality dining was pretty on par with what we were used to in Chicago (and the food was damn good too). We recommend eating breakfast at your hotel, bringing granola bars and eating dinner at one of their fine restaurants. For a night cap, hit up any of the bars/pubs for great Happy Hour specials (some of which include discounted appetizers).
Cash-free is the way to be. We stopped at an ATM to pull out some cash just in case, but it was totally unnecessary. Everywhere you go they accept credit cards, so save yourself the ATM fee and any other international fees from your bank and just use a credit card that doesn’t charge an international fee.
Tax-Free. I wish I would have read something about this before our trip! Iceland is tax-free, duty-free on all retail for international visitors. That money you spent on souvies just got reduced by up to 15%. When retailers ask you if you want a receipt, say yes! They’ll give you an envelope – its contents include everything you need to get your monies back. If you’ve got time after clearing airport security, you can stop by the tax-free desk and exchange right there for cash or to have the money returned to the credit card used. Note: they do charge a fee for cash, but it was nominal (I think 200 krona).
I don’t speak any Icelandic? While we were in the plane en route to Iceland, I said to Katy, “I literally don’t know a lick of Icelandic. Like, really. I can’t even say hi.” And it was not an issue whatsoever. Due to the ample amounts of U.S. and U.K. tourists they receive, they’re all very well trained at the English language (so well, you could hardly hear accents). Fun fact: we were told that Icelanders prefer that you just speak English to them, they hate to hear you butcher their Icelandic language. So speak freely (in English).
Sulphur water is gross. Icelanders love their spring water – we had some serious ‘PREACH’ moments when we were told that the water is 100% safe to drink so don’t waste your money or the earth’s natural resources on bottled water. I’m a nature junkie and I just couldn’t do it. We made many a stops at the 10/11 store to buy “real” filtered spring water. If you’re hitting the night scene, do this in advance – you’ll thank me in the morning.
Wi-Fi keeps your friends FOMO strong. Ample Wi-Fi means you can brag your hearts out on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Your friends will be rightfully jeally and you’ll have a pretty digital scrapbook of all the mems that you won’t ever want to forget.
When they say be ready at 9 a.m., they really mean 8:25 a.m. We booked numerous tours for our trip. We quickly learned that we didn’t perceive start times in the same way. For the first three tours we went on, the bus arrived at our hotel to pick us up at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time. The drivers were usually less than thrilled that they had to wait on us, and we were more than confused by how we were messing it up every time. We adjusted and just started going down to the lobby and hour before the scheduled time. That seemed to work much better for both parties.
Jet Lag. The time difference between Chicago and Reykjavik was 6 hours. It was really, super-duper hard for me to adjust on this trip. When we traveled to Italy, I was able to sleep a bit on the plane and start my day with the Venetians. I can’t explain it – but my body was just saying “hell to the no.” Try to be well rested before you go so that you can be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout your trip. Who wants to waste a day with a flat tail?
Pack extra socks. We did a lot of walking on our trip, a lot of walking in Sorel snow boots. I never knew smelly socks until I unpeeled mine off my feet after our first day trekking around Reykjavik. Take my word for it, pack more. Then pack a few extra pairs.
Walk right, pass left? Walk left, pass right? Remember earlier when I mentioned that they have slews of tourists from the U.S. and U.K.? Well, ‘nuff said. We walk right, they walk left – we all walk directly into one another. Whether walking down the street, through Thingvellir National Park or down the stairs to the Gullfoss Waterfall this was a complete disaster and I have no advice. It’s amazing how quickly disorganization becomes frenzy.
<Insert Relaxed Gasp> The Blue Lagoon Tips
Forgot your swimsuit? Didn’t pack a towel or robe? Don’t you fret. I forgot my bathing suit on our first trip and had to rent one. It was about 800 krona ($6.50) and every bit as beautiful as the one your grandma wears to her pool in her retirement village in Florida. You won’t care – you’re at the Blue Lagoon. You’ll definitely want to rent a robe – it’s nice for when you get out of the water for lunch or dinner and to walk around the locker room. A towel isn’t totally necessary, but you do get it with the premium package if you chose to do so.
Wash that Sulphur Right out of Your Hair. The natural Sulphur in the Blue Lagoon’s water can make your hair a little, eh, crunchy. The staff encourages you put your hair up and lather in some conditioner (which is provided) before going in for a dip. If you’re picky about hair products, I recommend you bring some of your own. With ample conditioner, my hair was back to its silky, shiny and a little bit fuzzy self in no time.
Craving a 2nd Visit to the Blue Lagoon? The tour companies have made it incredibly easy to visit the Lagoon when heading to/from the Keflavik airport. They recommend the stop whether or not you plan to get in the water – but I will seriously judge you if you go to the Lagoon and don’t get in. You will seriously be missing out.