The best holidays are planned in advance, especially to places as completely different as sub -arctic northern European island of Iceland in the Atlantic ocean. Here are some things you should know:
1. They Speak English in Iceland
Icelandic is their first language, but they learn English at school and generally enjoy practicing it while helping with directions or information.
Menus and information signs are often in English.
2. Getting Around in Iceland
The international airport is in Keflavik, but the capital and most interesting town is Reykjavik, 45 minutes drive away with the Flybus. Tell them your hotel at the Flybus desk and they will take you to it for around 12 euros.
There in no railway or metro, but the urban buses are good. Buses run from 7am to midnight. The bus drivers do not give change.
The best way to see the countryside is by hiring a car or taking an organised coach tour such as Reykjavik Excursions. Both options are expensive with car hire starting at 80 euros a day, and half day excursions from 50 euros.
3. Reyjavik: Capital of Iceland
Reykjavik is a typical frontier-style town, but with a difference. Iceland has the highest literacy rate in the world and the people are well-educated.
The city has an opera house and several museums and galleries.
There are local designer shops, and a healthy live music and contemporary art scene.
Weekend nightlife is legendary.
Local money is the Icelandic Krona (ISK). Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9.15am to 4pm. Iceland is expensive. It may be worth the money, but your hard-earned cash does not stretch that far.
5. Food in Iceland
The food is fantastic. Don’t be shocked to see Roasted Puffin with Blueberry Sauce on the menu along with Whale Steak. This is a culture where historically nothing was wasted. Food was often in short supply and the slaughtered animal was eaten in its entirety. More of a shock might be Seared Sheep’s Head which is a popular dish, and Ram’s Testicles.
Restaurants offer more traditional food too, and all prepared to a very high standard.
Surprisingly, there are 3 vegetarian restaurants in Reykjavik, also offering great dishes.
Be prepared to spend upwards of 12 euros (US$17) for lunch (unless you are happy with a hotdog) and a lot more on dinner.
6. Best Time to Vacation in Iceland
Between June and August the days are long. Very long. The sun rises around 2am and sets close to midnight, although it does not get really dark at all. This means there are more daylight hours for seeing the spectacular landscape in Iceland. Especially the volcanoes and glaciers. And whale -watching is a must.
The winter months have little light and the inland roads are closed for safety reasons.
7. Accommodation in Iceland
Accommodation should be booked in advance. There are several hotels and guesthouses in Reykjavik and Keflavik but once you are out into the countryside there is not much available and it is often booked up for the summer. If you plan to drive, the distances are long and pre-booked accommodation is essential.
Iceland offers good “sleeping bag” accommodation for young people on a tight budget. This can be in hostels, guest houses or country hotels and is more or less floor space and a shared bathroom. Again it needs to be booked in advance.
8. Water in Iceland
The hot water from the tap smells of rotten eggs. The water is geothermic, heated by molten lava which releases gases including hydrogen sulphide. Some of the modern hotels use filters which remove the smell but don’t be surprised to smell it in the shower.
The drinking water is very clean and safe to drink.
All this natural hot water can be enjoyed in outdoor geothermal pools where it does not smell. Take your bathing suit.