Iceland Tips: Things to Know Before You Go

Building on my “detailed itinerary in Iceland post”, I’ve compiled a list of information we found useful during our ten days on the island. These are my top Iceland tips for first time visitors:

First, be sure to read my post with our detailed itinerary!

GO AGAINST THE CROWD– In Iceland, we took a driving route that is reverse of what most tourists do. We visited The Golden Circle last, while many visitors do that first. Either way is fine! We found our route was a good idea because we ended with the crowded “mega popular” tourist sites last. With this, we found we didn’t need to spend as much time at the Golden Circle since we had already seen even more epic sights previously. If we’d started with the Golden Circle first, we would have spent longer there because we didn’t know better things were coming!
golden circle, iceland tips
These places are EPIC, but you’ll see places even EPIC-ER 🙂

A SAD CAR MAKES YOU HAPPY – We rented our car from Sad Cars, and I highly recommend! You can often pay extra for a GPS in your rental car, but we used Google offline maps to help navigate. At times, an old fashioned paper map was needed as well, so it’s a good idea to pack one! We had no troubles at all with our car, it was comfortable and successfully drove on all the crazy “F-Roads” we encountered.rental car iceland

RENT THE GEAR – We rented camping equipment and gear from the Iceland Camping Equipment Company. We got a collapsible picnic table, a small tent, and a portable stove. After several days camping, having a warm meal and a table to sit at was perfection! On the plane over, we brought our own sleeping mats and hiking gear in our checked bag, but the rentals definitely saved us a lot of space!
Gear Rentals, Iceland Tips
You cant have spontaneous roadside picnics without a table!

IT AIN’T CHEAP – Food (and things in general!) here are incredibly expensive, especially if you are an American. I’m not exaggerating. Mentally prepare! Expect to eat almost entirely from grocery stores unless you are secretly rich 🙂 . The example I give is a gas station hot dog- It will run you $15 US, and that doesn’t include ketchup!

JUST SAY NO – The hunting and sale of mink whale as a delicacy is still common in Iceland, despite international pressure and protests. 🙁 Please be an ethical traveler, and DO NOT eat this dish. If you notice restaurants serving it, consider taking your business elsewhere. Also try to avoid places serving horse and puffin if you can.
We found this raw minke whale at a local festival

WILD CAMPING – One of the coolest things about Iceland (which made our trip that much cheaper- and more memorable!) is that camping is permitted on most any public land. As long as there are no “Private Property”or “No Trespassing” signs, and you meet a few other requirements (in terms of number of tents, how long you stay, etc.), camping can be easy and often free or very cheap. When I went a few years ago, things were simpler. With the trending influx of tourism, there are now a few more rules and regulations regarding wild camping, so be sure to do your research before you go. CLICK HERE to read more details. Gear Rentals Iceland, Camping Iceland, Iceland Tips

DON’T RISK IT – Iceland is full of dangerous terrain and hostile features. Like what? Well, there are some geysers, steaming fumaroles, and active volcanoes for a start. I saw far too many people being stupid and overly bold with selfie sticks and Go-Pros. Your life isn’t worth a selfie- watch those cliff edges and steaming geysers! Use common sense people!

SAY WHAT? – English is spoken by almost all the locals, and they have impeccable pronunciation! I’d tell you to learn some Icelandic phrases before you go, but I found it insanely tricky! Beyond reading signs and trying to pronounce place names, you should be okay without knowing it.

Iceland Hot Spring
LET IT GO – In the public baths or hot springs in Iceland, it is an expectation that you shower and rinse your body before going in. This means you need to shower NAKED– not in your swimsuit. You can cheat at some locations (like The Blue Lagoon), but at most hot springs, you need to accept this is how it’s going to be. Yes, that means you will shower naked in front of the other visitors. There’s really no way to avoid it. Is it awkward and uncomfortable? Yes. However, it is simply a cultural norm you must adhere to. When in Rome…
Iceland Hot Spring
The awkwardness is all worth it! –Myvatn Nature Baths–

Pin this for later!Practical and Useful Advice and things to know before traveling to iceland

As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. However, some affiliate links are included which means if you choose to book any of the above tours I will receive a small commission.


  • Reply Katie Featherstone September 18, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I would like to say that you have to be a bit more careful than that with wild-camping and that just because there isn’t a sign saying you shouldn’t do it, it doesn’t mean that it is allowed. The article you link to even says:
    “In November 2015, as a direct response to the ever-increasing visitor numbers to Iceland, the Ministry of Camping put forward new legislation making changes as to where people are permitted to camp out.

    One of the most important changes here is to know, as of 2015, it is illegal to camp in tents, trailers, caravans, campervans, or anything of the like, outside of a designated campsite UNLESS there is written permission from the landowner.

    At the end of 2017, the Chief of Police for Iceland’s South Coast also announced that “wild camping” in the region was no longer legal. Consequently, those who relieve themselves on land they are illegally inhabiting will be fined and made to clean up their own mess.”

    • Reply Michelle W. September 19, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Katie- I went in 2016 so it looks like things have changed since then. Thank you so much for letting me know!! I am working on updating the post now to be a bit more detailed. Thank you again!

  • Reply Katie Featherstone September 18, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Otherwise good advice 🙂

  • Reply Ivette December 6, 2018 at 1:07 am

    Love your blog ! Keep the good job 👍

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