9 Essential Tips for Solo Travel in Iceland

Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and you may be surprised to learn that solo travel in Iceland is extremely easy!

Even driving alone in Iceland is very manageable.

And that means a lot coming from me the person who sweats through her shirt every single time she drives it makes her so anxious.

Would Iceland be the first place in Europe I would recommend new solo travellers to visit? No, but I also wouldn’t tell someone not to take a solo trip there!

The only reason I didn’t include Iceland in the best European countries for solo female travellers is because it is expensive.

If money isn’t an issue for you, then it is hard to beat solo travel to Iceland!

But there are a few things you need to know before your first solo trip to Iceland. Lucky for you, I made a lot of mistakes the first time I visited Iceland alone.

I’m sharing everything I wish I knew before my solo travel to Iceland, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

Overcome your fear of solo travel

1. Driving is Fine (Except for Reykjavík)

I hate driving and try to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, it is hard to visit Iceland and experience the country with a car, so I sucked it up and rented a car and drove around the island.

I was really nervous since it was my first time driving abroad, but it was actually a really pleasant experience.

There isn’t much traffic outside Reykjavík, most of the roads are in good condition, and the driving is quite easy and stress free.

There are some places outside Reykjavík where the driving can be a little tough to navigate, but it is easy to avoid areas like that.

The only time you’ll run into situations like that are if you try to drive up to the top of a mountain or something extreme like that.

If you’re just driving along the normal highway and to tourist attractions along the way, you won’t have any issue driving!

Just be sure to fill up whenever you see a gas station! They are few and far between in rural Iceland, and if you skip one, you can easily find yourself running on fumes before you make it to the next gas station.

You don’t want that to happen! With so few people on the road, it could take hours before a car comes by to help you, and it could take hours to walk to the nearest gas station.

Driving in Reykjavík is a different story than driving through the rest of the country though.

There are a number of one-way streets, narrow streets, and parking can be tough.

My recommendation is to find a parking spot near your hotel if you’re staying the night and walk around Reykjavík.

If you’re not staying at a hotel and are just spending a few hours in Reykjavík, find a parking spot at the edge of town and then walk around the city centre.

There are lots of large parking lots near the water. That’s the first place I would try to find a parking stall!

Reykjavík, Iceland

2. You Need Pocket Wifi

No matter whether you’re planning to solo travel in Iceland or travel with a group of friends, having a plan to access the internet is essential.

It is basically impossible to find free wifi outside your hotel room.

My top recommendation is to rent pocket wifi from your car rental company (instead of a GPS system since you can use GoogleMaps with the pocket wifi) or a third-party pocket wifi rental company like Trawire.

This allows you to access the internet wherever you are in Iceland.

You can easily contact your loved ones back home, post on social media, find the nearest restaurant or gas station, or call for help by using a pocket wifi device.

No matter how secluded a location you’re in.

Renting pocket wifi is without a doubt worth the extra money- especially in Iceland.

Having the internet at the tip of your fingers is a luxury in Iceland, and you’ll most likely wish you rented pocket wifi if you choose not to.

You’ll be surprised how many times you go to pull out your phone for directions, nearby attractions, or to find food.

I always highly recommend you install a VPN on your phone and laptop, so you’re safe and protected while using the public wifi in hotels.

You don’t want your personal data stolen while you’re in rural Iceland and go through the headache of trying to cancel your credit cards because they have been compromised.

The ultimate guide to accessing the internet in Iceland

3. Watch for Tourist Attractions as You Drive

One of the most interesting things I discovered on my first solo trip to Iceland was the number of markers along the side of the road indicating where tourist attractions are.

When I was planning my first trip to Iceland, I mapped out where the major tourist attractions were and planned my trip around them, but I had no idea how many smaller, unique tourist attractions I would stumble across when driving.

There are countless little stops along the highway you can make, and I recommend you do!

Most of them don’t take too long to visit, but they are very interesting.

There are normally information plaques that teach you about the attraction, and you learn a lot about Icelandic history and culture through these tourist attraction.

There are small(ish) signs along the highway pointing the way to these tourist attractions. If they sound interesting at all to you, take the extra five or ten minutes to visit them.

It is well worth the time, and it doesn’t set you too far back in your daily schedule.

In fact, you should just factor in an extra hour or two each day to leave time to visit these unexpected tourist attractions.

There were definitely a highlight of my first trip to Iceland!

Southern Iceland Europe

4. Book Accommodation Well in Advance

I don’t like to book accommodation too far in advance when I travel. I like the freedom and flexibility to change my travel plans.

That strategy, however, does not work in Iceland.

There aren’t too many places to stay when you’re driving through rural Iceland, and the good hotels book up quickly.

As soon as you know you’re visiting Iceland and have an idea of what part of the island you’re visiting, figure out roughly where you’ll be staying each night and book your hotel.

This is even more important when you solo travel in Iceland because you don’t want to be stuck in a dump of a hotel all alone.

Or even possibly sleeping in your car alone because you didn’t book a place to stay in time!

5. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going

This isn’t the type of tip I normally give solo travellers, but I think it is an important tip for people partaking in solo travel in Iceland.

Most of Iceland is pretty rural, so I always recommend solo travellers let a loved one back home know what their plans are for the day.

Let someone know your end destination for the day and anywhere you plan to go hiking alone.

It is probably overkill to do this, but it is an added layer of protection in case you get lost hiking or your car breaks down.

Solo travel in Iceland

6. Iceland is More Expensive than You Think

I knew Iceland was expensive, but I wasn’t prepared for how expensive it actually is.

It is painfully expensive to say the least, but it is so worth the money! It is one of the most beautiful and unique countries in the world.

I’m talking $20USD for a 6 inch veggie sub at Subway expensive.

The good news is that almost all of the tourist attractions you want to visit are free, so you don’t have to miss out on any amazing sights because of the cost.

The bad news is that food, gas, and accommodation will eat through whatever budget you do have pretty quickly.

Some bloggers say that you can visit Iceland for $100USD per day. Technically you could, but it would be a stretch.

You would have to stay at budget hotels, barely eat, and not drive too far because of gas prices.

I think $150USD to $200 USD per day is a far more realistic budget.

It is better to have a little extra money in your bank account on the way home than running out of money partway through your trip.

So, budget accordingly and safe a little more money than you think you need.

Because the prices in Iceland might just blow your socks off!

What I wish I knew before backpacking Europe alone

7. Don’t Try to See it All in One Trip

Iceland may look small on the map, but it is bigger than you think!

Unless you spend a month in Iceland, you can’t see the entire island when you solo travel in Iceland.

There is simply too much to see.

Pick one section of the island and focus on that area. There are plenty of things to see and do, so you won’t run out of activities.

My personal favourite part of Iceland is the south part of the island. I love the attractions and landscape, but you may prefer the north part of the island.

Research what to do in each quadrant of Iceland before your trip and decide what part of the island you want to spend your time.

Try to pack too much into your solo trip to Iceland, and you won’t have time to stop and enjoy the unique sights along the way.

Tips for eating alone as a solo traveller

Solo travel in Iceland

8. Iceland is Extremely Safe

According to the World Peace Index, Iceland is the safest country in the world. Not only is Iceland the safest country in the world, but it has been ranked the safest country in the world 13 years in a row!

There really is no safer country is the world than Iceland!

There is basically no crime in the country, and the crime rate is less than 1%! That’s incredible and no other country even comes close to Iceland in terms of crime rate and safety.

This is great news for people planning a solo trip to Iceland.

You can confidently travel alone in Iceland and not have to worry about your safety. This is super reassuring because you’ll likely be the only person driving on many of the rural roads.

You can walk alone at night, go hiking by yourself, or anything else you can think of and be safe.

In the odd chance something happens, any local will be able to help you or if the situation warrants it, you can always go to the police.

I highly doubt that will happen though!

The only problem you’re likely going to run across while partaking in solo travel in Iceland is a herd of sheep blocking the road. 😉

9. Bring a Warm Jacket No Matter What Time of Year it is

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you solo travel to Iceland (and one I certainly made) is not brining a jacket.

No matter what time of year you’re visiting Iceland.

I’ve visited in April, May, and June, and it has been cold, rainy, and windy on every trip. Even at the height of summer, you can get hit with a cold wind storm or a rain storm.

You need to be prepared and have a water proof jacket in your bag.

Trust me. You’ll kick yourself in the butt if you don’t pack one!

You may think it’ll take up too much room in your bag, but it is an essential item.

You may even want to throw in a headband and gloves while you’re at it. I use all my warm items on every trip to Iceland. Even when I think it the warmest time of year, and I don’t need them.

And you don’t want to be stuck buying warm items while in Iceland. That’ll break the bank for sure!

Tips for travelling alone for the first time

Solo travel in Iceland

Conclusion

Solo travel in Iceland is an unforgettable experience.

It is freeing, exhilarating, and is a bucket list experience you’ll be glad you have.

I think Iceland is a great place to travel alone, but it isn’t for everybody. And that solely comes down to the price.

If you’re on a tight budget, then you may want to consider visiting somewhere else on your solo trip where you can maybe go for longer or splurge on fun experiences.

If you have a healthy budget, then you can’t go wrong planning a solo trip to Iceland.

It really comes down to your travel priorities and what you can afford on any particular trip.

That being said, I think everybody should try to save up for a trip to Iceland at least once in their life.

It is truly a country like no other, and you have to experience it to fully understand its unique beauty and charm.

Tourist’s Guide to Wifi in Iceland (It May Surprise You!)

Iceland is one of the most beautiful and unique countries in the world. I highly recommend everybody who can visit Iceland to do it. However, you really need to know about wifi in Iceland, so you can plan accordingly.

You do not want to be stuck in rural Iceland with no wifi in cell service.

Especially if you’re in an emergency or your car breaks down.

Yikes! That is not have a dream Iceland vacation looks.

The wifi in Iceland is hit and miss at best. You’ll have better luck finding free wifi in Reykjavík, but it isn’t guaranteed.

Outside the capital, your chances of finding free wifi are even less.

The good news is that there are a number of solutions, and you can find ways to easily access wifi in Iceland. They come at a price, but it isn’t a high one. The cheapest option is to take your chances and rely on public wifi. However, I recommend renting pocket wifi while in Iceland or buying your own portable wifi device if you’re a frequent traveller.

Because of the unique nature of Iceland and the fact that you’re most likely renting a car and driving around part of the country, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to have a plan to access wifi in Iceland.

My personal favourite solution to accessing the internet while in Iceland is renting a pocket wifi device.

They are super affordable.

You can even use them for GPS in your car, so you can avoid paying the expensive GPS rental rate car companies charge!

If you’re only visiting Reykjavík or are relying on group tours, it is less imperative that you rent pocket wifi in Iceland.

You can get by relying solely on free public wifi in Iceland if you want.

Public Wifi in Iceland

Public wifi in Iceland is kind of a tale of two stories.

One on side, you can pretty easily find free public wifi in Reykjavík.

On the other, I wish you luck on your journey to finding free public wifi in rural Iceland. Outside of your hotel, you probably won’t be able to find free public wifi.

You certainly won’t find any wifi while you’re driving through the countryside.

So, this can put tourists in a bit of a tough spot. Especially if you need to be connected to the internet for work or personal reasons.

If, however, you’re a casual tourist who just wants to check their emails or social media every once in a while, you can probably get by relying on public wifi in Iceland.

Most cafés and restaurants in Reykjavík offer complimentary wifi. Even some stores (like bookstores) offer guests complimentary wifi.

If free wifi isn’t offered, there is a good chance you can access it for a small additional fee.

And, of course, every hotel or apartment in Reykjavík will have fast, reliable wifi for you to use. There shouldn’t be an additional cost to use it!

In rural Iceland, every hotel should offer guests complimentary wifi. So, that won’t be an issue.

You will probably run into an issue when you try to access the internet when you’re out and about.

In my experience, it is hit or miss if a café or restaurant in rural Iceland offers complimentary wifi.

It probably doesn’t.

So, take this information into consideration when you plan your Icelandic trip.

You may want to rent pocket wifi even if you don’t rely on the internet a whole lot.

It puts you at ease in case you get lost, have an emergency, or need to find the nearest restaurant or gas station.

Icelandic Horse in May

Renting Pocket Wifi in Iceland

I personally think renting pocket wifi in Iceland is your best choice.

It is super affordable, easy to use, and you feel confident knowing you can access the internet anywhere and everywhere.

I rented my pocket wifi when I was picking up my rental car last time I was in Iceland.

So, even if it is a last minute decision or you want the easiest solution possible, you’re covered.

Unsurprisingly though, renting pocket wifi directly through the car rental company is going to be the most expensive option.

I mean it is a car rental company. They kind of have a reputation of nickle-and-diming you.

Pre-renting your portable wifi device in advance is the most affordable option.

I personally like the company Trawire.

You order your wifi device online in advance and pick it up at the airport when you arrive. You can also pick it up at Polar Bear Gift Shop Laugavegur or any Icelandic gift shop.

There is an additional fee if you pick it up at the post office but not if you pick it up at the airport or gift shop.

At the end of your trip, you simply put it in the pre-paid envelope you get when you pick up your device and stick it in one of the two post boxes at the airport.

Easy peasy!

The only catch is you have to activate your wifi device as soon as you collect it.

Other than that, you can use your wifi device to connect to the internet anywhere and everywhere in Iceland.

Paying the small price to rent a wifi device is well worth it in my opinion.

I mean you’re going to have to figure out how to get GPS somehow. So, skip the price of GPS with your car rental and get a wifi device instead.

At least then you can make all your friends jealous by updating your socials frequently!

Southern Iceland Europe

An Option for the Most Serious of Travellers

If you’re a travel addict like me, you may want to consider purchasing your own personal wifi device you can take with you anywhere in the world.

This saves you the hassel of finding pocket wifi to rent, picking it up, and dropping it off everywhere you go.

I’ve done it before. Trust me, it gets annoying pretty quickly!

In 2019 I purchased a Skyroam Solis, and it was one of the best travel purchases I’ve ever made!

It is my own personal pocket wifi device. I take it everywhere I travel, and it is such an amazing addition to my suitcase.

You can connect multiple devices to your Skyroam, so you can keep the whole group connected to the internet with one device.

I love the freedom and convenience of my Skyroam, but it isn’t for everybody.

If you only travel once a year or don’t need the internet when you’re on the road, you can probably skip getting a personal wifi device and rely on renting pocket wifi wherever you go.

However, if you travel more than twice a year and like to stay connected on the road, I can’t recommend Skyroam enough.

It has seriously levelled up my travel game!

Read my full Skyroam review to learn if it is the right product for you!

Iceland

The Importance of Online Safety

One of my goals with my blog is to make more people aware that they need to protect their online data when they travel.

I’m never not shocked by how few people take their internet safety seriously when they travel. Or how few travel bloggers/vloggers talk about it!

You put your online information and data at risk when you use public wifi networks when you travel.

End of story.

You need to protect yourself to ensure nobody tries to access your online information, steal it, and then sell it.

Cancelling all your bank cards while you’re abroad is not how you want to be spending your vacation!

Using a rented pocket wifi device makes your online data more secure.

While you’re using the pocket wifi, it is pretty hard for your online data to be hacked because you’re the only person who knows the password.

But you don’t use the pocket wifi 24/7.

It has to charge sometime, and when it does, you’re forced to connected to public wifi. Most likely at your hotel.

And I know what you’re thinking. Hotel wifi is most often password protected, so I’m safe to use it.

Wrong!

Anybody can access that password, so you’re just at risk as you are using a public wifi network that doesn’t have a password.

The only way to keep your online information safe when using a public wifi network is by having a VPN installed (and turned on) on all of your devices.

You take steps to keep yourself safe, and you also need to take steps to keep your online information safe.

My Favourite VPN

I’ve used a lot of different VPNs over my years of travel. And, honestly, most of them suck.

They slow down your phone to a crawl, and I ended up getting so frustrated that I just turned the VPN off and put my information at risk.

I know, I know. Not very responsible of me!

That all changed in 2018 when I found NordVPN.

I’ve been using them ever since and love the service they provide.

They are the fastest VPN on the market, and it doesn’t feel like your devices are being slowed down at all because of the VPN.

That’s why I recommend NordVPN to you!

I want you to have the best internet experience when you travel, and no VPN is better for travellers.

Plus you can cloak your location and access Netflix catalogues from around the world!

You can connect up to six devices on a single NordVPN account, so you can protect all your devices for a low fee.

A two-year subscription costs less per month than a single Starbucks latte.

There is no excuse to not protect your online data when you travel.

My philosophy is that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your online information!

Conclusion

I hope you’re more prepared on what to expect when it comes to wifi in Iceland.

I don’t want you to show up in Iceland and be surprised that public wifi isn’t all that available.

Which makes sense since most of Iceland is rural, and you’ll most likely be doing a lot of driving on quiet roads.

The main takeaway I want you to get from this article is that you need to have a plan before you arrive in Iceland.

I personally think renting pocket wifi in Iceland is the best idea, but you need to figure out what is best for you.

Figure out what your internet needs will be while in Iceland and go from there.

If you don’t need internet and are staying in the Reykjavík area, you can probably rely on public wifi to meet your needs.

If you’re road tripping around the country, you should seriously consider renting pocket wifi or bringing your own Skyroam device.

No matter how you choose to get your internet access while in Iceland, you need to protect your online data from prying eyes by installing a VPN on all your devices.

How to Pack for a Trip to Iceland in May

Congratulations on booking your trip to Iceland in May! Now comes the difficult part: deciding what to pack. Will it be cold? Hot? Snowing or raining? It is difficult to predict the weather in Iceland in May.

I’ve been to Iceland in May, and I know what the weather is like, so I’m here to help you make sure you pack appropriately! A trip to Iceland is always more enjoyable when you have the appropriate clothing. Especially a trip to Iceland in May when the weather is unpredictable.

The following packing list will ensure that you pack everything you need in order to have an amazing time in Iceland!

A Warm, Rainproof Jacket

You will without a doubt need a rainproof jacket. You will want a jacket that has a hood and some insulation to keep you warm. The wind cuts right through you in Iceland no matter what time of year it is!

This is probably the most essential item for you to pack. You will be miserable if you don’t have the proper jacket. It is no fun to rush a trip to see a waterfall simply because you’re too cold to get out of the car and walk to the viewpoint.

Icelandic Horse in May

Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are a must-pack item as well. They may not be cute, but your feet will thank you. You will be walking on a lot of uneven terrain in Iceland. You will also probably do at least a little bit of hiking/walking to viewing points.

I always travel with a really good hiking shoe in Iceland. I find hiking shoes more flexible, versatile, and cute than hiking boots. They work great and prevent your feet from aching from all the walking.

Having a good pair of hiking shoes is even more important in Iceland in May. The paths are normally quite wet, slushy, snowy, and icy. The conditions simply aren’t made for a normal pair of flats. You need the grip of the hiking shoes. Everybody else will be wearing hiking shoes or boots, so you’ll fit in with the rest of the crowds!

Gloves

You will need a good pair of gloves in Iceland in May. You want to get a pair that has some insulation in them rather than the flimsy, cheap gloves you can find at your local drug store.

Getting gloves that have individual fingers rather than a shared pocket for all four fingers and another for the thumb is important. You will have a lot more freedom and mobility.

Most of the tourist sights are outside in Iceland, so you’ll be outdoors a lot. Your fingers will be freezing if you don’t have the proper style of glove. You’ll never be able to snap the perfect picture if your fingers are freezing! Think of how your Instagram feed will suffer if you can’t get that picture!

Southern Iceland Europe

A Headband/Touque (or Beanie for Non-Canadians)

You need to protect your ears from the wind and cold when you’re in Iceland in May. Iceland is windy all year round, but it will be a colder wind in May.

You need to pack a headband or toque (a.k.a. a beanie). It is best to get a something that covers your ears fully and has a tight knit, so the wind doesn’t cut through the fabric. As a Canadian, I know how quickly you get cold when your ears aren’t covered so be sure to cover them up!

A Warm Sweater

You should pack a warm sweater to layer underneath your jacket. This will help you stay warm and gives you the option to remove or add layers depending on the weather.

As mentioned, the weather in Iceland in May can change quickly. One hour you could need a jacket and a sweater and the next just a sweater could be more than enough.

Layers are key! They make adjusting to the changing weather quick and easy.

A Blindfold

It is daylight for nearly 21 hours every day in Iceland in May. This means that the sun will be shining while you’re trying to sleep.

Most hotels in the capital Reykjavik have blackout curtains that make it easy to sleep, but most of the hotels outside the capital do not have blackout curtains. This means the light is always shining into your room, and it is incredibly difficult to sleep.

Packing a blindfold is the best way to combat this! Blindfolds are inexpensive, and they are basically a lifesaver in places like Iceland where the sun only sets for a few hours per day.

I personally get headaches if there is too much light in the room, so a blindfold is an absolute must-pack for me!

Iceland Black Beach of Vik

Thick Socks (and Extra Socks!)

Warm socks are an absolute necessity in Iceland in May! Your feet will thank you for keeping them warm. It can be wet in Iceland in May, so it is quite possible that your socks and feet will get wet through your hiking shoes.

You should pack multiple extra pairs of socks just in case your feet get wet. There is nothing worse than spending the day in wet socks and shoes all because you accidentally stepped in a puddle. Not pleasant.

Having good socks and extra pairs of socks takes away your worry of having to spend the day with uncomfortably wet and cold feet.

Lip Balm

This may seem like an odd thing to add to this list, but lip balm is essential. People often get dry lips in Iceland due to the wind. The elements can be quite harsh on your lips, so you need to make sure you take precautions.

I always bring two or three tubes of lip balm with me to Iceland. I personally use DHC lip balm. It is a Japanese brand, and it is the most moisturizing lip balm I have ever used in my life. It is definitely worth the money in my opinion. Just stay away from the flavoured varieties- they aren’t nearly as hydrating as the original formula!

Puffins in Iceland

Final Thoughts

It is easy to pack for a trip to Iceland in May as long as you know what you need to pack! I hope this list has helped you decide what to pack and gave you a realistic expectation of how the weather will be and how to prepare for it.

In addition to the items listed, you should always pack the standard items you would take on any trip as well as what you would normally pack in your carry-on luggage.

You will be all set for an amazing trip to Iceland when you combine your normal packing habits with the specialized items listed above.

A trip to Iceland should be an amazing experience, and it would be horrible to have to miss out on some of the experiences just because you didn’t pack properly.

A good rule of thumb is always pack more layers than you think you will need! You can never have enough warmth!

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Iceland

Iceland is an amazing country, and it is getting more attention from travellers of all kinds- budget, luxury, adventure, and active travellers. Iceland is a unique country where travel is a bit different than most other European countries. I did a lot of research before I went to Iceland for the first time, but there was still a lot I didn’t know.

I’m going to share the 10 things I wish I knew before I went to Iceland. Hopefully they will help you not make the same mistakes I made and be more prepared than I was.

1. Iceland is Bloody Expensive

We all know that Iceland is expensive. They have to import nearly everything, so it makes sense that things cost more than in North America or other parts of Europe. But it is a bit shocking how expensive things are, and it can lead to problems if you don’t budget enough money.

To give you an idea of how expensive it can be, my travel companion and I stopped at Subway to get dinner before flying back home, and our two subs came to $32USD! I don’t frequent Subway at home, but I am certain that is a lot more expensive than it would be in North America.

Pro Tip: Bring some snacks from your hometown. It will save you a lot of money, and you will be able to snack whenever you’re hungry rather than waiting until you come across the next gas station that has food.

You know what the price of hotels and your rental car is before you leave, so it is easy to budget for that. But you should be sure to have a very generous budget for food and gas. I would recommend bringing at least 25% more than you think you will need just to be safe. The small purchases really add up.

You’ll want to be smart and save as much money as you can on your road trip to keep your costs down in Iceland.

2. Nearly All the Tourist Attractions are Free

Iceland is expensive, but one of the best parts of Iceland is that most of the tourist attractions are free to visit! This makes it a lot easier to swallow some of the higher prices.

Outside of the Blue Lagoon, all of the nature-related tourist attractions are free- all you have to do is get to them either by taking a tour or driving yourself.

You can see incredible waterfalls, geysers, canyons, volcanoes, hot springs, and hike countless trails all without an entrance fee. It is a really neat experience to simply walk up to a waterfall and not have to worry about pulling out your wallet. Iceland could easily charge tourists to visit the sights, and it is a nice gesture that they don’t.

So be sure to take advantage of the free sights and visit everything you are able to! Iceland has a unique and diverse landscape, so it is worth it to drive around and see it all.

Iceland Waterfall 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Iceland

3. Gas Stations are Few and Far Between

It makes sense that there aren’t many gas stations outside of Reykjavik, but, as a tourist driving across the country, I wasn’t prepared for how few gas stations there were.

There were so few gas stations in the rural areas that whenever we came across one, we would fill up the tank even if we had a nearly full tank just to ensure that we made it to the next gas station. Of course we were never at risk of running out of gas, but it wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.

It is always smart to stop in and get some gas when you see a station. It may save you a headache in the long run!

4. Foreign Credit Cards Don’t Work at Gas Stations in Iceland

Speaking of gas stations, be prepared for your foreign (a.k.a. North American) credit card not to work. You must insert a credit card into the gas pump and pre-pay in order to pump gas in Iceland. This is a pretty standard practice all over the world. However, it will cause you problems if you have a North American credit card.

For some reason the gas pumps in Iceland will not accept foreign credit cards. It is a pain and a slight inconvenience.

You have to go inside the gas station, buy a pre-paid card, and then insert that into the pump to get your gas. Some stations will simply open the pump for you and let you pay at the end, but most of them require you to purchase a pre-paid card.

You have to guess at how much money you’ll need on the pre-paid card and them load it up again if it isn’t enough or get a refund if it is too much. It can take a few trips in and out if you’re filling the tank to drop your rental car back at the airport.

This credit card situation also means that you can’t use the unattended gas stations that are becoming more and more popular in Iceland. Your credit card won’t work, and you won’t be able to ask an employee to open the pump for you. So just keep driving past these gas stations.

A tip for when you’re returning your rental car:

When you rent your car, you will likely be told to fill up at the gas station with the yellow pumps right before the airport. This station is an unattended station, so you may not be able to use it. There is another attended gas station before the traffic circle in the complex with the Subway and grocery store that is a better option.

Southern Iceland Europe

5. The Icelandic Weather is Never What You Expect

The weather in Iceland is fickle, and it can change suddenly and without warning. I’ve been to Iceland twice. Once at the beginning of May and the other at the end of June.

The first time many of the waterfalls were still frozen, the wind was unruly, and there was a lot of rain. The second time the wind was once again unruly, and it snowed every day I was there. I had to purchase warm clothing in Iceland in order to stay warm enough.

No matter what the internet tells you the weather will be like, you need to pack warm clothing. You will most likely need a jacket and maybe gloves nearly all year around. You won’t regret shoving some warm clothing in your bag!

Even if the weather says it is supposed to be reasonably warm, Iceland is often windy. The wind cuts through you, and you get cold extremely quickly. A lot of the sights in Iceland are outside, and you will be miserable if you don’t have the appropriate clothing. Trust me one that one- I’ve made that mistake one too many times!

6. The Distances are Further than They Look

It is easy to look at a map of Iceland and think that everything is relatively close, but that isn’t the case. The driving time between one sight to the next or one part of the country to another can be deceivingly long. The country is a lot larger than it looks.

People tend to overplay and try to get too much done because they think it will be quick to drive from point A to point B. This leads to being rushed and not appreciating the sights.

You should do your best to not over plan. Picking a few activities per day in the same area of the country is more than enough. You will be happy to be able to have the time to appreciate the nature you’re seeing rather than rushing the experience.

Iceland Black Beach of Vik

7. You’ll Come Across Sights You Didn’t Know About

You will without a doubt come across sights that you didn’t know about as you drive across the country. There are attraction posts all throughout the country alerting tourists to tourist sights that they are able to visit.

There are a lot of really cool sights you didn’t know about that are marked along the side of the road. You will without a doubt find yourself stopping at a few along the way. This is another reason on why you shouldn’t over plan your holiday. It would suck to have to keep driving and not stop just because you have too much planned!

A lot of the sights that are marked along the road don’t take long to visit, but they are worth stopping for! There are always signs in both English and Icelandic explaining the significance of the sight. It is a great way to learn more about Iceland and understand the history of the country.

8. The Roads in Iceland are Very Narrow

The roads in Iceland are quite narrow, don’t have railings on the side, and have a sharp drop-off. This made it a bit difficult to get used to driving on- especially in the rain, wind, and snow.

The roads are normally very quiet, so you can drive in the middle of the road, but it can get a little nerve-wrecking when you see oncoming traffic and have to start hugging your side of the road.

The roads are in good condition and safe to drive, but the narrowness of them can make people a bit nervous. It becomes easier once you get used to them!

9. Gas Stations in Rural Iceland Have Everything

I’m not kidding when I say gas stations in rural Iceland are a one-stop shop. The communities are so small that the gas station is often the only store in town.

They have gas (obviously), groceries, household products, car products, souvenirs, and often have a quick-serve window that sells sandwiches, pizza, and hotdogs.

You’ll be able to find everything you need in a gas station, and they are often the only source of food in some of the very small towns.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal than gas station fare, you should be sure to stop at a restaurant in a larger town as you pass it. This will prevent you from having to backtrack just to get some food.

Iceland Waterfall

10. The Food in Iceland Isn’t the Greatest

I personally found the food in Iceland to not be that great. I found it was pretty standard fare with nothing special to offer. Everything was average.

That being said, I don’t eat meat or seafood. I imagine the seafood in Iceland is above-average. PSA: Don’t eat whale!! However, outside the potential for good, fresh seafood, you shouldn’t expect much from the food.

Reykjavik, unsurprisingly, has the most selection for food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has the best food. Some of the smaller towns have decent food that is superior to a lot of the food you can find in the capital.

The fact that the food isn’t great doesn’t take anything away from Iceland, but it is something to be aware of when you’re planning the trip. Foodies may not be impressed.

Conclusion

Iceland is an amazing country that I would recommend to anybody who is looking for a unique European holiday. It is full of adventure and beauty, but it is easy to get caught up in planning your holiday and overlook the 10 things on this list.

These first-timer mistakes don’t hinder your trip. However, your trip will benefit from you being aware of these 10 things. They will help you tour Iceland like a pro and not be blindsided by some of the small things.

If I could give only a few pieces of advice, I would recommend:

  • Bringing warm clothes, gloves, and a headband all year round
  • Having a generous budget
  • Booking your accommodation early
  • Having low expectations for food
  • Enjoy where the trip takes you rather than planning every minute of it!