I researched a TON before our trip to Iceland, so I feel I can provide some great tips and tricks! Some of these tips may seem small, but they are important! Also, some of these tips may help you save money which is awesome since Iceland can be very expensive. However, others may not be the cheapest option, but they will lead to a better experience in my opinion!
These tips and tricks are things I was grateful for knowing before our trip to Iceland. However, everyone wants to experience Iceland differently, so not all of these may align with your wants and needs. And that is okay!! I only want to provide you with as much useful information as possible, so your trip planning to this magical place can be easier. I’m doing the research for you, so you can’t complain about that!! :)
1. Rent a 4x4
Starting off strong with my tips! This is, in my opinion, the most important tip. Rent a 4x4. Not a car, but a 4x4. Remember those F roads I talked about in other posts? A car cannot drive on those roads without difficulty. We saw a few cars attempt to drive on F roads, and all we could do was cringe. The rocky F roads will not go easy on you. A lot of attractions are off of F roads, so you need a 4x4 to access them. F roads allowed us to drive on a beach, up a mountain, to a glacier, and up to MANY waterfalls. We wouldn’t have been able to see half the things we saw if we didn’t have a 4x4.
This isn’t a tip on how to save money, however this is something that will make your experience so much better. Yes, you can pay for tours to access a lot of the attractions, but why would you do that when you can follow your own timeline rather than a scheduled one? Not only does renting a 4x4 provide more accessibility, but it also provides more flexibility. You can drive wherever you want whenever you want. There were times we just wanted to go off-roading for the fun of it, and we were able to because we had a 4x4!
Insurance - Get all of the car insurance you can. Trust me, you will not regret paying extra for this. Because you will be driving on crazy F roads, it’s good to have insurance to cover anything that may happen. Some car insurance will cover under car damage and water damage depending on who you rent from. Most, however, do not cover wind damage, so make sure to hold onto those doors when opening them! I talk about the crazy winds in my 5 Things to Know Before You Go to Iceland post.
GPS - Some car rental companies will provide a GPS for free which is much needed! We decided not to get an international phone plan because from what we read, there isn’t much service. Some car rentals also give you the option to rent a 4G service device, but we didn’t really need that, so we stuck with the GPS. Having the GPS was one of the best things for us. Not only did it help us get around (obviously), it helped us find some cool spots! For instance, we wanted to get to a glacier we saw in the distance, so we pulled out the GPS, found the glacier, and found a road that led to it! It was a must have for us, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
2. Stay in Airbnbs
Alright, so a lot of you will probably think it is easier to stay in a city hotel and travel each day to your destination. Although that can work, I would suggest planning your route out and staying in Airbnbs along the way. This will be a HUGE cost saver because most hotels in Iceland are expensive. AND it gives you a chance to feel like you live in Iceland! Also, there are some REALLY cool Airbnbs in Iceland that are worth staying in over a hotel.
We planned our trip out well enough to stay in five Airbnbs along our route. All of our Airbnbs, minus the last one we stayed in, were in the countryside away from civilization. We had breathtaking views from every single one! Staying in Airbnbs also allowed us to be closer to our travel destinations. This decreased our driving time and increased exploring time! The downside to staying in Airbnbs is the shower situation. A few of our Airbnbs did not have private bathrooms. Most were a part of a small community of five or fewer homes and had a communal bathroom. It wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but I know some people may have an issue with this. But hey, you are in Iceland. You are not here for the glitz and glamour, so don’t expect it to be chic! You are going to be living it rough at least for a little bit of your time here, but it’s fun, I promise!
3. Buy Food in Grocery Stores
If I have convinced you to rent a 4x4 and stay in Airbnbs, then this tip is important to you! It’s important in general, but more so for those of you who decide to do a self-drive exploration around Iceland.
Food is expensive in Iceland. Going out to eat can cost you $80 for two meals (YIKES!). I recommend buying and cooking food from grocery stores. Once you leave Reykjavík, the only civilization you will see for miles is sheep and horses, so it is important to buy most of your food in Reykjavík’s grocery stores. There are grocery stores in the smaller towns you will drive by, but the cheapest and biggest are in Reykjavík. Prices are going to be on the more expensive side, but what do you expect? Iceland is an island, and a lot is imported.
Now let’s dive into the grocery store options in Iceland. Bónus and Krónan will give you the most variety at cheaper prices. Nettó is another great store that has some random things a department store may carry. Some are also open 24 hours! There are plenty of other grocery stores, but they can be more expensive and carry a lot less. We did most of our shopping at Krónan since they had a better selection than Bónus. Reykjavík has the best Bónus and Krónan stores, so make sure to stock up before leaving! If you are staying in Iceland for a longer period of time, don’t fret! There are Bónus and Krónan stores all around the country. They will be smaller than the ones in Reykjavík, but they will still provide you with a good selection of food!
Another awesome way to save money is to not buy water. Now, you must be like “Uhhh, what?!”. Yes, you heard me right. Don’t buy water. All of Iceland has drinkable glacier water. Tap water = glacier water. It’s amazing! All you have to do is bring an empty water bottle and fill it up whenever you can. We brought two big water bottles each and filled them up whenever we left our Airbnbs. You could also buy a jug of water and keep refilling it.
4. Don’t Exchange Money for Krona
Usually, when you travel internationally, you exchange money for the country’s currency. However, when traveling to Iceland, it is not necessary. Krona is Iceland’s currency, but it is rarely used. Of course, it is accepted, so if you exchange your money, you will be able to use it. However, most places accept Visa or MasterCard. During our week in Iceland, I did not see anyone use Krona. Not even to get a coffee. And we never felt like we needed it which was awesome! It’s more convenient to use a credit card in my opinion.
5. Turn Off Everywhere You See an Attraction Sign
This is a pretty simple tip. See the sign to the right? That is the Iceland attraction sign, and it is your best friend. Literally.
Every time you see the sign, TURN OFF THE ROAD! Is it bringing you onto a paved road? Onto a beach? Onto a crazy F road? JUST GO GO GO! Follow the sign as if your life depended on it. We found SO many waterfalls, caves, and awesome views from following these signs. Most will direct you to magnificent things! Even if you have no idea what you are doing or where you are going while in Iceland, these signs will guide you.
If you see a name that has “foss” in it with this attraction sign, it is most likely a waterfall!
Are you planning a trip to Iceland? Which tip is most important to you?
Make sure to read my 5 Things to Know Before You Go to Iceland post for more helpful tips!