Tips for Planning Your Iceland Trip
1. Renting a Car vs. Day Tours
Winter - Day Tours
If you are visiting Iceland during the winter time, I highly recommend going with day tours rather than renting your own car and driving around. The roads are icy and slippery. Also, snowstorms are quite frequent. If you are not an experienced driver in the snow and icy roads, it could be very dangerous. Our tour guide actually mentioned that there are so many accidents with tourist cars during the winter time. Book day tours, sit back and relax and enjoy the views while the expert drivers do the driving.
Summer - Rent a Car
If you are visiting Iceland during the summer time, rent a car and drive around yourself! The roads are pretty simple and straightforward and without the snow, it should be very easy to navigate. You can enjoy the views at your own pace. If you are making a stop to take a picture or admire the views, make sure to park your car on the side safely. We have seen tourist cars parked in the middle of the road multiple times and this can cause traffic and accidents.
2. Northern Lights
Many people head to Iceland to hopefully catch the Northern Lights. Be aware that due to the nature of Northern Lights, you can only have the chance of seeing them during the colder, winter months (late August to mid April). They say you have a better chance the colder it is! This is because during the colder times, you have the maximum time of darkness, thus increasing your chances.
Also, unfortunately, note that it is not guaranteed that you will see them. There can be many factors such as wind, fog, clouds, and etc that can hinder you from seeing the Northern Lights.
Most Northern Lights tour companies will offer you a free 2nd night tour if they are not able to find the Northern Lights for you the first night. So my advice is to book your Northern Lights tour the first night you are in Iceland. If you don’t see it the first night, you can get a second chance to see them during your stay in Iceland!
3. Bus Stops
Because bigger cars including tour buses and coaches are prohibited from a lot of city center streets in Reykjavik, you will be dropped off and picked up at bus stops. Bus stops are actually very easy to navigate - they are numbered #1 through #12. Once you book your hotel or accommodations, ask what would be the nearest bus stop. The bus stops are spread out throughout the city, so you should be able to find accommodations near a stop.
We stayed near bus stop 7 and was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel to the bus stop. We found it also very close to a lot of restaurants and shops which made our stay near bus stop 7 that much more convenient.
4. No Shared Car Services in Iceland
For someone who relies heavily on shared car services such as Uber or Lyft whether I am traveling or living the daily life in London or San Francisco, I was worried when I found out that this does not exist in Iceland. But, don’t worry, it is easy to figure things out!
Option 1: Rent your own car to drive from and to the airport and Reykjavik. You can also drive around Iceland yourself with your car rental.
Option 2: Buses from and to the airport and Reykjavik such as Flybus. It is recommended that you book your tickets ahead of time, but right after you get your luggage, there is an information desk to buy your Flybus tickets there (that’s what we did!). It will take about an hour to get to the city center and this would be the most affordable way. I think it cost around 20 euros or so one way.
Option 3: Good old-fashioned taxis. You can get a taxi at the airport and also schedule one from your hotel back to the airport on your departure date; however, given that it’s a pretty long ride (~45min-1hr), this is definitely not the affordable way.
Our experience with Flybus was great and it was very easy to figure it out, so we recommend going with Option 2 unless you are opting for Option 1. Note that Flybus is just one of the big bus companies that do transport from and to airports and tours - there’s many other companies that do the same to check them out.
5. Blue Lagoon Tips
I wanted to go to Iceland mainly because I wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon. I’m sure many others put Iceland on their bucket list to visit the Blue Lagoon as well. It’s truly a magical place! ^^ Here are some tips specifically for your trip to the Blue Lagoon.
Book your tickets early! They limit the amount of people that enters the Blue Lagoon, which is great so that it doesn’t get overcrowded and people can actually enjoy the lagoon better. The tickets may run out quickly, so as soon as you book your trip and know which day you will be visiting the lagoon, purchase your tickets online.
In my opinion, premium ticket wasn’t necessary - the comfort ticket was enough! We were contemplating if we should upgrade to the premium ticket to get the robe and slippers. It may sound ridiculous, but we were worried that it might be too cold and painful to walk out of the locker rooms to the actual lagoon. It turns out, the walk is very short - about 10 steps. Though it was freezing outside, it wasn’t as painful as we had imagined with just a towel. However, if you would like to enjoy a 2nd mask, robe, slippers, and would like to dine there, go for the premium ticket!
Be extra careful when taking your phones and cameras into the lagoon. The water is very opaque and if you drop anything, there is no way you will find it! I took my gopro attached to a floating handle and my phone in a waterproof pouch that can be connected to my arm or worn as a necklace. Even if your phone is waterproof, I’d highly recommend taking it in a pouch that can worn on you.
Leave your precious jewelry at your hotel safe. The water is high in silica, algae, and minerals which can potentially damage your jewelry. Also, if you lose a piece of jewelry in the water, you won’t be able to find it. So, leave them at your hotel or in the locker room.
Use hair conditioner before you enter the lagoon. Silica in the water does not damage your hair but can make your hair very stiff. If you plan on getting your hair wet, apply hair conditioner before you enter the lagoon. They provide you with complimentary hair conditioner. I wasn’t planning on getting my hair wet, so just put it up on a high bun without conditioner, which also works!
This may be a very obvious one, but bring your swimsuits! Though changing rooms are separated by men and women, the actual lagoon is co-ed, which means swimsuits are mandatory.
Hope these tips help you plan your next trip to Iceland! Happy planning and enjoy your holiday!