Overall, Iceland is a pretty easy place for foreigners to visit. Nevertheless, there are a few things you should know before you get on the plane.
Here are five things you should know before traveling or moving to Iceland.
1. The Airport is Not in Reykjavík
Commercial flights land in Keflavík (airport code KEF), not Reykjavík. Keflavík is about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, so be sure to include this in your travel plans.
Many sites and airlines list the arrival city as Reykjavík, which is misleading. Even Wikipedia lists KEF as “the Keflavík International Airport, also known as Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport.”
Reykjavík does have its own airport, but it has smaller runways and only serves domestic flights, small international flights, and private airplanes.
Luckily, several commercial bus lines (such as Flybus) can take you from the airport to Reykjavík. You can book these ahead or purchase a ticket when you arrive in Keflavík. The bus is inexpensive, convenient, and you can even schedule a stop at the Blue Lagoon.
Pro tip: Keflavík is not pronounced with a hard f, and sounds more like kep-la-veek (with a very light p) in Icelandic. You’ll be way ahead of your fellow travelers if you say this correctly.
2. Tips for Dining Out
Dining out in Iceland is a bit different than in the U.S.
For starters, tipping is neither customary nor expected. And the tax is already included, so the price you see on the menu is what you pay.
Service is also different than in the U.S. Servers check in on you less frequently, and if you need something you just have to ask for it.
Don’t hesitate to flag your server down if you need a drink refill or are ready for the check. This is totally normal here and is not considered rude.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask for what you need when traveling in Iceland.
3. You Can Use Your Credit Card for Everything
Iceland has its own currency, the Icelandic króna (ISK).
However, don’t worry about taking out Icelandic cash, as there are very few instances when you would need it. I don’t even carry cash, as Iceland is a really card-friendly place.
You can use your credit card to pay for gas, food, taxis and pretty much anything else you may need while here.
Pro tip: Know your PIN number and notify your bank before you travel to Iceland in order to avoid any problems with your cards.
4. Icelandic Road Rules and Sheep
Driving in Iceland is not vastly different from driving in the U.S. In my opinion, here are the two main things you should know about Icelandic road rules:
- No right on red: You can’t turn right on red lights in Iceland.
- Two-lane roundabouts: These are quite common, so brush up on how they work.
There are a few other things you will notice, such as a lack of stop signs (yield signs are much more common) and that stoplights change from red to yellow on their way to green.
Distances and speed limits are also in kilometers. Yet overall, driving here is pretty easy as long as you respect the road rules, speed limits, road conditions, and sheep.
Yes, sheep! Most Icelandic sheep roam free during the summer, meaning they are often on the road and you need to watch out for them when driving. You’ll sometimes see cows or horses too, but sheep are by far the most common road blocks.
Pro tip: Approach sheep slowly and they will typically move out of the road pretty quickly. You don’t want to hit a sheep, as you will have to pay the farmer for the sheep if you do.
5. Take a Number for Service
When patronizing businesses with service lines, such as ice cream shops or bakeries, look for a machine handing out numbers on little slips of paper when you walk in.
Places that have systems like this include banks, bakeries, post offices, fish markets, and my favorite ice cream shop — Valdís.
Take a number, and then wait until your number is called.
Pro tip: There are typically screens behind the counter that display the numbers, so if you don’t speak Icelandic you can watch for your number there.
Overall, traveling in Iceland is pretty easy. However, it’s good to be aware of cultural norms and differences while here.
Check back next week for part two of this article — 5 more things you should know before traveling or moving to Iceland.