In general, I think Iceland is a great place to live. It’s beautiful, quiet, and safe.
However, there are definitely pros and cons to living anywhere. Certain pros or cons may also be relative — depending on the culture you’re used to and the place you come from.
Coming from the U.S., here are my least favorite things about living in Iceland.
The daylight hours vary drastically here from season so season.
There are nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer and almost 20 hours of darkness in the winter, depending on where in the country you live.
While the perma-daylight can be really fun, the perma-darkness takes some getting used to. During deep winter, it’s only “light” (it’s often overcast) for a few short hours.
To combat this, many people light a lot of candles and create a pretty cozy atmosphere in their workplace or home. This helps, but the darkness definitely requires some adjustment.
I also recommend finding a hobby to keep you busy during the dark winter months.
Icelandic weather is often rainy and overcast. While I do like Iceland’s temperate climate, it’s definitely not always sunny (or dry) in Reykjavik.
It can also be really windy. For example, Icelandic car rental companies warn you that they’re not responsible for wind damage to the car’s doors. This may seem comical, but it’s no joke — hold onto your doors.
However, Iceland is simply stunning when the sun shines and the wind is minimal. And let me tell you, you really appreciate a sunny day after a week or two of rain.
The Icelandic summer also feels like a well-deserved gift after a long, dark winter.
3The Cost of Living is High
Living in Iceland is not cheap. In fact, this website says the cost of living in Reykjavik is 9% higher than living in New York City.
Everyday items, such as food, clothes, and alcohol, are expensive here.
Many residents take trips abroad to buy clothes, electronics, shoes, appliances, etc. This makes more sense than ordering something online, since shipping to Iceland is expensive and you will be charged a 24% import tariff.
Alcohol is very expensive here too, whether you buy it at Vínbúðin (the one liquor store) or from a bar. Hit up the duty-free at the airport for sure, especially if you want hard liquor.
4The Grocery Shopping Experience
Groceries are more expensive here than in the U.S. and the selection is much more limited.
Most produce also has to travel quite a long way to get here. And certain stores may be out of a particular vegetable or item on a certain day and you may have to look elsewhere.
It’s not uncommon to shop at several stores, which takes some getting used to as a one-stop-shop American.
Grocery stores are also smaller, the aisles are narrower, and I personally find grocery shopping here to be pretty stressful.
5Gasoline is Expensive
Gas is very expensive in Iceland. As of this writing, it costs about $7.00 USD per gallon.
The price also doesn’t seem to be affected by global markets and has not changed all that much since I’ve been here.
Additionally, auto repair and auto parts are also pretty expensive here.
6Iceland is Not a Very Dog-Friendly Place
It’s really difficult to have a dog here. For starters, you have to do the normal things like get a permit for your dog and microchip it.
However, you also have to obtain permission to have the dog from every person in your building. And you need two references. Most of the time you’re required to have a separate entrance to your home as well.
This is difficult in a country where single-family homes are much less common than in the U.S., and many landlords simply won’t let you have a dog.
In addition, importing a dog from outside of Iceland is very expensive. Iceland requires a month-long quarantine for dogs and cats, which costs $2,000 USD.
There are also strict leash laws in much of the country, and even when traveling to remote parts of Iceland you will often see signs prohibiting dogs.
Full disclosure: This is my least favorite thing about living in Iceland.
7The Real Estate Market
The real estate market in and around Reykjavik — where 2/3 of the country’s population live — is really terrible right now. This is true for both renting or purchasing a home.
Apartment prices are through the roof and have risen like crazy over the last few years. Icelandic loans also have very high interest rates.
The rental market is a problem as well. As the hot-spot travel destination, Iceland has seen a huge influx in tourism over the last few years. Many landlords want to rent their apartments to tourists instead of long-term residents, since they can make more money this way.
This has created a housing shortage for the people who live here, and commercial sites have very few options to offer. It’s also, of course, very expensive.
This table shows some of these prices, although the prices for renting an apartment seem low based on what I’ve seen.
8No Drive-Through Coffee (Just Kidding… Sort Of)
This is the most American thing I’ve ever said, but I really miss drive-through coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, the coffee shops here are great. They’re cute, quirky, and serve delicious coffee in tiny cups. However, once in awhile I really miss large cups and drive-through windows.
American problems, I know :).