Iceland Travel Information – Useful Tips for Safety and Preparation

Before traveling to Iceland, there are a few things that are good to know about: the language, the currency, the public transport system, the traffic laws, and the general rules and customs.

In this article, we’ll cover all of these topics since they’re all extremely useful for planning your trip and helping you make good decisions about your travel style and dates so that you can maximize the value for money and the safety of your Icelandic holiday!

How to Get to Iceland

Since Iceland is an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean, halfway between North America and Europe, it can only be reached via air or sea.

Eystrahorn mountains in East Iceland
Eystrahorn mountains in East Iceland


Plenty of airlines offer regular flights to Iceland from all over the world. It’s a great place for a brief stopover on a transatlantic journey, so some companies, such as Icelandair and Air Canada, even offer free stopovers in Iceland when traveling between the American and European continents.

There are regular direct flights to Iceland from almost all of the major cities in Europe and the US. Off-season flights from Europe can be found for about €20–30, one way. Here’s the approximate duration for some of these flights:

City Flying Time City Flying Time
Amsterdam 3h15m Los Angeles 9h0m
Barcelona 4h30m Montreal 5h25m
Berlin 3h45m New York 5h40m
Boston 5h40m Miami 8h15m
Paris 3h20m Rome 4h30m
Chicago 6h35m San Francisco 9h0m
Copenhagen 3h10m Stockholm 3h10m
Helsinki 3h30m Tel Aviv 8h5m
London 3h0m Toronto 6h0m


There’s a regular ferry between Denmark and Iceland, which leaves once a week. The trip takes approximately 47 hours. Traveling to Iceland by ferry is ideal for those who come from Europe and don’t wish to fly, or would like to use their own car to explore the island. While the ferry ticket is usually more expensive than a flight, it could still be worth it for those who want to spend more time in Iceland or travel by a motorhome or campervan since it will help them save money on car rentals and accommodation. The Smyril Line ferry company even offers a stopover in the Faroe Islands.

Cruise Ships

More than 160 cruise ships visit Iceland every year, bringing almost 150,000 passengers to the island. Cruise ships offer travelers the advantages of being a floating city with multiple entertainment options such as spas, cinemas, bars, and so on.

Those who find the journey itself at least as important as the destination will love taking a cruise to Iceland! Of the listed travel methods, cruise trips are usually the most expensive but also the most entertaining way to visit Iceland.

Cruise ship in Akureyri, North Iceland
Cruise ship in Akureyri, North Iceland

Language and Population

As of 2020, Iceland has around 365,000 inhabitants, about 2/3 of which live in the greater capital area. The population is quite colorful since about 14% of the locals have a foreign background. The largest groups of immigrants are of Polish, Lithuanian, and Filipino origin.

The official language is Icelandic, which is one of the oldest languages in Europe. Since the Viking era, the language hasn’t changed much, but English is widely spoken and understood, even in the most remote communities. It’s the language of tourism, so the majority of the guided tours and activities are held in English. On some specific activity tours, like glacier hikes and snorkeling tours, speaking English is a basic requirement for guests for safety reasons.

Colorful houses in Stykkisholmur village
Colorful houses in Stykkisholmur village


When planning your budget, it’s good to be aware of the fact that Iceland is the most expensive country in Europe, beating both Switzerland and Norway. Figures from Eurostat suggest that hotel accommodation, restaurants, goods, and services in Iceland are 66% more expensive than the European average. With careful planning, you can cut some costs, though. If your budget is tight, choose your travel dates intelligently. In this article, you can read more about both the advantages and disadvantages of the low season.


Iceland’s official currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). You can check the current exchange rates here. In most places, it’s not possible to pay with foreign currency. You can exchange cash at the airport, in the banks, and at a few exchange shops in Reykjavík, though.

While you can use your debit or credit card to pay almost everywhere in Iceland, it’s quite important to have some ISK coins with you because you’ll have to pay 100–200 ISK to use the bathroom in some places. ATMs can be found in Reykjavík and in the small towns you’ll visit. Outside of these towns, there are very few ATMs.

Iceland currency
The currency in Iceland – Icelandic Króna

Cash and Cards

In Iceland, you can pay for almost everything by card, even for small purchases such as coffee. So, there’s no need to exchange a large amount of cash. Locals don’t use cash anymore and cards are the most common way to pay in Iceland. In fact, some gas stations won’t even accept cash, only cards. Even if you decide to use cash during your trip, you must have at least one card as well.

While most credit cards are accepted around the country, the most common types are Visa and MasterCard. You’ll be asked to enter your PIN when using credit or debit cards, so please make sure to check with your card provider before your trip to make sure you know your PIN.

Before traveling to Iceland, make sure that you check your spending limit with your bank provider as well. If you’re not a frequent traveler, it’s also a good idea to let your bank know about your travel plans to make sure that they won’t block your account due to suspicious activity.

Gift shop in Reykjavik
Gift shop in Reykjavik

Phone Calls, Sim Cards, Network, and Wi-Fi

The country code for Iceland is 354, followed by a 7-digit phone number. To call internationally from Iceland, first dial 00 followed by the recipient’s country code and telephone number. If you have a local SIM card, you skip the country code when you call Icelandic numbers and only dial the phone number.

Visitors from European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) member states don’t have to pay extra roaming fees in Iceland. If you’re not from the EU or EEA, however, we recommend buying a prepaid data SIM card as it’ll probably be the best option to keep costs down. You can buy these at many stores in Iceland as well as at most gas stations along the main road.

There are three main telecom service providers operating in Iceland: Siminn, Vodafone, and Nova. All three operators have been tried and tested by both locals and international visitors and each one can be trusted. Iceland’s network coverage is great along the shoreline and in the main cities, but is very poor in the Highlands, near glaciers, and in some of the remote fjords.

The Icelandic Highlands
The Icelandic Highlands

If you’re planning to go off the beaten path and hike in the wilderness, you must have a proper GPS device with you because the mobile network coverage won’t be strong enough to support a phone GPS application.

Free Wi-Fi is very common in Iceland. Most accommodation, eating venues, and even tour buses offer free Wi-Fi, although you may need to ask the staff for an access code.

Gas Stations

Gas stations are conveniently located all around the country, just a 1- to 2-hour drive from each other at most. The bigger ones have grocery stores and sell souvenirs, travel accessories, and refreshments to go.

Some even serve fast food such as hot dogs and hamburgers or have full sit-down restaurants with a nice selection of warm meals, including Icelandic soup, fish and chips, salads, grilled and deep-fried things as well as coffee and pastries. The larger gas stations are open until late in the evening, but the 24-hour gas stations with stores are only available in Reykjavík.

A remote gas station in Iceland
A remote gas station in Iceland

Paying at Gas Stations

Outside of their opening hours, the stores and restaurants in these gas stations are closed. Gas stations continue to function as self-service pumps around the clock. They don’t accept cash, only cards that have a chip and a 4-digit PIN. Visa and MasterCard work perfectly.

You should be aware that cash can only be used during working hours. If you don’t want to use your card, you can buy a prepaid gas card using cash. But if you do buy those, there’s no refund available if you don’t use up the card. So, be wise and plan ahead.


Iceland’s three largest supermarket chains are Bónus, Krónan, and Nettó. These generally offer the lowest prices. You can find them in all of the larger towns and cities. Some additional supermarket chains are Hagkaup and 10-11 (yes, that’s the name of the chain). They have longer opening hours as well as much higher prices.

In smaller rural towns and villages, the most common supermarket is Kjarval or the local Kaupfélag. These have higher prices than the bigger supermarkets but can often be the only choice around.

Vegetables in a supermarket in Reykjavik, Iceland
Vegetables in a supermarket in Reykjavik, Iceland

Medical Assistance, Pharmacies, and Hospitals

Pharmacies can be found in every city and town, and usually in smaller villages as well. Look for “Lýfja” or “Apótek,” both are common pharmacy chains. You can find a list of pharmacy locations here and here. There are 24-hour pharmacies available in the capital area as well as in the towns of Selfoss, and Akranes.

The most basic medicines – such as antihistamines, paracetamol, and ibuprofen – can be purchased without a prescription.

Emergency services and/or accident rooms are located in hospitals and healthcare centers. If you have an emergency, call 112. If it’s not an emergency but you need urgent medical advice, call 1770 if you’re in the capital or 1700 if you’re in the countryside.

Lyfja pharmacy in Reykjavík
Lyfja pharmacy in Reykjavík. Photo:

Public Transport

If you were planning to explore Iceland by public transport, we’ll have to disappoint you. Public transport is generally not the greatest here. Automobile ownership in Iceland is at one of the highest rates in the world, so the demand for public transport services is low and hasn’t developed as much as you might expect.

Relatively good service is provided within the capital and in major urban areas, for example, in the northern town of Akureyri. The long-distance public transport system in the countryside, however, is quite poor.

Buses run only once a day and don’t stop at many of the natural attractions that you’d definitely want to visit, so there’s no way to explore the country using public transport. As for the price, guided group tours are sometimes cheaper than public transport fees.

Highland Bus crossing a river in Iceland in the Icelandic Highlands
Highland Bus crossing a river in Iceland in the Icelandic Highlands


The beautiful natural landscape of Iceland also has a positive effect on its food. The pristine water and clean air, chemical-free plants, and wild fish along with the sheep and cows that graze freely around the country all come together to provide some of the highest-quality and healthiest food in the world.

Apart from the exotic flavors that can be found in Icelandic cuisine, the history of the people can be experienced in the traditional dishes. You can get to know Icelandic culture at its most fundamental (and delicious) level through its food.

Some Must-Try Local Foods

  • Skyr: A cultured dairy product, similar to yogurt.
  • Lambakjöt: Lamb meat in any form. The free-grazing Icelandic sheep are one of the purest breeds in the world.
  • Hákarl: Cured, fermented shark. A traditional Icelandic dish that stinks, but tastes good!
  • Kjötsúpa: A traditional Icelandic lamb soup that is rich and tasty, full of meat and vegetables.
  • Any kind of local fish: The most popular are cod, haddock, halibut, char, trout, and salmon.
  • Plokkfiskur: A traditional fish stew that doesn’t look very appetizing but is tasty and has been eaten locally for centuries.
  • Hot dogs from Baejarins Beztu Pylsur: The first hot dog stand in Reykjavík opened in the 1930s and has been standing in the same place ever
  • since. Even Bill Clinton said these were “the best hot dogs in the world.”
  • Snacks: Hardfiskur (dried fish) and local ice cream.
Traditional Icelandic lamb soup
Traditional Icelandic lamb soup

Allergies and Dietary Restrictions

If you are vegan, lactose intolerant, or need a gluten-free diet, it shouldn’t be too difficult to accommodate your needs.

Iceland is one of the most vegan-friendly destinations in the world. The Facebook group for vegans in Iceland has more than 23,000 members, which is quite high for a country with a population of just 365,000. Veganism is so popular in Iceland that the country even has a vegan app for Android and iOS! You can find good vegan selections in most restaurants, while even hot dog stands, gas station shops, and fast-food restaurants will have vegan options.

Restaurants are quite aware of gluten-free dietary requirements. If you have severe celiac disease, however, make sure to call the restaurant ahead of time and inquire about their gluten-free menu and the possibility of contamination. With some precaution and preparation, you can travel around Iceland without having to worry about your food too much.

The range of gluten-free products offered in supermarkets is fairly good. Gluten-free bread, crackers, cookies, nuts, chocolate, veggies, and meat are all available in the largest supermarkets in Reykjavik. It’s best to do your shopping in larger cities (Reykjavík, Egilsstaðir, or Akureyri), though, since the selection of products in the little village stores is much smaller and the opening hours are less accommodating.

Hakarl, fermented shark
Hakarl, fermented shark

Safety in Iceland

Iceland has been ranked the safest country in the world by the Global Peace Index for 12 years in a row. There are no internal conflicts in the country and Iceland has never been attacked by another country.

The crime, murder, and violence rates are the lowest in the world while social trust, equality, and acceptance are the greatest within this society. Locals are helpful, friendly, and open-minded. They’re happy to assist visitors anytime.

Lost items are very likely to be reunited with their owners as locals take them to the police or share Facebook posts to help locate the owners of lost goods. Although, of course, bad things can happen anywhere, even in Iceland, this is certainly the place where the chances of being the victim of a crime are the lowest in the world.

Iceland is, therefore, a beloved travel destination for solo female travelers, families with kids, LGBTQ people, and for everyone who is concerned about safety or likes to travel without fear.

Iceland with kids
Iceland is a safe destination for families with kids

Travel Insurance

Although Iceland is a very safe place to travel, unexpected events can occur, leading to unplanned expenses. Having travel insurance isn’t mandatory but is highly recommended. Good insurance should cover you for theft, lost baggage, medical problems, canceled flights, and cancellations due to weather.

You should also make sure that any insurance policy covers the activities you’re planning to do while in Iceland, especially sports that have extra risks involved, such as skiing, snowmobiling, glacier walks, hiking, and horseback riding. Although EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to cover urgent medical expenses, this insurance won’t cover additional expenses such as the flights or accommodation that might need to be changed or canceled due to medical issues.

Iceland with kids
Iceland with kids


Some people may be concerned about Icelandic volcanoes. Although the country is famous for its volcanic history, a volcanic eruption shouldn’t be a major concern when you’re planning your trip to Iceland.

Icelandic volcanoes are monitored 24/7. Most of the time, an eruption can be predicted ahead of time by signs of unrest and seismic activity. Should any event occur, the country is highly prepared to protect both locals and tourists.

Most of the volcanoes are located far away from any populated areas, so even an eruption wouldn’t necessarily threaten people. The latest volcanic eruption occurred under Vatnajökull glacier and was more of a tourist attraction than a dangerous event. The chances of a volcanic eruption disrupting your travel or affecting your safety or your health in any way are extremely low.


Unlike the volcanoes, Icelandic glaciers are peaceful natural wonders. Guided tours are operated all year round with multiple departures daily. On these tours, you’ll be completely safe and cared for. These glacier walks are easy and suitable for anyone that can walk on uneven terrain.

Glaciers, however, can be dangerous if untrained adventurers try to set foot on them without being accompanied by a skilled glacier guide. These icy terrains require local knowledge and the use of safety gear.

Hikers on a glacier
Hikers on a glacier

Driving and Weather

One thing you can do to improve your safety during your Icelandic trip is to prepare for the weather conditions. Choosing the right clothing, the right travel style, a suitable vehicle, and a good insurance package are crucial when traveling to Iceland.

Road conditions can be tricky in the winter, which lasts for about six months of the year. Sometimes it’s simply better to trust the locals and purchase a guided tour instead of driving yourself in unfamiliar conditions. In this article, you can find everything you need to know about the weather in Iceland and how to prepare for it.

Getting Lost

Getting lost is not easy in Iceland if you’re traveling with a group or driving on the paved roads around the country. It can be tricky to find the right path sometimes when you’re hiking in the wilderness, though.

Even experienced hikers need to take extra precautions when hiking in Iceland. For example, you should have a personal location beacon (PLB) or a GPS device and leave your travel plans behind for the local rescue team. For those less experienced adventurers, we highly recommend joining a safe and fun guided hiking tour.

Hiking in Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic Highlands
Hiking in Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic Highlands

Travel Options

Your choice of travel style will depend on your previous experience and the comfort level you wish to maintain. Traveling with a group accompanied by a local tour guide, exploring the country by driving yourself around independently, or backpacking through remote places are all completely different experiences. All of these travel styles are popular in Iceland.

Iceland offers plenty of great guided tour options, including adventurous activities, sightseeing day-tours, or even multi-day tours. Driving, camping, and hiking are also very popular, so it’s completely up to you to choose the kind of experience you’re looking for.

Guided Tours vs. Traveling Independently

The safest and most comfortable option will always be traveling with a local guide. Whether a private tour or a group tour, you’ll be taken care of, properly equipped, well informed, and entertained. During guided tours, you’ll get to know new people. Sharing travel experiences offers travelers a great opportunity to form new and meaningful relationships with fellow adventurers.

Independent travelers have more space for spontaneity and flexibility and can cut expenses by traveling without a guide. However, this also means that they’ll have to spend more time planning and organizing their trip, gathering information about the opportunities available near the destination.

Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands
A group of hikers in the Icelandic Highlands

Family Travel

Iceland is a family-friendly holiday destination. Not only is the public safety great and the food quality excellent, but Icelandic society is generally very child friendly. There are diaper changing stations and highchairs available at every gas station, café, and restaurant. Exciting family-friendly activities are offered in many places, such as puffin and whale watching tours, fishing boats, and easy and educational lava cave and ice cave explorations, just to name a few.

You can expect horse and domestic animal encounters all over the country and there are plenty of small zoos. The playground at the Reykjavík family park is phenomenal. It has Viking ships, child-sized backhoes, roofed barbecue places to use free of charge, and so on.

In winter, you’ll find several ski lifts in Reykjavík that you can use free of charge. Local children love skiing and sledding on the small hills in the capital city. Bigger ski slopes are located outside of Reykjavík.

Iceland family trip
Iceland is a great choice of destination for families

The Weather in Iceland

Iceland is definitely not famous for its good weather. But even the worst weather can’t ruin your holiday if you pack the proper clothing and come prepared for any conditions. To decide when would be the best time to travel to Iceland, you should first learn about the local weather characteristics and seasonal conditions. If you already have a travel date, you can start to prepare by learning about the weather and what you can expect. There’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!

Follow the weather forecast at and check it every morning before you hit the road. Make sure to check for any storm warnings on as well.

The Length of the Days

The day length differs greatly in Iceland between the seasons – and even between the southern and northern parts of the country. In the peak of summer, Iceland enjoys the brightness of daylight 24 hours a day while in the middle of winter, the darkness lasts 19–20 hours a day. In spring and autumn, these dark and bright periods are relatively balanced.

When you’re planning your Iceland travel itinerary, it’s good to be aware of the sunset and sunrise times at your destination. Don’t plan long days of travel in the winter because you won’t be able to see any landscapes in the dark. In the summer, the opposite happens. Since it never gets dark, you can be completely flexible with your time.

weather in Iceland
The weather in Iceland is sometimes funny but don’t worry too much about it

The Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun

The Northern Lights are visible only when the sky is dark and clear. For this reason, the lights aren’t visible in the summertime, but you can enjoy the midnight sun instead. The aurora borealis can be seen in Iceland between late August and early April. The brightness and the midnight sun will take over and dominate the skies from mid-May until mid-August.

Both phenomena are beautiful, unique, and can’t occur at the same time in Iceland. So, if you’d like to experience both, you’ll need to stay for several months or travel to Iceland at least twice.

Northern Lights in Iceland in autumn
Northern Lights in Iceland in autumn

Driving in Iceland

Driving in Iceland is generally easy and the road system is straightforward to navigate and drive. Many of the popular tourist attractions are accessible in a regular car. However, driving in a new country is always somewhat of a challenge and driving in Iceland is no different. Each country has a few traffic rules and characteristics that are somewhat unique. It’s good to be aware of this and prepare yourself for any possible challenges.

Basic Rules

The standard speed limits in Iceland are:

  • 30–50 km/h (18–31 mph) in cities and populated areas;
  • 80 km/h (49 mph) on gravel/dirt roads in rural areas; and
  • 90 km/h (55 mph) on paved roads.
  • There are speed cameras at various spots around the Ring Road that will automatically take a photo of you if you’re driving above the speed limit.
  • In Iceland, we drive on the right side of the road.
  • You can never turn right when a traffic light is red.
  • Authorities have zero tolerance for drunk drivers.
  • It’s illegal to use your phone while driving.
  • Drivers and all passengers must wear seatbelts.
  • Older children must wear seatbelts while younger children and infants must be in child safety seats.
  • The use of headlights is required at all times when driving, day or night.
  • Stopping in the middle of the road or at the side of the road next to solid or double white lines is considered a violation of traffic rules.
  • Off-road driving and leaving the marked gravel roads (F-roads) are strictly prohibited by law.
Driving in East Iceland
Driving on a dirt road in East Iceland

Possible Challenges on the Roads

  • Narrow passes: Extreme caution must be taken when two vehicles meet on a narrow pass, which occurs quite often in the Highlands.
  • Blind hills and curves: These should be approached with caution. There’s a special sign that indicates a blind summit ahead.
  • Single-lane bridges: The rule is that the vehicle closer to the bridge has the right of way.
  • Gravel roads: There’s a sign that indicates that a paved road will change to gravel. Reduce your speed before approaching the gravel surface.
  • Animals: Never exceed the speed limit and don’t drive when tired. You can expect sheep, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and birds to jump in front of you on the road at any time. Some birds even build their nests on the ground close to the roads. Road signs usually indicate the places where this commonly occurs.
  • Sun blindness: Don’t forget your sunglasses! The sunshine can be especially bothersome when the sun sits low and stays there for hours. During the day in winter and during the night in summer, the sun is often completely in the driver’s line of sight, which can be blinding.
  • Darkness: In winter, the nights are very long. These dark periods can last as long as 20–21 hours in mid-December. Driving in the dark can be more tiring, especially if the road conditions aren’t great. Make sure that you’re well-rested and take plenty of breaks from driving.
  • Weather: The road conditions can change extremely quickly due to the unpredictable nature of Icelandic weather. The wind can be a dangerous factor even in summer, but snow and ice make things more difficult in winter. Always check the weather forecast and the road conditions each morning before hitting the road. If the weather is questionable, make sure to check the website for any updates multiple times each day. Don’t take risks when the weather conditions are difficult.
  • Distracted by the view: Don’t let the enchanting landscapes or the Northern Lights distract you from the road and never stop randomly on the side of the road. Find a proper rest area where you can stop safely.
On the road in South Iceland
On the road in South Iceland

Hiking and Camping

Iceland is a popular hiking destination. Its spectacular landscapes attract thousands of hikers every year. The most popular hiking areas are located in the Highlands. These sites are only accessible during the summer, between mid-June and early September. Hiking in the winter isn’t very pleasant due to the shortage of daylight and the unpredictable weather and trail conditions.

Camping is a great way to reduce costs and make your holiday adventurous. It allows you to have more spontaneity and flexibility as camping spots don’t require reservations in advance. There are more than 200 campsites in Iceland, many of them open all year round. Campsite fees are cheap and they offer fantastic views and good facilities.

Campers resting near the car
Campers resting near the car somewhere in South Iceland

Tent camping is the best in the summer when wind and precipitation are at their lowest and the night temperatures don’t drop below zero. But even in the best conditions, camping in Iceland requires very good quality equipment that can withstand the elements of the ever-changing weather. Tent camping in winter isn’t recommended.

Traveling with a campervan or a motorhome is also a great way to explore the country. This is best to do between April and October. In winter, the road conditions and the weather can be challenging for such large vehicles.

Wild Camping

Wild camping is generally illegal in Iceland. Anyone traveling in a vehicle must use campsites overnight. You aren’t allowed to stop in parking areas or in nature and spend the night there. Only those who are traveling on foot or by bicycle have the right to pitch a tent for one night in some specific areas, but not just anywhere. You can check the rules here.

Camping near Skogafoss waterfall in South Iceland
A designated camping spot near Skogafoss waterfall in South Iceland

Laws, Rules, and Local Customs

There are some written and unwritten rules in Iceland that might be different from the rules in your country, so it’s good to be aware of them before traveling to Iceland.

Alcohol Consumption

In Iceland, the legal drinking age is 20. In all bars and liquor stores, the drinking laws are taken seriously and are fully enforced. So, you have to be a minimum of 20 years of age to be allowed entry to clubs and bars, but some won’t let you in unless you’re over 22.

Alcohol is not sold in general grocery stores. The strongest beer you can find in a grocery store or at a gas station contains only 2% alcohol. Wine, beer, liquor, and other spirits are sold in government stores called “Vinbudin.”

Icelandic craft beers
Icelandic craft beers

Smoking and Drugs

Smoking indoors is generally prohibited, including in any public buildings, restaurants, bars, cafes, around sports facilities, and in the public spaces in apartment buildings. There are very high fines at hotels and guesthouses if you smoke in your room. Smoking is only allowed in outdoor public spaces if they’re adequately ventilated, so people that don’t smoke are guaranteed their right to clean air.

Cigarettes are only sold in grocery stores, gas stations, and at some bars. They can’t be sold in vending machines or displayed in the shops, so you need to ask the cashier for cigarettes if you want them. The legal age to purchase cigarettes is 18 and an ID may be required.

The possession, cultivation, sale, and consumption of marijuana or any other kind of drug are all illegal in Iceland. Penalties are strict with high fines and long jail time.

Reykjavik downtown by night
Reykjavik downtown by night


Tipping is not required in Iceland since it’s already automatically included in your bill. This means that in restaurants, cafés, taxis, hotels, and so on, you won’t need to worry about tipping.

If you think that you’ve had great service, you can always leave an additional tip, which the locals will definitely appreciate.

Swimming Pool Customs

Iceland has strict rules in regards to pool hygiene that must be followed. The pools are filled using geothermal water and don’t contain chlorine. Therefore, it’s mandatory for everyone to shower naked – using soap – before entering any pool.

Many swimming pools don’t have private shower cabins, but some of the more popular (and more expensive) spas do. If you aren’t comfortable showering naked in front of other people of the same gender, please make sure to ask about the availability of private shower cabins before buying your ticket.

Enjoying the Northern Lights from a hot spring
Enjoying the Northern Lights from a hot spring

Driving and Car Renting

In Iceland, your driver’s license from your home country will be valid if it has a license number, a photo of you, and is printed in Latin characters. So, most European, American, Australian, and New Zealand licenses will most likely be accepted.

You can apply for an international driver’s license (also known as an international driving permit) before traveling to Iceland if your license doesn’t comply with the requirements above or if you want to be sure that it’ll be accepted. Your local government driving agency will be able to tell you how exactly to apply for your international driver’s license.

Many car rental companies have their own restrictions. These can include a minimum age or a minimum number of years of driving experience before they allow you to rent a car. Many companies won’t allow you to rent a car if you’ve not had your license for more than a year.

The minimum age to rent a vehicle will depend on the company itself, but generally is around that age of 20 in Iceland. This minimum age usually increases to around 23 if you want to rent four-wheel-drive vehicles or minibusses. You should also keep in mind that there might be an extra charge for having a driver under the age of 25, which could affect your budget or the type of car you can rent.

The Rind Road in Iceland
The Rind Road in Iceland

Off-Road Driving

Off-road driving, where you leave the marked roads, pull off the road, forge a new path, or even follow an unmarked track, is illegal in Iceland and is subject to very high fines.

Because of its high latitude, Iceland is home to particularly unique flora and landscapes. The winters are very long and the growing seasons are very short, so the vegetation takes much longer to recover than in friendlier climates.

Off-road activity leaves deep tracks in the land. Damaged vegetation can take decades or in some cases, even a century to recover. Even if there is no vegetation around, the tracks can remain in the dirt for many years, serving as an invitation for others to follow them, creating a never-ending cycle of damage to the land from which it may never recover.

Damage from off-road driving in Iceland
Damage from illegal off-road driving in Iceland. Photo:

Practical Information

Time Zone

Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year and doesn’t observe daylight savings time.


Iceland follows European electrical standards (50Hz, 230 volts) and the plugs are two pinned, so devices brought in from the UK and North America will require adapters.


Icelandic tap water is among the purest and best in the world. It isn’t chemically purified with chlorine like in many other countries. So, be environmentally friendly and bring a reusable water bottle for yourself instead of buying bottled water in the shop.

Hot Water

Don’t be surprised if you smell sulfur in the shower. Due to the geothermal origins of the water, the hot water smells in Iceland. It’s perfectly safe and healthy to bathe or shower in. Don’t worry, the cold water doesn’t smell or taste like sulfur at all, it’s only the warm water.

Make sure to remove all of your silver jewelry before showering as sulfur is known to cause discoloration in silver.


At an average restaurant, you should expect to pay 2000–3000 ISK for lunch and your evening meals will cost from 2500–6500 ISK each. A beer is about 1000–1400 ISK and wine is about 1000–1500 ISK per glass. You can find more examples of the prices in Iceland here.

Traveling in Iceland
Traveling in Iceland

Important Phone Numbers

Weather and Driving

  • Weather: (+354) 902-0600
  • Road Condition Information: 1777
  • Safety Agent ( (+354) 570-5929


  • Emergency Services (Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue): 112
  • Search and Rescue: (+354) 570-5900
  • Dental Assistance: (+354) 575-0505
  • Health Care Services (On-Call Doctor Service)
  • 1700 (Countryside)
  • 1770 (Reykjavík)

Police and Lost & Found

  • Police Station: (+354) 444-1000
  • Lost & Found: (+354) 444-1000

For Lost or Stolen Credit Cards:

  • Visa: (+354) 525-2000
  • American Express: (+354) 800-8111
  • MasterCard & Diners Club: (+354) 533-1400, (+354) 550-1500


  • Phone Book: 1818
  • Airport Taxi: (+354) 420-1212, (+354) 421-1515
  • Luggage Storage: (+354) 591-1000

Useful Links

Useful Information and Blogs About Iceland

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