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Basic Tips and What to Pack for Travel to Iceland
Are you going to Iceland? Awesome! You will have a wonderful time exploring and taking photographs in this amazing country.
The number one thing to remember when packing for Iceland – the weather can change very quickly and is considered subarctic. You might hear from the locals, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.” The warm air flows north from the North Atlantic Drift / Irminger Current collides with the cold air of the Artic flowing south. The weather in Iceland can range from -25 to +40°F in the winter with an average of around 14°F and range in the summer is +40 to +77°F with an average of around 55°F.
May, June, and July will have the least amount of precipitation with rain about 10 days each month. So expect fairly good weather, but prepare for all types of weather when those deep low pressures hang over the island. During all months, the wind can make the temps seem even colder – so bring a jacket that cuts the wind and a covering for your ears. The best advice is to have layers of clothing that you can add or subtract as the weather changes.
The longest day of the summer is June 21st where the sun is visible for 24 hours in the far north of Iceland and for about 22 hours in the southern part of the country. On winter´s shortest day – December 21st, there are just a few hours of daylight in the north and Reykjavík is light a mere four hours. This is a great time to see the northern lights but beware of the driving conditions and hire an Icelandic driver to be on the safe side.
ICELAND PACKING LIST
Everyday items – cap/hat, glasses, sunglasses, sunscreen, gloves, layers of clothes
Waterproof (Rain Gear) and Windproof long jacket – pants also if you plan to be out in all kinds of weather. A winter coat, gloves, hat, and snow boots if you will be there September-May.
Do not bring an umbrella as the wind could destroy it.
Bring layers of short and long-sleeved shirts, fleece jackets, and sweaters.
Shoes: Sturdy Waterproof Hiking / Walking Shoes need to be comfortable and stable enough to walk to the waterfalls, ride the horses, and walk on uneven ground. Even if you are not a fan of nature and hiking – you will want to have good shoes that are comfortable because many of the attractions are quite a walk from where you can park. The terrain is very uneven.
Bring a small backpack or bag for visiting the many swimming pools or the special hot pots scattered across all of Iceland. Include:
Towel – quick dry microfiber towel is great
Flip-Flops for the tubs and pools
Heavy Duty Cream Rinse for your hair at Blue Lagoon
Zip-Lock or waterproof bag to put wet suit and towel into
The tap water in Iceland is great. You do not need to buy bottled water. Bring a reusable water bottle and a reusable thermos for coffee or tea.
You will need a special electric converter / adapter for your USA electronics. You can buy them at the Keflavík Airport, bookstores, and souvenir shops in Iceland.
Do not bring a hair dryer to Iceland. They take too much power and if you try to use it in Iceland, it will ruin your hair dryer. Most accommodations and swimming pools in Iceland will have one available. You can also buy one when you arrive in Iceland.
Camera, batteries, memory cards, chargers, etc
Personal Toiletries – some accommodations do not provide shampoo
Medications and First Aid items
Passport, Cash, Credit Cards – all places in Iceland take credit cards. Contact your credit card provider before leaving so they know you are going to Iceland.
Driver’s License – if you are planning to rent a vehicle (even ATV or snowmobiles) you will need your license
Zip-Lock bags or waterproof bags
If you are Icelandic, go to the Icelandic Roots Website and get a membership to the online database. While you are traveling around Iceland, you can find out how you are related to ALL other Icelandic people, find your family farms including interactive maps and GPS coordinates with driving directions, and much more.
Mobile Phone – Data Plans – Mi-Fi
Contact your cell phone provider and ask about global calling and international data plans. They will advise you on the best plan they have.
Every time I go to Iceland, I rent a portable, small Wi-Fi device that fits in a pocket. An Icelandic company – Tra-wire – has great plans for a Mi-Fi. They offer unlimited data so you can upload those beautiful photos to social media or send them to your friends. Stay connected with your family back home by using any calling/texting application on your phone.
I use What´s App, Facetime, or the Facebook Messenger App for all phone calls and text messages while in Iceland. By using Tra-Wire, you spend $10 per day and can have several devices share the plan. You are always connected to the Wi-Fi and there are $0 in phone expenses. Just remember to turn the data function off while in Iceland.
20 Common Words
Most people in Iceland speak fluent Icelandic but we encourage you to learn a few words. <r> means to try and roll or trill the letter r.
Yes – Já (Y-ow)
No – Nei (Ney)
Maybe – Kannski (kahn-ski)
Ensku – English
Hi / Hello – Hæ / Halló – Often said twice: Hi Hi (Hæ Hæ)
Good day – Góðan daginn (go-thah-n die-in) – the most common greeting
Good night – Góða nótt (go-thah note)
Goodbye – Bless
See you – Sjáumst (shouwmst)
Thank you – Takk (tah-k)
Excuse me – Afsakið (af-sah-kith)
Everything is good – Allt gott (allt got)
Help – Hjálp (hyowlp)
Doctor – Lækni (like-knee)
My name is – Ég heiti er … (ye-gh hey-tee air<r>)
I am from the USA – Ég er frá bandaríkin
Hvar er (Kvar-<r> air<r>)
Restroom / Bathroom - Klósett (k-low-seht)
Receipt – Kvitunn (Kv-ih-tuhn)
You are welcome – Verðu þér að góða (veh-r<r>- thu th-yeh-r<r> ath go-thu-r<4>
Inn, Inngangur: Entrance
Út, Útgangur: Exit
Bílaleiga: Car rental
Aðgangur bannaður: No entry
Ýta, Ýtið: Push
Toga, Togið: Pull
Baðherbergi, Klósett, WC: Restroom or Bathroom
Menn, Herrar, Karlar, Herramenn: Men
Konur, Dömur: Women
Bannaður, Bannað: Forbidden
Camping and Hiking in Iceland
Take extra care and make sure your tent can stand up to the Icelandic wind and weather. Here is a great site explaining the rights and obligations regulating outdoor activities in Iceland.
If you save your receipts and turn them in at the airport, you can get a refund of about 15% off retail. There are special forms that you receive from the merchant. Here is the link from the directorate of customs.
Have fun. Enjoy this land of Fire and Ice.