7 May 2017

Iceland (Everything and Anything you Need to Know)

I recently spent a week in Iceland at the beginning of April and my god, I wasn't prepared for how expensive the place would be. People had warned me that it's an expensive country, Scandinavian expensive I heard. But I've never really been to Scandinavia so I couldn't compare too much but I wasn't expecting to be making my own pasta and passata nearly every night..

But there is a lot more to the country than the price, but just be warned.

Iceland certainly is one of those countries that you can't compare to any other. One of the least densely populated countries in Europe with a vast wilderness of mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, icebergs and so much more for you to take in. Iceland certainly is a spectacle of a country, and one where you go to explore the nature rather than see sites, go to bars and dine at restaurants. From my trip, and hearing the opinions of others, the best way to visit Iceland is by car. You need time and your own devices to really explore the country, so a bus is an option but a car rental seems the best fit.

Getting There
Flights throughout Europe are pretty reasonable and I got a £170 return flight from Manchester which I didn't think was too bad. Buses are available from the main airport in Keflavik to Reykjavik for a pretty reasonable price. If a car is your option then there are plenty of car rentals from the airport or from Reykjavik city centre.

How to Get About
The country is made up of a giant ring-road which spans pretty much the whole of the country. Therefore it is kind of your only option to get around. The most popular route is to go south from Reykjavik and go anti-clockwise around the country. This will take in the majority of popular sights and the famous Golden Circle. My boyfriend and I decided to rent a car and plan a route of going round highway 1, then simply turning back on ourselves as we couldn't cover the entire ring-road in one week. But this did actually prove handy as the weather was terrible on certain days, so having a second opportunity to see certain sites was appreciated.

Renting a car is easy but I had heard the Icelandics are strict when it comes to how your car is returned to them. Upon saying that, we still didn't bother to pay for any insurance. We rented a car online before we got there from Auto Europe (no affiliation but I would have loved for them to pay me). We rented the cheapest car (Kia Rio) and for the week it cost us around £260. As any car rental company would do, they tried to add on a lot of different insurances and stated that if we were to drive along the south coast (which we were) then insurance was a must due to sandstorms, and other boring stuff blah blah. Two america girls went for the full insurance and were also convinced to get a sat-nav. Really not necessary as the country is on one main ring-road with very clear signs of all the main tourist hot-spots.

Getting About the Country
Once you have your car the task is then to use it. Seems easy, but in Iceland in the middle of April, not so much. There are a fair amount of pot holes and we even came across a road that was just full of pot holes so after 20 minutes in first gear, we turned around and found an alternative route. The roads out of the capital are all single carriageway and the highway 1 road around the country, isn't your typical British highway. Some pot holes, single lane and on the edge of the sea.
Petrol isn't difficult to come by and it seemed a similar price to the UK. But don't expect a gas station every 10 minutes so fill up when you can. Make sure to check http://www.road.is/travel-info/road-conditions-and-weather everyday for road weather updates as it is really reliable for showing which roads are off-limits and shows which sections of the highway may be vulnerable to ice or bad wind. Also avoid F roads if you have a tiny car like we did. One day we drove on a red road by accident and saw a bigger car stuck up a hill in the snow, so be warned.

Where to Stay
We did a mix of Air BnB and guesthouses from booking.com. The prices weren't actually too bad considering it is Iceland. Our rooms varied from £55-£95 (generally on the cheaper end.) There was quite a vast selection of Air BnB in the country, especially around Reykjavik and we never struggled to find a place. If you're looking for a little bit cheaper than Air BnB then hostels are available but I sometimes find for two of you that you can get your own room in an Air BnB for cheaper than a hostel anyway. Guesthouses were a mix of shitty and great but overall generally good with a free breakfast.

Where to Eat
At home. With pasta. So expensive to eat out and I brought a ton of snack and cereal bars with us and I was so glad I did. In Reykjavik you can find an abundance of restaurants but be prepared for the price increase. Anywhere else, we couldn't even find a place to eat even if we did want to eat out. Some towns like Vik and Selfoss will have one or two restaurants and cafes, but usually they are connected to hotels or guesthouses. Many of the Air BnB/guesthouses we stayed in had kitchens so it was easy enough to cook food, and the guesthouses that didn't host a kitchen actually cooked you dinner (for a price of course.) In the towns there is the odd supermarket, Bonus was the cheapest then you can choose from Netto and a few others. Another warning, they do not sell alcohol in supermarkets. We found a wine shop at one point but apart from then I have no idea where you buy alcohol from so be prepared for a sober trip.

So now you have the basics, find out what there is to see! Check out My Week in Iceland for a day by day itinerary and all the incredible sites we got to see and all the pasta we ate during the evening.

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