Iceland. For the better part of this Northern Scandinavian country’s existence it was considered too “off the beaten path” for most tourists. It’s only in the last decade or so that travelers the world over have begun to discover the sweeping beauty and myriad natural wonders Iceland has to offer. And tourists are now flocking in droves.
Whether it’s the cultural offerings on display in the capital city of Reykjavik, or the excursions to far-flung geysers and glaciers, there’s something for everyone in Iceland.
But despite its burgeoning popularity, Iceland is still relatively unknown to most people. That’s why potential visitors to this large island country should know what they’re getting into before embarking. Indeed, knowing exactly what to expect upon touching down on these picturesque landscapes could mean the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a regrettable trip.
Iceland has a specific tourist season that peaks from Mid-June to August. This is because most tourists believe the time of year with the most moderate weather. The fact of the matter is that although Iceland lies just beneath the Arctic Circle, the gulf stream ensures a moderate climate nearly year round. In fact, New York has colder winter temperature than Iceland does.
Also, there is plenty to see and do in the country at all times of the year. Reykjavik, for example, offers must-see Christmas celebrations, and winter is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis. Travelers who opt to visit Iceland in the “off-seasons” also enjoy lower prices on airfare, accommodation and car rental.
Travelers from North America and Europe do not need a travel visa in order to visit Iceland. Citizens from all other countries do need a visa in order to travel there. Those travelers with visa requirements should visit their nearest Icelandic embassy at least four weeks in advance of their trip in order to apply for their visa. If there is no Icelandic embassy in the departure city, a Dutch embassy will suffice.
Visitors to Iceland should exchange their cash for the Icelandic krona (ISK) upon arrival. That being said, all banks in the country will happily exchange currency and there are many tourist shops that will do so as well. There’s very little need to travel with bulk cash, as most businesses, restaurants and hotels accept all major credit cards. Those leaving Iceland should exchange all krona for their home currency, as it may be difficult to find a bank outside of Iceland that will accommodate such exchanges.
4. Tax Refunds
Like those of many countries, Iceland’s airport features an impressive selection of duty-free goods. What many first-time visitors don’t often know is that it’s possible to enjoy tax-free shopping from local stores as well. Travelers who spend a certain amount of money (U.S. $60 or more) will receive a tax-free receipt, which they can then redeem at the airport bank for the tax refund.
Many people – Americans especially – come from a culture of tipping. However, in Iceland tipping is not necessary. In fact, in certain instances tipping can even offend a waiter or service person. As far as service in Iceland is concerned, gracious behavior should be the only response.
By keeping these few simple facts in mind, travelers can not only make the most out of their stay in this land untouched by time, but they may even save a little cash as well!
Simon Helguson is a tour guide and Social Media Coordinator at Iceland Rovers, a leading Iceland tours company specializing in bus tours, Iceland day tours, Iceland group travel, Iceland super jeep tours and more.