Important things to know before visiting Iceland

Iceland requires a lot of imagination, the country itself is teeming with a remarkably magical history, culture and vast landscapes; but there is little tangible evidence to show anything about it. Sometimes there is not even sunlight. But what Iceland lacks, makes up for with an abundance of spirit and oddity. It won’t be long before you find out that Icelanders are generally a fascinating mix of humour, creativity, candour and dark, wintery humour.

10. Skip the Blue Lagoon

Skip the Blue Lagoon is expensive (more than USD 60 per person), you have to book in advance, it is busy and there are so many more brilliant local pools that cost a fraction to enjoy. The oldest swimming pool in the city or Kópavogslaug in nearby Kópavogur have what is called ‘bubble beds’, exactly as they sound. If you leave the city and head to the north of the country, don’t miss Grettislaug, a natural hot spring between the mountains and the sea that costs just 1,000 ISK ($ 10) to enter.

9. Iceland is not for the budget traveller

Iceland is as expensive as balls and certainly not for the budget-conscious traveller. Expect breathtaking prices in restaurants, supermarkets, bars and just about every other store you can find, although you probably saw this coming after a quick investigation into the prices of day trips. The 45-minute bus ride from Keflavik airport to the city costs just over SGD25, access to the legendary Blue Lagoon starts with a whopping SGD60 and average activities can cost anywhere between SGD50 and SGD1000 (and more).

8. Sit on the right side on the bus ride to Reykjavik

This sounds almost unimportant, but one of the first mistakes you can make from the airport to the city is to be on the wrong side of the bus. The right side is of course on the right. The left looks out onto nothing but vast lava fields with an occasional glimpse of the ocean, and at the end of your one-hour ride, you will be so depressed that you want to turn around and come home. That said, lava fields are a good introduction to Iceland’s gloomy beauty of windy hills and delicate shades of green and grey; so don’t kill yourself if you get on the bus full and you can’t choose seats.

7. Do not mock their belief in elves, fairies, and dwarves

54.4% of the Icelandic population believes in the existence of magical people, which essentially means that 1 in every 2 Icelanders you meet will probably believe in creatures of the underworld. Just as subjects about politics and religion and sex and salary are sensitive to the rest of the world, this folkloric is also particularly sensitive to Icelanders. It is not something they feel comfortable discussing with outsiders; and theories about why they are susceptible to such superstition focus on the struggle of their earliest settlers to endure their isolated existence in such an imposing but unpredictable landscape.

6. The water smells nasty

Sulfur smells like rotten egg, and you learn this quickly enough when you turn on the tap in Iceland. The fact is that the water smells because it is heated by geothermal energy that comes from the belly of the earth. That’s why you smell the smell of sulfur in the core of the earth. It will surprise you that water that smells so bad is one of the cleanest water to drink in this world.

5. Alcohol cannot be found in supermarkets

Alcohol is sold in bars, restaurants and cafes, but never in supermarkets because, believe it or not, this country once had a total ban on alcohol until 1989 (which was not so long ago if you think about it). Shop where alcohol is sold is intentionally few and spread out, with limited opening hours. There is also a peculiar Icelandic attitude towards alcohol: although the legendary Icelandic weekend partying is somewhat accepted all night, there is also the stereotype that anyone who drinks something the rest of the week should be alcoholic.

4. Temperatures aren’t extreme, and winter travel is a real possibility

It is the primary nature to represent frozen tundras and cold temperatures when Iceland is mentioned. How disappointed would you be to hear that Iceland is not covered with ice and that it is not even a country of extremes when it comes to temperatures. Iceland does not get half as cold as Britain or even Kazakhstan. Iceland is cold, but it’s just not as cold as what you have in mind. The winters of the country present, as it were, a buffet of lights and colours that do not always manifest themselves during other seasons, and it is always during these three to four months that everything seems magically softer and more arresting.

3. Gas stations don’t take credit cards

If you are thinking of taking something with you during your trip to Iceland, don’t forget to bring a bank card. Gas pumps do not accept cards here without a PIN code. However, you do not need to bring much cash with you, because cards are accepted almost everywhere in Iceland (even prefer them to be cash).

2. Keep your gas tank and snack bag full, always

A climate like that of Iceland is sensitive to dramatic weather shifts and bad winter storms, often reduce the view of the roads almost zero. The last thing you want is to sit somewhere on a road, little gas and food. A friend once told me that I had to pack a meal before we left for a nearby winter’s day.

1. Do not take a taxi to and from the airport

The airports in Iceland is an extremely well-run facility and their shuttle service is proof. The FlyBus leaves every half hour from simply outside the main terminal and stops in any respect major hotels in the capital of Iceland, as well as the BSÍ bus terminal within the city centre. The same applies to trips back to the airport once your stay in Iceland has ended; the FlyBus picks up travellers every half hour from the comfort of their hotels.

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