Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Traveled to Iceland

Iceland. It was a beautiful country, and the pictures showed this landscape that was unforgettable. When I go on vacation, I turn my Instagram and Wandering & Reading Facebook page into a diary of that trip –posting once a day. Some of the comments were along the lines of these:

 “what a gorgeous picture and area” “this is amazing” “looks like you’re having a gorgeous time”

 All of which was true, but I started to think about the fact that these pictures while it did the country justice didn’t necessarily give the travel experience justice – like all social media posts. So this is my way of explaining to the one day Iceland traveler everything I think you should be aware of before you head there.

There’s a lot of driving

I mean, I know we stayed in one area for living arrangements: Reykjavik but even talking to others that stayed in different areas, driving ended up being a big concern. There was only one day that weren’t in the car for more than 4 hours. That’s a lot of driving and brings me to my next point.

Recommendation: Have more than one-person drive, then you can have a break and see more rather than always having to be the one watching the road

Some areas all look the same

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, I mean, there are a lot of places I’ve gone that look the same and I love but when you’re driving for so long multiple days in a row it can become brutal

Recommendation: I mean, appreciate the fact that this brutal and gorgeous country even exists,trust me, that’s what I did and it made it all a little easier.

Gas can be difficult

 Like, really difficult. I needed help, almost more than once. For one, some of the gas stations will only take a card with a pin or you have to buy a prepaid card inside. We only found one gas station of 5 that took a regular credit card so be aware.

Recommendation: buy at least one prepaid card for 10,000kr ($100US) to have for emergencies/when needed. This card is not refundable in any way so make sure you use it all!

Oh and about Gas

We were trying to fill up our tank before we brought our car back to the rental company. Of course almost all of the gas pumps needed the prepaid card and we knew the prepaid card of 10,000kr would be too much so we were really at a loss on what to do. We finally found a gas station that would take a credit card and let us do it based on fill the tank. Which was a great option, but they will put a hold on your credit card to up to the most they believe will fill the tank – which was $217 US Dollars.

Recommendation: While this wasn’t the best option, it only took 2 days for the hold to be removed from my credit card, so it wasn’t really a big deal, but I could see it being a big deal if you do that multiple times on a trip so be conscientious about it.

You don’t need to bundle up if you’re from the Northeast

This part might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not used to the cold. But I’m from the Northeast, where I’ve stood outside waiting for the bus after work and it’s been -20 with the wind chill, for me, the weather in Iceland was a piece of the cake. It was in the 30’s and 40’s the whole time we were there in November. Like, it was 15 degrees warmer than at home! Don’t get me wrong, I knew the weather would be fine, but I was concerned that I would need my heavy stuff,but I really didn’t. I just layered up, wore a pair of pants that were fleece lined and I was good to go.

Recommendation:Literally buy any base layer/fleece lined thing from Eddie Bauer or LL Bean and you will be good to go. No need for a long coat or anything if you’re headed there in November and from an area that’s normally cold in the winter. 

There are going to be a lot of Tourists

When I went to Cornwall I felt like we were in this little world that was full of Cornish people and us. When we were in London I didn’t feel like a tourist either because, I mean, it was London and there would be people everywhere regardless. But there were some places in Iceland that just had too many people. I mean, the country has become popular since Game of Throne, I get that. I felt like a wildling half the time I was there. But I also like being places where there aren’t a lot of people, so I can truly escape reality for a bit and become one with the place I’m visiting. Trust me, this can be done in Iceland, it just takes a little research.

Recommendation: Do some research on lesser known places. My recommendations would be Snæfellsnes peninsula (we barely saw anyone on almost all instances of this day trip), Kleifarvatn Lake and Faxi Waterfall. You will really feel Iceland here, and it’s totally worth the experience.

The Main Roads are in good condition

If you’re driving, no worries about pot holes! Every paved road I was on was so smooth, it was great. However, there are some sharp turns at the top of mountains so be aware of that if you’re not used to driving on roads like that.

If you’re from the States, you drive on the “right side of the road”

No need to think you will be on the opposite side of the road when driving in Iceland, its on the side us Americans drive on! But be prepared for that everything will be in kilometers and kph.

It Can be Expensive

I actually knew this going in. I knew it was cheap to get there but then it would be expensive otherwise (ie: lunch was $30! could you imagine what dinner would be?)

Solution: Try not to eat out so much and if you’re going to eat out then do lunch when it’s cheaper. I also didn’t get alcohol with my meals — alcohol adds up and makes everything more expensive. Oh, and when you’re on the road, try the gas stations, they have some pretty decent food!


Those are all the things from my trip to Iceland that I wish I knew ahead of time. To quote one of my Instagram posts about the country: “Iceland was pretty remarkable but don’t let these pictures be the whole story. Iceland was also exhausting, it’s a lot of driving and a lot of long hours to see these views. It can tire a girl out.” If you take these recommendations to heart, you’re trip to Iceland will be unforgettable.

8 thoughts on “Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Traveled to Iceland

  1. Follow My Anchor says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. It is absolutely honest. I smiled when I read that for you the weather in Iceland was a piece of the cake. For me the cold was almost unbearable. And I went in July! I guess as an Italian I’m not as tempered as you 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicole Anderson says:

    Good article. I would never have thought it would be difficult to find somewhere to accept a credit card when refilling a hire car. Good to know about the prepaid cards. The scenery is beautiful, but I agree if you are driving long stretches all the time then you do need a second driver.

    Liked by 1 person

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