Iceland Travel Tips

October 2016- Road Trip in Iceland

Planning a trip to Iceland could be very challenging especially when almost every blog you have read about it have something very in common to say - "Travelling to Iceland is expensive". And I thought living in Singapore, which bagged the 'most expensive city in the world' title, would actually prepare me for this trip. Apparently not.

Travelling to Iceland is indeed expensive but doable if you don't mind going for the cheaper and more practical options to get around.

Flights




There are direct flights from Singapore to Reykjavik but because we wanted to save more money, we searched for an alternative route. 


* Prices may vary on the month you are travelling.

This may not be the most efficient way to travel due to long hours of layovers. We made the most out of it anyway and explored Copenhagen during our 8-hour layover. If you manage to find shorter layovers via any another European city, go for it or perhaps make the most out of the long hours and explore the city you'll be at.



On our 8-hour layover at Copenhagen, we had a chance to visit the famous Nyhavn canal.


Accommodation


Surprisingly, Air BNBs were more expensive than hostels in Iceland. This may vary according to the area you want to stay at. To make it easier for us to roam around, we chose to stay near the city area. This also saved us transportation money and we got a chance to wander around easily.




Reykjavik Hostel Village at SGD 72 per night

Reykjavik Hostel Village has a good location, pretty close and within walking distance from grocery stores, souvenir shops and the Hallgrímskirkja Church. It also has a kitchen where guests can cook instead of dining out, another cost-saving tip.


DIY or Guided Day Tours

Our original plan was to rent a car and do a DIY trip, which is actually the most recommended way to go around Iceland. But since it's only my friend who can drive, it will be unfair for her to be just the one driving around.


So for the most part of our trip, we did day tours.



The Traveling Viking was our tour guide at Akureyri.



DAY TOURS - Pros:

(1) Comfort
     Driving around Iceland can take long hours. Having someone to drive you around, who knows the places by heart, can save you time and energy. You will also get to just sit back and enjoy the scenic views, which could be distracting if you are the one driving and concentrating on the roads and directions.

(2) Added information by tour guides
    We were quite lucky with the tour operators we have booked such as Iceland Horizon, Goecco and GreyLine Tours. They have very informative tour guides which made the long drives bearable with facts and folk stories they told about Iceland. Not only you get to marvel at the scenic views, you'll also get to learn more about Iceland.

 

Driving through the highlands of Iceland
Video courtesy of Goecco Tours 


DAY TOURS - Cons: 


(1) Time constraint 
    Since it was only a day tour, the time to see every place was very limited. To drive from and back to Reykjavik can already take 6 hours in total. This also makes the trip rushed, not much having enough time to appreciate the scenery. 

(2) Early Pickup Time and Drop off
    The usual pick up time was 7 AM which felt like more getting up for work than being on a vacation. Drop off to the city varies, latest was around 9 PM. Although it was an arranged tour and all you have to do was show up and follow the time diligently, it was still tiring especially keeping up with a tight schedule.

(3) Limited options of what to see
    Most of the day tours are prearranged - which means the operators have already planned beforehand what places to go and see. There were quite a lot of times we drove by interesting places which are not part of the tour. We could have stopped by but because of the strict schedule, we can't.



For our last 2 days in Reykjavik, we decided to rent a car and drive by ourselves. If only I knew how to drive, we could have done this from day 1.

Ring Road, Iceland





SELF-DRIVE - Pros:

(1) Flexibility of Time
     We had no schedule, no time table to follow - free and easy literally. It was more relaxed and exciting. We also didn't have to worry about waiting for other travelers in order to move along.

(2) More interesting places to see
     We searched for places that are not on most of the day tours. With only a GPS as our navigator, it was fairly easy and far more better discovering sights by ourselves. We can also stop by freely if we spot good views along the way.

(3) A great experience
    There is the thrill of getting lost and discovering different places along the way. This made the trip more memorable than already knowing what to expect to see on day tours.


We drove ourselves to the site of the DC3 Plane Wreckage at Vik.


      
SELF-DRIVE - Cons:

(1) Tiresome
      Iceland is all about long drives and it could be physically tiring. Although the roads are really good and directions are easy to follow, getting from Point A to Point B can take hours.

(2) Limited Information
     There are a lot of attractive sights to see as you drive around Iceland which will not be on any travel books or maps. Having a local tour guide to tell you more information about those will make you appreciate it more.


If you are going for a Day Tour...

1. Research, read reviews of previous travelers.
    There are a lot of tour operators in Iceland so it is important to read recent reviews of travelers. Tripadvisor would be the best portal for this.

2. Choose smaller groups.
  There are options for smaller groups of private tours although it will be expensive. Bigger groups tend to take so much time in waiting for everyone to be complete before moving along.

3. Have rest days in between.
    Some people tend to plan trips in a very compact schedule to maximise their time. We did this on our Eurotrip two years ago only to realise we were more tired than actually enjoying the trip. Although you won't be driving, travel time back and forth to Reykjavik can be exhausting so consider putting rest days in between. This will give you enough time to rest and enjoy your vacation more.
    

If you are going to Self-drive...

1. Bring a physical Map, don't rely only on GPS.
    Based on our experience, our GPS died on us in the middle of driving. We didn't have any physical map with us as an alternative. Although driving in Iceland was smoother than what we anticipated, it's always best to have maps to guide you.

2. Semi-plan ahead.
    It's good to drive around and be lost in the beauty of Iceland! But it's better to get an idea of at least one place you would want to drive to and take it from there.

3. Check out CityCar Rental in Reykjavik
  This Filipino-owned car rental was by far our greatest discovery. It has better rates and we were welcomed warmly by Filipinos working at the 4th Floor Hotel, also managed by the same owner.

I would strongly encourage self-driving if traveling with a big group. Car rental and gas expenses won't be that too much to share among a larger group and most of the sights have no entrance fees. 

Food

Dining out in Iceland is expensive. Probably one of the reasons why Mcdonald's shut down their business because of the high taxes in place. I would strongly recommend to buy from the grocery and do home cooked meals or sandwiches to save money. That is why it is also advisable to look for accommodations with a kitchen installed. Tap water in Iceland is very safe to drink so bringing a water bottle would be very handy and cost saving. 



Our usual meal.
SGD 6

To give you a more detailed breakdown of how much I spent on a 14-day trip to Iceland:
Prices from September-October 2016
Flight prices are 2-way

This is almost the same amount I spent on a 15-day Eurotrip for 7 cities! 
This breakdown excludes the outdoor clothing I had to buy.



Clothing

It is vital to consider the investment to be alloted in buying high quality and waterproof outdoor wear such as Tri-climate jackets, hiking shoes/boots, hiking pants, thermals and gloves. I could have just bought cheap, non-branded jackets but because I wanted to invest on durable outdoor wear, I opted to buy well-made outdoor wear from trusted brands. Heavy rains and strong winds in Iceland should not be underestimated so high durable waterproof and windproof outdoor wear are mostly recommended. Umbrellas won't stand a chance with the strong winds so better always carry a good quality raincoat with you.


My not-so-waterproof-wear at Skogafoss.
'Waterproofed' at Lake Myvatn.
(except for the beanie)


These are all based on my experience and recent trip to Iceland last October 2016. Different travelers have different preferences. What might have worked for me might not work for you. Happy planning ahead!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, these photos are stunning! What an amazing trip. Thanks so much for sharing! Unterkunft Frankfurt Oder

    ReplyDelete