Before you choose Iceland, read this and you know why

Iceland is a natural beauty of fire and ice. Witness the bare grounds, volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, glaciers and icebergs, cliffs, mountains, hot springs and mud pools, geothermal pools and volcanic caves.

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This is a country you must personally visit. At least once in your lifetime. You just need one good reason with this answer.

I have uploaded some images of Iceland. You can find my itinerary of Iceland here.

The Iceland trip was awesome! It’s hassle-free and I do not need to worry about transport. It’s done in a leisure pace, giving travellers like myself opportunities to admire the amazing scenery of Iceland. Insight Vacations offers a new experience to me. No huff, no puff . I thoroughly enjoyed the premium land tour service with an experienced Tour Director, who is a local Icelandic. His name is Snorri.  I learn the history and culture of Icelandic people.

Let’s get the first thing right – air ticket. The best way to get to Iceland from Singapore is to take international direct flights from Singapore to Copenhagen. The journey is about 13 hours. For comfort, you can sit SQ, Singapore Airlines. There are also other Airlines that fly to Copenhagen such as Lufthansa. From Copenhagen Airport, take the transit flight to Iceland which is another 3 hours.

My preferred transit airline is Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) They have automated ticketing machine that prints out your boarding pass in minutes!

How to travel around Iceland
If you are on a land tour like Insight Vacations, don’t worry – the driver will be here to pick you up at the Airport. If you are on free and easy, there are cars for rental. Once you exit the arrival hall at the Airport, you will see rental car companies like Hertz.

For more details, please refer to this website:
http://www.kefairport.is/English/Transportation/Car-Hire/

Don’t bother about trains, buses and bicycles. Think of obscure urban areas with almost non-existent inter-connected city infrastructure. Get a car with working GPS and a map to navigate around Iceland. You get to see things unimaginable!

The next question is, what should I prepare for my Iceland trip?

6 things you should bring to Iceland
1. Good quality rain (waterproof) jacket. Forget the thinnest type of windbreaker
2. A thick jacket for temperatures ranging from 0% to 15%. It gets chilly in the night
3. Woollen clothes or sweatshirts with hood. It’s windy. You may feel a sudden chill
4. Open mindset. Don’t bring the city-dwellers. You will see things out of the blue!

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5. Good waterproof and shockproof camera that is fits the outdoors
6. An extra pair of sturdy sports/hiking shoes. Never knows when your shoes give way

The rule of thumb is to pack light, pack smart by checking out the temperature. Mix and match your clothes. Two type of jackets are advisable as you don’t want to see walking around with a thick coat when it’s in the summer days. Certainly, you do not wish to look at old Santa lunging your stuff too.

Best time to go Iceland
Summer definitely. In the month of August where I choose to go, there is longer daylight hours, starting from about 7am to 7pm. During winter, daylight is only 3.5 hours and the rest of the time is covered in darkness.

How many days should I spend in Iceland
Plan your itinerary before you depart. As the airplane journey is long from Singapore (about 16 hours in total), it makes more sense to go for longer days. Minus away your travel days on the plane, I would say 9 to 12 days is a good start to cover the main attractions.

What type of currency to use in Iceland
Icelandic Krona (ISK), Euro or American Dollars. My recommendation is to use Icelandic Krona (ISK) . So that, you get better value when you buy food, drinks and small items using their local currency. In several stores and restaurant, the change you get back is in Icelandic Krona (ISK). If you pay in Euro, you will lose out on exchange rate currency. However, please keep a few Euro just in case. For example, if you are visiting Blue Lagoon, the entrance fee is around Euro56.00 per adult.

Where to change Icelandic Krona?
In my knowledge, there are no authorized banks and moneychangers in Singapore to change. Therefore, you have to change at Landsbanki foreign exchange teller upon arriving at Keflavik Airport, Iceland.

You will see it when you exit the arrival hall.  Please do so immediately.

For details, please refer to here:
http://landsbankinn.com/personal/services/keflavik-airport-foreign-exchange/

Can I use credit card in Iceland?
Yes, you can. However, you need to check your issuing bank credit card transaction fees. There may be a small charge for Iceland. Iceland is way ahead in technological advancement. If you head over to the nearest grocery store, you can also pay using your credit card. My best advice is, use cash whenever you can, so as to avoid any transactional fees.   If you need to withdrawal extra cash, there are Landsbanki and other ATMs/teller machines around Reykjavik, the main town and capital of Iceland. No UOB, DBS, OCBC, Standard Chartered banks!

You will also see similar ATMs (e.g. Landsbanki) in Akureyri, another town located north of Iceland. But, don’t bet on these ATMs around at walking distance!

What’s cooking?
Iceland has their unique set of bread that looks like a brown sponge cake.

Icelandic sponge cake

It tastes a little soft and not too hard. Out of 10, I would give it 8. Some local folks will put the bread near to the Geysir (hot spring) and within minutes, it’s fully cooked!

Try their Icelandic soup too. During lunch time, you can see small restaurants selling light meals that consist from bread and vegetable soup.

Icelandic soup

Icelandic people love meat and fishes too. Sadly, some eat horse meat (although I feel sinful). They catch fishes and rear sheep for a living. If you feel wealthy, go for buffet styled food in small restaurants.

Cost of food and drinks?
Buffet is about 14,000 Icelandic Kronas (ISK) = SGD$145 per person. (1 ISK = 0.01032 SGD). A restaurant type of meal like fish and chips will cost you about 12,000 ISK = SGD$124. A vegetable soup and a bread with tea is priced around 8,000 ISK = SGD$83. Beer in Iceland is cheaper and popular. You will see local breweries at towns like Akureyri. It costs around 650 ISK = SGD$7 per person.

How much Icelandic Krona should I change?
It depends on your travel literary, objectives and lifestyle habits. If you are a budget traveller, probably you will just spend on normal food and drinks; which is about Icelandic Kronas (ISK) 6,000 – 8,000. (1 ISK = 0.01032 SGD based on current rate).

However, things in Iceland are not cheap.

Use your Icelandic Kronas and Euros wisely. I would suggest changing your SGD to Euro dollars as you can set aside some for large ticket items (e.g. Blue Lagoon entry fee) and convert the rest to Icelandic Kronas (ISK). Any spare Euro change, you can use them for future Europe tours.

Typically, budget Euro 150 for a day. Give yourself a 10% to 15% mark up, so that you have a buffer. Better to have more than less. Therefore, if you travel for 9 days, it will be Euro 1,350. Rounding up, the total amount is about Euro 1,550 = SGD $2,650 (rate is 1 Euro = SGD$1.71). This includes your lunches and dinners, as well as some spare cash to buy skin and facial care products from Blue Lagoon, souvenirs, Icelandic books and other collectible items. Take this as an estimate since individual needs are different.

Most importantly, don’t run out of Icelandic Krona for small items purchases.

What to buy
There are many books on Iceland that you may not find in normal bookshops but at souvenir stores in Iceland. If you pass by the town of Akureyri, there is a spacious bookstore downtown, right across the church. Get a few of these books with commentaries, especially the well-taken photo images.

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You can also buy Icelandic woollen clothing which is popular. A normal woollen sweat shirt is about SGD$250. Iceland has a history of trolls, starting from the Viking age. You may wish to get little troll figurines for your house decoration.

Don’t forget the volcanic ashes. It’s sold in small bottles.

volcanic ashes on hand

The main draw is Blue Lagoon skin and facial care products. It’s known for geothermal therapies. Key item that is hugely sellable is their Silica mud mask, 200ml tube retailed at about Euro65.00. Yes, you hear me right. It’s not cheap!

But my heart tells me to go ahead. So, I decide to get some of the Blue Mountain products such as Algae mask, Silica mud mask, bath gel and shower foam at the Blue Lagoon shop after enjoying my dip into the Blue Lagoon.

One point to note – patronize the Blue Lagoon shop at the Keflavik Airport. Because it’s tax free, thus the products are cheaper. You just need to pack your skin care products (more than 100ml) in your check-in luggage.

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Language and People
Generally, Icelandic people are friendly and warm in nature. You can have a chat with them to understand their daily lives or ask for directions. They speak and understand English. They know you are a foreigner, so converse with you in English. Icelandic language is their local way of communication. Don’t bother to memorize the Icelandic words. It’s practically impossible.

Safety
Men and women are safe to walk around the attractions without any hassle during daytime. When night falls, you can’t see anything much because there are few street lamps. I am sure you will stay in your accommodation and have your hot tea/coffee or cold beer.

In addition, the same safety rule applies to any countries – use common sense. Avoid dark alleys, dark corners. Don’t flash your “bling bling” in the open. Probably the only thing to note is drunkards in pubs at Reykjavik at the wee hours of the night. In the morning and afternoon, outside the outskirts of the main city, you will be charmed by the natural landscape that you forget where you exactly are. Just be mindful of your surroundings as I think the steep cliffs and waterfalls (you can stand in front of it! No barriers to avoid spoiling the natural beauty) are more dangerous than the folks around you. In fact, you should be more careful of the terrain around you.

I hope my personal advices will serve you well.

Enjoy!

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