In recent years there has been a veritable, real, pulsating and engaging tourism boom in Iceland. There is an ever growing amount of information available to visitors travelling to this country, yet sometimes the best place to find out what visitors think is to straightout ask them! It is always great to find out what visitors to Iceland are experiencing or thinking. I decided to take to the streets and ask a couple nice and obliging tourists, what they wish they had known before coming to Iceland. Here are a few of the responses from my inquiries!
“I wish I had know that it would be this cold so soon after summer”
This particular tourist in Reykjavík is from mainland Europe, which has, this late summer been experiencing a heat wave. He was surprised that already in the beginning of September, there was a chill in the air. It is a fact, and an unfortunate one, that we in Iceland do not experience the four seasons known to most Europeans. We have something that appears more like two seasons, summer and winter. Best to bring plenty of sweaters.
“I did not realize how accessible the island is”
The ring road around the country is an ideal travel plan. If you want to see many interesting and beautiful sites, without much fuss, rent a car and drive the road number one from Reykjavík, all the way around and back again to Reykjavík!
“I was surprised by how bad the service at restaurants is”
In one word, service in Iceland sucks. This is true especially if you are coming from the United Sates where servers depend on tips to make a reasonable living. In Iceland, servers do not have this incentive. They will treat you fine, and you may even get a smile, but don't be disappointed if your server at a restaurant doesn't come over to your table every ten minutes to see how you are doing. In less formal establishments like cafes and bars it is almost the rule that it is necessary to go to the bar to order your drink or meal. Don't misunderstand though, they will not be rude, and they will most likely even be friendly if you try talking to them. The difference is mainly that they will be more casual about their job and not overly helpful, unless they are asked for help.
“I wish I had known to bring some normal clothes to wear in downtown Reykjavík”
Most Icelanders dress as if the cold were a silly joke! In all fairness, they most likely drive cars everywhere and use them as some strange metal and plastic coat. You will notice though, that it isn't necessary to wear hiking gear in downtown Reykjavík!
“I wish I had known that pilsner sold in the supermarkets and grocery stores has almost no alcohol content!”
This is so true! Iceland has some pretty hardcore laws in relation to the selling and buying of alcohol. There are special, government run stores called Vínbúðin that sell all the legally available alcoholic beverages in the country (apart from restaurants and bars). Not only that, they don't even open on Sundays! So, if you want to buy anything, from a single beer to a bottle of Schnapps, make sure to do it during opening hours (before 6 pm) and before Sunday!
“I wish I had realized how complicated the money is!”
We have a silly currency, pretty, but silly!
It is easy to get mixed up by the large numbers and all the coins. Best to look it up before hand so that you don't spend unnecessary amounts of time fumbling with money at a cash register. Also, be aware of your exchange rate so that you understand well what things cost.
“I wish I had known from the start that bottled water in Iceland is the same exact thing as tap water”
This! This is such a good point. Paying for water in Iceland is a waste of money. Period.
“I wish I had known how much I would like it right away!”
A lovely couple enjoying a beer at the Kex Hostel had just arrived to Iceland when I approached them and asked my question. They could barely say, having spent so little time here, but were jolly enough to give this fun answer. I do think it is symbolic in a way, as everyone I spoke to seemed happy with their visit and had pretty much only nice things to say of our little land.