Arriving in Iceland is so amazing, if you land in the daytime you’ll suddenly see this intriguing landscape appear and Reykjavik glistening in the distance as you land west of it at Keflavik airport. I have always chosen to hire a car, so I’ll focus on hints and tips that weave around this. I love the freedom of being able to explore in a car, the roads are brilliant, even after heavy snow, they are cleared almost instantly and they are really quite. Importantly for me, it means we can book remote properties away from the light pollution of populated areas and increases the chance of seeing aurora and also makes for much better photos of them…….and it is liberating staying somewhere with beautiful landscape surrounding it!
Arriving at Keflavik International Airport
We’ve always been super impressed at the speed you get off the plane, through borders and luggage is often as not waiting for you on the conveyors. On the way out of the airport you pass through duty free. If you are thinking of getting a few bottles while you’re on your trip, it is worth buying them here as alcohol is expensive. It is also only sold in Vinbudin , State controlled stores with very specific locations and opening times!
Collecting your hire car
Most car hire companies run a shuttle bus service from the arrivals gate to their store. The airport arrivals lounge isn’t that big and the majority of car hire places are just 5 minutes from the terminal. It is walkable but it depends on how much luggage you have and the weather outside. If there is a shuttle there, then grab it. Ahead of your trip, consider the time of year and the roads you will be travelling on as a 4WD is essential for some of these circumstances.
Driving in Iceland
Driving in Iceland is easy. The roads are quite, relative to the UK, the main ring road can leave you wondering if you will ever see anyone again at times as the jaw-dropping landscape unfolds in front of you. In most urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h, 80km/h on gravel roads and 90km/h on asphalt. They drive on the right hand side. Roadsigns are really clear, as are warning signs and there are regular reports of tourists ignoring these but they are there for our safety, its an amazing country and so pay attention to these. There are also live signs, updating on weather or speed limits responding to the road conditions. Useful websites include:
The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue
Road conditions from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA)
HOW TO DRIVE IN ICELAND
Instructional video from IRCA
Getting food & booze
There is a great distribution of food and fuel stations around Iceland. There are two main supermarkets, Bonus and Kronan, all of which stock a great range of food to cater for all tastes and even indulge in the likes of fermented shark and puffin meat?! If you are self catering, it is worth noting that there is a Bonus on the road 41, see here, the main road away from Keflavik, along with a fuel station, so a great pit-stop to get essentials before you travel on. Be warned, opening hours are refreshingly not like the UK 24/7 culture and so don’t let opening times catch you out! As mentioned earlier, booze is sold through State managed stores in specific locations and opening hours which you can see here.
I get a little bit addicted to the Icelandic Met Office website which you can see here: VEDUR.IS. Not only can you see the weather but you get the aurora forecast and plot it against the cloud cover, earthquake reports and other warnings.
Mobile & data roaming
Depending on your phone network, calls and data can be expensive in Iceland and a lot of people use Siminn while they travel.
THE 112 APP – The Icelandic emergency number app with location based services.
Seeing the aurora borealis
Chances are you’ve travelled to Iceland with the hope of seeing the aurora borealis and once you’re all checked in, if there is a clear sky then there is always a chance of seeing it, even with a low forecast…..you can see my whole post dedicated to the aurora here. Or just get overwhelmed by seeing the stars and Milky Way so clearly!
Photos from our arrival in Iceland and staying at this wonderful beach side airbnb in Mosfellsbaer. We even got to see seals in the sea from the house!