Iceland Tips and Tricks: What you need to know before going 21

{This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the EE site at no additional cost to you.}

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, no doubt you have been overwhelmed with information, activities to do and more.  We hope to give you everything you need to know in one spot, though.

Start with the Planning an Iceland Trip article that gives you the basics to help you decide the best way to see and experience the island.

Next, check out our suggested one week Itinerary for the Ring Road plus activities to do in Reykjavik  that you can adapt to meet your own needs.

Finally, if you are wanting an adventure of a lifetime, check out the Campervan in Iceland post all about how we lived, ate and slept for a week in a campervan.

Iceland Tips and Tricks



After doing all of this, you should have an easily planned out trip and will be ready to see one of the most beautiful and diverse countries the world has to offer!!!
Now, to get a few Iceland Tips and Tricks and other fun tid-bits!




Depending on the season will depend on your clothing options.  However, no matter when you decide to go, plan on layers.  Rain year around is not uncommon and if you are camping, the nights can get quite cold!

As you know from our Packing Light post, we are all about packing efficiently.  Even with one full week of travel and freezing temperatures, we were able to only pack one carry on backpack plus a small day pack total for the two of us!  How?  Once again, layering, my friends!!

Also, the truth is, most people are pretty spoiled with wearing a pair of clothing once and calling it dirty.  Don’t be afraid to wear an article of clothing more than once.  Trust me, it’s not THAT dirty!  Also, you can plan on doing laundry halfway along the trip, which means only having to pack half the clothing.

Here are the absolute essentials you will need:

Long Underwear: Both tops and bottoms.  At least two pairs for each

Quick Drying/ Waterproof pants: While jeans are ok if you are stopping at hotels where you can hopefully dry out your pants overnight, I still wouldn’t recommend the denimn route.  Instead, opt for hiking, quick dry or nylon pants that either keep out the rain or will dry fast

Sweaters/ Long Sleeved Shirts: On top of the long underwear, I also wore a sweater every day.  I packed two and simply re-wore for several days

Fleece: Ok, I am a little ridiculous (Andy didn’t need THIS many layers, but I was glad I had them all!).  On top of the long underwear plus sweater, I also had a fleece jacket that I wore every single day!

Waterproof Coat: Both Andy and I have Columbia winter coats that, in addition to the quality coat itself, we have also Scotch-guarded to help even more with water repellent.

Smart Wool Socks: We love our smart wool socks!  We each took about 3 pairs each

Waterproof Shoes/ Boots: I had good, sturdy boots that were perfect for rain, keeping my feet warm and walking along slippery rocks.  Andy had his trusty Merrils, which are really just tennis shoes, but doubles as his hiking shoes.  Whatever you choose, make sure that they can handle water, slippery rocks and lots and lots of walking!  Here are some of the best hiking boots for women

Hats/ Gloves:  Because I am slightly crazy, I had cotton gloves in addition to mittens on top! Andy didn’t wear any gloves at all, so once again, pack according to your personal needs.  Also, have a good hat that covers your ears for those cold and windy days.  I actually had (and used!) a stocking cap PLUS ear warmers…because, you know….I’m nuts.

So, to recap, I wore (and yes, all at once!): long underwear pants under a pair of leggings under a pair of hiking pants (3 layers) on bottom.  On top, I had a long underwear top under a normal sweater, under a columbia fleece jacket under my columbia winter coat (4 laayers)!  You may not be as ridiculous as I am when it comes to cold weather, so again, just pack accordingly.  But remember, even with all those layers, you don’t need to over-pack.

Others: Of course, you’ll need all your other essentials (undergarments, tooth brush, medicines, etc)


Planning a Trip To Iceland?

Don’t forget to research cheap things to do on TripAdvisor and book affordable Hotels at



Driving in Iceland is relatively easy.  You will need a valid driver’s license (it also never hurts to have an international liscence.  Check with your rental company to see what they require).

Insurance: Check with your own insurance to see what they cover with rentals (also check your credit cards, as many have really good insurance as well already included!)

The rental company is going to try to get you to pay for additional insurance policies (Sand and Ash Storms, what else?)  Do what makes you feel comfortable, but we didn’t get any additional policies and afterwards saw no reason to pay the extra fees.


Since we had researched before hand, we were prepared for getting gas, but at every single stop, filling up seemed to be the most difficult part of Iceland for most tourists!

1) Be sure to have a credit card that works overseas (no foreign transaction fees and you have notified the company of international travel)

2) Pin Cards: If you have a card that uses a PIN, you will have no problems.  Even if it doesn’t, some places still accepted the card when typing in 0000 for the PIN

3) If your card is neither of the above, you will have to buy gas cards.  You can get these at any station.  You will want this because there are tons of stations that have no actual building/ personell.  You will be able to use these cards at these locations without any issue and not worry about where the next stop will be.

4) When filling up, you have to decide how much money to fill up on the machine.  Just choose the highest option, as it will only charge you what you use. (Example: You can select $50 worth of gas, but if you only needed $30, then the $30 is what you will be charged for)

5) If you can’t use your card at the pump, simply go inside to tell the cashier what pump you are on and how much to put on it.  They will “open” the pump.  Go fill up and then return inside to pay.

That’s it.  Just be prepared and you will be good to go!  Also, all gas is the same price no matter where you go, so you don’t have to worry about “shopping around.”

Headlights: We never saw any official rules about driving with headlights on at all times, but it seemed as though everyone else was, so we followed suite.

Potholes: If doing the Ring Road, be ready for pot holes galore!  Just drive slowly and carefully.

Camping:  If you are camping or staying in a campervan, you can currently free-camp anywhere that isn’t private property or doesn’t have a sign stating no camping.  This makes using a campervan an extremely flexible and great option!



Iceland is a crazy safe place!  Locals joke that the police play with puppies and eat more donuts than actual police work because it is such a safe place!  When returning our campervan, Go Campers told us to just leave the keys in the van when we returned!  It was so refreshing to be a in a place that you felt safe and comfortable!

Nature: I think the biggest safety concern is actually nature itself.  Many of the sites are not roped or railed off, meaning that it is often just a long plummet to a raging waterfall or glacial lagoon below you!  Rocks can be slippery and paths not always clear, so appropriate clothing as well as common sense and precautions are absolute necessities.

Fossardálur Waterfall Iceland




Hotels, Gas Stations and Eateries Along the Ring Road

When planning our trip, I got the impression that it could be hours upon hours before seeing the next town and that town may not have much at all in it.  However, we found there to be way more hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other accommodations along the way than we were expecting.  While it never hurts to fill up frequently, just in case, we never found ourself in a pinch! There were plenty of places to stop for food or even just a coffee along the way as well.



It is simply amazing at the number of waterfalls in Iceland!  In fact, X% of all of Iceland’s electricity actually comes from hydroelectricity, so they make good use of them!!!

While traveling the Ring Road, we overheard several people comment on “Another Waterfall.” One traveler said, “I won’t be heartbroken if we skip this one, I’ve had my fill of waterfalls.”

Now, to each his own, and I understand that waterfalls may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  However, most of these are literally right along the main route and only take a few minutes to get out of the car and view.  Also, for as many waterfalls as there are in Iceland, I was amazed at how each one was still drastically different than all the other ones we had seen!

You are traveling to see and experience new sites.  You are already there, so to answer your question of, “Do I really need to stop at one more waterfall?”  The answer is yes! Just do it!



When traveling, we have found that the more equipped with tips and tricks on the local way of life we have, the more enjoyable experience we have.  We don’t have to worry or have questions and avoid unnecessary stressors because we already know the answers.  Hopefully these tips and tricks for Iceland will help you have an amazing and enjoyable adventure!


Have you traveled to Iceland before?  Tell us in the comments below what tips and tricks you would give to fellow travelers.

Heading to Iceland and still have questions?  Ask us below and we’ll see if we have the answers for you!


The following two tabs change content below.

LeAnna Brown

Author and Creator at Economical Excursionists
Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

About LeAnna Brown

Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

21 thoughts on “Iceland Tips and Tricks: What you need to know before going

  • Madison

    Did you find a good deal on your flights? What are your opinions about this tour with a 5 month old? Too cold at nights? I love all the detailed information you share, makes planning easier 🙂

    • LeAnna Post author

      Thanks, Madison! Glad you enjoy the details! Great questions. Flights: We travel hack, so we used British Avios and Air Berlin mostly. Two big airlines that go in/out of Keflavik are IcelandAir and WOWAir, however, there are very few flights in/out for all airlines during low season. The Kiddo: If s/he is a good traveler and doesn’t mind the car, I don’t see it being a problem (I say that now….talk to me in a year when we attempt to travel w/ our little one on the way!!!) If you want to do the campervan, I’d prob do it during a warmer time w/ the baby, but you can always just rent a car and stay in hotels. It may not be as flexible or adventurous, but obviously adjustments need to be made for travel w/ a kiddo! Feel free to shoot me an email or reply back w/ more questions/comments

  • Christina

    All good things to know when preparing an Iceland trip. I also couldn’t believe how many stunning waterfalls there were. I made my husband stop at each one. I am also a waterfalls fanatic 🙂

  • Lotte

    Iceland is skyhigh on my Places to Visit list. I am actually planning the honeymoon of my sister in law who happens to go to Iceland so this is such a useful post! I have added it to my Excel planning sheet;-). Great work!

  • Anda

    So Iceland is not such a deserted place as it may seem, after all. I’m glad to hear it’s very safe as well. I’m definitely planning to go and I’d love to visit it in winter as I’d love to photograph the Northern Lights. Do you think cash would work better at gas station than credit or debit cards? I kind of like to have cash on me when I travel. Great tips.

    • LeAnna Post author

      We almost only exclusively use C.C to earn points for free travel, so I’m not 100% sure, but I did hear that C.C is best bc many of the gas stations (especially after hours or during non-tourist season) are completely closed (minus the C.C machine) and there often aren’t stations for miles and miles down the road, so I’d hate to be stuck w/ no gas or way to pay for some!

  • Rosemary

    Iceland has been on my list for many years now. This is a great detailed post on what to do. It is certainly incredibly beautiful, but how is the food? Would love your thoughts. Thanks 🙂

    • LeAnna Post author

      Well, here is the problem with Iceland…it is EXPENSIVE!!!! So, we actually just shopped at grocery stores and got things like sandwiches to help with the cost. However, food is an important part of cultures, in my experience, so we did do one nice meal out. There was….wait for it….pate, HORSE(!?), veal, and other strange meats! But, I will say this, it was DELICIOUS!

  • Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

    I haven’t been to Iceland yet, but want to really bad! Hubby wants to go, too, so I have to wait for his availability on this one! Argh! WOW Air will probably be the way to go for us. They have such cheap flights from the east coast of North America. Great tips, especially about the gas. That would be a real nightmare to need gas, not know how to use the pump or your card is rejected, and have no staff on-site!

    • LeAnna Post author

      It is amazing how many deals are coming out for Iceland! Get there before it is taken over by tourists, or even worse, the nature is damaged too much by people 🙁

  • Vicky and Buddy

    Thank you for these tips and tricks! I am hoping to go to Iceland soon since I want to see the Northern Lights there. I’ve read a lot of blogs about Iceland, but yours was the first to mention gas cards, so thanks for that!

  • anto

    Great tips! I’m going to Iceland for the 7th time next week (I’m such a geek) and I can’t wait… we’ve never rented a campervan which sounds really interesting. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for decent weather this time 😉

  • Liyana

    Great tips!! Am going there in October and would like to know:

    1) did you buy any sim card for data there? If yes, which mobile provider would you recommend?

    2) how much do you reckon did you spend on gas for the whole trip?

    • LeAnna Post author

      Great questions. No, we never buy cell service when traveling. We are cheap and if we need to call anyone, we just find wifi and use google voice or whatsapp. As for gas….that’s a great question! I actually would have to go back and dig through my stuff, but that would be helpful to know, hu!? Let me see what I can pull up and I’ll get back to you

  • christine leger

    Couple questions; I want to go in May/June but this may not be possible with the hubbys work schedule, and the cost of plane tickets.
    When is another good time to visit that won’t cost me a fortune?
    I would prefer midnight sun over northern lights only because we plan on driving through some areas that may be snowed over in winter.
    Now, I’m Canadian so cold doesn’t scare me. But I also have two kids that have never been to Canada so their tolerance is not as great as mine.

    • LeAnna Post author

      Well, we went in October and it was PERFECT! Enough hours in the day to explore but late enough in the year for Northern Lights! (It was also “off season” so the prices were a bit lower but also meant very few flights in/out a day) It was also cold, but nothing that wasn’t tolerable (we slept in an unheated campervan, so that tells you that it wasn’t absolutely freezing yet!) But, that doesn’t give you the midnight sun- which I think is only in the summer, so if that is a requirement, looks like you’d be locked into those summer months.