Iceland 101 – Part 3: Being Prepared
Being prepared is not just a scouts thing to do its something to always be aware of when travelling (I know, I’m probably preaching to the choir here since the whole purpose of reading these things are to be prepared.. Ha!) So before you head over to the bank and exchange your currencies to Krona and packing your snow gear during your summer Iceland trip, read on!
Cash is not always king in Iceland
Most countries have always believed in this motto, but not in Iceland. If you have a travel credit card with little or low service fees, it’ll be wise to use it as most (if not all) of Iceland accepts credit cards. Keep in mind that you could exchange Canadian currency to Króna in Canada but most banks outside of Iceland will not exchange Krónas back to Canadian. The Icelandic monetary unit is the Króna (ISK). The coins in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Krónas. The notes are 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 Krónas. Currency exchange is available at all banks around the country. Banks in Iceland are generally open 09:00 – 16:00 Monday through Friday, except on public holidays.
Exchange services outside regular banking hours are available at Landsbankinn at Keflavík International Airport during the hours of 05:30-17:00 and 21:00-02:00 (1st floor) or 05:30-17:30 and 22:00-01:00 (2nd floor- departure hall) Please note that in Iceland, periods are used as thousands separators and commas are used as decimal marks. (e.g., 5.000 ISK, 25,5% VAT, etc.)
A refund of local Value-added Tax (VAT) is available to all visitors in Iceland. The refund results in a reduction of up to 15% off the retail price, provided that departure from Iceland is within three months after the date of purchase. The purchase amount must be no less than 4.000 ISK (VAT included) per store, purchased in the same day. If the refund value of the tax-free forms exceeds 5.000 ISK, the goods (except woollens) may need to be shown at customs before check-in. All other forms can be refunded directly in cash at Landsbanki Íslands in the departure hall of Keflavík Airport.
Weather in Iceland is ridiculously unpredictable. One minute it can be sunny and next thing you know, you’re driving through rain then snow in the middle of summer. But you can always count on two things though:
- It will definitely rain at some point during the day
- It will be windy or be terribly windy at some point during the day
If you expect these two things, weather shouldn’t bring your trip down! This is a great resource for up-to-date Iceland weather issued by the Icelandic Meteorological Office and up-to-date road conditions can be found on safetravel.is. Its best to register your information here if you plan on driving through the highlands or going off the grid. Also, don’t let the name ‘Iceland’ fool you really. Summers are cool resembling late summer / early fall and fairly mild during the winter thanks to . The biggest temperature factor is the wind. That wind. It could be a soft breeze to a hair-messing, rock-hurling gust. Regardless, its really the only thing to factor in while trying to figure out what to pack. The combination of wet + wind = one cold mofo! Even day tripping in Gulfoss, the spray from the falls is enough to get you really wet so its essential to have a good weatherproof jacket. On the other hand, arriving in Iceland decked out in alpine mountaineering gear is just overkill… at least during the summer time. Whatever you decide for you activities, its nice to have the following items. Bring layers which you could easily shed or add.
- Water / Weatherproof Jacket – Rain is common. Wind is common.
- Hats, Gloves and Scarves – All year round, its good to have.
- Wooly Sweater – Its warm, keeps you cool and dries really fast
- Running, Trail Shoes or Hiking boots – Varying terrain of Iceland may not be suitable for your Chucks…leave it for the city
- Backpack – Any size! Just good to have even if you’re driving. Good for those spontaneous hikes
- Swimming Stuff – Tons of thermal pools out there!
- Insect Repellent – Only if you are going to the North, annoying (non-biting) little buggers fly around you constantly near Myvatn or when around lakes, streams, horsies and sheep
- Sleep/Eye mask – If the hotel’s blackout curtains doesn’t cut it (or if you’re camping), bring these guys especially if you’ll be there for the Midnight Sun.
- European Plug Adapters – Whenever you need to charge your mobile or other gadget.
If you forget something… Several outdoor apparel stores and second-hand clothing shops can be found in downtown Reykjavík along with Tiger, a budget variety store with cheap accessories like sunglasses, gloves, ear plugs, batteries, luggage accessories, phone chargers and more.