To start, you’re looking for the cheapest flight possible. You’re going to need it because Iceland is expensive, but more on that later. So where do you look first? I recommend looking at the dates provided by Travel Piratesif your travel dates are flexible. I was able to book my flight on the Saturday before leaving on Wednesday for $298 round trip leaving out of LAX flying WOW Air.
I found parking at LAX airport through the Way Parking App for $6/day. What a steal! They valet your car and shuttle you to the airport and pick you back up for free. Do this if you need parking!
What do I Pack?
First, look at your airlines baggage rules. WOW had tight restrictions on the size you can carry on for free. It’s the international Spirit airlines. I was able to make it from Thursday to Tuesday carrying only a backpack which I fit into this bin.
The 1st bin is what you need to fit for it to be free
Here’s what I brought:
1 Laptop w/ laptop charger
1 Nikon camera in bag with 2 lenses and 2 battery packs
Check the weather ahead of your trip to see if there is a sharp drop in climate. We hovered in the low 40’s and high 30’s. You will be amazed at the variety in weather you will encounter in an hour’s drive. Iceland’s weather can change course faster than Donald Trump promises of building a wall. Consider yourself warned.
I wore my big jacket, light jacket, vest, beanie, boots, and set of clothes onto the plane. Expect to do the same if you want your bag to fit. Actual photo of me getting onto my plane.
In retrospect, I could have gone without my laptop, but if you’re the type who needs to work or want to upload pictures immediately it can be done. Make sure you measure your bag in weight and dimensions. I weighed myself and then weighed myself again with the backpack on to make sure I met the 22 pound limit. Use a ruler or tape measure to measure the dimensions. They will make sure it meets the requirements. You are also allowed one personal item- such as a camera bag or laptop along with your carry on.
Phone plans and WIFI
I highly recommend renting a mobile WIFI unit if you plan on traveling the country side as you are going to need it for navigation and of course snapchatting and instagramming your entire adventure.You can rent at the rental car companies or use Iceland Camping Equipment. We found Iceland Camping Equipment to be extremely convenient and relatively cheap. The service is outstanding and you can pick up and drop off the unit at any time. Go on the link and reserve one for the dates you need. You will need to book it at least 24 hours in advance. For mobile plans, I have AT&T so I purchased the minimum passport for $40. It gives you 200 MB of data, unlimited text messaging, and the ability to connect to WIFI using the Global AT&T Passport app. You will run this app in the background at all times. Almost every single place you enter will have WIFI for you to use as well.
Where should I stay?
Depending on your preferences-Hostels, Air BnB’s, and hotels are all available at similar costs. I personally preferred keeping my trip flexible and only booked 1 night at a time.
I stayed at Kex Hosteland Aurora Guesthouse.Kex Hosteloffers a $22 breakfast in the morning and is found right in the middle of downtown. Aurora Guesthousegives you free breakfast in the morning, more privacy, and is found near the Hallgrímskirkja church. We had a night out on Saturday downtown and walked back to Aurora no problem.
We also stayed one night out in the Uthlid Cottages with friends we met along the way. It was a beautiful cabin with a hot tub out in the middle of nowhere. It also puts you right above the loop which gives you a head start in the morning to hit all of your Golden Circle desires.
Should I rent a car?
I highly recommend renting a car. The buses I saw carrying tourists were packed like sardines. If you place value on freedom and flexibility on your trip RENT A CAR. You can rent directly from Keflavik airport, but I would look to reserve ahead of time as it will save money. You can look on websites like Expedia , Kayak , or Booking. If you plan on making the Golden Circle loop or driving the distance around the country- buy the unlimited miles and insurance. For reference, we drove 750 km in 3.5 days. The car insurance is temporarily $1,500 if you decide to pay for it on the booking site. The site made it look desirable for only $11 a day, but the actual rental agency will offer their own on top of what you paid. If you decline, then they will place the hold. Also, gas is expensive (around $7 a gallon), but the vehicles you can rent are gas efficient. Or if you like to travel in style rent the Land Rover Defender.😍
If you have decided that the rental car is not for you. You are going to need transportation from the airport- use Grayline. They will deliver you directly to your destination in Reykjavik.
Flying WOW (if you’re riding similar low cost airlines this is relevant)
Make sure you arrive to your airport 2-3 hours ahead of time. Checking in and getting through security takes some time- definitely at LAX. Make sure to place your bag in the bucket provided by the airlines prior to checking in at the desk to see if it will fit because they will make you do it in front of them. On the way home, they do not bother to check it. So if you get past the US check in standard, the Icelandic counterpart will let you through without query. Make sure you are packed and measured more than 24 hours ahead of time because WOW shuts down the ability to purchase the extra baggage online and buying it at the airport is almost double the cost of buying it online ahead of time.
Ok, so you’re checked in and your bag fit. What do I expect for my 9 hour flight? WOW does not offer in flight WIFI, but it does have plugs beneath your seat to plug in your electronics. So bring a book or download some entertainment before getting onto the flight. Both flights from LAX and returning from KEF were half full so I had the row to myself.
You can purchase food and drink on board, but I recommend purchasing ahead in the terminal.
I also recommend if you plan on drinking in Iceland to purchase some duty free booze before getting onto the plane. Each person can bring 1 bottle through Icelandic customs. When you arrive, there are more duty free areas to purchase booze in Keflavik.
All in all- WOW air really does put effort into the customer service they provide for a low cost airline. The flight attendants are phenomenal and you will find funny snippets written all over the place so be on the lookout (including the trash bin they roll through). I won’t ruin all of the fun. I would ride WOW air again without a doubt due to the amount of thought they put into giving you a pleasant international travel experience.
Nightlife in Reykjavik
Here is a good reference for the feel of the nightlife.
We visited Kaldi Bar, Kaffibarinn, Lebowski, English Bar, and Dubliner. The night life seems to pick up around 11:00 PM and on weekdays closes at 1:00 AM and weekends around 4:00 AM. It is extremely lively and is worth going to have a drink with the locals. If you end up at Kaldi Bar ask for Helgi- he’s the tallest guy in Iceland- you can’t miss him.
Download AppyHour for drink specials around the city. You won’t regret it $$$$$$$$$.
Eating in Reykjavik
Everything is expensive. Prepare mentally ahead of time- $20 a meal is going to be a steal. Here are some of the restaurants we really enjoyed
Íslenski barinn located at 1a, Ingólfsstræti, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Traditional Icelandic food. We had a phenomenal leg of lamb. Highly recommended.
Íslenska Hamborgarafabrikkan Höfðatorg, 2, 105, Katrínartún, Reykjavík, Iceland
This place is the size of a phone booth. I was not able to take pictures in here because they told me if I did they would have to kill me. Best burger in Iceland … if you can find it.
Reykjavik has many beautiful things to see including just the wall graffiti you can find all over the city.
Your main attractions in Reykjavik are going to be the Sun Voyager and the Hallgrímskirkja church. Both are found within 10 minutes walking distance of each other.
There is so much scenery to see so depending on how ambitious you are you can customize this list as it makes sense to you.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is an obvious must. You will have to book your time slot ahead of time. There are multiple options for packages. We decided on the comfort package because we planned on drinking and it comes with 1 drink included and a towel. You get the silicon (famous white mask) for free, but the algae mask comes in the comfort package if you are really looking to refine those pores. Beers are $11 (which is actually an ok price in Reykjavik standards) and you can have a max of 4 with this package at the bar. We planned our trip to the lagoon at 8:00 AM on the morning we arrived in Iceland because of the proximity to the Keflavik airport.
Also, the 8:00 AM time slot helps you avoid the crowd rush around 11:00 AM- and you probably cannot check into where you are staying until later in the afternoon. If you would like pictures, I recommend bringing your waterproof case or purchasing one. Upon arrival, you will go to the front desk where they will give you a wrist band that will keep track of everything you purchase and allow you in and out of your locker.
The Northern Lights
Sadly, we did not see them. They are extremely fickle and hard to find. If you fancy yourself an explorer and want to try and find them yourself- look at this website Aurora Forecast. We made a trip out into the countryside looking for them, but to no avail. The conditions must be partly cloudy and dark. You can buy an expedition which they will take you on a bus looking for them. If the conditions are not right they will cancel and refund your order- problem is if you are only there for a short period of time. It’s like canceling all your plans with your friends, getting dressed up for a hot date and then the date never comes to pick you up. Don’t put yourself in a predicament where you are relying on the Northern Lights tour to take you out nor cancel plans with your friends. Life tips. Make sure you have a back up plan if they fall through- I wouldn’t want you to waste a night.
Here’s the look you give when you realize you are not going to see the Northern Lights and you cancelled plans with your friends.
We started our route at 10:30 AM and ended around 4:00 PM.
This takes a 1 mile hike to get to- including crossing a stream that requires some balancing over some rocks. Gorgeous blue water and we are glad we did it.
We actually did not take the time to get out of the car for this one. Just stopped at the restaurant for a quick bite to eat and drove on through to the next destination.
A must see. Raw power of natural water running into a deep ravine. Bundle up because this is your coldest stop on the trip.
Bring your bathing suit. Hop into your second volcanic spring of the trip.
Kerið Sunken Volcano– You will have to pay $4 to see it- worth the price of admission
This was my personal favorite of all our stops. Powerful waterfall falling from the mountains and you can walk behind it.
Additional things we wish to have seen
Friðheimar Tomato farm– Good for some grubbing.
Skalholt Church – easy to get to on Golden Circle Route
Black Sand Beach (Reynisdrangar) – if you are doing the glacial cave expedition this is on the route
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – On route of glacial caves
Glacier Lagoon– On route of glacial caves
Glacier Caves- You will need to purchase a tour.
I recommend planning out your route ahead of time. Play around in Google Maps and see what is best.
Your go to Icelandic word: skál (Sounds like skull) – It means Cheers!
Be aware of the Daylight Hoursand plan accordingly. Rise at 11:00 AM falls around 3:30 PM.
Your main streets in Reykjavik are Hafnarstraeti and Laugavegur. If you find yourself lost or in search of a bar- look for these streets.
Don’t buy beer at gas stations- it is 2.5%
The water is sulfur water- be prepared for the smell. It is good to drink.
They love roundabouts and old school Red Hot Chili peppers.
Tipping is not necessary, nor solicited. Will not be forgotten if you do.
If you can get your hands on one of the hotels coupon books you will save $100’s.
The conversion rate is .0093- meaning about 10% of the dollar. Example- Your hamburger is 2000 Krona = 20 dollars. Just move the decimal 2 spots to the left for quick calculations. You only need to bring a credit card- don’t worry about exchanging for cash.
I hope all of you have found this helpful in your travels to Iceland. Make this trip your own- be flexible and have fun. Get out and meet the locals and enjoy the scenery!
If you want to reach me for additional questions or guidance- reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me on instagram @hopsonplanes
Born in Houston,Texas and raised in Arkansas, Chris is living vicariously through himself as a corporate escape artist and self proclaimed decreaser of world sucking. Currently based out of San Diego, he enjoys traveling, humor, and beer so he created Hops on Planes. He prefers his puns intended and speaking in 3rd person.