What do I need to know about Iceland? Know what to bring and what to expect when you lend on Iceland the westernmost country in Europe
WHERE IS ICELAND
Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe.
It lies about 800 km northwest of Scotland and 970 km west of Norway, and its northern coast is just below the Arctic Circle. Iceland is the same distance from London as Athens.
The distance from New York to Iceland is the same as from New York to Los Angeles. Reykjavík is the world’s northernmost capital city.
With almost 80% of the country uninhabited, much of Iceland’s terrain consists of plateaus, mountain peaks, and fertile lowlands. There are many long, deep fjords and glaciers, including Europe’s largest, Vatnajökull. The landscape is characterized by waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, and otherworldly steaming lava fields.
Iceland’s highest peak is Hvannadalshnjúkur, standing 2,119 m (6,852 ft) over sea level. More than 11 percent of the country is covered by glaciers. Its landmass comprises glaciers (12,000 km2), lava (11,000 km2), sand (4,000 km2), water (3,000 km2), and pasture (1,000 km2).
Formed about 25 million years ago, Iceland is one of the youngest landmasses on the planet, and consequently home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes. The island ows its existence to a volcanic hotspot created by a fissure in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet.
If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. This little pun is often told at the expense of the Icelandic weather. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool, temperate maritime climate; refreshing summers and fairly mild winters.
The weather is also affected by the East Greenland polar current curving south-eastwards round the north and east coasts. As a result, sudden weather changes are common, and travellers should prepare accordingly.
For weather info in English call: +354-902-0600 or visit the Met Office website.
Voltage: 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts)
Primary Socket Type: Europlug, Schuko
Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.): Plug adapter
110-120V electronics: Plug adapter + step-down transformer
Hair dryers, curling irons, etc.: Plug adapter + voltage converter
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Iceland are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. If your appliance’s plug doesn’t match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance’s plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it’s crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
The Icelandic monetary unitis the “króna.” Coins are in denominations of 100 kr., 50 kr., 10kr., 5 kr. and 1 kr. Bank notes are in denominations of 5000 kr., 2000 kr.,1000 kr., and 500 kr. All Icelandic banks provide foreign exchange and are generally open on weekdays from 09:15 to 16:00. Central Bank of Iceland – Exchange rate
When travelling in Iceland you should bring along lightweight woolen items, a sweater or cardigan, a rainproof (weatherproof) coat, and sturdy walking shoes. Travellers who are camping or heading into the interior will need warm underwear and socks, rubber boots, and a warm sleeping bag.
Office hours are generally 09:00-17:00. Shopping hours are Mon-Fri 09:00-18:00, Sat from 10:00 to 13:00/14:00/15:00 or 16:00. Some supermarkets are open to 23:00 seven days a week or even 24 hours in the largest towns. Banking hours are Mon-Fri 09:15-16:00.
TRAVELLERS’ CHEQUES, DEBIT and CREDIT CARDS
Are widely accepted in Iceland. The major cards in Iceland are EUROPAY/MASTERCARD and VISA.
A refund of local Value-Added Tax (VAT) is available to all visitors in Iceland. The refund will result in a reduction of up to 15% of the retail price, provided departure from Iceland is within 3 months after the date of purchase. The purchase amount must be no less than ISK 4,000 (VAT included) per store. All goods (except woolens) need to be shown at customs before check-in. At Keflavík airport this applies only to tax-free forms whose refund value exceeds ISK 5,000. All other forms can be refunded directly in cash at Landsbanki Íslands in the departure hall. See more information here
Reykjavík police, for information only, Tel.:+354-444-1000.
Emergency phone number in Iceland is 112 (24 hours)
There are four GSM operators in Iceland: Siminn, Vodafone, TAL and Nova. Together they cover most of Iceland including all towns and villages with over 200 inhabitants. These telephone companies all sell pre-paid GSM phone cards and offer GSM/GPRS services. Pre-paid cards are available at petrol stations around the country.
Direct calls can be made to all parts of Iceland. The code into Iceland from overseas is +354 + seven-digit number. Direct long-distance calls can be made to Europe and the USA by dialing 00 plus the country code, and the telephone number you wish to reach.
The shops in Iceland are of international standard and carry a wide variety of merchandise in malls like Smáralind and Kringlan. Local specialties are wool knitwear (for example sweaters, cardigans, hats and mittens), handmade ceramics, glassware. Also available is a great variety of high-quality seafood.
PEOPLE AND LANGUAGE
As a whole, Icelandic people are very open and progressive, creative and self-reliant. They are highly educated, well-read and they share a deep love for arts and music. Like anyone else, Icelandic people like to have fun. They work hard and play hard and love sharing their country with visitors. In general Icelanders are very helpful and they speak English as well. The standard of living in Iceland is among the highest in the world. Although they are technically advanced and modern in outlook, many people are justly proud of the cultural heritage of Norse mythology and the Icelandic sagas.
The Icelandic language has always been a vital part of this island nation’s identity. Compared to the modern day languages spoken by its Nordic brethren, Icelandic most closely resembles the Old Norse once spoken across the Nordic countries. This is due to years of isolation in addition to the nation’s conscious struggle to preserve its language.