ICELAND TIPS & TRICKS
PANDEMIC PRACTICES: Iceland is among the few countries that escaped the pandemic relatively unscathed, and among the first to accept vaccinated travelers. Still, as of my trip, every person landing at Keflavik from overseas is given a (free) COVID test upon arrival , and even the vaccinated are expected to isolate at their accommodations until they receive a negative test result (between 2-8 hours). The requirements are changing rapidly, though. We had to wear masks on the tour bus until the regulations suddenly changed half-way through. For the latest, go to www.covid.is/english.
TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR: As I said previously, I booked a guided tour with Nordic Visitor which included transportation, accommodations, a few attraction entry tickets and several meals along the way. It was worth it to me not to have to worry about such things, but the company also has self-guided driving tours of the country that allow you to go at your own pace. Now that I've been there, I'd probably do that if I went back.
YES, IT'S EXPENSIVE: Unlike Japan, which has a reputation for being expensive but can be done on the cheap, Iceland's similar reputation is well-earned, and there's not really any way around it. I call it 'concert pricing' or 'airport pricing', and it pretty much applies to everything you do. Plan on it.
EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH: Kids in Iceland learn a minimum of three languages: Icelandic, English, and another Scandinavian language of their choice. Because of this, literally everyone you run into in Iceland will speak English, and no one here really expects you to know much, if any, Icelandic. I used 'skol' (for toasts) a few times, and that was about it.
EVER-CHANGING WEATHER: There were times on the tour where I wore a jacket, mittens, a hat and a scarf, and there were times when I was in a t-shirt. There were brilliant sunny days, there were cold blustery days, and there were windy rainy days. It might be a cliche, but the weather can go from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes. Pack accordingly.
CREDIT CARD NATION: I drew out a little cash when I arrived at Keflavik Airport, but in reality I never needed it. In fact, merchants almost automatically plan on credit cards, and then have to hit the little red 'X' when you offer to pay cash.
ICELANDIC CUISINE: If you like seafood and lamb, you will love Icelandic food. There are many ethnic choices in and around Reykjavik, but outside of the city it's seafood and lamb. Supposedly, there's something called "fermented shark" that is the daring (and reportedly awful) thing to try here, but I never found it. Granted, I didn't spend much time looking for it, either.
TIPPING: Not necessary, not expected. Service workers are actually paid for their work here (go figure!). I did tip our tour guide at the end of the trip for a job well done, but that was pretty much it.
MIDNIGHT SUN OR NORTHERN LIGHTS?: As far north as it is, Iceland basically has two seasons: one with lots of daylight and one with almost no daylight (Reykavik's latitude lies between Anchorage and Fairbanks, FYI). Don't expect to see the Northern Lights in May, and don't expect a lot of hikes in December.