8 blunders to avoid when in iceland

a slæmur rower kennir árina. – “a bad rower blames the oar.”

- view of the mountains by the atlantic ridge@pingevellir national park -

– view of the mountains by the atlantic ridge@pingevellir national park –

if you’re heading to iceland during the winter time, you want to make sure you’re prepared for anything, especially when you’re from the tropics and aren’t familiar with what to look out for when travelling through colder temperate lands.

blunder #1: failing to bring a set of water–resistant clothes
if you’re touring iceland in the winter, you’re bound to encounter fickle weather. expect frequent showers and snow if you’re heading to glacial or coastal areas. should this be the case, pack a water resistant jacket, pants, shoes, gloves and hat. if you can squeeze in a poncho, that would be good as well. any of the known brands like north face, marmot, columbia or 66 north from iceland can help keep you dry.

blunder #2: no protection for your photography gear
like you, your electronic gear i.e smartphones, cameras and tablets need to be covered when taking pictures out in wet conditions. for professional video/still DSLR’s invest in a splash bag. for all other equipment, a shower cap, plastic bag or ‘ziploc’ will do. always carry extra bags so if one gets wet you can change bags. it will not be easy but keep your gear as dry as you can. put them in your pocket when not in use or under your jacket. with video/still cameras, keep them warm because you don’t want moisture to hit the inner part of your expensive lenses. when coming in from the cold, place cameras near window sills to allow your gear to warm up slowly to prevent condensation issues.

blunder #3: not bringing enough memory cards/batteries
assuming you’re going to be snapping away like crazy, be sure to bring enough memory cards and an extra battery. my mistake was not getting an extra battery so i did go a couple of days when my battery died out on me. this applies to your mobile devices as well. invest in a good portable charger to power up your devices on long  journeys.

blunder #4: not doing your research
heading to iceland may be the most memorable trip of your life and there will be parts of the journey where you want to keep your itinerary relatively unplanned and spontaneous. by all means do so but then again, you’re not collecting ideas for the next edition of ‘Hitchhiking for Dummies’. focus on having a rough travel agenda. after all, you do want to enjoy yourself and not have to wear a dazed, surprised look all over your face your entire trip, do you? start with the forums/reviews on tripadvisor and then work your way through other travel forums, blogs (like this one :)) local tour company sites, your local travel fairs for great deals on flights or online ticketing sites like expedia.com or zuji.com etc. for those on the move, you can also download some really cool apps on iceland right to your phone and tablet.  click for more travel prepping ideas here.

blunder# 5: visa and health quarantine check
the first thing before you decide to visit a country is to check it’s visa entry requirements. iceland’s visa requirements can be found here. as for vaccination requirements international travellers do not need one. we assume that since it’s quite close to the poles that no germ worth its salt would think it had a fighting chance of survival here in the bitter cold mixed in with loads of sulphur. in fact, with all the geothermic activity on this island, any virus you bring in could be wiped out just by breathing in large quantities of fresh, clean and crisp icelandic air.

blunder# 6: ignoring road safety rules
winter time is really bleak especially in the interior, north and eastern parts of iceland and if you’re not used to driving on snow-laden roads, they can be quite unforgiving to the over-confident driver. the nation’s ring road is a fantastic drive during clear, dry, summer days but even then, a certain level of precaution is advised as many parts of the road are gravelly and can do you and your rented car in. as a result of this unfamiliarity, many unnecessary accidents have occurred on iceland roads, usually involving tourists. always ask locals for directions if you’re lost and stay as much as you can on the main roads. veering off can seem exciting and adventurous but if you’re not sure of the way back, don’t do it.

- road safety sculpture on that you will see on route 1 -

– an interesting road safety sculpture that you will see on route 1 –

blunder #7: not packing a sense of humour and fun
icelandic people speak english quite well but it’s not their first language so you have to forgive them if they come up with corny jokes every once in awhile during your stay. that’s not to say they lack razor sharp wit because they do and most will spill a joke on you so unexpectedly that if you’re slow on the uptake, it’ll just whizz by you like a maclaren F1 on booster mode. expect one-liners from guides who will comment on the ‘heavy traffic’ in reykjavik or the insanely ‘beautiful sunny weather’ in the country during your tours. funny stuff, really if you just let yourself go and indulge in having a little chuckle on your trip.

blunder #8: missing out on anything geothermal
the island isn’t called the island of fire and ice for nothing. sitting in your hotel room all day and not seeing at least one volcano, hot spring, geysir or lagoon is a blasphemy. even if you do miss out, at least drive out 20 minutes to reykjavik’s nearest geothermal power facility,  hellisheiði power plant and enjoy the educational geothermal energy exhibition.

- the hellisheiði power station -

– the hellisheiði power station –

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6 responses to “8 blunders to avoid when in iceland

  1. Excellent advice. Thanks Persis. We are heading to Iceland in June. Will we still need all the waterproof gear then?

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