Kips travelpage Iceland

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Practical information

Climate Best time to visitpixel.gif (826 bytes)Clothingpixel.gif (826 bytes)Transportationpixel.gif (826 bytes)Languagepixel.gif (826 bytes)Lodgingpixel.gif (826 bytes)Timezone
pixel.gif (826 bytes)Foodpixel.gif (826 bytes)Communicationpixel.gif (826 bytes)Money and pricespixel.gif (826 bytes)Safetypixel.gif (826 bytes)Holidayspixel.gif (826 bytes)Shoppingpixel.gif (826 bytes)Electricitypixel.gif (826 bytes)Addressespixel.gif (826 bytes)Links

Climate
Iceland is not as cold as it sounds thanks to the warm Gulf stream which sends rather warm air ( at least for this northern location) to the island. Maximum temperature during a summer day is about 15░C. It freezes during the very long winter , but only a few degrees Celsius below zero. The climate varies depending on the area; north and east tend to be sunnier, the inland is drier but there you can have severe snow- and dust-storms. Summers are very short, quite rainy and cool. Even when temperatures are moderate, it feels cold due to the strong, chilly winds. When I was visiting in May, it was between 4 and 8 ░C but it felt like - 10 ░C to me. However it was mostly sunny and it barely rained during the 5 days I was visiting. The weather is very unpredictable and changes very quickly, which results in extraordinary beautiful skies. Don't let the weather scare you, just be prepared for it. I do know people who were visiting Iceland during a heatwave (about 25░C)  but that is a very rare phenomenon. You won't be able to wear shorts and T-shirts often, although the Icelandic people do.You can easily recognize tourists by their warm clothing while Icelanders walk around in T-shirts. The temperature at this moment in ReykjavÝk. Click on image for weather forecast :

 

Best time to visit
It is mostly recommended to visit Iceland during July and before the 15th of August because most roads and attractions are open then, and the weather is at its best. When you are just following the ringroad you don't necessarily have to stick to this period. Even during winter most parts of the ringroad are kept open, but you can never be sure about the state of the roads, and it is dark most time of the day. For example : in January sunrise at +- 11:20 a.m sunset at +- 3:45 p.m. According to the inhabitants I spoke to, the weather gets nicer from the half of May on. A real advantage for the traveler are the months of (almost) continuous daylight during summer, which makes it possible to get most out of your day.

Clothing
Usually I find it silly that travel guides mention what to pack or wear, but I think it might be useful to make an exception this time. It is very practical to wear clothing in layers, so you can adjust to the conditions.You will need a warm sweater, good socks, a warm rainproof jacket with a cap and comfortable walking shoes. (Material like Gore-tex is great for this purpose). During my visit in May I was glad I had packed gloves, warm underwear, a cap and a scarf to protect me against the ice-cold wind. And yes, the maximum temperature was between 4 and 8░ C but it felt a lot colder ! When you want to go camping make sure you pack really good material to protect you against the cold. The average summer temperature of 15░C might not seem cold enough to pack such warm clothes, but it can be a lot cooler, especially at night. And whatever you read in the books, no one is wearing those folcloristic sweaters anymore, most young Icelanders are very fashion-conscious.

Transportation
There are no trains or subways in Iceland. You can travel by (rental) car, bus, airplane, or by boat.

Car rental
Renting a car is very expensive, but the freedom you get by it is really worth it. A jeep is more expensive and not really necessary if you stick to the ringroad and the environment of Reykjavik. If you want to drive more inland you'll need a 4wheeldrive car, and sometimes it's better to have an experienced chauffeur, because you will have to cross rivers, which can be very dangerous. The major car rental companies have offices in Reykjavik, see links .

Driving
Driving a car in Iceland is an extraordinary experience. Signposting to major attractions or cities is OK, but less important places are not always indicated. Even at an important tourist attraction as Gullfoss, the landscape is barely disturbed by infrastructure for visitors.

Distances :
All distances calculated from Reykjavik

The West

Hvalfj÷r­ur:  +- 35 km to 75 km.
Glymur: +- 65 km
Mi­sandur: +- 65 km
Akranes: +- 100 km ( by tunnel +- 50 km)
Borgarnes: +- 115 km ( by tunnel +- 70 km)
Reykholt: +- 120 km
Hraunfossar +- 140 km
H˙safell: +- 145 km

Reykjanes penisula
Bessastadir: +- 10 km
Hafnarfj÷rdur +- 15 km
Keflavik: +- 50 km
Grindavik +- 55 km
Hafnir: +- 55 km
Blue Lagoon: +- 50 km
Reykjanesta:+- 65 km

The South
Selfoss:  +- 50 km
Hveragerdi: +-  40 km
Thingvellir: +- 50 km
Eyrabakki: +- 55 km
Geysir: +- 100 km (= via Thingvellir is the shortest route + 20 km via selfoss +- 120)
Gullfoss +- 110 km (= via Thingvellir is the shortest route +- 130)
St÷ng: +- 120 km
Skogar: +- 130 km
Dyrholaey: +- 155 km
Vik: +- 185 km

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Information for drivers
Safety belts are required by law, and the headlights need to be on day and night. Most of the ringroad around Iceland is asphalted, but a lot of the other roads are covered with gravel. Gravel can be dangerous for the windshield. Even if a road looks a major road on the map, it might be a narrow one with loose gravel. Don't underestimate the distances : driving goes slower than we are used in  flat countries. Sheep, horses and cows are often standing or walking on the road: the driver is always responsible in case of an accident ! A lot of bridges are only wide enough for one car at a time ( called 'Einbreid br˙' ), the one who has arrived last has to stop at the side of the road to let the other one pass. There are many steep slopes where  you can't see the opposite side (blindhaed). Drive cautiously and slow down or stop for approaching cars in this kind of situations. Roads in the inland are only open for 4-wheeldrive cars during summer. Most of them are closed from September through the end of June, beginning of July. You have to cross rivers there which can be very dangerous for inexperienced drivers. There are roadmaps indicating the present situation of the roads in most hotels and visitorcenters.

By air
The small international airport 'Leifur EirÝkson' is situated in KeflavÝk, a one hour drive from ReykjavÝk. There is a bus service to the capital. On the lower level of the airport there are desks from car rental agencies and an office from the bus company Flybus. A ticket for the Flybus to most major hotels in Reykjavik, is rather cheap, and costs about 700 ISK. If you stay in one of the Icelandair hotels, you can take the  bus for free, just by showing your hotel voucher. In the center of Reykjavik, there is another very small local airport. When your time is limited, you can fly to another side of the island in stead of driving there.   Flugleidir, Fl˙gfelag ═slands and ═slandsfl˙g organize such flights. See links.

Busses
BS═ is the public bus company in Iceland. The bus station in Reykjavik is situated at Vatnsmřarvegur. In summer, the buses drive daily but not very frequently, around the island on the ringroad, but from mid-October till the beginning of May, the bus doesn't make the full circle. They sell buspasses, which allow you to travel around the island during a certain period. Although not cheap, it's the cheapest way to travel.

Boat
Iceland can be reached by boat from Scotland and Denmark, but a one way trip takes about 3 days, including a stop at the Faroer islands. There are small ports at different locations on the island.

Safety
Iceland has got a very low crime rate, you can feel safe. Ofcourse that doesn't mean that you have to be totally careless, always be careful with your valuables when you are on holiday.The emergency phone number for police, ambulance and fire department is : 112. You do have to be careful when driving; the roads can be really dangerous when you drive to fast.

Public Holidays
January 1
April 1, 2, 4, 5, 22
May 1, 13, 23, 24
June 17
August 2
December 24, 25, 26.

Language
The local language is Icelandic, a very old language that has barely changed. Foreign words are excluded. It's not easy to learn the language, and they use some different letters. Many Icelanders speak English, however, it is very practical to know a few words, so you can read at least some signs. A good language site is the one from http://www.travlang.com, where you can even hear how the words are pronounced.

Lodging
Lodging is expensive no matter how you travel. It's best to contact the Visitors bureau of Iceland to get the appropriate information about the kind of lodging you prefer. There are several possibilities : Edda hotels are summer hotels ( boarding schools which are open for tourists during the summer holidays), but they have a few hotels that stay open all year round. Other hotel chains are Keyhotel, Regnboga hotel and Fosshotel. Guest houses, youth hostels and campsites are cheaper. Farms also offer accommodation. Much more information see: <Links> .

Food
Only a few restaurants serve tourist menu's at reasonable prices. If you don't mind cooking or eating junk-food, you'll keep your meal budget within limits.  In Reykjavik there are several American fast-food restaurants like Subway, Mc Donalds, Pizzahut and Domino pizza. If you prefer the local food, make sure what you're ordering, or would you like to have rotten shark for lunch? There is a lot of fresh fish and lamb on the menu.

Communication
The main post office in Reykjavik is situated at Posthusstraeti, but there are more offices. Open during weekdays from 8.30 a.m till 4.30 p.m. During summer also open on Saturday morning.

You can buy phone cards at post offices and in some shops. Public phones can be used with coins or those cards. I's cheaper to make a call on weekdays after 7p.m. and before 8a.m., and during weekends and holidays. The code for international calls from Iceland is 00, then country code, area code and telephone number. Check in advance if you can use your mobile phone there.

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Money and prices
The Icelandic monetary unit is the krona (ISK). It can be hard to find this money abroad, some specialized exchange offices might sell it. The exchange office at Reykjavik's airport is open 24 hours. To get an idea of the exchange rate : http://www.xe.net/ucc/ .Credit cards and Eurocheques are widely accepted (except maybe in some small villages). Banks are usually open from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m..

Make sure your budget is not too tight, because Iceland is not cheap to travel in. Be prepared for high prices and don't  let this spoil your holiday. There is ofcourse a big difference in price between summer and low season. From June trough August prices of hotels, car rental etc. are much higher (almost double). Even during off-season prices are very high. You can compare it more or less with a stay in NYC (which is also known for its high hotel rates). I was prepared for outrageous prices, but it wasn't so terrible as I expected.

Shopping
Iceland is not the most appropriate destination for shopping because of its high prices. Although   shopping can be cheaper for toutists. There is a reduction on tax-prices. In Reykjavik there are some nice, trendy shops, but the shopping area is quite small. There is one big mall : Kringlan shopping mall. Food can be bought at the supermarkets like Thin Versl˙n, 10/11 and 11/11 ( open from 10 or 11 a.m. till 11 p.m.), and at grocery stores. When you're on the road it's best to have some food with you, because  not all the villages do have a shop. Many gas stations sell a few snacks.

Time zone
GMT ( like in London).But they don't change to summer time.

Electricity
The voltage is like in most European countries : 220 V, 50 HZ AC. Americans will need to bring an adapter with a different type of plug if they want to use their appliances.

Links

Airlines: http://www.travelnet.is/transport/DoByAir.htm
Icelandair: http://www.icelandair.com
Islandsflug: http://www.islandsflug.com/
BSI bus : http://www.bsi.is/index_en.html
Road information: http://www.vegagerdin.is/english/
Ferries : http://www.travelnet.is/transport/DoFerries.htm
Avis : http://www.avis.com / Hertz : http://www.hertz.com / Europcar:  http://www.europcar.is

General information :
Iceland tourist information :  http://www.icetourist.is/
General info : http://www.travelnet.is/
What to do :
www.icelandtoday.is
Official Reykjavik site : www.tourist.reykjavik.is
Travel information: www.exploreiceland.is

Lodging
Youth Hostel Travel Service: http://www.hostel.is
Icelandic Farm Holidays: http://www.farmholidays.is/
Eddahotels : http://en.hoteledda.is/
Fosshotels : http://www.fosshotel.is
Icelandairhotels: http://www.icelandair.com  

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