Iceland - General Information
Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean just below the Arctic Circle midway between Europe and America. From several European cities you can get there in only 3 hours from the east coast of the USA in around 5 hours. The international airport in Keflavík is about 45 min. from Reykjavík.
Many airlines offer seasonal flights to Iceland, but Icelandair, WOW and SAS offer services all year round.
When to visit
Each season has its own charm. The summer remains the most popular season for enjoying the outdoors and different activities. Mid June to mid September offers the biggest selection of organized tours. The fall and winter are a time of lighter traffic, beautiful colors and the amazing northern lights as well as various winter activities. It is also a time of festivals and spending Christmas and New Years in Iceland is a unique experience.
Size and population
Iceland is Europe’s second largest island at around 103.000 Km2. Its population is around 320.000 making it one of the sparsely populated counties in Europe. The majority of the population lives in the capital area of Reykjavík and most of the other towns are located around the coast.
The language in Iceland is Icelandic. It is a Nordic language of Germanic origin and related to Scandinavian languages. It is the language of the Vikings and has not changed much over the centuries. English is spoken by almost everyone as well as some European languages.
The climate in Iceland is mild due to the Gulfstream an ocean current originating in the Gulf of Mexico, but very varied. The coldest winter months have an average temperature around 0°C/32°F in the lowlands. On the other hand the summers are rather cool with an average around 15°C/60°F with seasonal highs reaching up to around 25°C/77°F.
Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year and does not have daylight saving time. In summer, from around mid May to mid August the sun only sets for a few hours so there is daylight for 24 hours. However in the darkest winter months there are only about 4-5 hours of daylight.
No matter which season you choose for you visit, it is always necessary to bring a warm sweater, a hat and gloves, rain - and wind proof shell as well as a pair of good shoes, as you never know how the weather and wind may turn. Another practical item is your bathing suit, necessary for the pools and geothermal bathing.
Iceland has good health service. Travelers should have their individual travel insurance before coming to Iceland. Citizens of the EU and EEA need their E-111 form to access health services and Scandinavians show insurance and passport to avoid charges. No vaccinations are required.
Iceland has an abundance of pure water and the water from the tap is both fresh and clean.
Bottled, Icelandic water is from the same source as the equally pure water coming from the tap. Note that in some areas the water from the hot water tap has a strong sulfur taste so most people do not find it great for drinking.
Iceland's pristine nature is both beautiful and at times dangerous. Be aware of sudden and unexpected changes of weather and dress accordingly. Always notify someone of your plans before entering the highland territory. A safe tourist is a happy tourist.
Voltage in Iceland is 220 – 240 Volts. Check your appliances and battery chargers and make sure they are dual voltage. Please note that prongs can be different from your standards. All major hotels can provide you with adapter prongs to use on your electronics.
Phone and internet
Iceland is very well connected to the world and free Wi-Fi service is easily found in Reykjavík and in many accommodations and cafés around the country. Mobile phone coverage is good in all urban areas and along main roads. Iceland’s mobile system operates on the frequencies of 900/1800 Mhz.
The currency in Iceland is called krona (crown), or ISK and all banks change foreign currencies. The use of credit and debit card is also common and almost everywhere they can be used even for the lowest amount. Cash can also be obtained with credit cards at banks and ATMs.
General offices -weekdays from 9:15-17:00
Public offices -weekdays from 10:00-15:00/16:00
Banks -weekdays from 9:15-16:00.
A 24 hour bank is available at Landsbankinn at Keflavík airport.
General Stores - Mondays-Thursdays 10:00-19:00, Fridays 10:00-19:30, Saturdays 10:00-18:00, Sundays 12:00-18:00. Smáralind mall and Kringlan mall are open on Thursdays until 21:00.
Tax Free Shopping
Visitors can get a refund on valued added tax (VAT) on all purchases exceeding 4.000 ISK in each shop. Keep your eye open for the Tax Free Shopping signs and ask the clerk for a refund. The refund will be given as a cheque or a coupon that you can exchange at Keflavík airport on your departure.
There are also Tax Free Clerks located on departure on all major cruise ships. The refund is around 15% of purchased price.
Iceland offers excellent dining and restaurants of all kinds can be found in Reykjavík and around the country. Fresh fish and lamb are the national specialties but the cuisine has an international flavor.
Liquor stores or the Vínbúð in Icelandic are state run. The majority of the liquor stores are open from Monday-Thursday 11:00-18:00, Friday 11:00-19:00 and Saturday 11-18:00.
Driving in Iceland
Icelandic roads can be tricky, and when entering the highlands you are unlikely to find roads suitable for smaller cars. Asphalt is not always a given, and many country roads are single-lane gravel roads. The Icelandic Road Administration http://www.vegagerdin.is/english/ tel. 1777 has up to date information on road conditions in all parts of the island. Please choose a safe speed according to conditions at all times. Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times, day and night. Passengers in the front and backseats of an automobile are required by law to use safety-belts. Icelandic law forbids any driving under the influence of alcohol. Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. The surface on the gravel roads is often loose, especially along the sides of the roads, so one should drive carefully and slow down whenever approaching an oncoming car. The mountain roads are also often very narrow, and are not made for speeding. The same goes for many bridges, which are only wide enough for one car at a time. In addition to not having an asphalt surface, the mountain roads are often the winding ones. Journeys may therefore take longer than expected. The total length of the Ring Road around Iceland (national highway N1) is 1.339 km. The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90 km/h on asphalt roads.
Please note - special warning signs indicate danger ahead, such as sharp bends, but there is generally no separate sign to reduce speed.
In Iceland all driving off roads or marked tracks is prohibited by law
Important phone numbers
||Emergency, Police, ambulance, fire department, medicine
||24/7 medical ward
||24/7 information on road conditions
||IMG emergency phone
|+ 354 543-2000
||Emergency ward (24 hour service)
|+ 354 575-0505
|+ 354 510-6500
||Health center for Tourists
||Information (on addresses and phone numbers)