Iceland – Basics to travel

Iceland – Basics to travel

Located at approximately 2 hours away from the Northern area in the UK by plane, Iceland is not as far as we imagine. However, it has a totally different culture, different currency, work system, and obviously different kind of landscapes. This unique island, because of the similarities between this land and the moon, was also the place where astronauts from Apollo’s mission went to train before the first step on the moon with Neil Amstrong.

You have so much to see !

From hiking through geysers, mountains, volcanos, glaciers and caves, to swimming in one of the many hot pots, horse riding, skiing, seeing whales and birds, puffins, seals, orcas and winter foxes, you won’t have time to get bored! Prepare yourself because let me assure you, you don’t want to miss any of these spectacular spots.

Before your trip

Visa 

Iceland is a member of Europe (carreful not the E.U.), as well as the Schengen cooperation, which allows travellers from outside this space to enterthe territory with a Schengen Visa for a duration of 90 days maximum. Afterwards, you will need to ask for a long term visa). Citizens from Schengen space are exempts from border controls. 

If you need more information, click on the following link and change the country indication on the adress bar:

https://www.iceland.is/iceland-abroad/ca/ ← this is /ca/ for Canada, so if you’re from uk, just switch the letters.

However, if you want to stay for more than 3 months, you’ll have to create a Kennitala

Kennitala

Your Kennitala is your personnal identification number, which you need to registrate in the Icelandic society if you want to work, get paid and live in Iceland. You also need it if you want to stay more than 3 months on the territory.

How to create your Kennitala : Your employers need to go to the bank for you. They need to know the day of arrival in the country and a photocopy of your passport. Your number will be asked almost everywhere and is composed of 10 digits.

Currency

As mentioned, Icelandic people do not use euros. So you will have to change for Icelandic crowns (=ISK). But don’t panic, you can use your Credit/Debit card almost everywhere in Iceland. To give you an idea, 10 € is currently equivalent to 1250 ISK (then 100€ = 12500 ISK, etc…). 

Everything is excessively pricy in Iceland, especially if you eat in restaurants or if you sleep in a guesthouse. So I suggest to at least plan where you will spend your night to reduce the costs of your stay.

Regarding banks, they are all pretty much similar concerning a short term stay. I was personnally in Arion Bank and I never had any problems. I know from different sources that Landsbankinn and Íslandsbanki are also recommended by their custommers.

Jobs & WWOOFING

According to the amount of guesthouses and hotels in the country, finding a short term job isn’t really a hard task. You’ll have a lot of opportunities to find someone who’s looking for help. My advice would be to buy a country guide (Lonely Planet for example) with plenty of business adresses on it, and to call them one by one. Obviously, the best way to find a job is to apply from over there, so that you are able to go there directly. The pay is in general pretty good, the cost of the life beeing way more expensive than lot of other countries (then you’ll have to manage your budget carefully).

Alfreð is one of the most popular website to find jobs in Iceland (you might need your kennitala sometimes). You can also check facebook pages, as usual (work in iceland, iceland job vacancies, etc…)

You can also do some Wwoofing or go on Helpx/ Workaway, but you have to know that most of the time it is not legal:

“In Iceland, volunteer work is only acceptable in case of charities and cultural or humanitarian activities – not in economically active companies including farming.”

Source : volunteering.is

You don’t risk anything, it’s not your fault, but according to the Icelandic law, you’re suppose to be paid for your work and many employers are enjoying the workforce of kind travellers who are enjoying their holidays. Check the Icelandic Confederation of Labour Unions (ASÍ), to be aware of your working rights : asi.is

Once on-site

Weather

First of all, in Iceland, everything is about the weather. Unfortunately you cannot really predict it, due to the quick changes of the forecast. However, Even if you can’t predict the rain, as long you are prepared enough, everything should be fine. Feel free to take loads of rain pants, gloves and also most importantly, a rain jacket in order to survive against the wind if you don’t want to freeze instantly!

Yr.is is for me the best website to check the forecast all around Iceland according to the zone in which you’re located.

Day / Night

You already probably know that Iceland (like other countries in the North/South pole), gets a time in the year with “full” nights and “full” days. But as I said, it’s just one moment in the year and it’s actually never really 24 hours of sun light because it’s below the polar circle. What does it mean ? Concretely, during summer, the maximum pure suntime you could get would be approximately about 21 hours. However, even the 3 hours left are not litterally night, it is just a time when the sun is preparing himself to go up again, and the sky is definelty never pitch dark

Thanks to my friend Quentin Dupont, we made an infographics to make it more visual for everyone. 

Day lights in Reykjavik, Invictom©

According to what you really want to see, every month is different and offers new beautiful sides of the country.

Moving around Iceland

Now that you’re prepared for all kinds of weather, the real question is: are you able to travel through it ? There are many ways to travel around Iceland, but whatever you choose and for your safety, be sure to check this website everyday, which will tell you the roads conditions : Road.is. In Iceland and because of the weather, it often happens that some roads are closed due to icy conditions, snow and/or mud. It’s also common to have certain roads on which you are allowed only if you have a 4 wheel drive. Check it regularly and you’ll travel safely.

Among all the possibilites to travel during your trip, you can decide which one of them is the best one for you. Let’s have a quick look at each of them:

Renting a car : plenty of companies are offering good deals, and it is surely an efficient and easy way to travel with. 4 wheel drive, camper van or car, they’re all good options, but the decision will be down to where you really want to go. However, be certain to have a CREDIT card, and not a DEBIT card to pay the renting company. If you don’t, they will not let you pay

Go by ferry with your own vehicle : If you have enough time to do it, it could clearly be a good option. For 320€ per person, you could enjoy a nice trip from Danemark and disembark in Seyðisfjörður, at the Est of Iceland.

Hitchhiking : If you have a flexible schedule, this way could be the perfect one for you! I personaly did it myself, and it was an incredible experience. It is very easy and safe to hitchhike in Iceland, as long you’re staying in the road number 1 (which is basically the circle road around the country). You may have more difficulties if you go more inland, or in the west fjord for exemple, but still nothing is impossible. To give you an idea, we waited 5-10 min almost all the time when we were on the main roads.

Ride your bike : We met a few people who were travelling the country by bike, and I can tell you that you need to ready yourself ! With the impressive wind, the forecast changing all of a sudden, and the amount of hills, it’s not the easiest way for sure. But what a beautiful trip to travel around by yourself in this unique nature. If you’d like more information, there it is a page of JC, a guy I met who did Iceland (among others country) by bike: JCfaitsontourdumonde

Travel by bus/plane : There is a large network of public transport in Iceland. Bus and planes are very common but also quite expensivestraeto.is is a nice website (you can also find the app) which is very handy to plan your trip by bus. There are also loads of small airports all around the country; for this feel free to check every local company such as icelandair.com .

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