Top 10 Tips for Ring-Roaders
Photography by Caroline Bergeron
1. Consider a campervan
Rent a campervan from one of Iceland's many providers. The added mobility and freedom will allow you to take advantage of the midnight sun. You could camp almost anywhere for free in Iceland at one time*, but even now campgrounds are cheap, averaging about $15CAN/person/night. While a campervan may seem expensive, once you calculate the rental of a car and the additional cost of hotels, the campervan option will seem more attractive.
*New ordinance as of November 2017 restricts campervans from camping in populated areas outside of official campgrounds.
2. Hit up the local pool
Almost every town has a geothermal pool. If you camp outside of serviced campgrounds, hit one up for cheap showers and a swim.
3. Do not miss out on the hot pots
The geothermal makeup of Iceland allows warm water to bubble up in the most unexpected places. There are wild hot pots throughout the country which are suitable for bathing. Do a little research before travelling. Hit them up for an unforgettable experience. Leave the farmer/land owner a "tip" of 500kr/person.
4. Buy your liquor at the duty free & use the supermarket
Iceland is expensive. Really expensive. Stock up on supermarket sandwiches and skyr (Icelandic soft cheese that looks and tastes like Greek yogurt). Likewise, make use of the airport's Duty Free for alcohol. There are numerous local craft beers available, including Viking, Einstock, and Gull. Brennivin is the national drink -- essentially a caraway-flavoured vodka/schnapps. Bonus is the country's cheapest supermarket.
5. Don't bother changing money
I brought a lot of Icelandic Krona. It's not necessary. Debit and credit cards are accepted everywhere. In fact, they are encouraged and preferred by most merchants and vendors.
6. Check your baggage in online
If you travel with Icelandic Air, or other budget airlines, luggage restrictions are stringent. Be sure to arrange check in baggage in advance online; it's much cheaper. Carry on luggage is limited to 5kg or 11lbs., despite what your e-ticket says.
7. Go against the clock
Travel the Ring Road counter clockwise. This isn't a must. Many people do it in the other direction, but it is easier to frontload the sights of the Golden Circle, than it is to tackle them just before leaving. You will also be inspired by the landscape of the southwest and Thingvellir immediately as your begin your trek.
8. Forget about a dictionary
Everybody in Iceland speaks English. Everybody. Some speak with a cool mix of English/Irish/Scottish accents, depending upon who taught them in school and their media watching habits. You will catch many of them speaking English amongst themselves. There is no language barrier for English-speakers in Iceland.
9. Keep it Moving
Don't stop in the middle of the road, no matter how great the temptation for a photo is. There are no shoulders on the Ring Road, or any road for that matter. The chances are that there is a "pull off" nearby for that purpose. Picnic areas are rampant in Iceland, just off the road. You can even camp at one in a pinch.
10. Watch your diet
Please don't eat the whale (unethical). Or the puffin (too cute). Or the horse (you'll see).