Here it is, the third and final part of my Reykjavik Travel Diary!
Now, we’ve already covered all the admin stuff, the sightseeing and (perhaps most importantly) the delicious food and drink. So, I thought it would be helpful to make the last post from my trip to Iceland more of a general advice piece, full of the stuff I learnt from visiting Reykjavik and my top tips for you to bear in mind if you travel there in the future.
It’s more expensive than you think
I’d read that Iceland was pricey, but shrugged it off. London prices, I thought. Boy, was I wrong.
Icelandic Krona, or ISK, works in thousands, and 1,000 ISK is the equivalent of (at time of blogging) £6.85. The first restaurant we went to, as shown in this post, was for just soup and a couple of drinks, and we ended up paying 7,000 ISK. That works out at almost £50 – for only two servings of soup and four drinks, albeit 3 of them were alcohol, that feels ridiculously steep and was quite a shock to us!
We started worrying about our budget a bit as we’d only converted £150 each for the holiday, and realised we needed to be careful with what we spent and how much we ate/drank out.
But, everything worked out and turns out £150 was pretty much spot on for what we needed and how we spent our 3 days in Reykjavik – but if you’re looking to spend more time in the city and be a bit more frivolous with where you eat and drink, you could easily need £250 – £300.
On to my next point, which explains how we kept our budget down…
Cook your own meals if you can – or buy from the supermarket
We were lucky enough to have some cooking facilities in our hotel – a fridge, hob, pans and a kettle, which meant we could easily whip up some pasta and sauce, and save ourselves a lot of money on an additional meal out.
Of course I doubt these are present as standard in all hotel rooms in Iceland, but it might be an idea to look out for one when you’re booking if you want to keep costs down a little. Our hotel was minutes away from a supermarket, and so to save some pennies, we decided to cook our own evening meal on the night we were heading on the Northern Lights tour.
It all depends what your budget is, but it was definitely a good move for us and probably prevented us from having to exchange more money.
Restaurants outside of the city centre are much cheaper
Last point on this, I promise – during our research on TripAdvisor, it quickly became clear that restaurants outside of the very centre of Reykjavik became much better value. They still weren’t exactly cheap by our normal expectations, but less eye-watering than a fancier, trendier place in the city.
In the snow, backpacks > cases
Handy tip I learnt from my travel buddy Hayley – investing in a big backpack to use as your luggage (we only needed hand luggage to visit for just 3 days) makes it a lot easier to navigate the snow.
The case I was using was small and not heavy, but as I dragged it through the snowy walk to our hotel on the first night (with assistance from Hayley up the hills!), I couldn’t help but envy the ease of a backpack. However, it really wasn’t too bad and definitely manageable – just might be a good tip to make your trip a bit easier.
I did take a small backpack for the daytimes though, which was great for carrying around bottle of water, gloves, paperwork, etc.
Prepare your skincare!
I don’t travel with only hand luggage very often, and so promptly panicked at the idea of condensing my skincare routine down into little 100ml bottles that all fit in to one small clear bag. One trip to Superdrug later, and I was weighed down with miniatures of Simple skincare (which I really don’t like) because I hadn’t given myself enough time to properly prepare what I wanted to take.
This resulted in abrasive eye makeup removal pads, moisturiser that didn’t really help and a very sore face each night – I even stopped wearing mascara because it hurt so much to take off. In all fairness I have fairly sensitive skin already, moderate acne and had just started using a new prescription acne gel treatment. All that paired with the extreme drop in temperature and the less-than-ideal skincare meant a few days of yearning for my own toiletry bag.
So, if you’re wary of your skin being affected and particular about what you use, I’d recommend trying to find little pots to put your normal stuff in that you trust. AND don’t waste valuable room in your clear toiletry bag on shampoo and shower gel – buy them when you get through security!
And finally – a good chapstick. If you take one thing, take some quality lipbalm, ie. NOT Vaseline. Hayley kindly gave me her Nivea chapstick and it was an absolute lifesaver.
What to wear?
Up until about a week before the trip, I was hoping to retain some semblance of style during my days in Iceland. As I came to realise that Reykjavik in January is freezing, and that I really shouldn’t underestimate the cold, I also realised that ‘style’ pretty much wasn’t going to happen.
Here’s what we wore for our trip, and we were really glad we did:
- Snow boots – absolutely vital, these were a real winner. A good pair of snow boots is so important for making sure that your feet stay warm and dry and that you stay comfortable, but they can also get pretty expensive. I was really hoping to not shell out too much for the trip because I knew it would be on stuff I wouldn’t get much wear out of again any time soon, but luckily Hayley spotted a great deal on snow boots in Aldi of all places! So we got ours for £15 a pair, and it was definitely £15 well spent.
- Waterproof trousers – we went for these as well as taking jeans and whilst we probably would have been okay, and not too cold, in the jeans, it felt good to have proper ski pants/waterproof trousers just in case there was an onslaught of snow. Cause let’s face it, walking around all day in soaking wet jeans just ain’t the one. I got mine from Go Outdoors and they were down half price in the sale to £20, though I had to buy a membership card for £5 to get that discount.
- Thermal leggings – man, these will keep your legs so toasty! Great for layering under aforementioned ski trousers.
- The usuals – thick socks, a good hat to protect your ears, a big cosy scarf and a good pair of gloves.
- Lots of thin layers – despite it being such a cold place, I actually found myself sweating as I was walking around because I’d put big bulky jumpers on that I maybe didn’t need. Next time, I’d go for long sleeved tops and thinner sweaters under a nice big coat – the more you layer, the easier it is when you go inside somewhere and need to strip off!
There you have it! Another meaty post so congrats if you made it to the end!
I really hope you’ve found this helpful if you’re heading to Reykjavik or Iceland so – and if you are, have the best time. It’s a beautiful place with an amazing natural energy and I’d definitely go back again.