General Information about Iceland - Prepare your trip to Iceland

About Iceland and Icelanders Iceland is an island, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which means that the country is a hot spot and one of the most

General Info

About Iceland and Icelanders

Iceland is an island, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which means that the country is a hot spot and one of the most active volcanic areas on earth. Large parts of the country are geothermal active, which means that there is no shortage of hot water. The geothermal activity along with rivers provides Icelanders with inexpensive geothermal and hydroelectric power. The easy access to the hot water explains the rich culture around the outdoor swimming pools, be sure to take your swim wear with you.

Iceland covers an area of 103.000 km2 (39,756 sq. Miles), which is about one third larger than Scotland, to put things in context. About 11% of the country is covered by glaciers, Vatnajökull glacier being the largest one, in fact it‘s the largest glacier in Europe. The highest peak is Hvannadalshnjúkur (2114 m/6935 ft).
Icelanders are about 320.000 and half of the population lives in the greater Reykjavík area in the southwest of the island. The rest of the population lives in towns, villages and farms on the coast around the island as the interior is uninhabitable.

The first Icelandic settlers found their way to Iceland in the ninth century, coming from the Nordic countries, mainly from Norway and they brought with them their slaves, which mostly came from Ireland.

 Icelanders speak Icelandic, a language belonging to the Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. The language has not changed much throughout the centuries and the old manuscripts of Sagas and the Edda can still be read without too much difficulty. However pronunciation and of course vocabulary has changed much. Efforts are made to find new Icelandic words for every new phenomenon such as telephone, TV and later with the computers and internet coming word such as computer, modem and etc.

When to Visit

You can of course visit Iceland all year round, but most travellers visit the country in the summer time to experience the light nights and the midnight sun. The prime time for bird watching is from May till August (the puffins leave Iceland around Mid-August) and you can see whales from April till October.

For those, who want to travel into the interior of the country, the summer is the best time. Most highland routes open in June and are passable until End of September. Weather and conditions in the interior change easily and decide when the routes open.

You can find information about average opening dates and the actual road conditions on the homepage of the Icelandic Road Administration: www.vegagerdin.is/english

From End of August until April you can be lucky enough to see the colourful northern lights but conditions have to be right, the dark night sky has to be at least partly clear. The Icelandic Met Office provides an Aurora forecast, that can be found here: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

Below you‘ll find an overview of sunrise and sunset in Iceland:

  Reykjavík Ísafjörður Akureyri
Jan. 1st 11:19 12:02 11:33
  15:43 15:10 14:59
Feb. 1st 10:10 10:31 10:07
  17:14 17:02 16:46
Mar. 1st 08:34 08:44 08:23
  18:48 18:47 18:28
Apr. 1st 06:44 06:45 06:26
  20:20 20:30 20:09
May 1st 04:58 04:47 04:31
  21:53 22:15 21:51
Jun. 1st 03:21 02:39 02:32
  23:32 00:26* 23:52
Jul. 1st 03:06 ------- 01:59
  23:56 01:21* 00:30*
Aug. 1st 04:35 04:18 04:03
  22:30 22:56 22:32
Sep. 1st 06:11 06:08 05:50
  20:42 20:54 20:33
Oct. 1st 07:37 07:44 07:23
  18:56 18:58 18:39
Nov. 1st 09:12 09:29 09:06
  17:10 17:02 16:45
Dec. 1st 10:46 11:21 10:54
  15:47 15:21 15:08

(*) refers to the following date.
Used with the kind permission of the Science Institute of the University of Iceland.

Travel documents

Citizens belonging to the EU and the Schengen area need a valid personal ID or a passport to enter Iceland. The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration provides information on passport and visa requirements as well as the Schengen area regulations, please visit: http://utl.is.

Time

Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year, which means that daylight savings time is not observed.

Climate / Weather / Clothing

Due to the Gulf Stream the Icelandic climate is quiet mild throughout the year. The summers are not hot with an average temperature (day and night) of about 13°C/55°F in July and the winters are not too harsh with an average temperature 0°C/32°F in January.

The Icelandic Met Office provides up-to-date weather forecasts on the internet: www.en.vedur.is and for mobile devices: http://m.en.vedur.is/m or you can call (+354) 902 6000 extension 44 to listen to a recording of the latest weather report in English.

The best way to dress for the Icelandic climate is layering. Be sure to have clothing on that you can easily take off and put on again. Don‘t forget water- and wind resistant outerwear and good, steady shoes are a necessity. Don’t forget to pack your swim wear, sunglasses and a sun block (the sun is strong up north, even if the weather is not too hot).

Health / Health Insurance / Emergency

All insured citizens of the EEA must present their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in case they need medical assistance while travelling in Iceland; in that case they pay the same fee as a person insured in Iceland. This does not apply to travellers from the other Nordic countries.

Non-EEA citizens will be charged the full fees for medical help and therefore are advised to read up on what rules and regulations apply in their insurance country. 

Further Information about health services and insurance can be found on the homepage of the Icelandic Health Insurance: http://www.sjukra.is/english/tourists

No vaccinations are required before travelling to Iceland.

In the case of emergencies in Iceland call 112. Hospitals (Sjúkrahús) and Health centres (Heilsugæsla) can be found in towns and larger villages around the country. Further Information about safe travelling in Iceland can be found on www.safetravel.is

Electricity

The electric current in Iceland is 220V, 50 HZ AC and the plugs are Europlug/Schuko-Plugs (CEE types).

Telephones / Mobile Phones

The country code for Iceland is +354 followed by a seven digit number. Landline numbers begin with 4 or 5 and mobile numbers with 6, 7 or 8.

The four largest phone companies are Síminn, Nova, Tal and Vodafone. All provide service covering most of country and all sell pre-paid GSM-cards in their shops, in petrol stations and selected supermarkets around the country. Services provided are GSM/GPRS/3G/4G.

Please note that large parts of the interior are not covered, but you’ll find GSM coverage in the more popular highland destinations.

We recommend taking your mobile phone with you on your trip for safety reasons.

Post Offices

You can find Post Offices in all major towns and villages in Iceland. Opening hours are usually Mon-Fri 9:00-16:30, sometimes longer.
Further information about the location of Post offices can be found on http://www.postur.is/en.

Banks / Currency Exchange

Banking hours are 9:15-16:00. The Icelandic Currency is Icelandic Króna ISK. EUR and USD are widely accepted at an official exchange rate. Credit and debit cards are very widely accepted and welcomed, Icelanders themselves more or less use plastic cards exclusively instead of cash. One of the cheapest way to exchange money is withdrawal from an ATM. ATM’s are located in all larger towns and villages, often at petrol stations or shopping centres.

You can find the actual currency rate on the homepage of the Icelandic Central Bank: http://www.cb.is/exchange-rate/

Shopping / Tax-Free

Shopping hours are Mon-Fri 9:00-18:00, Sat 10:00-16:00 and in some cases Sun 13:00-17:00. Some supermarkets are open around the clock.

Look for local specialities like woollen knitwear, mainly the Icelandic sweaters (lopapeysa), all kinds of outdoor wear, crafts, glassware, silver jewellery as well as high fashion by Icelandic designers.

Be sure to get your VAT refund by asking for Tax-Free when purchasing goods for more than ISK 4.000. The refund results in a reduction of up to 15% of the retail price. Be prepared to show the purchased goods upon departure.

Food and drink

Don’t miss out on trying Icelandic specialities such as the very fresh seafood and lamb, the dairy speciality Skyr is also a must. Vegetarians won’t be disappointed by the choice of food either.

The Esja Travel Staff would be happy to recommend restaurants, be it seafood, traditional Icelandic, vegetarian or any other cuisines.

Wine, beer and spirits are served in many restaurants, cafés and bars or can be purchased in the Vínbúð-shops run by the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland. The traditional Icelandic schnapps is Brennivín, which goes perfect with the infamous shark and of course other dishes. 

Tipping

Tips and VAT is always included in the price.

Public Holidays

  2014 2015
New Year’s Day Jan 1st Jan1st
Maundy Thursday Apr 17th Apr 2nd
Good Friday Apr 18th Apr 3rd
Easter Sunday Apr 20th Apr 5th
Easter Monday Apr 21th Apr 6th
First Day of Summer Apr 24th Apr 23rd
International Workers Day May 1st May 1st
Ascension Day May 29th May 14th
Whit Sunday Jun 8th May 24th
Whit Monday Jun 9th May 25th
Icelandic National Holiday Jun 17th Jun 17th
Bank Holiday Monday Aug 4th Aug 3th
Christmas Eve (from noon) Dec 24th Dec 24th
Christmas Day Dec 25th Dec 25th
Second Day of Christmas Dec 26th Dec 26th
New Year‘s Eve (from noon) Dec 31st Dec 31st



Information about traveller’s rights and obligations in Iceland can be found on the official tourism information site: http://www.visiticeland.com/TravelGuide/Rightsandobligations/

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