Travel Tips for the Quest
A helpful and thorough resource for all things related to travel in Iceland is the Visit Iceland online travel guide: http://www.visiticeland.com/
Travel Agents & Online Bookings
All conference participants are responsible for booking their own air travel. For online bookings of discounted air tickets, useful websites include www.kayak.com, www.orbitz.com, and www.cheaptickets.com.
Telephones and International Calling
- 354 – Country Code for Iceland
- Icelandic phone numbers have 7 digits: the first digit for Reykjavik is 5, and is 4 for all remaining areas
- US to Iceland international dialing format : 011 354 plus number
The three letters that define much of the world’s wireless capabilities are GSM. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM.
GSM phones function with a removable plastic SIM card. Many phones, especially in the U.S., are not “multiband” and will not work in Iceland. Even if your cell phone uses GSM, and you have a multiband phone (such as many Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models), the company you’re contracted to has probably “locked” your phone. In this case, you cannot simply buy an Icelandic SIM card, insert it into your phone, and start making calls. Those with multiband phones can call their wireless operator and ask for “international roaming” to be activated on their existing account. This option is usually expensive, however: Per-minute charges are often $1 to $1.50. If you plan on using a cellphone in Iceland, you may well want to buy a prepaid GSM plan after you arrive, and either buy a phone — new phones in Iceland start around 5,000kr — bring a rented one from home, or have your GSM phone unlocked to accommodate a local SIM card.
North Americans can rent a phone before leaving home from InTouch USA (800-872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (888-290-1606 or 905-272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work in Iceland (call 703-222-7161 between 9am and 4pm EST, or go to http://intouchglobal.com/travel.htm).
Pre-paid GSM phone cards are available from Iceland’s two main phone companies, Síminn (800-7000; www.siminn.is) and Vodafone (1414 or 1800; outside Iceland tel. 599-9009; www.vodafone.is). Both also offer GPRS services for Internet access through your phone; almost all areas in Iceland with GSM also have GPRS.
When you sign up for a prepaid GSM plan in Iceland, the SIM card is typically free, and the lowest starting credit is 2,000kr. Typical rates within Iceland are 23kr per minute or 10kr for a text message, no matter what time of the day or week. Your cellphone account can be continually restocked by buying pre-paid cards called Frelsi (Freedom) at gas stations and convenience stores around the country. To make sure you buy the right card, specify whether your cellphone uses Síminn or Vodafone.
The Geo Hotel in Grindavik, the Hotel Selfoss and the Hotel Hellnar all provide free WiFi access. There is no WiFi access at the Guesthouse Snjofell.
Iceland uses 220 Volts, 50 Hz AC, the European standard, and plugs have two round prongs. For clear details on global plugs and sockets, click here. And for a global map of different plug types, click here.
Identification & Visas
All visitors to Iceland must carry a passport, valid at least 3 months beyond the return date. No visa is required for visits under 90 days for passport holders in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. See HERE for a list of nationals requiring a visa to enter Iceland.
Immunizations & Health
No vaccinations are required to visit Iceland; however, you may want to check with your healthcare provider’s recommendations for you.
To minimize the risk of gastrointestinal ailments as the body adapts to a new environment, it is wise to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water, to eat and drink (coffee, tea, alcohol) in moderation only, and to wash hands often with soap and water. It also may be helpful to travel with lactobacillus acidophilus capsules, which enhance beneficial intestinal flora and can be a preventative measure against digestive upsets.
One important note: remember to bring any necessary prescriptions or over-the-counter medications in their original containers, and in your carry-on bag!
Travel insurance is strongly recommended in the event of unexpectedly having to cancel or change your travel plans either before or during our conference, losing your luggage, needing medical assistance, or if the program is affected by circumstances beyond our control. You can purchase this from your own travel agent, or from online options such as www.travelinsured.com and www.travelguard.com. Policies vary, depending upon the degree of coverage desired, and include options such as “Airline Ticket Protector” plans. One resource for understanding the range of options available, and for comparing quotes, is www.travelinsurancereview.net.
It’s also wise to verify your chosen airline’s refund policy, as they too vary, and at times offer ticket reimbursements where travel insurance may not.
Iceland’s monetary unit is the krona (sometimes abbreviated as “ISK,” but written as “kr” in this guide), plural kronur. Coins come in 1, 10, 50, and 100 kronur denominations; banknotes are in denominations of 500kr.
ATMs are the most practical and reliable way to get cash at fair exchange rates. Upon arrival at Keflavík International Airport, you’ll easily find ATMs and the currency exchange desk. You’ll want to avoid exchanging money at hotels, which tend to have high transaction fees.
ATMs are found in most villages around Iceland, though not all ATMs are accessible 24 hours. Icelandic ATMs generally accept all major debit, credit, and cash-only cards.
Please remember to advise your bank that you will be making purchases abroad, since many banks will err on the side of caution and assume your card has been stolen and might suspend it temporarily.
Credit Cards — Credit cards are safe, convenient, and generally offer good exchange rates. Note, however, that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% “foreign transaction fee” on all charges you incur abroad.
In Iceland you’ll need a PIN to withdraw cash advances on your credit card. You will not need a PIN for most credit card purchases, but occasions may arise (particularly at automated gas pumps). If you’ve forgotten your PIN, call the number on the back of your card and ask that it be provided to you.
Banks are generally open Monday through Friday 9:15am to 4pm. Shopping hours are generally Monday through Friday from 9 or 10am to 6pm, and Saturday from 10am to early afternoon.
Iceland has some of the world’s best drinking water, and all tap water is safe to drink.
Icelanders don’t tip, not even in restaurants or taxis. Tipping is never expected from foreigners, but if you do tip, you are unlikely to offend anyone; it would be graciously accepted or politely refused.
The average high temperature in August is is 50-55°F (10-12°C) with a low of 45°F. Precipitation usually occurs 20 days of the month. Iceland is not considered a warm place by any normal standards, but thankfully the Gulf Stream does have a moderating effect on the temperatures. The biggest factor in Icelandic weather is its unpredictability. A beautiful day can suddenly turn windy and rainy (or vice versa), and you might see every type of weather imaginable over a couple of days so it is wise to be prepared for anything.
Iceland is always on Greenwich Mean Time, with no daylight saving time. Thus during the winter, Iceland is 5 hours ahead of the eastern U.S. and in the same time zone as the U.K. In summer, Iceland is 4 hours ahead of the eastern U.S. and 1 hour behind the U.K.
The national language is Icelandic. English is commonly spoken, especially among younger generations.
To start learning Icelandic, some pronunciation tips for Icelandic phrases:
- a = like a in father
- e = like e in test
- i, y = like i in little
- u = like German ü in für or French u in tu
- ö = like German ö in höher or French eu in neuf
- æ = sounds like eye
- ð = like th in weather (voiced th)
- þ = like th in thorn (unvoiced th)
Yes = Já
No = Nei
Thank you = Takk
Thank you very much = Takk fyrir
You’re welcome = þú ert velkominn / Gerðu svo vel
Please = Vinsamlegast / Takk
Excuse me = Fyrirgefðu
Hello = Halló / Góðan daginn
Goodbye = Bless
What is your name? = Hvað heitir þú?
Nice to meet you = Gaman að kynnast þér
How are you? = Hvernig hefur þú það?
Good = Góður / Góð (male/fem.)
Bad = Vondur / Vond (male/fem.)
Where is …? = Hvar er …?