WHERE IS IT?
Iceland is a European island midway between North America and the continent of Europe. It’s the same distance from New York to Iceland as from New York to Los Angeles.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
There are a number of daily non-stop flights to Iceland from the US and Canada. Flight times are as short as 4 1/2 hours. Most flights connect at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport (30 miles from Reykjavik) with flights to other popular destinations on the European continent, the UK and Scandinavia. So, many people discover Iceland by taking advantage of stop-over" opportunities while on their way to or from somewhere else. Then they’re hooked and often plan their next vacation to be solely an Icelandic one!
HOW COLD DOES IT GET?
Actually, thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland maintains surprisingly moderate temperatures year-round. It seldom reaches 75°F in the summer. And during winter, Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, for example, never reaches the low temperatures experienced by Washington and Ottawa. Snow is not the norm and Icelandic kids get excited when it snows — just like their North American counterparts.
HOW BIG IS ICELAND?
About the size of Ohio or Kentucky. Iceland has slightly over a quarter million people, most of whom live in coastal areas. The center of Iceland is ruggedly mountainous and uninhabited.
HOW SHOULD I DRESS?
Dress much the way you would in New York City in the fall, winter and spring. In summer, carry a light jacket. The weather can be extremely changeable. The Icelanders often say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.” They’re not kidding! And always bring a bathing suit. Yes, a bathing suit! Icelanders’ favorite pastime is year-round outdoor swimming in the countless geothermally-heated pools and lagoons, which are as warm as bathwater.
DO ICELANDERS SPEAK ENGLISH?
Most Icelanders (especially those from their teenage years through their fifties) speak fluent English. In fact, they welcome the opportunity — so don’t be shy about approaching an Icelander.
WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE LIKE?
Quite Scandinavian, their mainly Norwegian Viking ancestors brought along some Irish slaves who quickly blended into the population over 1100 years ago and many Icelanders actually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Contrary to rumors, there are no Eskimos in Iceland.
HOW ARE ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD?
World-class! Iceland’s hotels and guesthouses are almost invariably clean and comfortable. Food choices are generally wide. “Homegrown” seafood and lamb dishes are popular and available anywhere. In the more populated areas, international cuisine — including American fast food — has become all the rage. And vegetarians will find plenty of excellent choices.
WHAT’S THERE TO SEE BESIDES NATURE?
You’re obviously reading this part of the website first. But make no mistake — you don’t have to be an outdoors type to fall in love with Iceland! For example, Reykjavik is one of the liveliest, safest, most sophisticated, and modern cities on earth. Its nightlife and cultural offerings are quickly becoming legendary worldwide. Half of Iceland’s population lives in the greater Reykjavik area.
WHAT KIND OF MONEY DO THEY USE IN ICELAND?
The krona, plural kronur (ISK), with a 2003 exchange rate of roughly 78 ISK to the US dollar. Although you may find a few places that accept US dollars, especially in the Reykjavik area, you should carry and use Icelandic money — easily exchanged at the airport, banks, and currency exchanges. Visa, Master Card, and Cirrus use is pervasive throughout Iceland. And ATMs are generally not hard to find.
WILL MY CELL PHONE WORK IN ICELAND?
Most North American cell phones won’t work because Iceland is on the European system, but you can rent phones in Iceland. Then, how do I call home? All it takes is your AT&T calling card or credit card.
1. Dial the AT&T access number in Iceland; 00 800-22255288.
2. Then dial the phone number you’re calling including area code.
3. Wait for a prompt then enter your AT&T Calling Card number and 4-digit pin.
ARE DAYLIGHT HOURS NORMAL?
Well, for this part of the world, they are. In summer, you won’t see much darkness, day or “night”. In mid-winter, expect only about four to five hours a day of daylight. Spring and fall daylight hours are roughly the same as in North America.
WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTRICITY?
Icelandic electrical standards are European (50Hz, 240 volts) so many North American electrical devices will require converters and all will require plug adapters. Hotels usually keep one or two converter/ adapters on hand — but don’t count on one being available. It’s better to buy one in North America and bring it with you. They’re usually found at US and Canadian electronic specialty stores and sell for around USD 25.
CAN I PLUG IN MY MODEM?
Generally, yes. Icelandic and North American phone plugs are the same. As you should do anywhere, though, always ask a hotel if it’s safe to plug a normal modem into your room phone jack. Icelanders have one of the highest rates of computer use in the world.