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20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip

20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip, Safest Countries to Travel in 2024

Our full guide on Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland, especially for first timers.

Iceland is a stunning destination known for its dramatic landscapes, geothermal activities, and unique cultural experiences. However, there are common mistakes that travelers often make which can detract from the experience.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you avoid these pitfalls and make the most of your trip to Iceland.

 Read here best things to know before visiting Iceland and 9 Day Iceland Itinerary

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland

1. Underestimating the Weather

    Mistake: Not preparing for rapidly changing weather conditions.

    Tip: Pack layers, waterproof clothing, and sturdy footwear. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, including wind, rain, and cold temperatures, even in summer.

    2. Driving Without Proper Preparation

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      Mistake: Not understanding the challenges of driving in Iceland, such as gravel roads, narrow bridges, and unpredictable weather.

      Tip: Familiarize yourself with Iceland’s road conditions and driving rules. Rent a suitable vehicle for the terrain, consider a 4×4 for off-road driving, and always check road conditions and weather forecasts before heading out.

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      3. Ignoring Safety Warnings

        Mistake: Disregarding safety warnings at natural attractions, such as hot springs, geysers, and cliffs.

        Tip: Pay attention to signs and guidelines. Stay on marked paths and respect barriers and safety instructions to avoid accidents.

        4. Overpacking the Itinerary

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          Mistake: Trying to see too much in a short period, leading to a rushed and stressful trip.

          Tip: Plan a realistic itinerary with sufficient time to enjoy each location. Focus on quality over quantity and allow for spontaneous exploration.

          5. Not Booking Accommodation in Advance

            Mistake: Assuming you can find accommodation upon arrival, especially during peak season.

            Tip: Book accommodations well in advance, particularly in popular areas like Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and along the Ring Road.


            6. Neglecting to Budget for High Costs

              Mistake: Underestimating the cost of travel in Iceland, including food, accommodation, and activities.

              Tip: Plan your budget carefully. Consider self-catering options, shop at grocery stores, and look for free or low-cost activities to manage expenses.

              7. Skipping Travel Insurance

                Mistake: Traveling without insurance, risking high costs for medical emergencies or trip disruptions.

                Tip: Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and activities like hiking or glacier tours.

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                8. Missing Out on Local Cuisine

                20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip

                  Mistake: Sticking to familiar foods and not trying local Icelandic dishes.

                  Tip: Explore Icelandic cuisine, including lamb, seafood, skyr (a type of yogurt), and traditional dishes like fermented shark. Visit local restaurants and food markets.

                  Read here Icelandic foodIceland drinksvegetarian food in Iceland and best breakfast in Iceland

                  9. Not Respecting Nature and Wildlife

                  20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip

                    Mistake: Disturbing wildlife or damaging natural environments.

                    Tip: Respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance and not feeding animals. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve Iceland’s pristine landscapes.

                    10. Overlooking Local Culture and Etiquette

                      Mistake: Not being aware of local customs and etiquette.

                      Tip: Learn a few basic Icelandic phrases and understand cultural norms, such as removing shoes before entering a home. Be respectful and courteous to locals.

                      11. Ignoring the Midnight Sun and Polar Night

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                        Mistake: Not accounting for the extended daylight in summer or long nights in winter.

                        Tip: If traveling in summer, bring an eye mask to help with sleep. In winter, plan activities around the limited daylight and enjoy the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

                        12. Neglecting Proper Footwear

                        20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip, Traveler’s Checklist - What to Never Forget When Going Abroad 

                          Mistake: Wearing inappropriate footwear for Iceland’s rugged terrain.

                          Tip: Bring sturdy, waterproof hiking boots for outdoor activities. Comfortable walking shoes are essential for exploring towns and cities.

                          13. Failing to Plan for Northern Lights Viewing

                            Mistake: Expecting to see the Northern Lights without proper planning.

                            Tip: Visit during the winter months, away from city lights, and check aurora forecasts. Be patient and give yourself multiple opportunities to see the lights.

                            14. Not Considering Alternative Attractions

                            20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip

                              Mistake: Only visiting popular sites and missing out on lesser-known attractions.

                              Tip: Explore beyond the tourist hotspots. Visit lesser-known waterfalls, hot springs, and hiking trails to experience Iceland’s hidden gems.

                              15. Overlooking Geothermal Pool Etiquette

                                Mistake: Not following proper etiquette in geothermal pools and hot springs.

                                Tip: Always shower thoroughly before entering pools. Respect quiet zones and other guests’ privacy in communal areas.

                                16. Driving Off-Road Illegally

                                20 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Iceland For Your Next Trip

                                  Mistake: Driving off-road without proper knowledge or permission, damaging the environment.

                                  Tip: Stick to marked roads and tracks. Off-road driving is illegal and can cause significant environmental harm.

                                  17. Not Checking Daylight Hours

                                    Mistake: Misjudging the amount of daylight available for activities.

                                    Tip: Check sunrise and sunset times for your travel dates. Plan your daily activities accordingly, especially in winter when daylight is limited.

                                    18. Overestimating Wi-Fi and Mobile Coverage

                                      Mistake: Assuming you’ll have reliable internet and mobile coverage everywhere.

                                      Tip: Be prepared for areas with limited or no coverage, especially in remote regions. Download maps and necessary information beforehand.

                                      I wouldn’t recommend you to buy a sim card at Reykjavik airport. If you wish comfort you can buy eSim online and if you aren’t in a hurry just go around phone shops in the city and compare prices to buy the cheapest sim card in Reykjavik.

                                      Read here best Iceland sim card for tourists

                                      19. Disregarding the Impact of Tourism

                                        Mistake: Not considering the impact of tourism on local communities and environments.

                                        Tip: Travel responsibly. Support local businesses, minimize waste, and follow sustainable travel practices.

                                        20. Failing to Respect Private Property

                                          Mistake: Trespassing on private property to get a better view or photograph.

                                          Tip: Always respect private property and ask for permission if needed. Stick to public paths and areas open to tourists.

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