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All the little practical things you need to know about Iceland

Is tipping allowed? Cheapest supermarket? Bad neighborhoods? All is answered. PIC Vera & Jean Christophe

Is tipping allowed? Cheapest supermarket? Bad neighborhoods? All is answered. PIC Vera & Jean Christophe

You´ve been here before. No travel to anywhere is much fun if you completely dismiss the boring practical stuff. But fear not. Here´s all you need to know about travel to Iceland in three minutes flat.

TIPPING is not a rude thing

Contrary to many voices on the all-knowing Internet of things it is not rude or inappropriate to leave a tip for services rendered in Iceland. In fact, with ever increasing numbers of tourists, wages in the tourism sector somehow go down accordingly making it hard to make a living for many folks. Thus you may well leave a tip everywhere you choose without insulting anyone. But there is also no need. A special service charge is tacked onto your bill which in a perfect world would make its way into the pockets of the people on the floor. But this is not a perfect world is it? Tip if you want.

ATM´s more common than sheep

Some folks still believe this is some sort of Third World Eskimo country and worry accordingly about access to money. No need for worries here. This is the same country whose bankers thought it possible to turn Reykjavik city into the newest and best financial capital in the world a few years back. That plan did not quite take off but it did leave ATM´s in almost every place on the island.

SERVICE HOURS are American style

Quite a lot of supermarkets and the local Seven Eleven, known here as 10/11, are open 24 hours a day every day. However, that only goes for the larger places. In smaller towns and villages you will have to ask around but do not expect much open outside of normal business hours.

Regarding pharmacies the same applies. In Reykjavik you can get medicine at all hours but elsewhere you will have to go between 09 – 18. In most places pharmacies are also open on Saturdays but seldom on Sundays.

Most restaurants are open daily but opening hours vary. Expect to be able to grab a bite from 10 in the mornings until midnight in the larger places. Elsewhere opening times are much more limited.

Shops in general are open all week in Reykjavik city and surroundings although malls tend to open after noon on Sundays. In others parts of the country stores will, more or less, be closed on Sundays. This will change in high summer if the place in question is loaded with tourists. Then shop owners will gladly open up anytime.

GETTING AROUND is no mean feat

In Reykjavik city and surrounding towns as well as in Akureyri in the North you´ll actually find public transportation. Regular buses go to and fro but times vary quite a bit. Expect 30 minutes between buses and an hour on weekends and evenings. All services close before midnight. There is no train or subway system in place in Iceland.

Getting between towns is rather more difficult. Scheduled times vary depending on distance from Reykjavik city. Thus you can rather easily get to Akureyri in the North (up to five daily trips) but only one bus will take you to Djupivogur in the East. 

EMERGENCIES might take some time

The number to remember while traveling this fair land is 112. That´s the number for emergency services all over the place regardless of your situation.

Keep in mind hospitals are few and far between. In fact, there are but four real hospitals in the whole country and getting there or getting taken there often takes tremendous time, especially in wintertime.

Even if you find yourself with pains or have an accident near a hospital this also does not qualify for speedy service. Waiting times in emergency wards in Reykjavik can easily be five hours. Consider the whole day gone if you need attention.

TAX FREE will cost a little effort

Walk the malls or shopping streets of the larger places here and most everywhere you´ll see the sticker advertising tax-free shopping. This is enticing but there is a catch. In order to get some rebates you´ll have to buy something for a minimum amount. Then supply the receipts before leaving Keflavik international airport to get the tax back.

This is certainly worthwhile if you are seriously shopping but if not, the hassle is hardly worth it. Added tax on things here varies from 12% to 25%.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by the book

It should tell you a thing or two about the local mentality that the highly dangerous liquid known as beer was illegal in this country until 1989. The simple folk could not be trusted with beer. Strong alcohol on the other hand, not a problem.

A lot of stupid laws are still on the books. Until 2015 you could really get away with murdering people from the Basque country in the Westfjord area of Iceland without any penalties whatsoever. That due to failure to remove old laws from the books.

On the whole there are no dangerous areas to avoid in Iceland. Crime is not a huge problem anywhere. In Reykjavik center there are the occasional robberies and fights when the nightlife goes into full gear but seldom are tourists the victims.

One thing locals cops take seriously is speeding on the Ring Road. Going well over speed limits will result in an instant fine if caught.

Another thing all locals take offense to is off-road driving. This will also result in fines if reported.

SWIMMING can be a scary proposition

Informal study by team Total Iceland has shown up to 30% of visiting foreigners show no interest in going swimming when informed about the rule about washing beforehand in the nude. That´s a sin since swimming in our many hot pools is a true highlight of many tourists coming here.

But of course you need to wash in the nude. We don´t live in the Middle-Ages anymore when soap was considered the evil incarnate. You wouldn´t want to bathe in water filled with mysterious brown specks floating all over? And what is that white rubbery thing bubbling on the surface?

Your penis/vagina is much the same as on other folks. WASH!

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