How to be a Good Tourist in Iceland
Although we know most of you are savvy world travelers, there are some general tips for traveling in Iceland that are always good to know. In a country as beautiful as Iceland, it’s important to travel thoughtfully, responsibly, and respect the country and its rules. Here are some of the main things that will help you be a good tourist when in Iceland.
Stay at the Campsites
One of the most frequently asked questions by campers is this: Do we have to stay in the campsites? The answer is yes – campervans must stay overnight in campsites. We understand why you might object; it’s an expensive country and you’re trying to save money where you can, and the idea of waking up in a campervan at the base of a glacier or next to a waterfall is an incredible thought. However, the reasons for this rule are hard to ignore. With the number of tourists flocking to Iceland’s shores to explore and adventure throughout its unique and dramatic environment, it’s more important than ever to protect it so that future travelers can enjoy the same sights. Sleeping outside of the campsites might do irreparable damage to a fragile ecosystem without you even realizing.
See: Campsites in Iceland
Don’t Feed the Icelandic Horses
Although the Icelandic horses are famous for being friendly and curious, farmers in the past have had troubles with tourists feeding their horses when stopping to say hello. Feeding horses can often interrupt their training, affect their temperament, and teach them bad habits. So, if you do stop to admire some of Iceland’s most famous animals, respect the farmers and just how important their horses are, and don’t feed them.
Don’t Stop in Dangerous Places Along the Roads
It might be obvious to most, but not all. Landscapes in Iceland are so unreal, it’s very tempting to pull over around every corner to snap a quick picture. But the roads in the country don’t always allow for the space to do this, and if you do you might leave your camper sticking out too far onto the road which causes danger for passing motorists. That’s why if you see a nice big area to pull over, seize it. Otherwise, enjoy the scenery as it goes by from behind the windshield of your car.
Stick to the Roads While Driving
Leaving the relative safety of the Icelandic roads is risky business, and not only because there’s a good likelihood that you could get stuck and/or damage your campervan. On top of that, the entire country is made up of fragile ecosystems, and leaving the roads could mean that you’ve unwittingly destroyed something that will take hundreds of years to recover.
Respect the Nature
It’s why you’re visiting, and one of the biggest parts of why we love living and travelling here; the awesome power of Iceland’s nature. Volcanoes, ancient glaciers, dreamlike landscapes, black sand beaches – there seems to be no end to Iceland’s beauty. But it’s important to respect the power behind it all. Pay attention to the warning signs, stay behind the fences – it’s all there for your own safety.
Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Iceland has some of the cleanest water in the world. And thanks to the abundance of ice caps across the country, there’s almost an unlimited supply of it as well. Instead of buying water in plastic bottles at the supermarket, bring your own reusable bottle to fill up along the way at sinks and even in some rivers.
If there’s no room in your bag, we also have a limited supply of water tanks at the office that we can give out to campers. And remember, if you’re taking out a 4x4, a Go Lite, or one of the Go Big campers, there’s already a water tank included.
Stay Away from the Highlands
Unless you have one of our 4x4 camper vans, the F-Roads and the highlands are off limits. Attempting to travel through this region with only a 2x4 is asking for trouble, with rough tracks, fast-flowing rivers, and volatile weather. On top of that, our insurance won’t cover you if you’ve taken a 2x4 camper up into the Highlands, meaning any damage will have to be completely paid for by you.
Shower Before you Go Swimming
When travelling, it’s important to respect the customs and culture of the locals. Iceland is lucky to enjoy countless geothermal springs out in the countryside, and this energy is also harnessed to fill the local pools in towns. With more swimming pools per capita, it’s likely that you’re going to go for a dip whilst your travelling around in a campervan, so of course it’s good to know how to follow the rules. You must shower naked and wash yourself all over with soap before hopping in to enjoy the thermal waters. This might sound shocking to a lot of people, but it keeps the pools cleaner than they normally would be, and if you don’t do it, you might get a stern talking-to by one of the locals.
Take the Icelandic Pledge
Almost no one sets out to do any damage whilst travelling, but sometimes we don’t even realise that we are doing it. To educate tourists about travelling in Iceland, the Icelandic Tourism Board has created the Icelandic Pledge. Follow these guidelines to travel responsibly in Iceland.
There’s no need at all to tip anybody in Iceland – waiters and waitresses in restaurants make good hourly wages, and don’t rely on the practice at all to supplement their income. If you do, it’s often met with a little bit of awkwardness.
If you see a beer for sale in the supermarket or at a service station, it’s not actually beer. It’s illegal to sell beer outside of the government-controlled Vínbúðin (the wine shop), so the beers you can find in any other shops are low percentage alcohol. While we’re talking about alcohol, if you want to avoid paying the insane prices for alcohol inside the country do like the locals do and stock up in duty free at the airport.
This might go without saying, but don’t grocery shop at 10/11. It’s good to pick up a few things here and there, but beyond that the prices in the store are well beyond anything that you’ll find in one of the supermarket chains. Bonus and Kronan are the two cheapest supermarkets, both of which you can find directly behind our office after picking up your camper van.