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Iceland: Geysers and Glaciers 1 - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Iceland, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Geysers and Glaciers tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Icelandic adventure.
Iceland is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States, however because the country does not use daylight savings time, when the tour takes place, the difference between Iceland and the Eastern Standard Time is only 4 hours. So, in summer, when it's noon in Iceland, it's 8 a.m. in New York and 5 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are many great souvenirs to bring back with you from Iceland, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase and pack light. You do not need any formal clothing for this trip. Below is a list with some packing suggestions, it's hardly a complete list, but rather a series of suggestions and reminders.
- swimsuit (for visiting the Blue Lagoon and possibly other geothermal pools)
- binoculars (for watching birds, whales, seals, dolphins, and foxes)
- flashlight (for visiting caves)
- good hair conditioner (the mineral content of Iceland's geothermal water can be pretty rough on hair)
- hiking shoes (for walking over rough terrain. Water-resistant shoes with ankle support are advised)
- insect repellent (especially for visiting the Mývatn area)
- rain gear (raincoat is better than an umbrella since rain is usually accompanied by strong winds). Rain pants are a great addition to your packing list, as well.
- sleeping mask (even with the curtains down, the midnight sun can make sleeping difficult)
- sunglasses (the Icelandic terrain can produce lots of glare, and with the sun so low to the horizon, sunglasses are essential)
- sunscreen (the sub-Arctic sun can cause sunburn even when the weather's cool, and the landscape offers few places to hide)
- windbreaker or windproof shell (Iceland is windy . . . penetratingly windy)
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends at the Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik (airport code KEF). The tour starts at 1:00PM on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, and your flight should arrive no later than 11:00AM. That means that you'll probably depart North America on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. PLEASE NOTE: there are some day flights from the East Coast (Boston, New York) departing in the early afternoon and getting to Keflavik right before midnight, but that would require arriving a day early. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. On arrival, we provide an airport transfer to the hotel by a private transfer in accordance with your flight arrival time. The tour will end on Thursday, July 18, 2019, and after arriving from Akureyri we will have a group airport transfer, arriving at the Keflavik International Airport airport at 11:00AM, just in time to check in for flights departing for North America in the afternoon. Your return flight should depart no sooner than 1:00PM.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Iceland tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. However, because we have only 12 rooms available on this tour, if there are a lot of people requesting a single room, we may have a smaller group than 16 people. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides, one in Reykjavik and one in Akureyri, who will be sharing their insights about Iceland with the group throughout the tour.
Icelanders are blessed with a very healthy environment. The use of geothermal and hydroelectric power has made pollution almost negligible. Some say Iceland has the purest tap water in the world, and even surface water is generally potable. The incidence of insect, water, or food-borne infection is extremely low. In 2007, a smoking ban went into effect in bars, restaurants, accommodations, and cafes. Iceland's extreme variations in daylight hours may wreak havoc with your body clock, so bring an eye mask to help you sleep in summer. The sun can be stronger than many visitors suspect at such a northerly latitude. Bring sunscreen and lip balm to protect your skin, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare. You may want to bring insect repellent with DEET to fend off the midges that can be an annoyance in certain areas, especially around Lake Myvatn. Iceland has a few bees and wasps, so anyone with an Apoidea allergy should bring a portable remedy. Arctic terns may attack humans when they perceive danger, especially during the nesting season, so be ready to cover your head or fight back with an umbrella or a walking stick. Bring seasick pills if you plan on any boating activities, long ferry rides, or bumpy road trips.
Iceland has some of the world's best drinking water, and all tap water is safe to drink. Even surface water is generally potable, and Giardia, a water-born intestinal parasite, is very rare, although you should avoid drinking from streams that have flowed through areas with livestock or birds.
Iceland’s capital Reykjavik has many public restrooms facilities in the city, and Icelandic sights often have their own toilets nearby. Icelandic restrooms in the cities are modern, clean facilities and are very handicap-friendly. The toilets are cleaned regularly, especially those in restaurants and shopping areas. Some public toilets in Iceland are self-cleaning. Many public toilets in Iceland charge a couple of coins, so it's good to always carry some with you to pay for them. All toilets show the symbol for ladies/men restrooms, so they're easy to identify. To flush, there usually is a button or handle that you need to push or pull up.
Iceland has a very low crime rate and in general any risks you’ll face while travelling here are related to the unpredictable weather and the geological conditions. You should always use care in Iceland's untamed outdoors and you need to be prepared for inclement conditions, as the weather can change without warning. Be prepared for Iceland's notoriously abrupt shifts in weather. Always carry warm and waterproof clothing and footwear, even in summer. Take special care to have solid footing on mountaintops and clifftops, where winds are strongest. In geothermal hotspots, stick to boardwalks or obviously solid ground, avoiding thin crusts of lighter-colored soil around steaming fissures and mudpots. You also need to be careful of the water in hot springs and mudpots – it often emerges out of the ground at boiling temperatures. If you walk onto a glacier despite the danger, follow other footprints or snowmobile tracks. Crime in Iceland isn't nonexistent, but it's not much of a problem. Outside Reykjavík, Icelanders rarely lock their doors. The country has fewer than 1,000 police officers, most of them unarmed, and the total prison population is under 200. Use the same precautions you would anyplace in the world. Don't carry a purse that doesn't close. Don't openly rifle through wads of cash in the middle of a busy street. Carry your wallet in a front pocket to prevent pickpocketing. Don't carry all your money and credit cards in the same place.
During the Glaciers and Geysers Tour, we will travel by a private bus. We will also be walking quite a bit, including steps and uneven surfaces. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk for an hour or two on uneven terrain, sometimes in bad weather. While you can opt out of any activity, doing so will limit your opportunities to fully appreciate Iceland. You should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles, including boats, without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. While not strenuous, this tour requires the minimum of the average fitness level. You must also be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts. The horse riding activity does not require prior riding experience, but you should have at least average fitness level to be able to participate in it.
Icelandic weather is unpredictable at the best of times, with bright, sunny days reverting to cold, wet and miserable conditions within a matter of hours. Rainfall in Iceland is fairly consistent throughout the year, but, because temperatures plummet in winter, it often falls as snow from September to May. The south and west coasts are usually the wettest parts of the country, with the north and east enjoying generally drier but colder conditions. Areas with geothermal activity are often noticeably warmer than surrounding areas. Temperatures drop considerably as you go up into the mountains, particularly around the ice caps.
Iceland's cities have Internet access available in Internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Iceland's cities and metropolitan areas, although you should expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. Both hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.
Iceland uses 220 Volts, 50 Hz AC, the European standard, and it uses type C plugs with two round prongs.
The national language of Iceland is Icelandic. However, English is commonly spoken, by most everyone.
Iceland is a wealthy nation that relies heavily on imports; but at $25 for a hamburger and $22 for a glass of wine, Iceland's prices may come as a shock. The country's monetary unit is the krona, plural kronur (sometimes abbreviated as "ISK," but mostly written as "kr"). Coins come in 1, 10, 50, and 100 kronur denominations; bank notes are in denominations of 500kr (about $8), 1,000kr (about $16), 2,000kr (about $32), and 5,000kr (about $80). For current conversion rates, try www.xe.com/ucc.
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, however keep in mind that you can pay for almost everything using your credit card. Icelanders love credit and debit cards, and will commonly whip one out just to buy an ice cream cone. Most shops and tourist establishments accept credit cards; you can even charge a taxi or a bus ride. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, though American Express and Diner's Club are useful as well. Credit cards are safe, convenient, and generally offer good exchange rates. Note, however, that many banks assess a 1% to 3% "foreign transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad, so check with your bank first.
You will need a 4-digit PIN to withdraw cash from your credit card. You should also notify your bank that you will be traveling abroad, so your card does not get blocked for suspicious activity.
As a member of the European Union, Iceland imposes a 24.5% value-added tax on most goods and services. The VAT is already included in the displayed price. Visitors from outside the EU can get a VAT tax refund at the airport when departing, but the VAT refunds are not made for services. To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify, present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked IVA Tax Refunds at the airport, as you leave Iceland. Your refund should arrive by check or be credited to your credit card within a few weeks.
Restaurants', drivers' and guides' gratuities are included in the Glaciers and Geysers tour price. While dining on your own, a 10% gratuity is expected only in upscale restaurants. Otherwise, no tipping is expected.
Iceland has a wonderful selection of souvenirs to bring back home, once you get past the sticker shock. Typical gifts to buy in Iceland are: lava rock jewelry sold at jewelry stores all over Iceland, including the high-end Isis and Mariella in Reykjavik to the budget friendly Kolaportid market (about $32 US for a necklace); Icelandic woolen goods with the traditional Icelandic sweater being the most popular; logo and slogan T-shirts from Dogma such as “eg tala ekki islensku” (I don’t speak Icelandic ) t-shirt; 66° North gear (stylish clothes that will keep you warm); Icelandic music from 12 Tonar store; photo books of Iceland; Viking beer glasses; Blue Lagoon beauty products, such as the silica found at the bottom of the Blue Lagoon, known to have special properties that help heal and clear your skin; Reyka Vodka; Icelandic hot dog mustard; Icelandic design which mixes new and traditional elements in creative ways.