Money, safety, and language differences are key factors to know about before traveling abroad.
When traveling to new places, a lot of things can be different than what you’re used to. This applies to any trip, but especially when traveling internationally.
It’s nice to know some basic info in preparation for your trip, especially when it comes to money and safety. Knowing these details about Iceland before you travel will put your mind at ease and make travel less stressful! Hooray for that!
Tax Free Shopping
What is it: Value Added Tax (VAT) is money that can be refunded on items that have been purchased in Iceland and will be taken outside of the country.
What qualifies: Purchases of clothes, souvenirs and other gifts totaling ISK 6,000 or more. This does not apply to food and drink while in Iceland.
Here’s what to do: Ask the cashier for your tax-free receipt at the time of purchase. Submit receipts to customs office at the Keflavík International Airport.
What you get: Refund is usually given in ISK cash, which can then be converted to your own currency.
*VAT in Iceland is currently 25.5%, or 7% on special goods.
Fact: Iceland is one of the few countries in the world to have duty free in both the arrivals and departures at Keflavík International Airport.
What you need to do: Buy any sort of alcohol you would want for your tip before you leave the airport. This will be a huge money saver. Even the locals stock up on alcohol at duty free!
FYI: You have to be 20 or older to purchase alcohol and 18 for cigarettes and tobacco.
Last resort: If you choose not to shop at duty free or run out during your trip, the only place to buy alcohol in Iceland is at a store called Vínbúðin.
Currency: The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK). Many places (restaurants, bars, tourist attractions) will take US dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish currencies.
Payment: Icelanders usually pay for everything by credit or debit card. Payment with cards use the chip-and-pin method. If you don’t have a chip on your card you can sign for the purchase. Most people don’t even carry cash because paying by card is so common. I’ve seriously never even held cash here to this day!
Exchange: If you prefer to carry cash, there’s a bank and an ATM at the Keflavík Airport where you can exchange currency. Just know that you might be charged an international fee for ATM withdrawal – check beforehand with your bank.
Tipping: You don’t have to worry about tipping in Iceland – this goes for restaurants, bars, and even taxis! Gratuity is already built into the cost of the meal. Of course Icelanders know that tipping is a big part of American culture so they would never turn down some extra added to the bill!
Native language in Iceland: Icelandic
Languages easily spoken in Iceland: Icelandic and English (especially in the main tourist areas.)
Iceland is known for a high literacy rate and nearly all Icelanders speak fluent English. Icelanders are generally happy to speak in English so you don’t need to know Icelandic to get around.
Tip: I usually start off with “is English ok?” just to give them a heads up, rather than giving a dumbfounded look when they start speaking in Icelandic.
Example A: Every day I see kids walking home from school alone.
Example B: Mom’s leave their babies outside in strollers while they sit inside having coffee. This is completely normal in Iceland, most Icelandic children sleep outside every day from a young age.
Example C: Iceland is on every “best countries for solo female travel” list.
Hopefully these tips help ease your mind about travel in Iceland. I always feel more prepared about traveling to a new country when I know what to expect about the small things! From safety to navigating around the roads, I think Iceland is a pretty easy country to visit.
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