Springtime trip around Iceland, 2010
February 16, 2010 2:54 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are planning an early spring honeymoon in wonderful Iceland. I'm looking for some 2010-era advice on currency, spring availability for excursions, etc.

So my guy and I will be spending a couple of weeks in Iceland this spring (late March-early April). I've been there once before (one all-too-brief week in Feb. 2006 that centered on Reykjavík and southwest Iceland). There are a few items I remain foggy on – even after my research – particularly where currency is concerned.

To better frame the situation, the plan is to bus it from Keflavík to the Blue Lagoon to Reykjavík, then rent a car there. We'll then spend the next couple weeks circling the Ring Road.

Car. Would it be best to get a 4WD vehicle at this time of year, given our Ring Road route, or would it be overkill?

Time of year. My primary travel book, Lonely Planet Iceland, heavily focuses its information on the summer months. I am left wondering how much we're actually going to be able to do in terms of excursions (say fishing, horse-riding, getting out to places like Jökulsárlón, etc.) A couple of shutterbug questions I've not been able to answer in my Googling: will any plant life be green yet, and what are the chances of spotting some of those magically translucent blue icebergs (are they reserved for the meltier summer months)?

Money. Due to the unfortunate economic circumstances in Iceland, the exchange rate is far more favorable to the USD than when I last visited. A number of the hotels with whom I'm looking to make reservations quote the price in Euros. Is this typical that hotels/tour companies conduct their transactions in Euros, or will most places charge my card in ISK? Seems like that will make a major difference in our budget! Any other advice on currency exchange would be more than welcome.

Tech. We both have 3G iPhones, and it'd sure be nice to use them for email. It looks like AT&T offers international voice packages, but I assume that any data is going to be ridiculously expensive. What about Wi-Fi as an alternative? Outside of Reykjavík, how hard will it be to find Wi-Fi at hotels or cafés in smaller towns?

Thanks in advance, everyone! I've read past Ask MeFi questions about Iceland – any other tips as to must-see locales will be read with rapt interest!
posted by allisonrae to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you budget correctly, you might be able to snap up the entire country at fire sale prices!

Snark aside, you might actually find the interview highly relevant to your ask, and it's super informative, generally, concerning the current mood and geopolitical conditions in Iceland.
posted by jbenben at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2010

Spent a little over a week there this past September, so potentially on the "other shoulder", so to speak, of the weather. We had an all wheel drive vehicle, not 4WD, and did fine. All of our expenses were charged in ISK. Really didn't see Euros too much outside of Reykjavik. WiFi seemed hit or miss for us; hotels had it, farmstay hostels did not. Saw internet cafes here and there, but definitely not on every corner (again, once you're out of Reykjavik).

Have a blast! I'd love to go back myself soon.
posted by jasondbarr at 3:17 PM on February 16, 2010

Not much to add besides I got married and honeymooned there summer before last. It was absolutely gorgeous and the most fun I've ever had (the whole getting married, honeymoon part had a lot to do with that of course!).

We rented a Subaru (which we ended up buying once we got home because we loved it so much (not the specific one, duh)) which was perfect for the ring road.

It was pretty gnarly in parts (side roads especially) and I don't think a 2WD car would have loved it. A 2WD car certainly would have survived and probably not gotten stuck, but we also definitely would not have been able to reach some campsites we stayed at. A big lifted 4x4 is probably overkill, but 4 spinning wheels is worth a lot...

Congrats, have fun and drink some Brennivin for me!
posted by wrok at 3:23 PM on February 16, 2010

Best answer: Icelander here. I think it's pretty much a must to get a 4WD if you're going to be doing the ring road solo. Certainly if you're going to be travelling off it much. The south should be pretty easy driving but Icelandic weather can be unpredictable in the extreme.

Regarding greenery: Yes, some, but varying greatly.

Wi-fi is pretty universal at any place geared towards tourists, as well as most cafés.

Mývatn is an absolute must-see, as are the Vestfirðir. The Vestfirðir are also relatively tourist-free at this time since getting around can take a long time. Oh, and if you like to do a bit of off-the-track travelling right off the plane, you really should visit Gunnuhver; it used to be a small geyser 15 minutes from the airport. A couple of years ago it got really active and the trail to it was closed down for safety reasons. Now there are small mud geysers everywhere and noone really goes there. I go there with my friends occasionally just to hang around and look at the land basically melting down around us. Be careful, though, because there are holes everywhere and the ground isn't really solid some places.

I've not done a lot of travelling over the winter, but my brother is an experienced tour guide and should be able to answer all your questions. I'll hit him up tomorrow if you really want.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 3:24 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I went last year in mid-May, and we had a great time. A few answers:

Driving - the ring road is almost entirely paved, and unless you have snow (which is very possible that early in the spring), you won't need 4WD. Now, if you want to get off of the ring road, you might need 4WD. Even in May, a lot of the roads to interesting places were closed to 2WD vehicles. Check around to see which roads are open, closed, and 4WD only. This website has good information:


If you go off road, be especially careful with the rivers. Depending on the progression of the snow melt, rivers can vary from trickles to full fledged glacial runs that require SUVs with snorkels.

Many gravel roads (even those deemed safe for 2WD) feature some enormous boulders that can bang up the bottom of your car. I can also promise you that if you leave the ring road, you will add some gravel damage to your rental. Check your rental agreement to see if there are any specifications about accidental gravel damage. The place we rented from, at the time, looked the other way for light gravel damage (just part of life for Iceland).

Jökulsárlón is right off the ring road - as in it's visible from (and actually crosses under) the ring road. Parking and access is easy.

No idea about when plants turn green, but things were quite green when we were there in May. However, I would assume that spring follows roughly the same schedule as the American northeast, in which case greenery doesn't return until late April.

Money - everything we did was in ISK.

Wireless - Iceland has excellent 3G coverage. Don't forget that you can purchase a local pre-paid SIM card and use it that in lieu of your AT&T plan. As for Wi-Fi, I only remember having it at one or two places, but I can't say that I recall that much about it one way or another.
posted by fremen at 3:37 PM on February 16, 2010

Zero Gravitas answered most of your questions, I see... the only thing I can add is that you will be charged in ISK, not Euros, and that there'll be a little bit of green. I'm not sure about the blue icebergs that time of year.
posted by Kattullus at 3:52 PM on February 16, 2010

Purchase local 3G sim card for data transfers on your iphone.
posted by dabitch at 5:03 PM on February 16, 2010

Skip the outrageously limited and expensive AT&T "international data" package for your iPhone. It's limited to insanely small amounts of data. You'll be constantly stressing out and worrying about going over the limit. That's not what you want on the honeymoon. Instead, put it on airplane mode and just limit yourself to wifi only. I bought the AT&T int'l data package a year ago for a London trip. This year's London trip was wifi only, which is what I'll do in the future as WiFi has become ubiquitous.

Iceland's on my short list for sure. Have fun!
posted by webhund at 5:35 PM on February 16, 2010

We were there in March several years ago, and the moss was richly green in the southwest.

We rented a 2wd minivan not intending to do anything very off-roady, and nearly got into trouble on a gravel road that had poor (or, hard for us to understand) signage. We were fortunate to have 6 people in our group, so we could push ourselves out. For a more ambitious trip, I would probably get AWD or 4WD.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:41 PM on February 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you to one and all for your great answers to some of my remaining questions – it is a huge help! Thanks also to jbenben for the link to the radio program – I have been interested to understand more about the mechanics of what exactly happened and where things are at now. It was certainly eye-opening.
posted by allisonrae at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2010

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