Gift ideas for Iceland travelers
December 6, 2022 10:13 AM   Subscribe

My parents are heading to Iceland in a few weeks, and I'd like to get them a Christmas gift that's related.

This is a big trip for them; their first European trip ever. I'd love to get them something useful that they may not even know they need. Most likely, I'll get them a power adapter. Any recommendations for that? Will a European converter work in Iceland? Mostly needed for charging phones. (Or should I just buy them a charger cord that works in Europe if there's nothing else they need to plug in?) I saw recommendations for travel umbrellas. Does it rain much in January, or will it mostly be snowing? Would small flashlights be helpful since it will be so dark?

What is travel like within Reyjkavik if you don't have a car? Will they need to get Uber/Lyft on their phones, or can they get taxis easily? (They will be very hesitant to installing an app and linking it to a credit card.) Would an Icelandic debit card with cash pre-loaded be helpful?

I'd love to give them ideas and advice too. For example, an older thread mentioned that Iceland's hot dogs are amazing. What else is worth seeking out? They'll be staying in Reykjavik the whole trip with side tours to see the Northern Lights and dog sledding. I don't know what hotel they're staying in. Any "must-buy" souvenirs? Alcohol or food ideas that are great for older folks with midwestern palates?

So, any gift ideas and/or advice for a newbie Iceland traveler?
posted by hydra77 to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
An Icelandic wool sweater is a classic souvenir, but they should check to make sure they don't find it too scratchy (or buy a sweater designed as an outer layer).

They can try brennivin for fun, but I wouldn't get a whole bottle without trying it first!

Reykjavik, at least the parts tourists visit, is not particularly large. I don't think we ever used a car to get around the whole time.
posted by praemunire at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2022

I wouldn't expect it to rain in Reykjavik in January. Flashlights might be helpful, but I never saw anybody using them, since it's a city and there are street lights.

Maybe you can prepay for them to visit Sundhollin, a lovely public bath with rooftop hottubs, in Reykjavik? They'll probably be in that area, since Hallgrimskirkja is worth a visit (also nearby: Braud & Co, a wonderful bakery).

There are also puffin cruises that you could buy them, in case they want to get on the water and see cute lil birds.
posted by entropone at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2022

Iceland has an amazing swim culture. Literally every tiny little town has at least one geothermally-warmed swimming pool open year-round (and also often a tub of glacier-freezing water to dunk yourself into). Our best experiences were hanging out with the locals at these pool clubs -- people were super friendly and happy go give out suggestions for restaurants and other cool local things to do. Here's a list of the pools in Reykjavik, and a guide to etiquette in Icelandic locker rooms.
posted by apparently at 10:37 AM on December 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

Depending on your budget, I suggest buying them an admission to one of the geothermal baths for them to go during their trip. The Blue Lagoon is the most famous one (but quite expensive) but there are many others.

That's not something they would necessarily get for themselves but I think they'll enjoy it.
posted by bsdfish at 10:47 AM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hand warmers. Travel adapters. Toiletry kits. Compression socks. Handheld telescope. Phone battery pack.

Most places take dollars, and contactless paying is prevalent.
posted by nkknkk at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2022

Renting a car is something they could do, but "downtown" Reykjavik is walkable. Touristy things to do outside the city limits are all accessible by bus or a tour guide with their own vehicle. We traveled everywhere on buses or a tour guide's van, all chartered in advance for each activity.
posted by emelenjr at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2022

I went to Iceland in February, and it would have been nice to have some removeable ice cleats for my shoes/boots. It can get very "slippy," as our guide put it.
posted by missrachael at 12:23 PM on December 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

2nding ice spikes as your themed gift, and they should bring them with on all their tours. frequently the parking areas around the places they'll visit can get pretty icy. They wont likely need them in the city because the sidewalk is headed. Plus they can use them in an ice storm at home or shoveling snow if need be. Of the ones in the strategist link above, i'd get these $25 spikey ones. the icelandic ice is no joke and the spring and plastic cleats are useless there.

sundhollin the pool is great. the restaurant Snaps is lovely and not too far from the downtown, an easy walk into the cute residential around there.

there's no uber, but this is the phone number for the taxi. they speak english perfectly
+354 588 5522

the best bar for parents of adults age people in reykjavik is
Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar - you can call ir "Olstafa" and people will know what you're saying and the address is Vegamótstígur 4
it's right downtown, and thats where people their age are most likely to hang out
reykjavik roasters is a great place for coffee.

my own parents found it really fun to go to BONUS the icelandic grocery store (there's one on the main street downtown) they were also very tickled to visit Bauhaus, which is like the Lowe's of iceland. that's a taxi ride from anywhere but you could easily spend an hour it's huge.

they can use their regular credit cards everywhere. Iceland uses the standard Europlug socket with two round prongs.

memail me if you want more- I am a frequent visitor and i have sent my parents twice.
posted by wowenthusiast at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2022

Response by poster: Ice cleats are a great idea. Do you think the airlines would have any trouble with these stowed in checked baggage? (I think they're flying Iceland Air out of ORD.)
posted by hydra77 at 4:10 PM on December 6, 2022

There’s really good bakeries in Reykjavik, right near or on the main tourist drag. Sandholt is great, and I also like Brauð & Co. I would second the idea of going to the public pools - just remember, don’t skip the thorough shower before you get in the pool. Blue Pool was very expensive and touristy, and it was more fun to hang out with Icelanders.

Gifts I would send along with them that haven’t been mentioned so far are waterproof cases for phones if they want to take pictures, tea for the hotel room, nice wooly socks, and chapstick.
posted by terridrawsstuff at 5:55 PM on December 6, 2022

I concur on the ice cleats/crampons. It's one of those things I wish I had when i was there. They won't need them on the city streets but if they go on any excursions into the glaciers or even the hot springs, it can be treacherous without them, and not all places will offer them on loan.
posted by archimago at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2022

We took our first trip to Iceland just last month. While we did bring a voltage converter, we didn't get much use out of it because there were built-in USB ports in our room that we used to charge our phones. That may or may not be true for their hotel.

We appreciated having large water bottles and a pack to carry them in for when we took tours outside the city. Iceland has excellent drinking water and there's no need to buy bottled water. If they don't already have something like that, it would make a great gift.

We had no trouble walking around Reykjavik. Aside from the tours, the only transportation we took was the Fly Bus from the airport and back.

They should definitely try Brennivin while they are there. If they like it, they can pick up a bottle at duty free before flying home. The only food we brought back was Lava Cheese (not made from real lava).
posted by maurice at 2:30 PM on December 7, 2022

Re: voltage converters and charging mobile devices: Most chargers nowadays work with both 110V and 230V, so you don't need a voltage converter to charge phones, laptops etc. in most parts of the world, especially not in North America and Europe.
posted by amf at 2:55 PM on December 7, 2022

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