Saturday, February 25, 2017

Iceland Experience

Iceland has increasing become a popular tourist destination over the past couple of years. Seems like the secret is out! However, it's a really expensive country, but I was able to do it within a budget!

Airline: This was the first time I flew Wow Air, the budget airline. Good thing I did some research after reading the horror stories on Yelp. It made me scared that they were going to charge me exuberant amount of fees. 

Wow Air Airlines

Wow Air is super strict with their luggage allowance (that's how they make their money). Make sure you read their guidelines! As of Feb 2017, they only allow 42x32x25cm/ 17x13x10in (10kg/22 lbs) for your included carry-on.  Don't go over or else you have to pay extra fees at the gate. If you know you're going to bring more or bigger luggage, do it online. It will save you some time and headache. If you go over just a bit, they will definitely charge you.

Tip: Get a duty free bag at the airport and shove your heaviest items in your bag.

How I Pack: My carry on is just about 16in in length and if I bought another luggage that was 17in, I would definitely be in trouble.
Everything fits in that bag!
I hand-washed some of my clothes so I didn't need a bigger bag.

Tip: Bring a filtered water bottle like Bobble so you can don't need to buy bottle water. Cold water is pretty pure and their water is soft. Don't drink the warm/hot water. It's sulfury.

For the power converter, use the European one. 

If you are planning on just bringing a small carry-on to combat high airline fees, I recommend you get a packable tote bag or packable backpack to carry your items especially shopping for groceries.

Blue Lagoon: First of all, the bus transfer from Keflavik Airport to the Blue Lagoon (admission ticket included) and then to Reykjavik cost me about $100. It's definitely over-hyped and not really worth it in my opinion.

I got there at 8 AM and it was super windy and down pouring. I was already soaked going in. They open in all kinds of conditions! The winds continued to get stronger, reaching the speeds of 54 mph during my time there. Apparently schools in the area were closing because of the wind! When it's rainy and windy like that, you definitely taste the unpleasant salty water when the waves come crashing into you. It certainly wasn't the peaceful, tranquil water I imagined!

Tip: Bring your own towel and slippers to save a bit more on the add-ons.

Tip: If you want to get the hot springs experience and not pay the price, there are indoor and outdoor pools and other hot springs that costs significantly less all over Iceland.

Golden Circle Tour: I did the What's On afternoon tour which included Thingvellir National Park,
Geysir, Gullfoss, Faxi waterfall, and a surprise visit!

- Thingvellir National Park: A lovely stroll of the national park
View from the top

 Side note: If you're going to here, I suggest to skip this bathroom and go to the bathroom of the next destination because it costs 200kr to go in!

- Geysir: Where everyone waits to see the geysir erupts and quickly take photos of it.
Geysir erupting!
- Gullfoss: The large "golden" waterfall

 Faxi: a smaller waterfall

Bonus: Our tour guide went to a farm to greet some Icelandic horses!

Icelandic Horses with their winter mane
Northern Lights: Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any during my time there mainly due not having clear skies. It was raining almost every day. If it's not raining, the clouds were covering up the skies. Keep that in mind. Make sure you book your northern light tours early so you can get to see them and rebook again if you can't (weather permitting)!

Northern Lights Film from Aurora Reyjavik Exhibition
My alternative was going to the Northern Lights Exhibit where you can learn about northern lights all over the world and learn the science behind this phenomenon.  A little lame, but hey, making the best out of the situation!

Food:  Food is expensive here. There is no away around it. If you can pack some food from home, do it! The best way to save money is to cook so staying at a place with a kitchen is going to help your budget.
Bonus, one of the cheaper supermarkets.
Cheese and eggs here are really expensive. Avoid those if you can. Get a Skyr, their thick yogurt.

Idea of the cost of food at some restaurants

Fast Food at the Kringlan Mall: A fish burger meal is the same price as the cheeseburger meal

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream: about $12.70

Not Pictured: Icelandic Hot Dogs!

Iceland take their hot dogs very seriously. They're a classic staple made with lamb, beef, and pork. Probably one of the cheapest food you can get here (470kr). Get one with everything on top!

Despite the high cost, the rain and the wind, Iceland is a pretty magical place. I only wished I could stayed a bit longer to see a lot more of the country!