Thursday, January 1, 2015

We Icelanders often find it amusing to hear how foreigners perceive us, our country and our society. Jordi Pujolá moved to Iceland from Spain in 2013 and has often been asked how he perceives Iceland. Jordi admits that he did find several things different from what he was used to. Here is his short list:

  1. To see all possible weather signs (sun ,rain, snow…) simultaneously on the weather report. 
  2. To see a shovel in front of every house during winter. After the first snowstorm he understood why. 
  3. To see a store closed on account of good weather. 
  4. To open the window instead of reducing the heating when it is to hot inside. 
  5. That Icelanders never wear warm outdoor activity clothes despite of the cold. If you see someone walk down the main shopping street dressed like that, you are probably looking at a tourist. 
  6. To receive a phone call from your doctor and he is just checking if you drugs are working. 
  7. Adding a Facebook friend and seeing that you already have common friends. 
  8. That a single Icelandic web page has information on the whole nation and therefore you don‘t have to bring any papers to prove who you are. 
  9. That Icelanders have an obsession for having favorite places in town that sell the best hot-dogs, ice cream and coffee. 
  10. That you can pay for a single lollipop in the shop with a credit card. 
  11. That lunch is informal and you don‘t have to meet a lot of people at lunch. 
  12. That it is enough to say „Hello“ when you meet new people and you don‘t have to kiss anybody as you do in Spain. 
  13. That socks are as important as shoes. Even at the dentist you take of your shoes. 
  14. That in the supermarket you don‘t have to show the staff into your rucksack to prove that you are not stealing. The first time I did that the store attendant looked at me like I was crazy. 
  15. To buy lots of beer in the supermarket only to realize when you come home that it is alcohol free. And that beer was banned in Iceland from 1915 to 1989! 
  16. That Icelanders are very proud of their country and always cheer for their countrymen, even in Karaoke! 
  17. To have only one company that produces milk. 
  18. That Icelanders walk freely on the grass in the parks. That is forbidden in Spain. 
  19. That you can go into a store to exchange something you bought, without being asked for a proof of purchase. 
  20. To observe Icelanders talking on the phone. For the first time he saw that he thought something catastrophic had happened.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Generally speaking Iceland is a very family friendly tourist destination. There is always so much to see, and most of it is probably very different from what the children are used to. And you can stop the car almost everywhere. If you see some horses, cows or sheep, then don’t hesitate to get out of the car and let the children get real close to the animals. And how about letting them lie down in the green moss and feel how soft it is?

If driving, one good rule of thumb when the children were young, is to drive for an hour and stop for 15 minutes. You can stop virtually anywhere and there is always something to see or do. Therefore you can see the sights you want to see, just by allowing more time to travel.

Here are some destination suggestions when visiting Iceland with children:
In the Reykjavik area: The Reykjavik Pond in the city center. Bring some bread and let the children feed the ducks and swans. Go to the Geothermal Beach Nauthólsvík and let the kids run around and bathe in the geothermal pots and the sea. After that you can hike up the Öskjuhlið hill up to the Perlan. There is a huge fountain indoors. Upstairs is a viewpoint with great views over the city. Go to the Reykjavik Domestic Zoo and take a look at some Icelandic domestic animals and foxes too! 
Adjacent is an amusement park with many rides for small children.

Go to Grótta and let the children play in the black sand of the beach. If the weather is bad go to Smaralind Shopping Centerl (free bus rides from Reykjavik center) and visit the indoor amusement park. Go to Hellisgerdi park in Hafnarfjörður town (15 minutes from Reykjavik center) and let the kids run around free. Perhaps you’ll  meet some of the many elves that live there. Go to Elliðaárdalur valley (10 minutes from city center) and just walk around.

Outside of Reykjavik (but not too far away): Go to Eiriksstadir Viking Farm (2 hour drive) and let the children dress up in Viking clothes and experience how it was like for the discoverer of America to grow up as a Viking. Visit the Blue Lagoon (45 minute drive). Visit Vatnaveröld in Keflavik town (45 minute drive). There you visit an indoor pool specially made for children. There is also one in Þorlákshöfn village (45 minute drive).

Everywhere: Take them to a local geothermal swimming pool. There is at least one in every village and all have some toys for children, and many have waterslides.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iceland is the leader in gender equality
According to Global Gender Gap Report 2014, published by the World Economic Forum, Iceland is the country with most gender equality. The Global Gender Gap Index presented in the report seeks to measure one important aspect of gender equality: the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.

Iceland ranked fourth overall in the year 2006 but climbed to the top of the rankings within four years and has now remained in that position for six consecutive years. This year, Iceland ranked first overall on the Political Empowerment sub-index.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Many who are planning to travel to Iceland ask what to wear. Well, that depends on the time of year you are travelling. Iceland during winter and Iceland during summer are two totally different things. And that is a good thing because that gives you an excuse to visit at least twice!

Here are some general information on what clothes to bring with you during your stay (we presume that you are a typical traveler; doing a mix of visiting the main tourist attractions, taking a few light hikes and exploring the city).

The most important thing to realize is that the weather in Iceland can change, for better or worse, very rapidly. The rule of thumb is: It is better to use warmer clothes than expected, because you can always take them off.

It is also important to note that you should dress in layers. If it is too warm, then shed a layer. If it is too cold, then add a layer.

Lastly please note that due to strong winds and the famous horizontal rain, umbrellas are usually worthless in Iceland.

We have spring in May and into June. The temperature very slowly gets higher each week. During the first weeks there can be a huge difference between day temperature and the temperature at night. Expect day temperatures to reach 10°C – 12°C in early spring, perhaps reaching 15°C in late June. High summer is during July and into August. Expect temperatures to reach up to 20°C. In good days the temperature can reach 25°C or more. The official starting point of a heatwave in Iceland is when the temperature reaches 25°C.

What to wear: Wear trousers that can be converted into shorts. Wear a light cotton T-shirt and a thin Fleece jumper over the T-shirt. Always bring with you a small rucksack with thin water proof breathing trousers and jacket. And don’t forget to bring your swimming wear because you’ll definitely be visiting one of the many geothermal swimming pools (there is at least one in every village). Light, comfortable shoes are fine. If you plan to hike you should of course bring hiking boots that fit the amount of hiking you plan to do.

Late August and in September the weather gradually gets colder. In September and October expect strong winds and lots of rain. In October and November expect the first days with snow and frost. Late December and early January the weather usually calms down a bit with fever days of strong wind. But in February the wind seems to pick up momentum again and we usually have the worst snowstorms in late January, February and early March.

Expect temperatures between 5°C and -10°C.

What to wear: Wear trousers made of thick material (hiking trousers), long sleeved shirt and a thin fleece jumper. Over that wear a thicker fleece jumper with a zip front. As an outer layer wear a wind and rainproof trousers and jacket. Always bring with you a small rucksack with thin and thick mittens, warm socks and a warm hat. Also consider bringing with you a down parka with a wind and water tight outer shell. And don’t forget to bring your swimming wear because you’ll definitely be visiting one of the many geothermal swimming pools, basking in one of the Jacuzzis while looking at the Northern Lights! For shoes bring warm shoes with a sole that is good in snow and frost.
The suggestions above should take you through most sightseeing situations during your stay. If you want to explore the night life in Reykjavik during your stay, simply forget all that is said above. Just wear as skimpy clothes as you want, regardless of the weather. At least that is what the locals do. You’ll be amazed to see the girls wearing high heels, short skirts and thin blouses cueing in front of a club during a snowstorm!

Some examples of the appropriate clothing mentioned above:

Monday, September 15, 2014

We are sometimes asked if you are supposed to tip in Iceland, at restaurants, in taxis and so forth. The short answer is no, you are not supposed to tip. Every person that serves you, whether it is the waiter in the restaurant or the cleaning staff at your hotel, is paid a decent pay and does not have to rely on tipping to earn a living.

Tipping is not a part of Icelandic culture, the staff does not expect you to tip them and they might also be offended if you do. Therefore you should not tip.

That said you might witness a waiter (or some other servicing staff) accept a tip from a customer. In most cases he‘ll do it because he is simply to bothered to explain (yet again) that tipping is not accepted.

But what to do if you are extremely satisfied with the service you got? Well, then just simply compliment the person in question and show your gratitude in that way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Did you know that when entering an Icelandic home you are supposed to remove your shoes before entering the apartment? This is true for causal situations, like when friends or family just drop by. But if you are invited on a more formal occasion, say a dinner or a party, you are on the other hand supposed to keep your shoes on.

Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, just watch closely and do like the locals do. If no one else is arriving when you arrive, just ask the residents. They’ll be happy to help.

To be clear you are not supposed to leave your shoes outside the door. Just take them off after entering and leave them near the door.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hotel room
Icelandic hotels are obliged to collect a fee pr. sold night.
Question: When considering accommodation or hotels costs in Reykjavik, can I expect the actual cost to be higher due to mandatory city fee or city tax?

The short answer is no, there is not city fee or city tax in Iceland. But according to Icelandic law “Every hotel or “seller of accommodation” is required to collect a fee per sold accommodation night. This fee must be stated separately on the invoice for the customer and is subject to VAT.”

When this law was passed in 2010/2011 the fee was ISK100 pr. hotel and ISK 50 pr. for other types of accommodation. Most, if not all, hotels have this fee included in the price and therefore your total hotel bill will most likely be equal to the price shown when you booked.