26 Tips for Your First Solo Trip to Iceland | Solo Female Travel
It seems just yesterday that I was frantically looking up the internet trying to figure out how to perfect my travel experience as a female solo traveller in “The Land of Fire and Ice,” aka Iceland!
A solo trip can often be overwhelming with a number of questions racing through your head — where to begin from, how to travel within it, how to pack smartly, how to budget your meals, and stay, and ensure that you are safe during your travels.
Before you hit the land of Northern lights, active volcanoes, glaciers, and rivers, I have tried to capture a few tips which will ensure you from hiccups during your solo travelling!
1. Ditch indecisiveness and make a basic travel plan
It seems just yesterday that I was making fun of my friend and her boyfriend for “over-planning” their Iceland trip! Well, I will put this up upfront — I am definitely the worst when it comes to meticulous planning.
While spontaneity is sacrosanct on a solo trip, I must admit my first couple of days were not enjoyable. I tried to dabble across its length rather haphazardly.
Iceland is popularly described as a country of ‘extreme contrasts.’ While summers have sunlight for as long as 24 hours, winters have short winter days. So it is important you make a travel plan to avoid extreme glitches! Popularly, Reykjavík is the starting point for most visitors. There is a bus service between Reykjavík and Keflavík International Airport, with the drive being around 40-50 minutes.
Iceland is roughly divided into seven regions — north Iceland, East Iceland, South Iceland, west Iceland, Reykjanes, the Westfjords, Reykjavik. To begin with, divide your time among the museums, valleys, hot springs, glaciers, festivals, restaurants, and breathtaking views.
If you are a lover of adventures, I would recommend setting aside ample time for the wide range of activities that Iceland offers its tourists.
2. Pack right
As I already mentioned earlier, the summer months can see up to 24 hours of daylight! So, it is important that you pack right for the season. While summer months are relatively cool, there can be rain in Iceland at any point in time! The temperature even climbs to 25 or even 30 degrees Celsius.
When it comes to the winter months, the temperature in the southern parts will be around 0 degrees Celsius, and for the northern part, it can get as low as -10 degrees Celsius. In fact, the lowest temperature on record has been -39.7 degrees Celsius. I am a person who takes time to get acclimatised to the weather conditions and often end up running around shopping for the right clothes!
I would highly recommend you pack a waterproof and windproof jacket as the chilly weather can really get to you in any season in Iceland. The other must-haves in your suitcase should be waterproof pants, waterproof gloves, thermals, a swimsuit. Throw in a couple of extra scarves — they always come in handy!
3. Choose the car wisely
You will need a car to go around Iceland. With meandering roads and the terrain becoming difficult in winters, do pick up the right car for yourself. While going through a long list of posts, I found out that SUV was recommended for the winters. And I decided to stick to it. If you are visiting during the summers, you can definitely opt for a car other than SUV to save some cost!
4. Bus rides are another option
Bus rides are another go-to option if you do not want to exhaust yourself driving around. But I would advise against it if you want to save time and stopovers! Iceland’s government website suggests that you make a travel plan in advance if you are planning on using the bus services.
5. Flights/Ferry among other public transport options
There are regular flights from Reykjavík to other domestic airports for travelling within the country. While a number of ferry lines operate between the islands, you can also avail yourself of the ferry services for sightseeing during summer.
6. Carry a map, an extra phone, power bank
This may seem the most obvious among the tips, but I cannot stress enough the importance of carrying an extra phone, a power bank. If you are on a long day tour, it is always best to have an additional GPS-enabled phone. There is no harm in indulging in a little bit of old-world charm and carrying a physical map, either! It will always give you some additional mental buffer as a solo traveller.
7. Pick the right accommodation
If you have read till here, you already have found out that planning has not been my strength on some occasions! But the one element I stress a lot while solo travelling is choosing the right accommodation.
When people travel solo, some of us want to escape the hustle and settle for isolated staying arrangements. Camping is a great idea if the silence does not get to you! For me, choosing Airbnb is a middle path as it allows me to have some privacy while mingling as much as I want with other occupants. It gives me the opportunity to unwind over a glass of wine in my room after a long day of sightseeing while having a nice conversation with the hosts or fellow travellers in the common area! If budget is not a constraint, settling for a cozy hotel is always an option.
For those of you who love to meet new people while on a solo trip and draw joy from collective experiences, a hostel is always hands down a great choice. If you can get people on board and you have roughly the same itinerary, you can even split the car rental!
8. Carry some snacks
Carrying some light snacks always helps, especially if you want to save time and not make a stop for lunch. Food in Iceland is slightly on the higher side. While you will want to splurge on a good meal every now and then, relying on packed snacks every now and then in long drives and returning to your accommodation to a microwave meal is not a bad option at all! I usually try to follow a hybrid model when it comes to planning my meals — mixing between the best of restaurant food and comfort food. It is easy on pocket and health!
9. Keep an eye on your budget
Budgeting may seem like a simple word of advice, but let me reiterate the need to budget when it comes to a solo trip to Iceland. While food can be slightly expensive, you will also occasionally go overboard with wanting to spend a little bit on everything. Iceland is galore with activities! So it is best you rationalise your expenses from day one of your trip to have a smooth trip. There is no harm in buying yourself an extra drink or splurge on an unplanned adventure if you are sorted otherwise!
10. Do not miss the Northern Lights
Is it possible to jot down points for a tour guide to Iceland without mentioning the Northern Lights? Experiencing this storybook moment is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The best season for Northern Lights is from September to April. This is not to say that you should not visit Iceland outside these months!
11. Take extra care of your wallet, passport, and documents
It was while taking an outbound flight from Barcelona when a fellow co-passenger handed me over my passport (it was lying on the terminal floor for a good ten minutes, and I was about to board without it)! I must admit this is not the first time I have been careless with documents on a trip. But on most occasions, I had a parent or friend swoop in and took care of me. A solo trip is a one-man show, considering you are not accountable to anyone but do take some extra care in ensuring your documents, wallet, and passport are in place whenever you are moving around.
12. Carry a first-aid box
Carrying a first-aid box is an absolute must on a solo trip. While Iceland’ is extremely tourist-friendly and you would get help in no time, it is absolutely necessary that you have your own set of medicines and aid handy at all times!
13. Safety is paramount
For a moment, I was almost tempted to skip this point out on not being extra vigilant in Iceland! Iceland is one of the safest places in Europe and the world. According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the safest place in the world for 13 years in a row. But while on a solo trip, I swear by the mantra of safety being the most important factor — no matter where you are in the world.
14. Stick to your workout
You can often feel lethargic while on a solo trip! Come on, we have all been guilty of it! I have spent hours cooped up in a room in Birmingham watching Sex and the City and ditching “exploring” a new city, writing my dissertation in an Airbnb in Paris, and drinking a bottle of wine in my hotel room in Rome to escape negotiating the crowd alone. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking now, that we should not push ourselves too much, but do remember you will not return to Iceland every day! I think a basic way of overcoming this is sticking to a 30-minute workout during your trip. Just make sure you carry your workout shoes. Some light stretches with cardio can do wonders to help you make the most of your trip.
15. Learn a few local words
Well, this may seem unsolicited as Iceland is a cosmopolitan country with people from across the world are welcome there. But I found it helpful to learn a few local words in Icelandic — the official language of Iceland. If nothing, it is pure joy to drop a few translated words of thank you, welcome at the local baker’s or to the tour guides, and while asking for directions!
16. Keep the Iceland currency handy
Credit cards are usually accepted for even the most small-scale transactions! But do make sure you keep some Icelandic krona handy for places that do not accept cashless transactions.
17. Book a free walk tour — see beyond what is touristy
If you have backpacked across Europe as a solo traveller, this is probably not a new tip for you — booking a free walk tour. As the concept goes, you take the tour when your guide graciously takes you around. At the end of the tour, you pay what you think the tour is worth, and thank the guide! If you are taking an exclusive or small group walk tour, do book in advance. For the free walk tour, do not wait till the last minute either. The walk tours are a great way of seeing the most inconspicuous places while getting introduced to the culture of a new country.
18. Do take a dip in Blue Lagoon
I like to mix the best of both worlds while on a solo trip — touristy and non-touristy activities when in a new land! I will not lure you with adjectives to take a dip in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. The moment you talk to a local or a friend who has been to Iceland already, they would talk you into experiencing the ‘rejuvenating’ and ‘legendary’ Blue Lagoon. And trust me on this, do indulge in this soak! The package includes a towel, mask, and a drink!
19. Bird watching in Iceland
This may not feature in your priority list, but I would urge you to include bird watching in your itinerary, especially if you are visiting between April to June. Bird watching tours are available throughout the year. Iceland has a wide range of bird populations. There are day trips that are available from Reykjavík that you can go on indulge in this activity. One of the hotbeds of bird activity is in Westfjords, Látrabjarg, which is also the largest known bird cliff in the world! I would recommend you book a birdwatching tour in advance.
20. What about whale watching?
If you have not already thought of this, consider a whale-watching boat tour. Let me list out a few names for you to help you make up your mind! Minke whales, humpback whales, while-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, orcas, toothed whales, and pilot whales are to name a few, that you catch a glimpse of when you go for this tour. If this is not straight out of National Geographic, what is?
21. Catch your favourite festival in Iceland
You can judge me for all you want, but until a few years back, I never thought a solo trip would be enhanced by adding a festival to my bucket list. In 2017, something changed in me after I grudgingly went to the Hogmanay festival in Edinburgh. Post that, I never miss soaking into the experiences of coinciding with my solo trips with festivals! You would be spoilt for choices in this land. Be it the Pride festival of Reykjavík, the annual beer festival, the winter lights festival, the annual literary festival, the international museum day, or the international film festival — you can pick from the list depending on which season you are visiting!
22. Stay connected with friends and family
Many a time, my sole reason for taking a solo trip has been to take a break from family, friends, and of course, work. While I would never suggest you line up work assignments on a trip to dreamland like Iceland, speaking to your friends and family every now and then will help keep off the occasional anxiety that seeps in during solo trips! I typically make a point to speak to parents or a couple of friends when I am booking myself into new accommodation, taking an adventurous day tour, and taking flights. I always make it a point to share my flight details with a trustworthy friend or a family member! Also, video calling your family and friends and sharing a blissful backdrop can be a bonus for them!
23. Carry a camera
There is ‘n’ number of reasons for not carrying a camera in the era of smartphones! Do not rule out your phone conking off while in the middle of nowhere and ready to capture a beautiful scenery. High-resolution photos to go to your solo trip album collection are an absolute must, so do carry your camera!
24. Have you thought of insurance?
For an international trip, I always make sure to pick up the right insurance while applying for the visa. Usually, I speak to a number of friends who have already gone through the process to choose which insurance fits my bill.
25. Pick up souvenirs for friends and family
Well, I am one of those travellers who never leave a destination without picking up some souvenirs for friends, family, and often myself (yay)! Postcards and posters always make it to my list, in addition to some other mildly materialistic things. Along with wool blankets, wool scarves, and wool sweaters, I brought back Icelandic liquor, and some high street fashion clothes!
26. Vegan-friendly country
Suppose you are a vegan and super weary of visiting Iceland because of its traditional dishes like shark meat and puffin. In that case, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Iceland is one of the most vegan-friendly places. In places where you struggle to find vegan food, just ask the chef to “veganise” the item for you!
So when are you travelling solo to Iceland?
If you have read till here, I am certain you are already jotting down your itinerary now! Though this list may seem exhaustive, this is only a slice of tips for solo travelling in Iceland! I would love to hear about your experience once you are back from the land of fire and ice. What are you waiting for? Book your tickets, apply for a visa, and pack your bags for solo travel! Iceland awaits you.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.