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Travel Etiquette in Iceland

11.02.2019

Hiking in Iceland on mossy rocks

In recent years, Iceland has experienced a tourism boom that has skyrocketed this island country to superstar status on the map. As a pristine and beautiful country with a population of less than 340,000, it’s easy to see how the country could be easily affected by the number of tourists visiting each and every year. When visiting any country, it’s important that you treat the locals, land and wildlife with respect, and the same is true for Iceland. This is why we have created some guidelines on Travel Etiquette in Iceland if you are planning to visit soon.

By following our travel tips and Travel Etiquette in Iceland guidelines, you can be sure to enjoy your trip and stay respectful.

Don’t litter
Iceland is among one of the last remaining places on earth with landscapes of unspoiled natural beauty. From stunning volcanic fields to cascading waterfalls and glistening glacial lagoons, there are endless beautiful sights. When visiting these sites, it’s important that you clean up after yourself. Whether you are camping, picnicking or hiking, travel etiquette in Iceland dictates that you should use provided waste bins or if none are provided, gather up your litter to dispose of properly when you are able to do so. If all the tourists who visited Iceland didn’t clean up after themselves, the amount of litter would be devastating, ruining not only the beautiful landscape but also harming Iceland’s wildlife.

Tipping is not required
Unlike some countries where servers and bartenders depend heavily on tips to boost their wages, this is not the case in Iceland. Icelandic employees do not expect tips, therefore you do not need to account for this when paying for a meal out. Simply pay the price on your bill and enjoy your meal.

Take nothing but photos and memories
When enjoying Iceland’s incredible nature or amazing geographic attractions like lava fields, caves, black sand beaches, geothermal pools or geysers, it’s important that you leave everything as you found it. In many caves and on nature reserves, rocks are protected meaning visitors and locals alike are prohibited from taking them. While the black or pink sand found on Iceland’s brilliant beaches can be tempting to collect and bottle, it’s important that you don’t. The same is true for plant life, volcanic rocks, and anything else natural you find in Iceland. Taking these natural items can have a negative impact on the ecological system and is disrespectful. The general motto is that you should leave only footprints, and take only photos and memories when travelling anywhere. This is standard travel etiquette in Iceland.

Pay attention to signage
When travelling in Iceland it’s important that you pay attention to signage at all times. Whether you are driving, hiking, camping or visiting attractions, the signs that you see are there for a reason. Signs may be advising you of road conditions or laws, safety warnings or making you aware of prohibited and protected areas. Any time you see a sign marked “No Trespassing”, it’s important that you don’t. This might be private property, and so you should respect the owner. It might also be to protect you from a dangerous area. Many areas in Iceland are protected, like nature reserves and lava fields, so it’s important that you obey the rules set out by signage throughout Iceland and stick to designated paths, trails and roads, rather than setting off on your own.

Respect the roads
In certain weather conditions, Iceland can be a dangerous place to drive for inexperienced drivers. It’s important to check the areas you plan to be travelling when you are in Iceland and ensure that you hire the appropriate car for your journey. For example, if you are planning to stay quite close to Reykjavik and only travel the ring road, a small economy car should be perfectly suitable. However, if you are travelling further north and intend to explore the highland roads or F-Roads, you’ll need to make sure you have a 4x4 that is appropriate for the roads.

It’s also illegal to drive off-road in Iceland, and if you do you could face fines or even imprisonment. Stick to marked roads and trails and always use common sense when driving in Iceland, as you could otherwise find yourself in a dangerous situation or cause damage that could take years to reverse, if at all.

Don’t be afraid to ask

Lastly, when travelling in Iceland, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals! Icelanders are very friendly, social and always eager to know what visitors think of our country. Feel free to ask for directions and advice, as locals are happy to oblige. When getting tips and advice from locals, you’re more likely to get accurate information which ensures you stay safe and respectful during your visit in Iceland, and you’re also more likely to discover some hidden gems you might not read about in guide books! Just ensure that you are polite, respectful and friendly when interacting with locals.

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