When I told people I was going to Iceland in December, they thought I was crazy. If I had a nickel for every time I heard “black people don’t go there” (which is total BS), I could’ve afforded a ticket to The Blue Lagoon. My track season makes it extremely hard to travel outside the country, so when my high school friend Helen said lets do it, I was all in.
We had been planning the trip for close to 3 months, and it really didn’t include too much organization. When December 14th rolled around, I hopped on the plane with no itinerary; only my carry on, a backpack and my North Face. If you don’t have access to Airline Benefits, I highly recommend WOW Airlines (It starts around $99 round trip). It’s a quick flight over from JFK (less than 5 hours). Luckily I got business class, so I had a few coffee and baileys and passed out.
When you land at KEF and you want to drink in Iceland, I advise you buy a small bottle of vodka or a 6-pack of beer at duty free. It is way cheaper than buying a drink at the restaurants and bars (I learned this the hard way), and all the beer in the grocery store is non-alcoholic. Being that Helen got in a day before me, I was warned of the $40 dollar taxi to our hostel in Keflavik and opted for the bus for 440 ISK ($4). Most of the trip we either walked, or took the Strætó bus. You should download the Strætó bus app on your phone, because you can purchase tickets from it and plan your route around the city. Although the weather was extremely unpredictable, we found something to do every day.
Day Trips & Attractions for the low low ($$)
When you get to Reykjavik, I recommend finding a city tour. It’s free, except they ask for a small donation. The guide will tell you the history of the city, give you cheap spots to get some awesome food and some tips on what to do and what to avoid in the city.
If you cannot afford to go to the Blue Lagoon, hit up the hot pools. There located all over the city, run a little over 5 dollars, and you can soak as long as you want.
Since the Ring Road is not the safest thing to do in the winter, we opted for day trips from Reykjavik. We didn’t want to have a limited amount of time in organized tour groups, so we took to CouchSurfing and found other travelers to go with. We helped split the cost of gas and parking and got to have as much time as we wanted at each location (dependent on daylight) We met Brian and Patrick, 2 guys from California and split the cost of a trip to The Golden Circle. If you’re going in the winter, it’s best to start a couple hours before sunrise, so you can see every location. We ended up not seeing Kerid; Patrick was helping a man who had slipped on some Ice and busted his head open (his blood was literally all over the Ice, pack proper shoes).
Helen and I learned the hard way that some day trips should not be attempted at all in the winter. We met this girl on Couchsurfing who rented a car and wanted to check out the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River. Again, IF YOU DO NOT HAVE PROPER SHOES, DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS There was so much ice on this 2 hour hike, I’m surprised no one got seriously hurt. We ended up having to turn around half way because it started getting dark, and a hail storm ensued. I kid you not when I say, we scaled the mountain on our hands and knees so we wouldn’t slip off the edge. Helen and I had a come to Jesus moment, realized we weren’t super heroes, promptly went back to town and had KFC for dinner. In conclusion, some tours are meant to have guides.
We did not have proper Icelandic food while we were there. The most lavish thing we ate was Pho for $15 bucks a bowl.
If you are on a budget, I suggest packing a lot of dry food in your luggage. If you don’t have room in your bag for this, there’s a grocery store called Bonus. It’s similar to Aldi, and is extremely affordable (also great for gifts!).
There are quite a few bars in the city. My favorite was definitely Mikkeller & Friends. The prices were a little high, but they have a large variety of beers to choose from, and a restaurant below the bar.
I don’t want to bore you with a long lecture about the do’s and don’ts of Traveling to Iceland, so I’ll just end with this: If you want to get the most out of an experience, don’t try doing everything by yourself. Sure, hostel hopping and almost falling off mountains is fun, but if you truly want to enjoy yourself come prepared to pay for those things you want to enjoy. My biggest regret the whole trip was not going to the Blue Lagoon. Helen and I tried to work our way in by posing as a popular blogging site that caters to black women wanting to travel to Iceland. They caught on very quickly that we were not who we said we were, and offered us nothing except for 116 dollar tickets for 2 hours.
I look forward to the next time I go to Iceland (I’ll definitely wait for some warmer weather). It is an amazing country with beautiful people (literally), great beer, and some of the most breath taking sceneries I have ever seen. I’ll see you all next time in Brazil!
–The Traveling Afro
if you want to see more pictures of my trip to Iceland, click here!