How to Stay Safe While Traveling in Iceland.
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, but it's always important to take precautions while traveling through the country because of the natural hazards caused by weather and nature. You'll often hear Icelanders say, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes," and it's definitely for good reason. The conditions can change at the drop of a dime!
To ensure your safety in Iceland, here's what you need to know:
1. Call 112, Iceland's emergency phone number.
If there is an emergency, dialing 112 is a must. The number is available 24 hours a day.
2. Dress appropriately.
Be prepared for the unexpected. I know people just say that sometimes, but Iceland is totally for realsies. Sturdy walking shoes and waterproof layers will make all the difference on your trip. Take a look at this packing list for exactly what you'll need.
3. Hire a guide.
A certified guide can literally save your life and is well worth it, especially if you're looking to hike or climb a glacier, go caving, or do something that you do not have a lot of experience with. I took a glacier hiking tour and the guide told us that several people pass away each year because of self-guided tours and trips in bad weather.
4. Review road conditions and weather forecasts before driving.
Information on road conditions can be found on www.road.is. Getting around Iceland requires a lot of driving and you don't want to be caught off guard. Always check the road conditions before you leave your accommodations, especially if your destination is farther than an hour away.
5. Don't drive off the road and keep to the paths.
Driving off road is forbidden in Iceland and can actually lead to fines of 500,000 ISK (over $5000 USD) and jail time. Y'all, Icelanders take this really seriously.
A large part of what's off the road in Iceland has been untouched by man for years. Don't be that person who accidentally destroys the moss by stepping on it or driving over it (or I don't know, filming yourself rolling in the moss and then putting it online like Justin Bieber). The moss in Iceland is particularly sensitive and can take decades to recover. It's important to leave no trace when you travel and the moss in Iceland is a prime example, especially if we want future generations to be able to enjoy the beauty.
If that's not enough to deter you, keep in mind that all mountain roads have loose gravel which has been known to crack windshields (both terrifying and also not covered by most car insurance companies).
6. Always use official campsites.
This will help preserve nature and also ensure your safety. Double whammy!
7. Rent a location beacon.
Planning to travel out into the wilderness? Please do not end up like Chris whats-his-name from "Into the Wild." Do yourself a favor and rent a personal location beacon. They are designed to send an emergency signal from anywhere in Iceland.
8. Seek out your nearest pharmacy or "Apótek" for medicine.
Starting to feel a little sick? Head to your nearest pharmacy asap because Apóteks in Iceland are not open 24-hours. Keep in mind that the brand names you're used to may not be available in the country, so it's helpful to look up the generic chemical name beforehand if possible. Keep in mind that doses may also be a little different. When in doubt, pack a few extras like ibuprofen or Tylenol beforehand - it will save you some cash and a bit of a headache!
Have you traveled to Iceland before? What are your tips for staying safe?