Iceland Escape: Winter
Know Before You Go
It's almost time to go abroad! Take a couple minutes to read up on the ins and outs of your trip before you leave. When it comes travel tricks of the trade, we're quite the experts. And with this guide, so are you.
Your flight information will slide into your DMs (AKA online account) 30 days before departure. This is usually when you get to choose your seat and have the age-old internal debate: window or aisle? Some airlines will make the selections for you, so be sure to talk with the gate agent at the airport if you have a preference. Like being ahead of the game? You can check in for your flight 24 hours prior to your trip using the confirmation number found in your online account. If you’re more of a “wait ‘til the last minute” kind of person, no worries. You can always check in at the airport upon arrival. In either case, we recommend arriving to the airport 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
Note: All your ticket information is online (e-ticket), so you will not receive a physical paper ticket before you depart. You’re welcome, trees.
Checking a bag
One checked bag is included in your ticket price. It should be under 29” tall and less than 50 pounds. We recommend aiming for 40-45 pounds in case you bring back souvenirs.
After getting off the plane—and probably hitting up the airport bathroom—you’ll need to meet up with your Tour Director or EF Ultimate Break representative in the Arrival Hall. (They’ll be the one with the sign that says EF Ultimate Break.) They’ll bring you to your accommodations where you’ll have free time until everyone else arrives.
Note: If you’ve booked your own airfare or have a Special Travel arrangement at the beginning of your trip, airport transfers are not included.
For U.S. citizens, no visa is necessary (except of the credit card variety). All you need to bring is your passport. And not to sound like your grandma, but make sure you double check that it’s valid for six months after your expected return date. For non-U.S. citizens, you should contact your embassy to find out what specific documentation is needed.
Outlets on your trip are different than in the States. You’ll need an adapter that can fit European outlets. We recommend bringing a universal adapter/converter to ensure it works in each city.
Most electronics, like phones and cameras, have built-in converters which change the voltage to match your device, but consider bringing one just in case. We recommend bringing a universal adapter/converter to ensure it works in each city.
Pack in layers, bring the essentials, and you’re golden. Like an onion, it’s all about the layers. Keep in mind that you’ll have to carry your luggage from city to city, so the lighter the better. You should bring the following:
- Light jacket or shell jacket for top layering
- Light layers to add on and peel off
- Heavier coat during colder months (November-March)
- Light hats, scarves, gloves
- Comfortable and closed-toed walking shoes
- Hiking boots or durable shoes
- Bathing suit and towel
- Water bottle to stay hydrated
- Rain jacket/umbrella
Note: We recommend bringing a small or medium sized backpack to keep your personal belongings and layers in during the day.
On the ground
You’re traveling to Iceland, so you’ll be using the Icelandic Króna. We suggest budgeting $80-$100 per day for your meals, shopping, free time activities, tipping, and any Tour Director-suggested excursions. Change over a little bit of money before you leave and then get the rest from ATMs. The rates at ATMs are usually the best, and you can find machines everywhere. Just be sure to let your bank know ahead of time of your plan to travel overseas and that your credit or debit card has a chip in it.
Currency used: Króna
Phones & Internet
We highly recommend you get an international data package from your cell phone provider. This way you can use your phone to share Insta-worthy moments, pull up Google maps to navigate a new city, and stay in touch with your Tour Director and fellow travelers during free time. WiFi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, but trust us—you’ll want the international data plan to stay connected.
Tour Director/Local guides
Your full-time Tour Director, aka local rock star, will be with your group from start to finish. They are either from Ireland or have lived there for many years. On some of your hikes you may also have a local guide to accompany you and your Tour Director. For both your Tour Director and local guides it is customary to tip for a job well done.
Recommended tipping amounts in USD are:
- $18-$30 for the Tour Director (given at the end of the trip in local currency)
- $1 for local guides (given after the tour in local currency)
You’re traveling through Iceland, and since teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, it takes time to get to each destination. The majority of travel will be done via private motor coach. Use this time to catch up on sleep, organize and find the perfect filter for your photos, read, chat it up with friends, or invent a new bus game.
Since there’s so much to see and do, we’ve created itineraries that make the most of your time in each city. Your days will be jam-packed with awesome, unforgettable adventures. And if the pace feels fast, take advantage of downtimes during free time and bus rides (AKA prime nap time).
Note: On your more adventure-filled days, we recommend bringing granola bars in case you get hungry.
Fish, baked goods, and a whole lot of skyr, AKA the best yogurt you’ll ever eat. During this trip you’ll have the chance to try a variety of local dishes. Vegetarians shouldn’t have any problem finding something to eat. As for the water situation, tap water is safe to drink. But if you’re about that bottled water life, you can find it everywhere.
Foods to try: Skyr, Icelandic fish, hot dogs, rye bread, cinnamon buns, lamb, Brennivín, and Viking Gold Beer.
Useful Phrases and Expressions
In Iceland, almost everyone speaks English fluently, but the national language is Icelandic. Here are some basic phrases you can brush up on before leaving. Most importantly: how to toast! And no, we don’t mean your bread. Say, “skál!”
- Hello = Halló (Hah-loh)
- Goodbye = Bless (bles)
- Please = Vinsamlegast (vihn-sahm-lay-gast)
- Thank you = Takk (tahk)
- Pardon me = Afsakio (Af-sah-sith)
- Yes = Já (yah)
- No = Nei (nay)
- Cheers = Skál (sk-ohl)
When in Iceland, you’ll live like Icelander’s do. That means you’ll be staying in hotels and boutique hostels that are smaller than American rooms, and they won’t typically have air conditioning.
In standard rooming, you’ll have up to five other travelers of the same gender. Roommates are assigned by your Tour Director and announced at the first accommodation. If there’s an issue, talk to your Tour Director—that’s what they’re there for!
Keep in mind
The weather in Iceland will depend on the time of year, but usually on the colder side and no warmer than 50 degrees. To get the most recent weather information, you should add the cities you’ll be visiting to your weather app.
Hot springs, bathhouses, and lagoons are coveted relaxation places in Iceland. Because so many locals and tourists go in these calming waters, there are attendants there to make sure you fully shower in your birthday suit before in to ensure cleanliness. Yes, it may be a little awkward but, you know, flaunt what you’ve got. Since the Blue Lagoon, and many others, have become so popular over the years, they may be more crowded than you expect. In terms of nightlife, weekdays are fairly quiet and the real party starts when the locals end their work week and hit the bars on Friday’s and Saturday’s around midnight. When running hot water, you may experience a rotting-egg smell, but don’t worry, it’s completely normal and the water is safe to drink and use. Also, Iceland is an island, so that means products may be more expensive than your used to.
The Northern Lights are a major part of Icelandic culture and of course, one of the many reasons travelers make their way to the land of fire and ice. Although the winter is the best and most likely time to see the Northern Lights, there is no guarantee you will be able to see them. Unfortunately, as much as we try, we can’t control natural phenomenon’s. The lights are most visible on clear nights in secluded, dark areas. The farther outside of the city you go, the more likely you are to see the lights.
Here are some important “Rules of the Road” to think about while you’re traveling. We want you to have fun during your vacation, and most of all we want you to be safe—so here are some helpful tips to #playsafe while you’re abroad & especially when you’re out at night.
- Take care of your personal belongings. Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box, and refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Don’t be a party of one. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Before you go out, grab a business card at each hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use transportation options you trust like a licensed taxi or rideshare app such as Uber (where available.) Have cash on hand—splitting a taxi with your fellow travelers is a good way to save money too.
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. You know the drill: Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met. Pace yourself and know your limits. Take care of each other out there!
- You’re going to have a blast—day & night—on this trip, and we’re here for you around the clock if you ever need anything. Save our 24/7 number in your phone now: +1 617 619 1411.
When it comes to free time, think about what your interests are and research what you want to do before your trip. That way you can maximize the time in each city you visit and check a lot of things off your list.
You’re traveling throughout Iceland! (You know, in case you forgot.) Now is the time to be brave—try new foods, make new friends, and go outside your comfort zone.