Travel far enough, you meet yourself.
Sept. 2018: Whilst in the midst of battling some personal issues, an invitation came over dinner one evening from a friend whom i don’t see often enough. An invitation for a 2-week self drive adventure around Iceland.
Given the circumstances of my rather dysfunctional state and coupled with the next few weeks being dotted with public holidays, i decided to embark on this spontaneous adventure with my fabulous friend who i last met maybe 2 years ago and a total stranger. And since i’d be heading to that part of the world, i made a week long stopover in London to visit one of my favourite aunts and my cousins. Oh and catch Motown!
The question i have been frequently asked since my return is ,”So did this trip help?”. Yes, it definitely did. And i recommend that everyone especially entrepreneurs/business owners make the time once a year to go away to a new place on a self planned/self drive holiday for a few weeks. To disconnect from the daily whirlwind that we are constantly in and take a breather. Not just to let the body, mind and soul rest and recover, but more importantly to disconnect long enough to be able to reflect. To really look at where you are at, how far you’ve come, and to see if you’re on the way to where you want to be.
Ok! Back to the topic of Iceland!. So Iceland is one of those postcard perfect places where pictures of the northern lights and Blue Lagoon get etched into your mind and Iceland joins your list of ‘must go places’. Is Iceland a must go? Yes it is! It is a beautiful picturesque country where the government and the people have taken tremendous amount of effort to ensure the preservation of its natural beauty. The further you travel away from the capital city of Reykjavik, the better it gets (well, for me it did). With less development, less people especially tourists there will be places where you’d be the only soul and travel on roads for an hour without another car in sight. If you’re planning your next holiday and would like to go on an easy adventure, make Iceland your top choice. Do leave me a comment or drop me an email if you’re keen on our 13-day itinerary. In the meantime, here are my top 5 tips for your trip to Iceland.
1. Plan ahead
While this does sound obvious for any holiday you are embarking on, for Iceland it really pays to triple check everything before arriving. Map out your routes, check travel times, in fact check walking times too! Because it could only take an hours drive from point A to point B, but to get to the site you want to visit at point B could take a couple of hours hike/walk. If you’re planning on going round the island like we did, then you’d best plan out where your grocery stops are and where the nearest grocery and petrol kiosks are located. We did arrive at one location, and found out that the nearest convenience store is 1 hour away! Lastly, don’t forget to keep monitoring the weather. Iceland does have some wild weather that includes some ballistic winds. So keep your eye on the weather forecast.
2. Hire a 4 x 4
Goes without saying that you will need a car to get round the whole island. So here’s a tip we missed on our trip and i wish someone had told us beforehand. While there is one main ring road that runs round the island, many long stretches of it are gravel road which makes in a tiny passenger car rather less comfortable and can send your heart racing when you go round the many bends. Also, it is wise to note that while the main ring road does get you to most of the popular sights, the central portion of Iceland does hold some lovely national parks awarding you with extremely scenic places. To access these areas though, takes you onto what is known as “B” roads in Iceland. Meaning, restricted to 4 x 4’s only and no passenger cars. This also means your car rental company and insurance will not cover any damage sustained on these roads. If you plan to see parts of Iceland that the usual tour group doesn’t go to, hire a 4 x 4.
3. Buy Insurance
So being Asian we tend to want to save as much money as possible. Car hire companies offer various types of insurance packages and given the price combined with our weak Malaysian currency, you’ll be tempted to take the cheapest option. And given that our decisions are based on our past experiences, if you’ve never had a cracked windscreen or don’t know what “stone chips” are, then you’ll likely say this to your arrogant self “Pullleeeezz… i’ve been driving for 10 years never had an accident or a cracked windscreen. Don’t waste money.” That might cost you a whole lot here in Iceland because the roads are hazardous (tourists DIE every year on Icelandic roads), bulk of the roads are GRAVEL, which means even if you’re Michael Schumacher a passing car can send a stone straight into your windscreen or your paintwork. Now, it be wise to remember that Iceland is an island located relatively far from anywhere else, which means everything is imported. So it can cost you dearly for even a minor repair (explains why i noticed so many abandoned cars around). Buy the full insurance package.
If you Asian and you need your Asian flavours, then pack everything! I was blessed to have pretty awesome travel buddies who could cook and packed heaps of Asian essentials (CHILLI PADI!) and instant noodles. They even brought Bak Kut Teh. So I was very lucky to have an Asian fare almost every other day thanks to these two lovely ladies.
Food in Iceland is expensive! So if you’re driving round the country, be prepared to either spend heaps on food or cook. We met a dude who told us his friend from Dubai even felt Icelandic food was expensive! Imagine that. So if you coming from Asia especially Malaysia, BYO!
5. Credit Cards
The Icelandic Krona is only available in Iceland and while there is a money changer at the airport, you don’t need it. Iceland is almost a cashless society even in the most remote of places in the country. You can pay for even a cup of coffee or a piece of cookie with a credit card. Every store is equipped with a terminal. So save the hassle of figuring out the coins in your pocket or wondering what you’re gonna do with all the small change when you get back home. Just make sure you’ve checked with your bank on your international use of the credit card and at the accompanying bank fees before you go happily swiping away in Iceland.
Thats my 5 key tips for a self drive holiday around the wonderful Iceland. Drop me a comment or email if you want to chat more about my adventures around Iceland.
“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”