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Iceland

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Iceland
Region: Europe
Iceland map
More Information:
CS Group Wikipedia
Wikitravel HitchWiki


Contents


Welcome to the Iceland Couchsurfing wiki page. Please bear with us as this page grows. there is also a lot of useful information in the talk page awaiting review.

There are 2376 couchsurfers registered in Iceland of whom 864 turn up in the couchsearch option (360 male, 421 female and 83 as several people). 247 people do have "yes" or "maybe" as their couchstatus (130 male, 86 female and 31 as several people).
The Iceland group has 4881 members and the biggest subgroup (Reykjavík) has 1366 members.

Regions

Maps

Map of Iceland
Geomap of Iceland
Land utilization in Iceland
Google maps
Iceland road map (pdf)

Getting to and from Iceland

The main way to travel to Iceland (and the only way from the United States) is by aeroplane. Companies that offer competitive prices include Icelandair, SAS and Iceland Express, with Icelandair and Iceland Express flying to the States. Several European cities are offered by each airline but most are only from mid-may to the end of august. Cities that are flown to year-round include Copenhagen, London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris, Helsinki, Manchester, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Alicante with New York, Boston, Orlando & Minneapolis being the American destinations. The main Icelandic airport is located in Keflavík which is 50km outside of Reykjavík. There is a bus service offered by Reykjavík Excursions called Flybus which is mated to the flight schedule which means that no matter how late you arrive or leave there will always be a bus. There is also a limited service offered between Copenhagen and Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.
Air Berlin, FlyNiki, GermanWings and Lufthansa have seasonal flights from a number of European airports to Keflavík airport. Delta Airlines fly between Keflavík and New York JFK.
Air Iceland, which handles most of the domestic flights in Iceland also has some flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The flights to Faroe Islands are usually operated by Atlantic Airways, so it pays off to check the prices on both airlines.

Another option for travel is by ferry should you desire to bring your own car, visit the faroe islands or simply travel by boat. Keep in mind that the price for the same trip on Norröna (Smyril Line) can vary depending on where you book (a sales office or on one of their websites in different languages: .fo, .dk, .co.uk, .de, .is). Smyril line sails to Seyðisfjörður from where you can catch a bus to Egilsstaðir from where you can either catch a bus via Akureyri or fly directly to Reykjavík local airport. The bus connection through Akureyri to Reykjavik can only be made in one day on a few days in the summer, when there is an afternoon bus from Akureyri to Reykjavik. Besides, the bus trip will most often cost more than the air fare fro Egilsstaðir to Reykjavík.

Airlines:

And locally, within iceland:

Ferry:

  • smyril line arrives to one of Iceland's most beautiful towns, Seyðisfjörður, which is located on the east coast. The ferry sales between Iceland, Faroe Island and Denmark once a week.

Keflavík airport (iceland´s main international airport):

Getting around Iceland

Transport around Iceland is highly seasonal. During the peak season there are busses almost everywhere (excluding the more remost areas that have little tourist value) that are operated by tour bus operators (listed below) but during the off season access to most places is either by car or by light aircraft. There are several car rental agencies throughout the country, some of which are linked below. Hitchhiking is notoriously widespread, especially closer to Reykjavík but be aware that further away from main ares traffic can become quite sparse and there could be very long waiting periods.
There is a local bus network in Reykjavík, strætó with distinctive yellow busses. The hub is at a place called Hlemmur, which is located between Hverfisgata and Laugavegur on the east side of Snorrabraut. From Hlemmur all parts of the greater Reykjavík are are easily accessible. During peak hours some buses run every 15 minutes but most buses only run every hour or 1/2 hour after that.

Car rental agencies:

Major companies with new cars:

Budget companies with second hand cars:

Reykjavík local bus:

Tour bus operators:

Local flight operators:

Road conditions:

Street maps:
[1] - pretty decent website showing a fairly good and clear map
[2] – Street map from the yellow pages

Alternative methods:

Buy

In October 2008 the value of the Icelandic krona (ISK) dropped dramatically during the economic crisis and the collapse of the major Icelandic banks. As of January 18th the exchange rate for 1 EUR = 180 ISK and for 1 USD = 125 ISK. Local products have therefore become more affordable, but imported goods have risen. Exchange rates

As Iceland is still handling this crisis with strict currency transfer policy chances of exchanging abroad are small. However you will be able to change EUR, USD, NOK, DKK, SEK, JPY, CHF, CAD, AUD and even ZAR, HKD, NZD and PLN in most banks. You just have to bring passport with you for the exchange. If you however are leaving and you want to change back to EUR, USD etc, you will have to bring the ticket (e-ticket is ok) with you to show that you are leaving the country.

Iceland is packed with ATM’s and most of them handle MasterCard, Maestro, VISA, VISA Electron, American Express, JCB, Diners Club and even some other cards. Debit and credit cards are also really widespread in Iceland and you will be able to pay nearly everywhere with a card (except one shop in Hafnarfjordur  ). Don’t expect all banks to accept traveler’s checks because of the currency barriers (I would recommend cards and cash instead)

Even though Iceland has experienced financial collapse, prices here are still not cheap compared to other countries. However, they have become a little bit cheaper than in many other north European countries. Gas is for example cheaper here than in many places in Europe. Food an alcohol are still much more expensive (stop at the arrival store in the airport and buy bottle of wine/alcohol or a case of beer when you arrive if you are planning on having a drink or two).

Examples of prices: (jul 2011)

  • Beer in a pub: 750-800 ISK
  • Beer in a store: 200+ ISK
  • Meal for one: 1000-4500 ISK (of course this is not complete)
  • Bus ride: 280 ISK, 11 tickets: 2500 ISK, 1 month: 5600 ISK, 3 months: 12700 ISK
  • Cigarettes: 850-900 ISK
  • Bread in a store: 130-250
  • Cola: 120-200 1/2l, 200-400 2l.
  • Water: Free (drink from the tab)
  • 1l gas = 235 ISK

Tipping is not required.

Shopping

  • Icelandic wool products:

Characteristic of the Icelandic wool: Unique in its composition, Icelandic wool consists of two types of fibres: INNER FIBRES - INSULATING: Fine, soft, highly insulating. OUTER FIBRES - WATER-REPELLENT: Long, glossy, water-repellent. Together, these two distinctive fibres create a wool that is: Lightweight - lighter than most other wools, keeps you warm and comfortable. Water-repellent - repels rain and stays feeling dry. Breathable - moisture passes through the fibres away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable. Washable - see manufacture´s instructions. It is often enough to air the garment thouroughly, rather than washing it -Text taken from Handknitting association of Iceland

Other wool shops:
Álafoss
Víkwool
Nordic Store

  • Arts and crafts: Small paintings, jewelry, sculptures etc. Can mostly be found in galleries and small shop in downtown Reykjavík.
  • Icelandic music: See music section.
  • Beauty products (for example the Blue Lagoon products)
  • Fashion clothing: Both bigger brands you already know or smaller local brands you might like. Check out Kronkron Kronkron for example.

The main shopping malls/districts are Kringlan, Smáralind and Laugavegur (downtown). Kringlan and Smáralind are indoor shopping malls with stores that mainly sell bigger brands, while Laugavegur and nearby streets have more of smaller shops and galleries. Before Christmas there is also a Christmas village in Hafnarfjordur (Jólaþorpið í Hafnarfirði) where people sell all kinds of handmade things.

Activities

This list is not complete so use google or some travel brochure for more info.

Booking sites

Northern lights

The Northern lights are a light phenomenon often seen in Iceland and other northern parts of the world. The scientific name for the phenomenon is “Aurora Borealis”, aurora for short.

The Northern lights originate from the surface of the sun. Charged particles from sun storms are hurled from the sun’s surface into outer space. When some of these particles end up in the Earths magnetic field they are drawn to the magnetic poles and meet Earth in a rounded belt around the poles. 100 km above the Earth’s surface the particles meet the outermost part of the atmosphere and the energy is discharged. This is visible from Earth as a flickering, moving light.

The Northern lights are most frequent in autumn and spring but not in the darkest winter hours. The best time to see them is between 21:00 and 2:00. They often appear as a greenish glow as if the sun were rising from an unusual direction. Once in a while they appear pink or white around the edges and on rare occasions, violet in the centre. Red Northern lights are extremely rare but do occur when the light breaks out at a higher or lower height than normal.

For good spots to see the northern lights close to the big Reykjavík area(outside of much light pollution):

  • Mosfellsheiði (Between Mosfellsbær and Þingvellir)
  • Hvalfjörð (the big fjord north of Reykjavík
  • Þrengslin (between Reykjavík and Þorlákshöfn)
  • Krísuvík (but it might be more difficult to get there)
file: ljosmengunarkort.jpg

Light pollution around Reykjavík Predicting the Aurora Borealis (northern lights):

Weather

(mostly taken from wikitravel and Wikipedia)

Despite its name, Iceland has surprisingly mild winters for a country at that latitude owing to the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Iceland enjoys a maritime temperate climate and the winters are often compared with those of New England (though the winds in winter can be bitter). However the rapidly changing weather has given rise to the local saying: 'If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes!' It's the kind of place where it's not unusual to get rained on and sunburnt at the same time - some Icelandic people also believe that if the winter is hard and long then the summer will be good and warm. The summers are usually colder and windier than elsewhere at the same latitude (the effect of the ocean again) and 20 to 25°C is considered quite warm.

There are some variations in the climate between different parts of the island. Generally speaking, the south coast is warmer, wetter and windier than the north. Low-lying inland areas in the north are the most arid. Snowfall in winter is more common in the north than the south (there is ca. 50% chance of a white Christmas in Reykjavík but ca. 70% in Akureyri)[citation needed]. The Central Highlands are the coldest part of the country.

The highest air temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) on 22 June 1939 at Teigarhorn on the southeastern coast. The lowest was −38 °C (−36.4 °F) on 22 January 1918 at Grímsstaðir and Möðrudalur in the northeastern hinterland. The temperature records for Reykjavík are 26.2 °C (79.2 °F) on 30 July 2008, and −24.5 °C (−12.1 °F) on 21 January 1918.

Ok, to cut it short,
Winter: November – March - Total accumulated precipitation for each month is quite high, the average temperature is around 0°C, but as low as -10 to -15°C. In the north part the avg. temp is around -2 but can go as low as -15 to -20°C. Not necessary snowing, but usually icy and road condition might not be good. When driving over the latitude of 300-400m be extra careful and expect that there might be snow. Also weather might change fast.

Spring: (late March)April – May: Expect rain in the first month, but May is the driest month of the year. Temperature might vary a lot, from 2°C up to 19°C.

Summer: Late May – Beginning of August. Average temp around 10°C, might go up to around and over 20°C on good sunny days. However be prepared for some rainy days in between.

Fall: August – mid November: Temperature is dropping from around 10°C to 1-2°C average. This means there will probably be some nights with frost. Usually October is the most rainy month.

file:Iceland-temp.jpg
Icelandic weather center
Detailed info from the Icelandic weather center about all weather stations in Iceland
World travel  Has really good graph to show temp and rainfall. Climate data for Iceland 1961-1990 Vedurstofa Íslands
Weather.com- Reykjavík
Belgingur.is Quite good, unofficial weather forecast site with good graphic interface
Alamnak HÍ Information about when the sun comes up and when it goes down.

Culture

Music

Iceland has a great variety of good bands and the music scene is very active. Some of the better known names include Björk, Sigurrós, Múm and Emilíana Torríni. Popular, but still not that big names: FM Belfast, Retro Stefson, Sin Fang Bous, Seabear, Gus Gus, Pascal Pinon, Worm is Green, Bang Gang, Dikta, Bloodgroup, Berndsen, Benni Hemm Hemm, Hera, Hjaltalín, Jeff Who, Mammút, Ólafur Arnalds, Páll Óskar (Paul Oscar), Sometime, Útidúr, Sykur, Mugison and many many more.

Retired bands: Quarashi, Todmobile, Súrefni, Ensími, Bellatrix,Sykurmolarnir (Sugarcubes).

Price of CDs may vary from 1500-3000 ISK. Therefore you might find cheaper copies back home, but that depends on if they are for sale there. Björk, Sigurrós, Múm, Gus Gus, Emiliana Torrini, Ólafur Arnalds and maybe FM Belfast are the most likely to be found outside Iceland.

Museums

There are quite a lot of museums in Iceland and specially the great Reykjavík area. However you will find specialized museums all around the country. The general rule for the larger museums is that there is free admission on Wednesdays.

On the webpage of Visual artists association of Iceland there is a list of many of the visual art museums
Center for Icelandic art also has a great list

Few of the main museums include:
Natioal Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands): Opening time in summer (May 1st – Sept 15th) 10-17. Winter, daily except Mon 11-17. Free admission on Wednesdays. Admission 1000kr, free on Wednesdays.
Reykjavík Art Museum: Consists of 3 buildings in different locations. Check webpage for opening times. Free admission.
National gallery of Iceland: Open daily from 11-17. Closed Mondays. Free admission.
National centre for cultural heritage: The Culture House- Entrance fee: Adults - ISK 300 free on wed

Nightlife

Theaters

The two big theaters:
Reykjavík City Theater
National theater
Smaller theaters or groups
Group of independent theaters
Leikhus.is
Icelandic Opera
Icelandic Dance compay

Other

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Movies in Cinema – You can buy tickets there
Movie review site

Festivals

Big national festivals or holidays

Þorrablót: From late Jan to late Feb. It is an ancient Viking tradition that involves eating traditional food; sheep heads, shark, dried fish, sheep testicles etc. These festivals are usually held by people that work together or as a mid-size family fest. Drinking Brennivín (Icelandic alcohol) and beer is usually served.
Verzlunarmannahelgi: Also know as commerce day. Held on a weekend where the Monday is the first Monday in August (so the weekend can start at 30th July). This is the biggest travel and camping weekend in Iceland where many families travel to various festival sites, summer houses etc. The biggest festival site is in the Vestmanna islands (called Þjóðhátíð) where over 10.000 people gather together partying and listening to live music (and much more). Other notable festival sites are Ein með öllu (Akureyri) and Neistaflug (Neskaupsstadur). The Monday is a public holiday.
Independence day: National holiday, 17th of June. Parades in most towns.
First day of summer: First Thursday after 18 April. Usually some program for kids in many of the towns.
1. May : The Laborer's Day. The Labor unions host some parades and talks.
Seafarer’s day: Always some fun at the harbors. First Sunday of June.
Gay pride: Big festival downtown Reykjavík. Last years, around 100.000 people have showed up (that’s around 1/3 of the population). Partying in the evening. In August.
National beer day: 1st March. The day when beer was allowed again in Iceland. Hurray! Cheaper beer in bars.
Réttir: Maybe not a usual festival, but really worth seeing. It’s basically a sheep and horse roundup where the farmers ride up to the mountains to get their sheep and horses back. All the animals are put together in one big fence and then the farmers try to find their animals. Look up pictures from google with the search word “Réttir”.
Twelfth night of Christmas: Last day of Christmas, 6th January. Involves elves, trolls, bonfires, singing and dancing and some firework.
New years eve: Lots of fireworks and crazy partying. However, hard to find taxi to get back home.
Easter week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day and Easter Monday
Husband’s and Woman’s day: Husband’s day is Friday between 19th and 25th Jan. Woman’s day is on 18th of Feb.
Mother’s day: 13th of May.
Self governance day: Celebrating that we got self governance from Denmark on the 1st Dec. 1918.
Christmas: 24th – 26th Dec.

Music festivals

Iceland Airwaves: Biggest music festival in Iceland. Mostly rock and electronic music. Specializing in smaller foreign bands that often are close to international recognition and prominent Icelandic bands. Hosted in clubs and pubs in downtown Reykjavík, pretty small venues, but this makes you feel much more closer to the bands and it’s not uncommon to see people speaking to band members after the show. As the festival is quite popular it’s recommended to book tickets well in advance. Held in late Oct.
LungA Art festival: is a yearly event held in a bohemian town called Seyðisfjörður, located on the east coast of Iceland. It is where electric vibes from various art forms melt together when artist from all over the world unites at one place through their art. In 2010 LungA will celebrate their 10th anniversary, during the days of july 12th til july 18th, with numerous art events -> workshops during the whole week, lectures, design show, art exhibitions, concerts and so on. www.lunga.is Réttir: Reykjavík round-up Music festival: Smaller than Airwaves, but with really good line up. They were held first time in 2009 and got good review.
The Reykholt Music Festival
Reykjavík Blues festival
Annual Reykjavík Jazz festival
Aldrei fór ég suður rock festival: This festival takes place in Ísafjördur in the West fjords. It was all started some years ago when musician Mugison decided to bring a music festival to his home town. Quite popular and lots of people travel there each year to hear the big names in the Icelandic rock scene. In April
Bræðslan: The small town/place Borgarfjordur Eystri is where Bræðslan music festival takes place. Population of the town is 103, but during the festival the number of people staying there grows up to more than 1000. Even though it’s not the biggest festival there is, big names like Damian Rice and Belle & Sebastian have performed there. Cozy atmosphere in beautiful landscape.

Art festivals

Reykjavík arts festival:The festival has been held biannually since 1970 and annually from 2004. Concerts and cultural events with Icelandic and international acts. Usually in May and June.
LungA Art festival: is a yearly event held in a bohemian town called Seyðisfjörður, located on the east coast of Iceland. It is where electric vibes from various art forms melt together when artist from all over the world unites at one place through their art. In 2010 LungA will celebrate their 10th anniversary, during the days of july 12th til july 18th, with numerous art events -> workshops during the whole week, lectures, design show, art exhibitions, concerts and so on. www.lunga.is
Young art festival: Art festival for young artists and art lovers. Usually held in November. “Young Art is a cultural festival, which has taken place annually in the fall since 1992. Young people display their talent in various art forms. We have performances in classical music, rock, jazz. There are also diverse exhibitions in visual arts. Many different work shops are open, including dance, theater, fashion and art. There are also photography, paintings and short-film competitions.”

Movie festivals

Reykjavík International Film Festival: The festival takes place in late Sept to Oct. Includes shows, conferences, shows with question time etc. 2009 RIFF and Réttir music festival accompanied and made together a great 2 weeks program.

Town festivals

Big fish day in DalvíkFree sea food buffet and great hospitality. Held the weekend after Verzlunarmannahelgi.
Irish days:Held in Akranes.
Danish days:Held in Stykkishólmur
Faroe Island days:Held by Fjörukráin in Hafnarfjördur.
Week of love (in few places) It all started in Bolungarvík, but has been held in Bifröst and Eskifjördur as well.
The Viking festival in Hafnarfjörður: Held by Fjörukráin in Hafnarfjördur.

Other festivals

Food and fun:
Reykjavík culture night:Huge culture festival in Reykjavik in late August. Companies and stores host culture events all day long, some people open up their houses and serve some light food, there are concerts and art performances on the street and in the evening there is a big concert hosted by the national radio. After the concert Reykjavik energy company hosts a grand firework display. Afterwards Party!

Trip Ideas

The catagoriztion of those trips should be considered as the minimum time for traveling with rental car. For exmaple, traveling the highland can take much longer time then 1 week and 2 weeks driving the ring road you will be able to see a lot, but if you are planing on some day trips hiking, detours etc, few more extra days should be added to the plan.
Day trips:

Less than a week:

Around 1 week

2 weeks:

Specialized trips:

Other Information

Emergency numbers:

  • 112 The main emergency number. Same as 911 in the US. They can contact the police in every place for you, or ambulance.

Iceland weather:

Traveling safely:

ATM’s:
Landsbankinn
Arion banki
Íslandsbanki

Drinking water:
You can drink water from the sink and it’s free. Don’t drink water from big rivers or small ones where the water is a little muddy or is standing close to still. However, small rivers where the water is clear and is running quite well should be ok to drink from.
Risks:
As wikitravel explains:
Crime/violence: Low - Some alcohol-related violence
Authorities/corruption: Low
Transportation: Low to Elevated - Countryside roads may be in poor shape
Health: Low
Nature: Low to Elevated - Some areas are prone to earthquakes, landslides and volcanoes.

Sports
Iceland’s most popular sport is football (soccer) and golf. However the national sports are the old traditional glíma and handball.

Economic crisis
See all on Wikipedia

Renting

Nothing yet

Studying

Nothing yet

Emergency Contacts in Iceland

CS in Reykjavík has Emergency contacts. Please respect that they are NOT thought as a very quick way to find hosting. Before crying wolf please make sure you've explored the available options before making an emergency contact. Available options may include:

If you can access internet (which is highly likely in Reykjavik).

  • Contacting members you have already stayed with for prolonged assistance.
  • Contacting online members directly, either via a message or by finding some of them on the online chat.
  • Posting in the Iceland group.

If you don't have internet contact:

  • Contacting members you have already stayed with for prolonged assistance.
  • Checking the Salvation Army.

If none of those options work or aren't available to you then proceed to thinking about contacting an emergency contact. But before that make sure that you fulfill as many of the following requirements as possible. The emergency contact you might call will very likely do a background check on you before helping you out. It's mainly a matter of safety and trust.

That you have a valid membership with CS2.

  • State your username to the emergency contact.
  • At the very least make sure that you have a fully formed profile.
  • Being verified helps.
  • Having references helps a lot too.

Having a recontact method available is necessary since the emergency contact is most likely NOT going to offer you hosting on the spot.

  • for instance having your own phone or getting permission to be called to a phone wherever you can.

Try making contact during hours when people are not asleep.
Of course you MAY get into trouble in the middle of the night and thus you will likely find an understanding induvidual as the emergency contact, however:

  • Calling drunk after a night of partying will result in the emergency contact hanging up on you. Arrange your night BEFORE partying, not after.
  • Be polite and don´t insist on anything. We're doing this voluntarily for your safety, not comfort.
  • The solution the emergency contact comes up with might not meet your expectations. Again, this is for your safety, not necessarily for your comfort.

EMERGENCY CONTACT LIST:

  • Þórgnýr Thoroddsen, membername: mcorange, tel. (00354) 823 4135
  • James Maddison, membername: lotsofmagnets, tel. (+354) 695 7276 call between 10am and 12am


With Kind Regards, Emergency Contacts of Reykjavík, Iceland

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