Thursday, 6 April 2017

Reykjavik, Iceland

I've started to write this blog post on a currently bumpy EasyJet flight back to Belfast, while Iceland (and it's weather) is still fresh in my mind. 

My other half and I, set off on 1st of April and spent 5 days in Icelands capital Reykjavik, staying at The Grand Hotel. We'd aimed to set our sights on the Northern Lights, but unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side and our night tour was cancelled. We did however head to the popular Blue Lagoon, as has likely everyone to ever visit Iceland. 

The lagoon experience was amazing and unbelievably relaxing. It snowed while we were there and it was so bizarre to be freezing shoulders up and roasting elsewhere. If you have dry/processed hair, I can't stress to you enough to avoid getting your hair wet. The Blue Lagoon recommend applying conditioner (that they supply) before and after contact with the water, but it still managed to reek havoc with my hair and left it completely dried out and unmanageable. If you do manage to get it wet, be sure to bring a hair brush as they offer free use of hairdryers in the changing rooms. 

If you've ever visited Iceland, or know someone who has - you're probably aware of how expensive it is. In order for our money to go a little further on our trip, we read up on a few tips before we departed - and discovered some of our own during our stay. 

DO drink the tap water
Icelandic tap water might just be some of the purest in the world. Bottled water is considered a 'tourist trap' that you're better off not buying. Almost every cafe and restaurant will have self service jugs of water to use.

DO make the most of happy hour 
Staying at The Grand Hotel was a great experience - the hotel itself is stunning and the staff couldn't be anymore helpful. The food and drink though is pretty expensive, and a single mojito will set you back about £18. We made the most of 'happy hour' between 5-7pm, and managed to cut our drink bill in half. There's many places in the centre that advertise cheaper drinks in their windows - it'd be rude not to! 

DO get the TripAdvisor App
Finding somewhere to eat in Reykjavik that won't cost you an arm and a leg might seem like a challenge, but TripAdvisor makes life so much easier. They have an option to select 'Cheap Eats' nearby with honest food reviews and pictures if you like to know what to expect. We'd recommend 'Reykjavik Chips' and 'Red Chili' for some good food. 

DO book flights ASAP
When I first priced flights from Belfast to Keflavik for early 2017, I was surprised at how expensive they were - especially by EasyJet standards. I soon found out that it was better to wait until EasyJet released their new batch of flights for April. Flights are at their cheapest when they're first released and not in high demand. I managed to almost half the price of flights by signing up for a notification from EasyJet, allowing me to book in the first few days. 

DO book airport transfers in advance 
In an aim to minimise my holiday-travel-stress as much as possible, I booked all of our excursions and transfers well in advance. Arriving at the airport and watching people pay more than we did for the exact same shuttle bus, will always make my inner bargain hunter smile. 

DON'T pay extra at The Blue Lagoon 
I regretfully paid extra for the Comfort Package at The Blue Lagoon. Our upgrade allowed the use of a towel (which we could have brought from the hotel) and we were offered a free drink from the bar. We would have been more than happy with the standard package which still includes your entry, a complimentary silica mask, and has you standing in the same queue. We travelled with Reykjavik Excursions to the lagoon and they have free wifi and USB ports on board. The coach trip is about 45 minutes so it's worth bringing your charger and maybe some headphones. Be aware that although you may have paid for your transfer, you'll have to pay for another ticket at the bus centre before switching coaches - a somewhat hidden charge that wasn't stated on the Blue Lagoon website, so there might be a cheaper transfer available.

DO shop around 
Your basic snacks and drinks can be pretty pricey depending where you buy them. We read online that it was best to shop in cheaper stores like Bonus and avoid higher priced shops like 10/11. If you'd like to have drinks in your hotel room, I'd recommend either bringing alcohol in your suit case or buying some at duty free. A small glass of wine cost on average £9 when we went for dinner. Also, if you're looking for gifts to take home - if you've seen one gift shop, you've seen them all. Most shops stock the exact same giftware but some at cheaper prices. 

DON'T go looking for McDonalds 
They don't have one. And it's devastating. If you're looking for a quick Big Mac, you won't find one. Unfortunately they closed the last McDonald's in Iceland in 2009 due to import costs, and they're one of the very few countries to go without one. 

DO listen to the locals 
We were able to catch free taxis to town from our hotel and one of our drivers was kind enough to give us a mini-tour on the short trip. He was able to point us in the direction of modest-looking hot dog cart Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – which translates from Icelandic as “the best hotdog in town". Bill Clinton made 2 visits to in 2004 and it's since been named as 'the world's most famous hotdog vendor' by Forbes magazine. I now have a boyfriend with serious Icelandic hotdog withdrawals.

Reykjavik really is a beautiful place and well worth visiting - especially if you're a seafood lover. The snowy mountain backdrop on the city is breathtaking and The Blue Lagoon is an experience not to be missed. One last tip I have for anyone visiting is - wrap up warm. Our coldest day was -2c with strong winds and rain. Arriving to 8c in Belfast was like stepping off a plane in Spain in comparison!


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