A few notes on my experiences in Iceland and Reykjavik in particular, to add to my previous posts on the subject.
Everyone talks about how expensive the country is. Perhaps pre the banking collapse this was true, but I didn’t find it terribly expensive myself. I had a budget which I stuck to and ended up buying a few extra souvenirs because I had a little more money left over on my last day; I even came home with money which was something of a surprise.
Perhaps this can be accounted for by my having pre-booked a lot of the packages, hotel and flight through Icelandair, whose service throughout was impeccable. I have never been checked in as quickly at the airport as with them and everyone I encountered was friendly and knowledgeable.
Everyone speaks English. This is true – at least everyone I encountered in shops, restaurants, museums etc. spoke perfectly fluent English. I had no problems at all. And I have been to countries where I didn’t speak the language and where the guidebooks assured me that English was commonplace only for that not to be the case at all. A lot of signs and the majority of information at museums, national sites etc. is in English, alongside Icelandic which was certainly a big help in getting around and appreciating the exhibitions – free leaflets in English are readily available at most museums/galleries too. And it did help in my managing to pick up some basic Icelandic while I was there as well.
I stayed at the Klettur Hotel which was lovely – by far the quietest hotel I have ever stayed in, even taking into account that the only way to properly shut your door was to slam it! The staff were very friendly and helpful, the buffet breakfast included in the price was nice – fruits, ham and cheese, bread to be toasted, juice, hot drinks etc – and there was also a bar at night which I did not sample. The area seems a little bleak and industrialised but there are decent sea walks – the sea being only about a ten minute walk away, and the main shopping street – Laugavegur – is only about 15 minutes away, so the hotel’s location is very good for getting around Reykjavik.
I tend to walk around a lot rather than take public transport when I’m travelling, and Reykjavik is a perfect city for that – small enough that after a few days I knew the place well enough to easily find my way around if I took a diversion from the main route, and also I would randomly find myself bumping into people I knew from the hotel, different tours I’d taken and even people who’d served me in shops!
Reykjavik Excursions were the ones I used for the Northern Lights and Golden Circle Tours. The guides and drivers were always excellent, good-humoured, with plenty of interesting facts at their fingertips, and able to give a real sense of their country and its history.
There is a surprising amount of graffiti everywhere. And some quite run-down looking houses/apartments but everywhere is very safe for walking around, even after dark.
It is, above all, a lovely and interesting country, very safe for a lone female traveller and one that I would highly recommend more people visit.