Things NOT To Do In Iceland

There are some few things you should NOT to do in Iceland and not to annoy the locals. Although it is rare to see some angry Icelander, they can still be offended. They have the nicest way to show it though and they have proper manners in cases a certain situation comes up. But it is still good to know what not to do because you might have been nudging them without knowledge. Anyhow, here is the list of the DON’Ts in no particular order;

1. Touch the Swans

Not to do in Iceland

Respect the white beauties, people! They aren’t decorations they are living creatures. There will be chances you get to have an up close and personal meeting with the wild Icelandic swans and you would just want to put your hands on them and all… I tell you, the result can be brutal. Never touch them unless you want your arm broken. An adult bird will do anything to protect its young and they can be quite sensitive (they are wild…). So don’t make a fool of yourself and refrain from even trying.

2. Take Pictures of Everything

Ever plan to take pictures of the whole city? Let say people and their homes? Ask them first in a nice manner. I mean, come on, would you want your home to be taken pictures of and then being plastered over Instagram without your permission? It would ruin your privacy right? So stick with the “Golden Rule” and leave the people and their homes alone or ask nicely and use the photo wisely as well. Also shoving cameras in everyone’s faces can be annoying, especially when the person isn’t interested in posing for your camera. This gesture isn’t just annoying here in Iceland but everywhere else in the world.

3. Leaving a Tip

There are some issues about this in Iceland (See: The Truth About Tipping In Iceland). The best way to manage this is to tip accordingly. Don’t just go giving people monetary considerations whenever they have done you something good.

4. Be Loud and Obnoxious

Icelanders can be loud and lively but only during festivals, lively weekends in the clubs and such, but other than that they are generally quite people who just love to preserve the nature’s solemnity. Here is a fact; the loudest and most obnoxious Icelander is still less noisy and rambunctious than any average drunken person from elsewhere in the whole world. The locals recognize foreigners by just merely hearing the loudest person in the crowd. Don’t start shouting, or else they would treat you like a rude and drunken hooligan.

5. Complain About Local Food

Not to do in Iceland

The main rule here is that; “if you don’t like it, don’t eat it”. Icelanders love their delicacies and even if some of them are not your cherry on top of the sundae, you have to respect. There is nothing more annoying than that of some foreigner who gags and fake vomit while everybody is enjoying their meal. There is a wide selection of widely adapted food to choose from so just go with those.

6. Talk about Politics and History

Whatever you do, never ever say that Iceland is Norway’s adopted brother. Just don’t. It is acceptable to discuss politics and history civilly when the topic is being brought up. But don’t overdo it by mentioning things that are not appropriate. This is applicable not only in Iceland but also anywhere you will go.

7. Be Sarcastic… definitely a “Not to do in Iceland”

There are some sense of humor back home that you need to leave back home or else it would get you into trouble. This is especially when the country you are visiting is not considering English as their first language. Iceland is one of them. You might joke or answer in a sarcastic way and they would get lost in translation. Just be sincere in what you will say or do. And if you have offended someone just simply apologize.

8. Pronounce Things Incorrectly

Even if you know some little bit of the Icelandic language, just go with English. Icelandic is difficult to speak and you might sound silly, incompetent or annoying trying hard to do so, although Icelander will not think of you this way, they just won’t understand or even recognize the words that is coming out of your mouth. Unless you had undergone a formal lesson in the Icelandic language, then you can go ahead and speak out.

9. Make a Big Deal Out of the Local Customaries

Don’t be surprised if you will hear someone burping, slurping, or even farting in public. Icelanders aren’t bothered going about their natural business so why should you? This is the natural order of things.

10. Swimming in Pools or Entering Saunas Without Showering First

Not to do in Iceland

Yes, here in Iceland, it is strictly required to shower first before you dip into any pool, tubs or to enter a sauna. This is because they apply strict hygiene rules in these places in order to maintain the cleanliness. So, respect.

11. Bring an umbrella to Iceland

Even though it often rains in Iceland, you can´t really use an umbrella that much. Why? It is because it is usually so windy that the rain attacks you from all sides and your umbrella would simply get ruined in the strong wind!

12. Driving a car that doesn´t have a 4WD into the highlands or on glaciers.

First of all, never go to a glacier unless you are with someone who knows the area well! The same really goes for the Highlands and don´t go alone. Try to travel in a group of least 2 cars as you can easily get stuck and may need help. It´s not easy to get assistance in the middle of nowhere! Also, don´t even try to travel without a 4WD. In winter only use the ring road and off road driving is entirely prohibited throughout the year!! Last but not least, use seat belts! They can save your lives!

13. Book a room in “the ice hotel”

Believe it or not, it is not cold enough in Iceland to have an ice hotel so just to get the facts straight, there is no ice hotel in Iceland. You can find one in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada, but not in Iceland.

14. Coming to Iceland in winter to see the midnight sun, or expect to see the northern lights in summer

The 24 hour daylight in Iceland is only during summer, so if you come in winter don´t expect too many daylight hours! Winter is however the time to visit if you want to hunt for the northern lights. The lights can be active during summer but there is absolutely no chance of seeing them then as it doesn´t get dark in the summertime!

15.Taking pictures of the northern lights with a flash

If you want to take pictures of the northern lights you normally need more than just a normal camera. You need a good one and you need to use long exposure. Sometimes you can take just a normal picture of the lights but don´t expect much quality then. Never use the flash when taking pictures of the aurora. If you want more information about how to take photos of the northern lights, click here.

16. Driving offroad

Driving offroad is illegal in Iceland and if you do you can expect heavy fines. Offroad driving ruins nature and is also dangerous. So just don´t do it! Don´t do it!!!! Same goes for driving without seat belts. Never start the engine and drive off without making sure everyone in the car has their seat belts on!

17. Don´t touch the moss!

The moss covers a lot of the landscape in Iceland. It is very soft, thick and beautiful. It is also very delicate and it takes decades or even hundred of years to recuperate. If you will be found damaging nature in some way, you will be fined and keep in mind that the damage you may often cause can´t be fixed! When you walk over a mossy ground, lift your feet up high so you don´t kick it as it is very delicate! The moss is very beautiful. Please don´t spoil it, just enjoy it.

18. Don´t leave for a day trip at sunrise during winter

In winter the hours of daylight aren´t that many in Iceland. So, when you are planning to go on a day trip, don´t wait until sunrise as that might be close to noon! Instead, leave in the morning and by the time you reach your destination it will be daylight. Before you start planning tours, check when the sun rises and sets. It differs from one winter month to another.

19. Always check the forecast before heading out

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable so it goes without saying that you should always check the weather and road conditions before travelling. This applies throughout the year.

20. Expecting to see penguins and polar bears?

Just to note, penguins live on the SOUTH pole, not the north pole. Even though polar bears live on the north pole, you can hardly expect to see one in Iceland. It has happened that polar bears have reached Iceland but that is definitely not something that happens every day! The only polar bear you can count on seeing is in front of a tourist shop in Laugavegur shopping street.