Faroe and Iceland - Facts and Information
Iceland - shopping and other things
Practical issues of a holiday in Iceland
Some comments based on our experience in the eastern part of Iceland.

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An empty country
Perhaps the first point to make is that Iceland is a very empty country. Outside the more heavily populated south western parts settlements are small and distances between them great. This means that facilities in small villages are often very restricted in terms of shopping. However, somewhat paradoxically, it means that the few larger settlements that do exist often have better services than you might expect from their size. This means that if you are doing your own cooking you need to plan your shopping, or be prepared to take pot luck in the local store.

Supermarkets usually had a good range of products, although fresh fish and meat were very hard to find. Fruit and vegetables were reasonable. Availability of fresh bread depended on how far the nearest bakery was. Dairy products were usually well respresented. A particular favourite of ours was skyr. This is a thick cultured milk drink, plain or flavoured, which tastes rich and creamy but is very low in fat and calories. Most supermarkets sold a range of non-food goods such as electrical equipment, books and clothes.

Service stations, in addition to petrol, often sold a range of food and non-food goods (plus fast food) and the distinction between a large service station and small supermarket was blurry. Service stations are open on Sundays.

Larger settlements
Egilsstadir, Höfn and Húsavík, each with around 2,000 people, were the largest towns we went to and had small. but reasonable shopping centres.

Egilsstadir had a good supermarket near the service station at the traffic lights on the Ring Road. A little further north in the modern shopping precinct is Bónus, the value supermarket, where prices were cheaper but the offering was not as good. Fellabaer, just north of the bridge, had an excellent bakery which was open early in the morning. It is in the carpark by the service station.

Höfn has a very dispersed shopping area with a small, but adequate, supermarket and a couple of service stations.

Húsavík appeared to have two supermarkets on the main street, one of which was excellent in terms of range of produce and ambience, but the other (which we didn't visit) looked scruffy. There was at least one service station.

Seydisfjördur, Kirkjubærjarklaustur and Reykjahli

íd, although smaller, have some significance as shopping points. All had small, potentially busy, supermarkets but we were not much impressed by the offering. The lesson, on our trip, was major shop at Egilsstadir (but bread at Fellabaer) and Húsavík.

Smaller settlements where we used shops
We knew that shopping at Skaftafell might be problematic and were only expecting to use it to get stuff for lunch, but we had not expected it to be quite as much as it was. The store at the petrol station was extremely limited in all respects and we ended up cleaning them out of long life packets of ryebread so we didn't have to bother to chase food later. To be fair they did appear to be in the middle of a reorganisation, but whether that explained things or not we don't know. The shop at the camp site is quite big but had not opened for the season when we arrived. By the time we left it was starting to get stock in, but this looked limited.

We had also expected shopping at the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park in the north to be problematic. The service station on the main road at Ásbyrgi, though small, had a surprising range of stuff.

Money, language and phones
We had heard that credit cards were widely used, and so it proved.

Most Icelanders that we met spoke very good English, and many of these with complete fluency. Icelandic is a difficult language to pronounce, but Icelanders did seem particularly pleased if you had taken the trouble to learn how placenames were pronounced and expressed an interest in the language.

Mobile phones are popular, but coverage is limited to the settled areas. There is a separate long range phone network which covers all of the country and it is possible to hire a phone that will work on this. We had been told it would be important to book one in advance as they were in great demand. However when we went to the Egilsstadir office it appeared the phone had been sent specially from Rekjavik and they rarely issued them. Hire is expensive but as we knew the roads saw very little traffic and as we intended to walk in some places where assistance would be a long way off we got one as insurance. Fortunately we had no call to use it, but felt more comfortable with it available.

More information
A number of worthwhile web sites are shown on the external links page for Iceland.

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