solo europe trip | iceland – part 1

(diving in the Silfra. I’m on the far left with my dangling GoPro)
I can’t really keep track of the number of queries I received from friends regarding my Iceland trip. So I thought that it would be good if I blogged about this trip…perhaps it can be of help if you’re thinking of going to Iceland. If I could redo this trip, I don’t think I would change anything about it (maybe except that I would’ve packed less). It was perfect for me.

BACKGROUND
Let me start with a bit of background. I traveled to and around Europe by myself. Solo. Other then staying and hanging out my friend + a colleague the short time I was in the UK, I was all alone. There wasn’t a special or specific reason why I did this trip solo other than the fact that I have yet to find a like-minded travel partner. Trust me, your choice of a travel companion is VERY important especially when you’re going to travel over a prolonged period. Since I did my semi solo trip to the US in 2015 and loved it, I decided that it would be a good experience for me to do a full solo trip.

 

Now, on to the important details…

WHERE
I went to the UK, Iceland, Slovenia and Venice over the period of 17 days. I was in Iceland a total of 6 days.

 

WHEN
I went to Iceland from the last week of March to the first day of April. My last two ‘long’ trips were from end March – early April. Somehow I found tickets to be a tad cheaper then and also because I 1. can get one extra day off on my birthday and 2. have to utilize my carry forward leave by end March.

 

WEATHER
It was supposed to be spring but it was cold (and rainy in London) and it snowed in Iceland. So be prepared if you’re going around the same time. Don’t expect comfortable air con temperature.

 

MOBILE CONNECTION
I decided to disconnect myself from my phone this trip. Most every times when I travel, I would buy a data card so that I would be connected to the world. But I decided to ‘detox’ myself from the internet. It worked quite well for me. But if you’re reliant on Google Maps, I would suggest you download them ‘offline’ so that you can still use it when you’re not connected to the internet. If worse comes to worst and you need to get connected to the world, just hop in a cafe or hunt for free wifi wherever you are. To be honest, you don’t need to buy any data in Iceland…they even have wifi in their vans/coaches.

 

FLIGHTS
I flew SIN-LHR on Lufthansa (with a 1hr layover at Frankfurt), stayed one day and night in London before flying off early the next morning to Iceland. My LHR-KEF flight was on British Airways. If you plan to do the same, I suggest you find a flight that leaves from Iceland on the same day. It will save you the hassle of finding a place to stay and you’ll save some money on the exorbitant transportation prices.

 

COST OF FLIGHTS
I bought my SIN-LHR ticket when there was a sale waaay back in August 2015 (yes, I usually plan my long trips way in advance). After receiving my cashback (since I used my Frank OCBC credit card), I paid a total of S$862.27. The original price was S$972.20. My British Airways ticket cost me $381.03. It would have been cheaper if I didn’t need to purchase check in baggage. So, the total cost of air tickets for my Iceland trip was S$1,243.30. But since I traveled to more than one country, what I did was to divide the cost of the SIN-LHR among the three countries. It made me feel like I got my money’s worth. 🙂

 

TRAVEL STYLE
I backpacked the entire time. I carried my Osprey Ariel 75 and Osprey Escapist 25. If you’re looking for good quality backpacking bags, consider getting Osprey bags – they’re great. I also brought along a small sling bag for my wallet/passport etc. But in the end, I kept it away since I wasn’t using it much.
APPAREL
Jacket – Since it was still ‘winter-ish’, I had to get a proper jacket. After quite some research, I decided to buy the Quechua Arpenaz 300 3-in-1 Women’s Rain Jacket. It is waterproof and has a detachable inner fleece layer. It costs S$109.90 from Decathlon Singapore but I got mine from Decathlon UK. I paid like GBP24. Since Decathlon UK only accepts UK credit/debit cards, my UK friend helped me pay for it first and had it delivered to her home. I picked it up when to got to London. I also bought a jacket from Asos but only used it in UK.
Clothes – I don’t own a lot of long sleeve tops so the days leading up to my trip was spent finding a few tops at CottonOn. The best part? Quite a number of people I met along the way complimented my cheap green top. Haha. I also invested in the extra warmth HEATTECH tights and a few HEATTECH inner wear. It worked well.
Shoes – I brought 2 pairs of shoes. Walking shoes – Bob from Skechers  and The North Face Women’s Ultra Fastpack GTX Hiking Shoe. The North Face shoes were a lifesaver. I didn’t have a proper pair of shoes and was researching on what would work best for my flat feet and this pair of shoes were awesome. Not only did it keep my feet dry when I was was walking through the snow, but on some days when I walked more than 10km, my feet didn’t feel like they were going to drop off. There was enough support…in fact, I only wore my Bobs for a few hours the entire trip…so good was The North Face shoes. Thanks to a friend, I got the shoes free.

 

 

CAMERAS
I thought long and hard with regards to which camera I wanted to bring. My DSLR was definitely out of the picture since I was going to backpack. I finally settled on my Sony RX100 III and GoPro Hero4 Silver (+ selfie stick) and I brought along a tiny GorillaPod so I could take pictures of the Northern Lights.

 

ACTIVITIES
I had kinda helped a friend plan some stuff for his Iceland trip a few months prior to mine so I had a good idea what to do when it came to my turn. You have a few options – booking all your different activities from individual vendors, going to Iceland and book your activities then or going the easy way and getting a provider to help plan your trip. I did that for both my friend’s trip and mine since the price would be the same as going directly to the different vendors. I used Eskimos Iceland…a lovely lady by the name of Katrin helped me. Basically, what I did was to email her the different activities I wanted to do – Glacier Hiking, Scuba Diving, Blue Lagoon etc. I told her my travel dates, the time of my arrival and departure in Iceland and she helped me plan my itinerary. There was a huge amount of flexibility with Eskimos Iceland. There were different options for the different activities. Maybe I should break down the activities I did in Iceland.
Airport Transfer – yes, they even helped me arrange my airport transfer. The transfer for both my arrival and departure cost about S$55. I took the Flybus.
Northern Lights – since I arrived in Iceland in the late morning, I would be too late for any of the activities. So Katrin scheduled my Northern Lights tour for the first night. If we did not see anything, there was the option to schedule for another night. But I was extremely lucky to be able to catch it. The ‘number’ on the forecast was a 4…and apparently it was a really high number which meant our chances of seeing the Northern Lights were high. I went with the cheapest option Eskimos provided. How it worked was that a small van picked me (and a few other hostel guests) up from our hostel, drove us to the Reykjavik Excursions building where we saw hundreds (?) of other passengers getting into 40-seater coaches. A few buses (6, I think) then started driving off to hunt for the lights. What wasn’t so nice was that it started late…like 10+pm and ended around 12-1am. By the time we got back to the town center, it was late…and the coach just dropped me off at what it seemed to be the the edge of town. I had to walk back (alone) to my hostel during the wee hours of the morning. It was cold and dark. Definitely not the best option if you want a ‘romantic’ Northern Lights experience, but the price worked for me. Cost: S$71.86.

 

 

Glacier Hiking (Blue Ice)- if you’re in relatively good health, I suggest you do this. This activity was the highlight of my trip. Not only did I meet a pretty awesome group of ladies from the US, among them was a fellow Singaporean who has been living in NYC for the past 10+ years. What a small world. I would have to say, though, that there were times I struggled to keep up with the others…especially when it was just the walking part. Perhaps it was due to the altitude or maybe it’s just due to the fact that I’m unfit? I don’t know. But nonetheless, I enjoyed myself…oh yah, it was here when I experienced my first snowfall. Cost: S$280.60.
Pictured below were our very first two brave souls to try the climb…the rest of us just watched them.

 

Scuba Diving  – now, when I first bought my tickets to go to Iceland, all I thought I would do was to snorkel. After all, I did not even know how to dive. But two months after my tickets were purchased, I signed up to get my Open Water Cert. Well, I wasn’t going to give diving in the Silfra a miss although I read accounts on how cold it would be. And I hate the cold. But I did it anyway. There were two dives but I only did one…and what were the odds, my buddy was a young Singaporean girl. If you can’t dive, do consider snorkeling. You will be wearing a dry suit so only your head and hands would be wet (and frozen). This cost me a whopping S$505.

 

Blue Lagoon – ah, I was saving my soak in the Blue Lagoon for my birthday. I decided that it would a gift to myself (plus a very expensive meal at the Blue Lagoon Restaurant). I requested for the earliest pick up slot and spent the next few hours ‘nua-ing’ in the water. I opt for the ‘Premium‘ package. Total damage: S$135.87.

 

Horse Riding – this was the only activity I booked by myself through Viator.com. Don’t ask me why. I liked the horse riding. I think it’s a ‘must do’ when you’re in Iceland. This tour includes part of the Golden Circle tour. Not too bad, but I’m not a fan of structured tours. Cost: S$221.34
Total cost for activities: S$1,190+
 

ACCOMMODATION
I stayed in hostels when I was in the US last year and when I went to Cambodia…so I decided to do the same for Europe. After some research, I decided on Reykjavik Downtown Hostel. It wasn’t in the heart of the shopping street unlike Loft Hostel but I liked the location of my hostel…it was further away from the hustle and bustle. Both hostels are under Hostelling International. Being the oh-so-sharp person I am, I booked a 10-bed MALE mixed dorm. I didn’t even realize my mistake until I arrived. I thought I had booked a FEmale dorm. Oh well. Fortunately, there were more girls in the dorm majority of the time. I have nothing but good things to say about HiHostels. Wait, except for the fact that my ziplock bag of 3-in-1 drinks got stolen from the common kitchen. On the first day, I placed all my Milo/Nestum/Horlicks in a personal basket at the common kitchen. The next morning, it was gone. GONE! <insert angry emoji> My 5 nights stay cost me US$238.07.
Tip: bring a pair of slippers, the bathroom floor had no floor mats. 
In my next post, I’ll touch on the shopping, food, perhaps some tips and random expenditure in Iceland.
If you have any questions just leave a comment!
June 13, 2016
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