There’s nothing wrong with being and looking like a tourist, but it makes sense to take the advice of locals and avoid having to learn some things the hard way. Jonas, our local ambassador for Reykjavík, lists seven things you should avoid doing if you want to experience the Icelandic capital less like a tourist and more like a local.
1. Dress like a mountaineer
Tourists tend to overdress for the Icelandic climate. To locals, it sometimes looks like they’re ready to climb Mount Everest. Don’t get me wrong – the weather is usually quite harsh and you should dress well, but locals can occasionally be seen wearing T-shirts during snowstorms. The reason for this might be that Icelanders generally don’t dress according to the weather, or the result of some kind of extreme optimism due to the ever-changing climate – they might be expecting a good 10–15 minutes of lovely sunshine, which they plan to make the most of.
Photo credit: Vern
2. Buy bottled water
Why would you do that? Icelandic tap water is free and delicious. Just bring a good bottle with you and fill it up whenever you find a sink. If you’re in a restaurant, ask for tap water. They don’t charge for it – or at least they shouldn’t.
Photo credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega
3. Go whale watching
If you join a whale-watching tour, you might notice that almost all of the locals on the boat are working on it. Occasionally friends of the captain tag along, but otherwise whale watching is something that only tourists typically do, which is a shame as the locals miss out.
Photo credit: eGuide Travel
4. Eat whale meat
Yes, we do hunt whales, and the international society is pretty bummed about it. You might have a picture in your head of some bloodthirsty locals who want nothing more than to chew on a medium-rare whale steak. The truth is that we barely touch the stuff. It’s the tourists who mainly eat it. The older generations are more inclined to occasionally cook themselves a whale steak, but the younger generations prefer more “regular” food.
Photo credit: Maria Victoria Rodriguez
5. Carry an umbrella
Locals love watching tourists with their umbrellas during the autumn madness. As the wind and rain seem to come from all directions, umbrellas are quite useless. Also, the weather changes so rapidly that most locals won’t bother taking an umbrella with them. Do what the locals do – embrace the rain! Get wet and wild!
Photo credit: Sascha Kohlmann
6. Visit the Blue Lagoon
It’s around €53 for adults to enter. Take a moment to think about that! That’s the “Standard” price, by the way. If you feel that’s too cheap, you can choose from the “Comfort”, “Premium” or “Luxury” offers – the last one costing a whopping €200. If you don’t feel like participating in this madness and just want to observe from the sidelines, you’ll still have to pay €10 to enter the premises. Still wondering why you don’t see any locals there?
Photo credit: Dan Nguyen
7. Head out early on weekends
So, you found your venue for the evening in the heart of Reykjavík. It had good reviews on the web or it was recommended to you by locals, but there were only a few people there and most of them were foreigners like yourself… What happened? Wasn’t it meant to be an awesome nightlife spot? Most likely you showed up way too early for the party. Drinks at bars are expensive, so locals tend to drink at home before heading downtown, and that happens shortly after midnight. But hey, our venues love when you show up early, and quite a few of them have good drinks specials early in the evenings to compensate.
Photo credit: Dan Nguyen
Special tip: For a more authentic Reykjavík experience, get the Like A Local mobile app