Only about 9 weeks left for my semester abroad in Iceland and I am already back in Germany. I really enjoy my time here, but on the other hand I look forward to be back again. I noticed that I simply do not like the idea of staying somewhere just for a short time. Often I have the thought “Not worth it. You are only here for a few weeks still.”. Living just temporary somewhere, kind of like living from your suitcase, apparently does not suit me. I like having my own home base, all my stuff. Additionally, I really miss living on my own. Do not get me wrong, it is not like it do not like it here. I enjoy my time a lot, draw a lot, and get to see all kind of beautiful and interesting things. I actually plan already on coming back with my mother and my sister.
First month living in Reykjavik
In the first month, I saw a lot of Reykjavik and so far I went on some trips too. In August I arrived, and explored Reykjavik for a week before University started. There are still a few locations left on my list but hopefully I will check them in the next 9 weeks. Mid August university started with orientation days and the introduction lectures for my chosen courses. I started applying to a few hotels and cafes in Reykjavik for a job and got one at the end of August in a hotel downtown. A friend of mine visited for one week too. I joined her and her mother on some tours and next weekend I am going on a road trip to the south coast of Iceland.
However, there were challenges I faced here in Reykjavik. Just small ones, like the bus ticket and a like. Basically, you could call this whole post a complaint, right? But I hope, by sharing my experience, it might help somebody else in the future going abroad to Iceland. When I arrived here I kind of had nervous breakdown, because I was tired, cold and simply overwhelmed. When my suitcase did not open then too, it was apparently just to much for my brain and I was close to throwing things against the wall. Got much better, when I forced myself to leave the house the next day. Only til I tried to get the bus ticket and went to the grocery store. Hence, this article will cover some information about phone service, bussing in Iceland, work and some other general stuff.
If you have any further question, just comment below or write me an email under Contact.
Weather in Iceland
I have to admit, before I came to Iceland, I was afraid to freeze to death. So far, I am not even close to it. Of course, it is a little bit colder. Usually it does not get warmer than 20°C and the highest temperature I had was around 17°C. However, the sun is much stronger here if it comes out. Currently the temperatures range from 7-13°C and if the sun comes out I am actually sweating in my jacket.
In general, the temperatures are totally fine. Believe me when I say that, because I am a nesh, freezing all the time. However, the wind can get really cold. The weather switches constantly between rain and sun too. Looking into the weather forecast is simply not worth it because the weather is doing anyway whatever it wants to. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I kind of got used to the weather.
Pricing and Grocery Stores in Iceland
The reason I was so depressed the first day, was also caused by the prices in Iceland. My landlord took me to the grocery store to get some basic stuff and I was just shocked. I knew It would be expensive but I never would have expected that it is going to be that extremely expensive. Good I found a job because otherwise I would have to calculate every single penny. But mind, how expensive something is, is relative.
As mentioned in my first post, I pay around 600 Euro for a room in a private home. The room is furnished with a bed, a desk, a closet and two other little shelves. The bathroom I share with another girl living here. We are responsible for cleaning our rooms and the bathroom. The kitchen and the washing room is shared with the landlord. Internet is of course included too. The disadvantage is, you depend on the bus. At least I and my roommate do and such a monthly ticket is expensive. But mind, my room might be overpriced because I know some students having something much more central for the same price or just a little bit more.
The food is expensive as well but there are different option to get food for different prices. The cheapest one would be the store Bonus, followed by Cronan. The most expensive one is Hagkaup. Naturally, the biggest selection is found at Hagkaup. I prefer Cronan but the bigger Bonus is okay too since it has a bigger selection than the smaller stores downtown. For every grocery store visit I pay around 30 to 40 Euro. For that price you usually just get one dish downtown in a restaurant. Of course, the food that is not good for you, e.g. chips, are less pricy here. I developed a bad popcorn habit here.
Clothing and a like is similar to the stuff mentioned above. By the way, Ikea is similar to European prices, including the food. Probably the least expensive place in Iceland. Museums cost around 15 to 25 Euros and tours depend highly on the attractions included. To give some examples, the puffin tour costed me around 45 Euros, the Westfjords around 150 Euro and the Golden Circle tour around 90. However, I would recommend you to rent a at with some friends. It is much cheaper and a much better way to see something from Iceland.
Bussing in Iceland
The first thing on my to-do list arriving in Iceland was the bus ticket. Otherwise, it was hard for me to get around. All necessary information should be found on Straeto. On the website there is a live map and you can plan your routes. Pricing and a like are found there too. An app is also available to download including the same features.
Getting the bus ticket was kind of a challenge for me. I wanted to get a monthly bus ticket as paper ticket and totally failed at it. To sum it up for you so that you might not have any issues: You can order a bus card online, get a single or monthly bus ticket on the app or look up different locations to get three months ticket. There are also options for six months, a one and three days if I am not mistaken. If you get a single ticket, it will cost you 450 ISK and they do not give you any change back! If you stay longer than a semester I would recommend you to get a student card with your Kennitala (Icelandic ID number). I got my Kennitala from my university after arriving in Iceland.
Issues and recommendations for bussing
The buses drive just every half hour and so far I made the experience that they are almost always too late. From the end of august, there drive ever 15 minutes during the morning and the rush hour. Sometimes during the lunch time too, depending on what bus line you take. My big recommendation: rather take a bus earlier to be on time. I sometimes even take two buses earlier. If you see your bus coming, do not wait in the bus stop house, instead wait on the edge to the street on the sidewalk. Even better hold out your hand signaling that you wan the bus to stop. In the bus itself you have to press stop once you station is the next one. Otherwise, they just pass the station. As mentioned, you do not get any change back if you get a single ticket on the bus.
Phone Service in Iceland
One of the few things that is not expensive in Iceland is the phone service. There are many different providers you can choose from. I got a pre-paid card from Vodafone and I pay every month around 16 Euro for 4G mobile data and unlimited texting and calling. Simply go to the store and ask an employee. If you want to have a phone contract, you need the Kennitala.
By the way, I would be careful with the roaming free services. Yes Iceland is within the roaming free zone but only within the purpose of vacation. In general, the free roaming applies only for the purpose of vacation. 50 percent of your phone activity within three months should come from your home country, or wherever you got you phone contract. If not, your phone provider is allowed to charge you and send you an invoice.
Studying at Reykjavik University
I would like to do another post on that specifically. So far I can tell you, it is a little bit different from what I am used to but also really similar. University is not heavy on lectures but on doing more in your free time. I only have to go two times a week to university and the rest of the week I am free. But mind, you have to do more group projects and individual assignments. For every course I have to do at least two or three different assignments over the semester. Most of the classes, do quizzes over the semester too. Additionally, most of the professors ask you to get the course book too.
The final examination mostly counts 50 percent but in order to pass the course you have to pass the final exam. My semester started in August and I will have my last lecture week at the beginning of November. After that I have only two exams out of four courses. Some students participate in a three weeks course too, which starts in December.
Working in Reykjavik
Again, I would like to do an extra post on that. Simply because I hope to have more knowledge about taxes and a like in a month than I do know. You will not have a hard time finding a job. Since the tourism is booming, hotels and cafes are looking like crazy for people, even now when it is getting less.
You usually do not need any Icelandic but you do need good english skills or at least sufficient ones. For working you need a Kennitala number and an Icelandic bank account (for online banking you need an Icelandic phone number too). Usually they pay you around 12.40 Euro per hour and around 17 Euros on the weekend or in the evening/morning hours.