The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland
Tips, tricks, and what the Icelanders really think of you
Iceland is in the midst of an unprecedented tourist boom that has brought wealth to the country, but also myriad issues and challenges. Through a series of short essays, this book provides a unique insight into the social and environmental impact that tourism is having on Iceland, and with wit and intelligence offers invaluable tips for touring safely, responsibly, and in harmony with the locals. A fascinating resource for anyone interested in contemporary Iceland, and an essential companion for all visitors to the country.
Beautifully illustrated by Megan Herbert, The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland is the perfect book for the Icelandophiles, expats, and others who care about Iceland and are interested in Icelandic affairs. Available in paperback, ebook, audiobook, and quality softcover formats. The paperbacks, ebooks, and audiobooks are available from your nearest Amazon store. The quality softcovers ship from Iceland.
Yes, Iceland’s landscape is treacherous, and there are dangers in both expected and unexpected places. Yet the most dangerous aspect of touring Iceland is not those hot springs, glaciers or rogue waves, but something far more commonplace: driving.
Iceland has very low population density—only about three people per square kilometre, or eight per square mile. Building and maintaining an efficient road system obviously costs a few crowns, and hitherto the Icelanders have been, if not entirely satisfied, then at least reasonably content with their single-lane highways, gravel roads, and the mountainous F-roads that are generally only open in summer.
So here we are, merrily driving on our sub-standard roads and suddenly there is a tourist boom, resulting in far more cars on the road than ever before, including whole convoys of tour buses. This means increased wear and tear on roads that were already unsuitable for so much traffic, and that require more frequent maintenance if they are to be kept safe. Also, many Icelandic roads are not built for the volume of traffic that they are now experiencing. For instance, shoulders have been known to collapse when a tour bus has moved too far over to one side of a narrow road, in order to make way for an oncoming vehicle. Thankfully there have been no serious injuries to people under such circumstances, but there have been enough scares to make people stand up and pay attention.
A related problem that has been growing ever more serious is the limited experience of many folks when it comes to the driving conditions endemic to Iceland. I am speaking of driving in strong winds, winter driving, two-lane highways, gravel roads, and so on. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, there is increasing alarm among the Icelandic population concerning the number of Asian tourists who clearly have very little actual driving experience, yet who get behind the wheel of a car in Iceland and head out onto the roads. There are innumerable stories of Icelanders who have chanced upon Asian drivers who were, say, trying to push a car backwards out of a parking space because they did not know how to put the car in reverse. Amusing as these little anecdotes may be, they cease to be funny when you delve just below the surface. In many instances these folks’ motoring experience has primarily been in driving simulators and they have virtually no practice in driving on standard roads, much less roads that are more dangerous than the average. The number of accidents and traffic incidents involving such drivers has reached the point that the trend can no longer be ignored, and there have been calls for stricter regulations to make sure drivers of all nationalities are properly equipped for driving in Iceland.
So the road system definitely needs a major overhaul. However, that is not an undertaking that can be completed overnight, and besides, it is entirely open to debate whether we want all those roads improved. More on that later.
For now, at least, we must accept the sort of road system we have, and try our best to make our visitors aware of the main dangers and risks of motoring in Iceland, so that we can all stay safe.
Reasons for Iceland’s tourist boom
Housing market, health care system, law enforcement, search and rescue operations, and more
Touring Iceland, staying safe
The things to keep in mind while travelling in Iceland’s treacherous terrain
The most dangerous parts of Iceland? Its roads! Read our tips for staying safe
What they think of us
The things our visitors complain about
What we think of them
Tourist behaviours that really, seriously irk the Icelanders
Crazy stories of tourists in Iceland
Hahaha oh lord!
The environmental footprint
Depletion of natural resources, pollution, and the physical impact of tourism
The endless debate and what it entails
Can't we just all get along?
Tips for touring in harmony with the locals
The truth about those Iceland myths
Jailed bankers, believing in elves, the incest app, sleeping around … don’t believe everything you hear!
The hilarious questions we get
“What time do the northen lights come on?”
And so much more inside!
Do the right thing
Do you want to be a good tourist, travel safely and responsibily, and be in harmony with the locals? Then get your copy of The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland today!
About the author
Alda Sigmundsdóttir is a writer, and occasional journalist. She runs her own independent press, Little Books Publishing, based in Reykjavík, Iceland.
Alda is the author of ten books, each of which explores an aspect of Icelandic culture or society. Her two latest books, The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas and The Little Book of Days in Iceland, are about the Icelanders’ enthusiasm for the Yuletide season, and Iceland’s special seasonal events and holidays, respectively. Alda is active on social media, and may be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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