Nordic Network of Astrobiology

Nordic-Hawai'i Summer School "Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe", 2-15 July 2012

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Access to the summer school & Accommodation
For accommodation during the summer school, please check our Venue and Access page for information. For accommodation outside the summer school there are several cheap alternatives. The Youth hostels, romantically called "Farfuglaheimili" (Home of migratory birds) are comparatively cheap, clean and well-managed. Information and booking available via their homepage. Early booking is essential!

In Reykjavik there are 2 youth hostels. The main youth hostel "City hostel" is located at Laugardalur (address: Sundlaugavegur 34, IS-101 Reykjavik), where also our students will stay during the summer school. Bus 14 takes you from there to the centre, an outdoor swimming pool and a nice park are close by. The camp ground of Reykjavik is also close by. Another, brand new youth hostel "Downtown hostel" is right in the city centre.

Also Icelandic universities and boarding schools hire out their student's room in summer. These are then called Hotel Edda, and constitute a low-budget hotel accommodation. For ordinary hotel accommodation visit the web sites of the Icelandic Tourist Office or Reykjavik Tourist office.

Alcohol
Like many Nordic countries, Iceland implements a strict anti-alcohol policy. Liquor is only sold in state-run monopoly shops (Vinbudin) and served in licensed restaurants. If you buy liquor there, you might be asked for a piece of identity. Iceland is NOT member of the EU and therefore import of alcohol is very restricted also from EU states. Illegal import of liquor will lead to confiscation, heavy fines and/or criminal prosecutions.

There is a duty-free shop at Keflavik airport, but its price policy orients itself towards Icelandic customers used to high liquor prices.

Allergies
Due to the late onset of summer in Iceland, pollen allergies can still be a problem at the summer school. Mainly hay (starting around mid-June) and birch (starting late May) pollen could be abundant then. For up-to-date information check www.polleninfo.org and click on the Iceland map on the site.

Banks
Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 09:15-16:00. In the city centre of Reykjavik, many bank branches are located. There are no banking services at Hvolsvöllur. There are a lot of cash machines round the centre of Reykjavik, but not near the Youth Hostel.

Children
It is not recommended to bring children along to the summer school, for two reasons:

a) This is no family trip. We will walk on glaciers, embark on strenuous hikes and scramble over lava fields, areas really or potentially dangerous for children. Although kids will probably enjoy geysers and waterfalls, they will find the bus trips along winding Icelandic roads literally nauseating. Also, there is not much to do for children at Hvolsvöllur or near Grand Hotel during lectures.

b) Childcare in Iceland is expensive and since most babysitters will be on holiday during the summer school it will be difficult to obtain.

Climate
The Icelandic climate is more mild than its subarctic location suggests, but Iceland is not exactly Hawaii. Snowfalls in summer are not unheard of and the weather often changes rapidly. So clothes for every season should be brought with.

Icelandic summer is about like April in Central Europe (northern US) or March in Southern US. The weather changes rapidly, torrential rain can soon be followed by blazing sunshine. So one has to be prepared for everything.

The climate is dominated by two maritime currents. The Gulf stream and its northernmost branch, the Irminger stream, bring warm water, whereas the cold East Greenland stream and the East Iceland stream bring cold water (accompanied by cold air). This brings about the changeable weather in this country.

In July the daily average minimum temperature is 8 degrees (Celsius), whereas the average daily maximum is a sizzling 13 degrees. Average rainfall is 50 mm in this month, normally 10 rainy days are recorded in July (hopefully none under the summer school). Iceland is generally very windy.

Due to the Nordic Twilight it never will get dark in Iceland during the summer school. Some people might find it hard to sleep. If you have difficulties to fall asleep when it is bright bring a sleeping mask.

Aurorae (polar lights) cannot be seen in Iceland during the summer school (it is just too bright).

Clothing & Equipment
Clothing should be adapted to the notoriously changeable Icelandic weather (see "Climate" above). Rain showers can appear quite quickly seemingly out of nowhere, so it is wise to bring rain gear. To my (Wolf's) mind a good (really) waterproof jacket and below an Icelandic wool sweater is the best thing. Sweaters are sold as good prices at the Handknitting organisation of Iceland, The have an outlet in the Saga shop just opposite the University of Iceland inside Hotel Radissson and a well-stocked shop at Skólavörðustígur 19 with a larger choice. Since you buy directly from the producers, prices are very reasonable. Sturdy trousers are also a must, a sunhat and sunglasses are a good idea, especially for the glacier trip (The sun often stands at low elevation due to the high latitude)

For the excursion it is necessary to bring
  • good walking boots covering your ankles and with soles with a very good grip. Trainers are not a good idea, since you have to walk with crampons (provided by the organisers) on the glacier
  • gloves in the style of good work gloves or e-tip gloves are a must on lava fields since these are sharp and there is a great chance that one stumbles walking over them. No rubber (washing up)gloves, please, they are easily cut by the lava ! Strong gardening gloves are OK, but fairly clumsy in the long run
  • strong sunscreen, especially on the glacier trip + sunglasses
  • at the glacier waterprooof (over)trousers are an asset (Glaciers can be a wet affair in summer !)
  • backpack to pack lunches and samples
  • water bottle 1.5 litres at least
  • telescope walking sticks are also a good idea
  • strong trousers. No shorts on lava fields please ! Wounds inflicted through scratching by lava hurt strongly and take long to heal
Overalls and headlights for the lava cave trip and crampons and ice axes for the glacier are provided by the organisers. Please inform us if you are extraordinary tall or short, that we find gear for you. Also bring a strong sunscreen milk/lotion, the Icelandic air is very pure and solar irradiation is high, especially on glaciers where the UV light is reflected from the Ice. On top of that you are hit by sunlight almost round the clock. Sunglasses are also a good idea on glaciers.

Furthermore, since we will pass geothermal spas, it is wise to bring some bathing clothes (contrary to popular myths about Nordic Countries nude bathing is considered indecent and topless bathing by women is rarely seen)and a bath towel.

Surely, no dress code exists at the Summer school, but you might want to dress a bit smarter at the Farewell dinner.

Criminality
Generally, the level of criminality is very low in Iceland (apart from the crooks in the banking business, too many of them being still at large), but one should, nevertheless, be prudent: Pickpockets do operate also in Iceland.

Iceland is a fairly safe place for travellers. Sometimes fights arise during the traditional binge drinking sessions on Friday and Saturday evening in central Reykjavik, when Icelandic drinkers and tourist boozers congregate to compete who can get drunk quickest. It is advisable (especially for women) not to visit certain places where a lot of inebriated people gather.

Bank robberies are now virtually non-existent - it is not worth the trouble any more. Cheating tourists is also uncommon, although occasional rip-offs by taxi drivers have been reported.

Customs
Typical travel items like clothes, cameras, and similar personal goods normal for the purpose of your visit can be taken through customs in Iceland duty free, without having to be declared (= green customs line upon arrival in Iceland). Going through the green customs line is for travellers without anything to declare, but customs does random checks. Gifts can be taken to/from Iceland up to a value of ISK 10,000 (November 2008).

Iceland customs allows travellers to bring as much currency as they would like. There are no restrictions.

You are allowed to bring tobacco if you?re 18 or older. The allowable limit per adult is 200 cigarettes or 250 grams loose tobacco. Customs restricts the import of alcohol to Iceland by allowing adults of 20 years or older to bring 1 liter spirits + 1 liter wine or 1 liter spirits/wine + 6 liter beer or 2.25 liters wine into Iceland duty-free. (Categorizes spirits as beverages with at least 22% alcohol, wines with less than 22% alcohol).

Iceland allows travellers to bring personal prescription medicines (up to a 100 day supply) without a customs declaration. A formal doctor's note may be requested by Icelandic customs officials. Don't bring illegal drugs, prescription medicines not for personal use or in large quantities, weapons and ammunition, telephones (except mobile cell phones), plants, customized radioing and remote control items, fireworks, exotic animals, fishing gear, riding gear (includes clothing & gloves!), snuff tobacco. It is also wise not to bring food (Iceland is free from some agricultural pests) to avoid unnecessary hassle (and fines!) at the customs. If you bring boots or hiking shoes, make sure that they are clean.

Bringing pets to Iceland is subjected to very strict regulations including quarantines and is therefore discouraged. This also holds for fishing gear which must be disinfected before entering Iceland. Disinfection must be carried out by a veterinarian from the country of embarkation and a certificate of disinfection presented when transporting the equipment to Iceland. If a certificate cannot be obtained, the fishing equipment must be handed to customs officers upon entering the country for immediate disinfection at owner's expense (this procedure can be lengthy and expensive).

Information about Icelandic custom regulations can be found here. There is a duty-free shop at Keflavik Airport, but its price policy is oriented on the (quite elevated) Icelandic levels.

Travellers who reside abroad can claim a proportional VAT refund when shopping in Iceland. The refund is limited to purchases that are intended to be taken out of the country and amount to a minimum of ISK 4,000 (including VAT), made at a single point of sale.

Do´s and don'ts
Icelanders are generally very informal and therefore there are not a lot of customs to be obeyed. There are, of course some peculiarities of the country. Icelanders use to address themselves by their forenames. It is not unusual to ask people for their family (in such a small country family ties are important).

Equality is important to Icelanders, even government secretaries sometimes answer their phones themselves. The prime minister is listed in the phone book !Titles are unimportant, do not expect to be addressed as "Doctor" or "Professor". Also, one should be careful to talk a lot of one's house, professional achievements, career etc., this can be regarded as boasting, which is considered very bad manners.

One thing foreigners get wrong that tends to irritate Icelanders is to enter the pools in spas/public baths without showering. In many public baths, it is mandatory to take a shower before entering the pool. This is due to the fact that the water in Icelandic spas is generally not chlorinated. If you want to sneak to the pool without showering, the bath guard will remind you to take a shower in a very direct manner.

Generally, long-term planning is frowned upon in Iceland. Thus, sometimes things seem to be very unorganised, especially e-mails are answered only with great reluctance. If you then phone, you might just be asked to write another e-mail. This procedure can then be repeated several times.

Some Icelanders believe in the existence of elves, trolls, ghosts and hidden people. It is wise not to ridicule this. Also the recent financial crisis and the roles of Icelandic banks and politicians in it is a conversation subject better to avoid. Many Icelanders are fed up with that subject.

Driving in Iceland
is more challenging than you might think. Awkward weather conditions, unpaved roads, fords and narrow bridges are features, which foreign drivers often unused to. Sheep pose another hazard, especially when an ewe and a lamb happen to be on different sides of the road. Upon a car approaching, the lamb will cross the road suddenly to join its mother.

The Icelandic Road Directorate issues a video and a brochure about driving in Iceland, which can be downloaded here. It is vital that you follow the given instructions meticulously. If roads are signposted 'Four wheel drive only', do not attempt to go on them with ordinary cars (your insurance does not cover eventual damage then). Also there is no coverage for water damages followed by crossing of rivers (which may swell a lot after rainfalls). Please note that many car hire companies do not allow you to go into the inland with ordinary cars.

Always take an insurance for your rented car. Drink-driving is an absolute "must not". If you caught with alcohol in your blood driving a car you immediately lose your licence. A heavy fine or a prison sentence will also be imposed.

Speed limit is 50 km/h in town, and 90 km/h in the countryside on paved roads, as well as 80 km/h outside towns on unpaid roads. Seat belts must be worn both on front and back seats.

Often petrol stations are unmanned and operate with credit cards. In inner Iceland petrol stations are very rare.

Electricity
Iceland uses 220 Volts AC,m, 50 Hz frequency (like continental Europe). Also plugs are continental safety plugs (like those used in France and Germany). Never attempt to connect any electrical device not explicitly specified by the manufacturers for 220 V AC to Icelandic sockets!

Emergency
The emergency phone number in Iceland is 112. Please note that you might have to dial an extra number before if you call from your hotel room. The police is called Lögreglu.

Food
Basic diet is fish, lamb and mutton. Icelandic food is generally of high quality, mass animal husbandry is less known than in other places. Traditional desert is skyr, which tastes somewhat like yoghurt, but is actually a kind of cheese. Please note that, diue to the northern latitude and the strong traditions in Icelandic cuisine, dietary requirements are more difficult to meet than in other countries.

There are some horror stories about Icelandic food, which are to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, some unusual dishes exist, like hakarl (rotten shark), ram's testicles or burned sheep's head (svid). Whale meat and puffin meat are items still found at Icelandic menus.

Icelandic restaurants tend to be expensive, but also the international hamburger/hot dog/kebab cuisine has a stronghold in central Reykjavik. Since the ban on beer was lifted in Iceland some good micro breweries have been established in Iceland, like Ölvisholt. More common brands are Viking and Gull. The most common strong drink is the Brennivín, nicknamed "Black death", a potato vodka spiced with carraway seeds.

Health issues
For European visitors who fall ill or have an accident, free or reduced-cost treatment is available ? in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC gives access to state-provided medical treatment only. Note that the EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.

US visitors and those of other countries: Please check with your health insurance company in your home country for information about coverage. Icelandic healthcare is expensive if you are not insured!

Drinking tap water is generally safe in Iceland. However, you might encounter bacteria your immune system is not used to, which can leads to milder stomach ailments. Very sensitive people might therefore prefer drinking bottled water.

Since we are engaging in activities, where risk of injuries cannot be neglected, you should be vaccinated against tetanus. Iceland is reported to be free of rabies. Detailed information about infectious diseases in Iceland is found at the relevant web site of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Please note: Some medication which is sold over the counter in other countries might require a prescription or even be illegal in Iceland. The former includes contraceptives! If you are required to take some drugs with you, bring a written confirmation of your doctor and take the red line at the customs (to avoid problems).

Medical help
Medical help is available from Health Centers at weekdays 9-18. Outside this time you have to ho to Laeknavaktín, Smáratorg in Kópavogur, which is open outside that times. Information about dentists on duty can be obtained by calling 575-0505. The pharmacy Lyfja at Lágmuli 7 is open 24 hours a day, phone 523-2300. In case of emergency call 112. There is a pharmacy on the main ring road (Number 1) at Hvolsvöllur.

Immigration & Visa requirements
As of 25 March 2001, Iceland is an associate member of the Schengen agreement which exempts travellers from regular personal border controls between 13 European Union (EU) countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) and two European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Norway and Iceland). People living in Great Britain and Ireland are subject to personal border controls upon entry to Iceland. Border controls can, however be imposed on travellers from all states (this happens sometimes before football matches).

A valid passport is necessary for visitors to Iceland, except for citizens of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Citizens of the following countries may enter Iceland using, instead of passports, national identity-cards issued by the competent authorities in their countries of origin: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But also for citizens of those states it is highly recommended to take a passport with them.

Visitors from many countries are exempted from tourist visa requirements. See further information here. For further information contact a local Icelandic Embassy, local Consulate (see a list here) or the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration (E-mail: utl@utl.is).

Please note that handling times for visa applications might be long. For practical reasons, visas to Iceland are, in some countries, issued by diplomatic missions from the US, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Italy or the Netherlands, depending on the country where the applicant is located. Please check with the Icelandic embassy responsible for your country before application to avoid delays.

Internet access
At all summer school hotels free Internet access will be provided (in absence of technical difficulties). In the Laugardalur Youth hostel free wireless is available in the lobby, the same holds for Grand Hotel and Hotel Hvolsvöllur. On top of that, there are many Internet cafes in Iceland. Sometimes you are allowed to use the Web free for a limited time at Tourist Office. This is the case at Reykjavik Tourist Information, which is located just beside Hotel Plaza.

Language
Icelandic belongs to the Northern Germanic Languages. However, it is more close to Old Norse than to modern Danish, Swedish and Norwegian (but closely related to Faeroean). It has a fairly difficult grammar, which resembles more the German one than the grammar of continental Nordic Languages (four cases, three genders, strong and weak nouns and verbs). Icelandic has four letters which are not used in English: Ð,ð (similar to th in gather), Þ,þ (similar to th in thirsty), Æ,æ (like i in like) and Ö,ö (similar to u in fur). Except for æ and ö, each vowel letter appears in two forms, with or without an accent mark: a, á, e, é, i, í, o, ó, u, ú and y, ý. However, the accent mark does not mean that the vowel is stressed, but marks it as different in quality. Á is pronounced like ow in "cow", whereas au is somewhat similar to ö and ó like ow in "low".Double l is pronounced "dl" like the Viennese "Meidlinger l". The title of our summer school is "Vatn, ís og uppruni lífs í alheimi?".

Icelanders are also not very inclined to use foreign words and make an effort to translate words coming from abroad. A computer is called a "tölva", the internet "vef", thetelephone "simi", the police "lögreglu" and the electricy "rafmagn". Further information about the Icelandic language can be found here.

Laundry facilities
This has for long a slightly problematic issue. To wash your clothes yourself, you can go to the cellar of the City Youth Hostel (Sundlaugavegur 34, Reykjavik), where students are located. There are 2 washing machines, washing costs around ISK 500,- and use of the tumble-dryer the same amount. The new youth hostel "Downtown hostel" at Vesturvegur does not provide washing facilities.

There is now a café in Austurstraeti 9 in central Reykjavik (the "Laundromat Café" that offers laundry facilities (3 washing machines). There you can have a drink while your washing gets ready.

Hotel Hvolsvöllur has offered to do laundry for us (ISK 2500,- per bag). Waiting times depend on the workload of the staff and machine availability.

Legal issues
Icelandic law applies for and throughout the summer school. The Icelandic Police is fairly liberal, but alcohol and drug related offences are treated harshly. Drink-driving is severely punished. Heavy fines can also be imposed for speeding with vehicles. If arrested, ask to speak to your embassy or your consular office.

Lost and found
There is a lost and found office at Borgartún 33, near Hlemmur bus terminal.

Meals
Breakfast will be served at the place where you live. Lunches will be at Grand Hotel (Reykjavik) and Hotel Hvolsvöllur in Hvolsvöllur. There are three exceptions:
  • At excursions (Reykjanes Landmannalaugur, Fimmvörduhals and Solheimajökull) packed lunches will be taken with us.
  • On July 7th we will eat lunch at the Gullfoss Cafe on the way to Hvolsvöllur
  • On July 14th lunch will be served at the Dill Restaurant in the Nordic House close to the Askja building
Dinners are served at Grand hotel in Reykjavik and the Hvolsvöllur hotel in Hvolsvöllur. Again, there are some exceptions:
  • On July 1st we will have a buffet dinner for all at the Laugardalur Youth Hostel.
  • On July 5th we will have a Viking dinner after the excursion at Fjörukráin restaurant
  • On July 6th dinner will be served at Cafe Flora in the Botanical Garden
  • On July 7th we will have a dinner at the Saga Centre restaurant
  • in Hvolsvöllur(opposite Hvolsvöllur hotel)
  • On July 13th we will eat dinner at the Kjót og Kunst Restaurant restaurant in Hveragerdi on the way back from Hvolsvöllur
  • On July 14th dinner will be served at the Dill Restaurant in the Nordic House close to the Askja building
  • The farewell dinner at July 15th will be at Perlan Restaurant in Reykjavik
Money
The currency is the Icelandic krona (plural kronur), ISK. There is no sub-unit. Coins with face values of ISK 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 and notes with denominations of ISK 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 exist. Pictures of valid Icelandic coins and notes can be found here. At the moment (November 2011) 1 Euro equals around ISK 155,- 1 US$ ISK 115,- and 1 UK£ ISK 185,-. It is still difficult to make predictions of any exchange rates due to the financial crisis. The Icelandic Crown is still not fully convertible.

It is usually more economical to change money in Iceland than to buy Icelandic kronur abroad (due to larger commissions and less favourable rates for a comparatively 'exotic' currency).

Credit cards are widely used in Iceland, but sometimes smaller places refuse to take cards. The most common ones are VISA and MasterCard. Cash can be obtained with these cards at ATM machines. MasterCard is the agent for Diners Club. In case of stolen card you can block them by ringing the following numbers: 800-8111 for Amex, 525-2000 for VISA and 533-1400 for MasterCard/Diners.

The use of traveller cheques as payments is much less common than in the US. Lost travellers cheques have to be reported under the UK number 0044-173-571600.

Cash machines are very abundant in Reykjavik. Please note: There are no cash machines or banking services at Hrauneyjar.

Iceland is still (despite the claims of the tourist industry) an expensive country, and especially alcoholic drinks and cigarettes are very pricy. Nevertheless, one could use the summer school to restrict/quit these vices...

Nordic twilight
Iceland lies (with exception of the northern part of the island Grimsey) and the uninhabited rock Kolbeinsey south of the Arctic circle. That means no midnight sun, but it does not get dark during the summer school. On 2nd July the sun sets at 23:55 and rises again at 03:07 in Reykjavik, dusk goes directly over to dawn.

Nuisances
There are no venomous snakes or scorpions in Iceland. Also msquitoes are not found. Black flies, however, are present, but less of a nuisance than in Newealand or Northern Canada. Nevertheless it is a good idea to bring some insect repellent.

Tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme Borreolosis, has, to the best of our knowledge, not been observed in Iceland. Polar bears sometimes come to Iceland on drift ice (not often during summer) and mostly "visit" the North coast. They pose a great danger, warnings about polar bears should be taken very seriously.

Sometimes loud drinkers (not always only Icelanders) can be annoying, also tarmac cowboys which drive around loudly with motorbikes or US cars from the 50s. Women are advised to say away from places where a lot of these people gather for drinking.

Opening hours
Shop opening hours differ quite a lot in Iceland, but are generally quite long in the summer. Book stores can open until 22.00. Banks usually open Monday to Friday 09:15-16:00.

Pharmacies
Pharmacies are called "Apótek" in Iceland. Their offers are quite varied, most sell also a lot of cosmetics. One even has been known to offer Christmas tree decorations. The pharmacy Lyfja at Lágmuli 7 is open 24 hours a day, phone 523-2300. Please note: the place called "Apótek" at Austurstraeti is a restaurant. There is also a pharmacy on the main (Number 1) road at Hvolsvöllur.

Police
Police is called "Lögreglan" in Iceland. Icelandic police wears black uniforms. Their headquarter is at Hverfisgata 113 (opposite the Hlemmur bus terminal), IS-101, Reykjavik. In non-emergency cases (reports of thefts etc.) call 444-1000. In case of emergency 112.

Post and post offices
Information about the postal service in Iceland are found here. In Reykjavik, the central post office is at Pósthússtræti 5, 101 Reykjavík, It is open weekdays from 9-18. Due to the smallness of the population, Icelandic postal numbers have only 3 digits. At Hvolsvöllur there is a post office at Austurvegur 4A. It opens Monday to Friday 10:00-16:00. A 20g priority letter costs ISK 97,- within Iceland, to Europe ISK 165,- and to other destinations ISK 220,-.

Poster session
The poster session will be held on Tuesday, 3 July 2012 and Wednesday 4 July 18:30-20:30 at the Gullteigur room on the ground floor. A buffet dinner will be served then. Posters can be put up from Tuesday 3 July lunchtime on. Please remove the posters on 5th July in the morning at the latest.

Poster boards are white and have a width of 95 cm as well as a length of 1.80 m.

Public Holidays
Public holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Easter (Thursday through Monday), First Day of Summer (usually the third Thursday in April), Labour Day (1 May), Ascension Day, Whitsunday and Whit monday, National Day (17 June), Merchants' Holiday (first Monday in August), and Christmas (24-26 December).

Religion
Most Icelanders are (Lutheran) protestants, but through immigration and seasonal workers other religious groups have been growing (at least until the financial ctisis). Therefore it is no problem to attend protestant services. Information about the Roman Catholic Church in Iceland can be found here. There is also a very small Jewish community in Iceland. The web site of the Icelandic Muslim Society can be found here.

The ancient Nordic Pagan religion (Ásatrú) is practiced by a few Icelanders.

Registration
Information about registration procedures will appear here in due course.

Safety issues
Some of the excursions can be dangerous. They involve scrambling over lava fields, hiking over glaciers and strenuous walks. To take part in the summer school you should be of reasonable fitness. If you have any disability, please contact the organisers beforehand for information.

Hot spring areas can be dangerous, since the springs can develop crusts, which look like fast ground, but do not support your weight. Avoid any areas where the grass has died (they might contain emerging hot springs). Hot spring areas are very dynamic, the spot where you picnicked last year, might be bubbling with hot water now.

As equipment you should bring warm, rainproof clothes (Icelandic summers can be chilly), walking boots. Please ask a good outdoor store for advice.

Needless to say, you are required to follow the instructions of the course/excursion leaders. The organisers explicitly reserve the right to exclude participants from activities due to insufficient equipment/lacking state of fitness and/or careless or reckless behaviour.

Shopping
As mentioned, Iceland still is an expensive country and it is therefore advisable to go for some high quality stuff.

One thing that can be recommended are Icelandic wool sweaters. The best choice is to buy them from the producers themselves, namely from the Icelandic Handknitting Association. They have 3 shops in Reykjavik, the largest choice being found at Skólavörðustígur 19. Opening hours can be found here.

Iceland has become a hub of design and modern art, the best shops being found at Laugarvegur and the upper half of Skólavörðustígur. The tourist traps around Austurstraeti are, however, best to be avoided (there are exceptions also there).

Fish products might be a good choice, but note that some restrictions of food imports may apply in your home country.

Tourists who reside abroad can claim a proportional VAT refund when shopping in Iceland. The refund is limited to purchases that are intended to be taken out of the country and amount to a minimum of ISK 4,000 (including VAT), made at a single point of sale. The store personnel will fill out the necessary Tax Refund Cheque. The cheque and the purchased goods must be produced and made available for inspection on departure no later than 3 months after purchase. Given the high rate of VAT, tax-free shopping is a good idea. Unfortunately Nordic citizens and people with permanent residence in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are excluded from tax-free refunds.

When departing from Keflavik Airport the Tax Refund Cheque can be cashed in the currency of choice. The office is located in the departure hall after the security check. PLease note that there are ofen long queues there. Also refund to credit cards is possible.

Since VAT is high in Iceland, taking advantage of this possibility is advisable.

Sightseeing
Due to the dense programme, longer sightseeing trips are not possible. If you have some time to spare, the following places can be recommended: The Settlement exhibition in Reykjavik at Aðalstræti 16 (entrance free, open daily 09:00-17:00) and the Icelandic National Museum (open daily 10:00-17:00, free on Wednesdays). The view from Hallgrimskirkja is very nice, one can mount the tower for a small fee. Open daily from 09:00 to 17:00. Art lovers will be enchanted by the peculiar Àsmundur Sveinsson museum and the different art galleries in central Reykjavik. Unfortunately, however, entrance to art galleries generally is not free anymore in Iceland (although a cheap combination ticket forseveral of those in Reykjavik exists).

Telephone
The country code for Iceland is 354. There are no area codes in iceland, just dial the subscriber's number after the country code. In Icelandic telephone books names are alphabetically sorted according to the given name. If the person you are looking for has a very common name, it is best to know her/his address, it might be a Herculean task to find the right Jón Guðmundsson or Sigrun Þorsteinsdóttir in Reykjavik.

To telephone out from Iceland, dial 00 and the country code, so 0049 for Germany and 001 for the US.

There are 2 main operators for mobile phones: Vodafone and GSM. Iceland has the highest per capital mobile phone use in the world with GSM networks and there are roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies. Iceland Telecom rents mobile phones to visitors. Prepaid calling cards for public phones and GSM are available at post offices around the country. In Reykjavik, phone booths exist at Austurvöllur telegraph office (neear the Parliament). For operator assistance ring 115, for phone number enquiries 114. You can make international collect calls by dialing 800-80-50.

Tipping
In restaurants, service is already included in the price. Tipping is much less common than in the US and the rest of Europe.

Tourist information
For tourist information about Iceland check the site of the Icelandic tourist office. Information about the City of Reykjavik can be found here.

The Reykjavik tourist office is located at Adalstraeti 2, 101 Reykjavik. Contact details: Tel. +354 590 1550 - Fax +354 590 1501 - E-mail: info@visitreykjavik.is

Travel
Please check our Venue and Access page for information on this subject.

Weights and measures
Iceland uses the metric system, Sometimes Icelanders use the word pound for 0.5 kg.

Disclaimer
All the information given above is to the best of our knowledge. However, we cannot accept any liability for inadvertently false or incomplete information on this site.

Contact: Wolf D. Geppert, Fysikum, Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 21, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden, phone: +46 8 5537 8649, email: wgeppert@fysik.su.se