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Speeding tickets in Iceland!!
The maximum speed limit on Icelandic roads is 90 km/h on paved roads. On gravel roads the speed limit is 80 km/h. There are some risk factors on Icelandic roads like unexpected animals, especially sheep, a lot of single lane bridges (einbreið brú) and gravel roads. The fine for speeding is really high and you will be expected, if stopped by the police, to give them your credit/debit-card and pay on the spot.
Here is the fine (2010) for speeding where the maximum speed limit is 90 km/h:
96-100 - ISK 10.000
101-111 - ISK 30.000/50.000
121/131 - ISK 70.000/90.000
141-151 - ISK 130.000/140.000 and loss of licence 2 weeks.
161 km/h ISK 150.000 and loss of licence 3 months.
If you are not stopped by the police, but get caught in their radar or get your photo taken by the police cameras you will get the fine sent home. If you pay the fine within 30 days you get a 25% discount. The Icelandic word for the police cameras on the roads is "löggæslumyndavélar".
Note that the Blönduós-police is especially vigilant. So if you see this car (photo added) chasing you you might be in for some trouble.
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Dangerous waves by Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara.
I refer to my tip on Dyrhólaey on the South-coast of Iceland, but put this warning here as well.
Please note that the shore at Reynisfjara is very dangerous, people have lost their lives there, including one American tourist in 2007 as the waves can suck you out to sea and there is nothing to be done if that happens. Be careful not to go close to the ocean, this is the Atlantic ocean and the suction of the waves at this particular shore is powerful and treacherous. And there is no pattern in the waves there, one never knows where the next wave is going to come ashore.
People have been climbing in the basalt rocks and putting up tents in a cave in the rocks there and on the shore by Dyrhólaey. There is no waking up after that. There were no danger signs there and there was so much controversy over that as the land-owners didn't want to pay for the danger signs as they gain nothing from the tourists visiting their land. The land-owners were even talking about closing Reynisfjara (on the news 24.07.08). Reykjavík Excursions promised to put up a big danger sign at Reynisfjara (on the news 14.09.08). Again some tourists had a close call there in August 2009.
Finally dangers signs were put up.
But even though there are now danger signs there on 20.06.13 a tourist tried swimming in the dangerous ocean and was in trouble there for half an hour. He finally was able to get on shore by Hálsanefshellir cave and was stuck there and had to be resqued by the resque team and a helicopter.
And in August 2013 there was a storm in Iceland and there were big scary waves in Reynisfjara. Tourists were watching the waves, when a 4-5 year old girl, who was there with her father and sister, ran towards the ocean. She got as close to the ocean as possible, but as fate has it, the ocean retreated and she got saved. Had the ocean not retreated she would have been sucked out into the ocean and have been drowned. It was only a matter of minutes between life and death. A police-man and a tour-guide, Páll Jónsson, who was on the beach, was able to grab the girl before the waves would grab her. I got so angry when I read this on the news, why don´t people read the warning signs and put their children and themselves in danger!!!
There are hundreds and hundreds of sheep all over the country, and many of them are very close to the roads. I'd like to advice you that you always must drive carefully in case the sheep jump into the road. I didn't have problems, but just in case: "Better safe than sorry", and of course, don't be obssesed anyway.
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Don't get Geysir in your face!
I refer to my tip on Geysir-Strokkur.
Take care that this is a high temperature geothermal area and stay within the boundaries and don't touch the water as it is HOT. And never go within the boundaries of Geysir itself as it used to erupt about 3-5 times per day about 10 metres in the air. Before it erupted thuds could be heard. I have seen people walking straight up to Geysir and looking into it!! This is extremely dangerous and in December 2008 a British couple was in grave danger and had to run away from Geysir as it was erupting. The original Geysir has now stopped erupting again.
There aren't enough warning signs there and people cross the boundaries as they are not high enough, so tourists might not realize how extremely dangerous this is. Every year people get injured by the hot water. In September 2010 the boundaries/ropes were put higher up so that there should not be any confusion anymore as to where it is allowed to walk in the Geysir area.
In August 2010 a 2-year-old Spanish girl got injured close to Strokkur. She fell over the rope where the run-off water from Strokkur runs and got burnt in the face and on her hands. Small children should always be carried by their parents in this geothermal area.
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Polar bears in Iceland.
Polar bears are not common here in Iceland, but stray ones visit us from time to time. They come here from Greenland on icebergs and swim ashore. On January 27, 2010 one polar-bear came ashore in Þistilfjörður in N-E Iceland. In 2008 two of them came ashore in June in North-Iceland (Skagafjörður). A polar bear was spotted in Hornstrandir in West-Iceland in May 2011. It was shot. The last polar bear we know of before that time was in June 1993 when sea-men killed a polar bear which was swimming in the ocean close to shore, so we got quite startled and were not prepared for this. The last polar bear on-shore was spotted in 1988 in Skagafjörður i.e. twenty years earlier than the 2 from last year. And 2 were spotted in 1986.
Polar bears are an endangered species, but we have to kill polar bears which come ashore. I know this causes a lot of controversy, but better kill them than they kill us. These are not cuddly little teddy bears but dangerous, unpredictable carnivores. If we were to drive them into the ocean again then they could go ashore at another place in Iceland, so that is not an option. Catching them and sending them back to Greenland is not an option either due to contagious animal diseases. So what is the option??
I add this as a danger here as it seems that due to Global warming more polar bears are coming to Iceland. There were people camping in the nature close to where a polar bear was spotted so I would advise you not to camp just anywhere so far up north in Iceland, but stick to the camping sites.
From the settlement of Iceland ca 600 polar bears have been spotted in Iceland. The oldest source is from 890 when the settler Ingimundur gamli (Ingimundur the Old) spotted a polar bear with two cubs in Húnavatnssýsla (the Icelandic name for a cub is "húnn" and for a polar bear is "ísbjörn"). So if you hear somebody yelling: "Ísbjörn" - then don´t start running...
The pictures I have added are from a stuffed polar bear in the tourist store by Geysir. One of the polar bears killed lasts year is on display in Blönduós and the other one is on display at The District museum in Sauðárkrókur.
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Volcanic activity in Iceland.
There is volcanic activity in ca 25% of the square measure of Iceland. There are 30 volcanic systems so it is self-evident that it is dangerous living on this island. Each of these 30 volcanic systems have more than one volcano. And there are ca 30 volcanic eruption each century, the latest one started on 21st of May 2011 in Grimsvotn in Vatnajokull glacier, which is the largest glacier in Europe. In 2010 there were 2 volcanic eruptions in Mýrdalsjökull and in Eyjafjallajökull in South-Iceland which caused chaos in Europe with all the airports closing. In the 20th and 21st century there have been 41 volcanic eruptions!
We never know where the next volcano is going to erupt and I can tell you that there are so many lava fields in Iceland that one hardly realises from which volcano the particular lava field originated.
Our seismologists monitor these volcans so we get to know beforehand if there is any seismic activity underground. It is important to listen to the news before travelling somewhere just in case seismic activity has been detected in that particular area. The latest technology is helping us with locating travellers in Iceland and if an eruption should start in a specific area then all the travellers there will get an SMS with: "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE" or "Start running NOW" or something like that.
I have been asked about this sign by ring-road 1 in South-Iceland, ca 20 minutes´outside of Reykjavík going east.
It is only written on Icelandic so I understand that visitors driving by don´t understand what it is about and might think that something happened here. Here are the wrecks of 2 cars damaged in traffic accidents - on the sign is written how many people have been killed this year (every year) in car crashes in Iceland.
On the sign it says "x látnir á árinu" meaning x killed this year. And "Eru beltin spennt?" meaning Have you buckled up? Let´s remember that the speed limit on the high-way in Iceland is only 90 k/h, I know that many people aren´t aware of that.
The man in charge of changing the number on the sign says it is a lousy job and that it is not easy going there after each fatal car accident, changing the number of more people killed on the roads in Iceland.
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Warning signs in Icelandic.
There are several traffic signs and warning signs which are only in Icelandic. I have added a few of them in other tips like "Einbreið brú" meaning "One lane bridge" and "Malarvegur" meaning "Gravel road".
Here are a couple of others:
"Nema strætó" means "Bus only".
"Varúð - vinnusvæði" means "danger - construction area".
"Einkastæði" means "private parking".
"Lokað vegna snjóa" means "Road closed due to snow".
"Vinsamlegast stöðvið vél bifreiðarinnar v/útblásturs" goes without saying...
I will add more signs when I come across them.
When hiking in Iceland in the summer, you will often hike across large snowy surfaces.
Most of these have solid ground underneath, but some are situated over streams and creeks, forming ice bridges which grow thinner and thinner as summer progresses and the snow melts.
Remember that some streams carry ice-cold glacier water, and others carry scalding hot water from hot geothermal springs. Therefore, even in the same geographical area one ice bridge, bridiging over a cold water stream, may be thick and solid, and another one, bridging over a hot water stream, may be very thin and fragile.
Try to follow in the footsteps of previous hikers to minimize the risk.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Respect the weather conditions!
The Icelanders like to say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! In other words, if you are properly dressed and equipped the weather should not prevent you from whatever activity you are planning.
This is fine, but on the other hand some weather conditions make traveling hazardous, and you should always heed what the locals say. The photo shows a monument to a young hiker who perished in a snow blizzard in June on the Laugavegur trek, just a short distance before the Hrafntinnusker hut, where he would have found shelter.
So, before embarking on a hike or a trek ask the locals about the weather conditions and forecast, and make sure it is safe to go.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
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Let´s not add to the cairns.
There are stone cairns in many places in Iceland. They are there of course on purpose and were raised in the olden times to mark the way for travellers.
In the last few years visitors in Iceland have started adding to the cairns or making new ones. I don´t know what this is about - maybe it is a "I was here" thing, well, for sure that is what it is. But this can be dangerous as these cairns are here to lead the way in the highlands and where ever they have been placed. Let´s keep this in mind - I know nobody does this to mislead other travellers, I think this is just an act of mindlessness.
There are also places in Iceland, like by Gullfoss waterfall, where a lot of small cairns have been erected by visitors. Let´s not destroy nature, with time this has started to look very out of place, to say the least.
On the other hand there is one place in Iceland where it is expected to erect a small cairn before going further - maybe you can find that tip, it is here in my Iceland "things to do" tips.
In the olden times it was quite common to leave messages inside the cairns - some of them were vulgar poems, I guess men have been men since time began.
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Don't go unaccompanied on the glaciers.
In Iceland there are lot of glaciers and there are several agencies which offer guided tours on the glaciers. Only last night (14.02.10) one agency took a group on a tour on Langjökull glacier despite a really bad weather forecast with -10 degrees C and wind of 18-20 meters/second. Two people, a Scottish woman and her 12 year old son, got seperated from the group and our resque team (300 people) had to go look for them. Fortunately they were found alive.
At the beginning of February 2010 a woman with whom I went to college, and her 7 year old son, fell down a chasm on this same glacier, Langjökull. She was killed, but her son survived. The Icelandic resque team resqued him. These people were Icelanders in a group of Icelandic people going on a tour on the glacier.
In November 2011 a Swedish young man was found dead after having gone alone on a trip on Sólheimajökull glacier. The Icelandic resque team (500 people doing voluntary work) looked for him for 2 days.
So you can see the risk in going there, even if you are with an organized group always check out the weather forecast for yourself, there is now investigation into why this agency went on this tour despite the bad weather forecast. I add the link to the Icelandic weather-forecast on-line.
And of course this website Save travel is a must read before coming to Iceland.
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Lava covered in moss or snow.
Many parts of Iceland are covered in lava, including areas very close to Reykjavík, and these areas are dangerous to walk in as moss covers lava like a soft blanket. The moss covers up holes and small fissures and one can fall in or hurt ones feet if not treading with caution there. The same goes for when these lava fields are covered in snow (see my photos). In March 2010 one woman fell into a fissure covered in snow close to Reykjavík. Her friend was able to call 112, our emergy number, and she was resqued out of the fissure.
The lava can take on very strange forms as you can see from my photos, where one lava formation looks like a witch or what we call Grýla (the mother of the Yule-lads). This photo is taken close to Þingvellir and the snow-lava photos are taken in Grímsnes, S-Iceland, close to Kerið (see my tip).
The Icelandic name for lava is "hraun".
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Dangerous sulphur fumes from mud-pools.
There are many mud-pools and fumaroles in Iceland. Take care while visiting them as the sulphur fumes can overwhelm you at times there, especially when the wind is strong. Try to stay up wind as this can be toxic and can give you a bad headache and nausea. One time I visited the wind was so strong that I got the fumes in my face and I was ill for days. I refer to my tips on Mt. Námafjall by Mývatn in N-Iceland. Too much of the fumes can be deadly, f.ex. when there is a volcanic eruption underneath a glacier and there is a glacier-burst. If that happens run for your life and don't ever get too close a glacier-burst because of the fumes.
The sulphur can also damage telecommunication equipments, cameras and the computer equipment of cars by oxidising stuff that is encoated with silver and platinum. So keep those things away from the fumes.
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One-lane bridges in Iceland - Einbreið brú.
There are many, many one-lane bridges in Iceland. They are called "EINBREIÐ BRÚ" in Icelandic, learn these 2 words as you will encounter them so many times while travelling in Iceland. When you see this sign slow down and show caution before crossing the bridge and preferably wait if there is a car coming your way. But the rule is that the car which arrives first at the bridge has the right of way. Some of these bridges are quite long, but most of them are short.
I have heard that bicyclists have a hard time on the one-lane bridges here in Iceland as the cars don't give way.
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