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Islands of the North Atlantic Trip report

Travel notes

In no particular order (but perhaps I’ll get around to making them vaguely chronological):

  • The Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong airport has power points, of course, but they’re all English plugs. Australian plugs and European plug converters are no help. On the plus side, they also have USB chargers, and we had sufficient cables for those to do the job. Problem for laptops. Reception has universal adaptor plugs.
  • Iceland does not have on/off ramps or merge lanes at intersections, even onto the ring road, highway one. This is not an issue in practice, because national top speed is 90km/h and traffic is light enough that you can just manouvre at will and won’t get in anyone’s way.
  • Most of the roads in Iceland have been constructed causeway-style, and so are up to a metre above the surrounding ground level. There are no shoulders. So pulling off (say, to take a picture or observe a view) has to be coordinated with finding a specially constructed pull-off space, at road level.
  • Since 2016, Diesel engines sold in Europe have been required to perform a post-burn exhaust cleaning chemistry, which consumes a substance euphemistically named AdBlu. By regulation, if you run out of this, the car won’t start. Don’t run out. Some petrol stations (the ones with shops) sell it. Many don’t, because Europe also has plenty of small, card-only automated stations, with no shop.
  • Telstra’s International Roaming doesn’t work (at all) in the Faroe Islands. It works, but you can’t get a capped data package in Iceland, so be very careful. As both Dad and I discovered, modern mobile data rates allow you to run up phone bills of hundreds of dollars in minutes. Mobile data off in Iceland: WiFi only.
  • I didn’t visit a country on this trip where I could access my NAB bank account from an ATM, to withdraw cash. That had been my usual and preferred approach to getting local currency. Cash advances against the VISA card were reliable though.
  • Most of the trip was card-only: hardly any cash required. Croatia was essentially cash-only, including the taxi from the airport. Even one of the accommodation stops wanted a cash payment, which meant finding an ATM.
  • Neither Svalbard nor Croatia are in the Schengen Area, so there was quite a bit more passport stamping activity than usual.
  • Frankfurt Airport is not a nice place to be, even if you’re in a lounge. Avoid going there.
  • We expected the small airports at the Faroes and Svalbard to have walk-across-the-tarmac boarding, and they do. We hadn’t expected it at the big airports, but it has been more common than air bridges on this trip. Seems that either airlines are cutting costs by not paying for air bridge access, or the airports are just too busy to give every flight an air bridge gate (or both). At the larger airports tarmac boarding or arrival was usually acompanied by squeezing onto busses, to get across most of the tarmac, but not always. Not much of a premium experience when you have to schlep your carry-on down stair wells, on and off busses and then up a staircase in the rain (and the reverse at the other end). See above about Frankfurt Airport.
  • Different countries do bathroom tapware and shower plumbing differently. Often takes a bit of experimentation and care.
  • Sheep beside roads are unpredictable. Sometimes they run away. Sometimes they run towards, or dart across the road at the last minute. Sometimes they stand still and glare at you. Be careful.
  • I still don’t know why the pull-out places on narrow roads and tunnels are labelled “M”. Must look that up.

One reply on “Travel notes”

Thank you so much for your expert travel organisation, Cath – where to go and where to stay – and for your car organisation Andrew – navigating and all that safe driving. It was a wonderful holiday.

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