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American Express -- There is no American Express office in Iceland. To wire money, use Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com). The money shows up at branches of Iceland's largest bank, Landsbankinn.

Business Hours -- Banks are generally open Monday through Friday 9:15am to 4pm. Shopping hours are generally Monday through Friday from 9 or 10am to 6pm, and Saturday from 10am to early afternoon. Supermarkets and gas station convenience stores are open longer. Reykjavík and Akureyri have 24-hour markets. Hours for museums and sights are highly irregular.

Country Code -- The country code for phone calls to Iceland is 354.

Electricity -- Iceland uses 220 Volts, 50 Hz AC, the European standard, and plugs have two round prongs.

Embassies & Consulates -- U.S. Embassy, Laufásvegur 21, Reykjavík (tel. 562-9100; www.usa.is; Mon-Fri 8am-5pm).

Canadian Embassy, Túngata 14, Reykjavík (tel. 575-6500; www.canada.is; Mon-Fri 9am-noon).

British Embassy, Laufásvegur 31, Reykjavík (tel. 550-5100; www.britishembassy.is; Mon-Fri 9am-noon).

Republic of Ireland Honorary Consulate, Ásbuð 106, Garðabær, near Reykjavík (tel. 554-2355).

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Iceland. Services for Australian citizens in Iceland are handled through Sweden's Australian consulate, Sergels Torg 12, Stockholm (tel. 46/8-613-2900; www.sweden.embassy.gov.au).

New Zealand does not have an embassy in Iceland; the nearest is in the Hague in the Netherlands at Carnegielaan 10, 2517 KH (tel. 31/70-346-9324; nzemb@xs4all.nl).

South Africa Honorary Consul, Borgartún 35, Reykjavík (tel. 591-0355).

Emergencies -- For fire, police, ambulance, or medical emergency, dial 112 from any phone.

Holidays -- Businesses are closed on New Year's Day, Maundy Thursday (Thurs before Easter), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, First Day of Summer (third Thurs in Apr), Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day (mid-late May), Whitsunday and Whitmonday (mid-May to early June), National Day (June 17), Bank Holiday (first Mon in Aug), Christmas Eve (from noon on), Christmas, Boxing Day (Dec 26), and New Year's Eve.

Language -- The national language is Icelandic. English is commonly spoken, especially among younger generations.

Liquor Laws -- The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20. Grocery stores have only low-alcohol beer; all other alcohol is sold in state-controlled stores called Vinbuð, with limited opening hours. Drunk-driving laws are extremely strict; just one drink could put you over the blood alcohol limit (0.05%).

Lost & Found -- In Reykjavík the Lost & Found is in the police station at Borgartún 7b (tel. 444-1400; Mon-Fri 10am-noon and 2-4pm). Elsewhere simply contact the local police.

Mail -- Iceland's Postal Service (tel. 580-1200; www.postur.is/english) is reliable and efficient. General post office hours in Reykjavík are 9am to 6pm weekdays, but post offices close earlier elsewhere. Mailboxes are bright red and marked Pósturinn. At press time, a postcard or letter up to 20g sent within Europe is 80kr ($1.30/65p) by "A-post" or 70kr ($1.10/55p) by "B-post." A postcard or letter sent outside Europe is 105kr ($1.70/85p) by A-post, 80kr ($1.30/65p) by B-post. Heavy packages can be expensive; a 5kg (11 lb.) package via surface mail, for example, is about 3,500kr ($56/£28) to the U.S. or 3,875kr ($62/£31) to the U.K. Stamps are sold at many locations, including Nóatún supermarkets; N1, Olís, and Shell gas stations; and some bookstores. Mail typically takes 3 to 5 business days to reach Europe or the United States.

To receive mail in Iceland, you can have letters and packages sent "Poste Restante" to any Icelandic post office. The recipient's family name should be written in capital letters -- otherwise, the mail could be filed by first name, as it is for Icelanders. Mail should be addressed to the recipient at "Poste Restante/[name of town] Post Office" (check the website for addresses). When collecting the mail, bring your passport for identification.

Passports -- Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes at least 4 to 6 weeks but can take up to 12 during busy periods (especially spring).

For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).

For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525) or at most main post offices.

For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office (tel. 0800/225-050 or tel. 04/474-8100) or download it from their website (www.passports.govt.nz).

For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-year. passport for children under 16), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency; or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or www.ukpa.gov.uk.

For Residents of the United States: Whether applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications and check current processing fees at the State Department website http://travel.state.gov. To find a regional passport office, either check the above website or call the National Passport Information Center (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Police -- In an emergency dial 112.

Smoking -- As of 2007, smoking is prohibited by law in all restaurants, cafes, bars, and accommodations.

Taxes -- Iceland's 24.5% VAT (sales tax) is included in prices, but tourists can get most of that back on qualified purchases.

Time Zone -- Iceland is always on Greenwich Mean Time, with no daylight saving time. Thus during the winter, Iceland is 5 hours ahead of the eastern U.S. and in the same time zone as the U.K. In summer, Iceland is 4 hours ahead of the eastern U.S. and 1 hour behind the U.K.

Tipping -- Icelanders don't tip, not even in restaurants or taxis. Tipping is never expected from foreigners, but if you do tip, you are unlikely to offend anyone; it would be graciously accepted or politely refused. The practice is becoming a little more common in Reykjavík bars and nightclubs.

Water -- Iceland has some of the world's best drinking water, and all tap water is safe to drink. Even surface water is generally potable, and Giardia, a water-born intestinal parasite, is very rare. Avoid drinking from streams that have flowed through areas with livestock or birds. When in doubt, boil water for 10 minutes or use purifying treatments founds at camping stores.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.