HOW TO GET TO ICELAND
Being an island, we can only arrive by sea or by air.
KEFLAVIK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KEF)
It is the main airport in the country, and only operates international flights, not a single domestic flight. As its name suggests, it is in Keflavik city, 50 kilometers southwest of Reykjavik, which has its own airport but is much less important. It is a modern airport, clean, small and generally austere, although some of the big shops, restaurants and coffee shops have been installed there. It only has one terminal that is divided into two buildings, north and south, renovated in 1987, and is expanding to cope with the growing number of foreign tourists, although many airlines only operate flights from May to September. Iceland Air is the local company with excellent reputation, I used it and I have good memories about it.
There is free Wi-Fi, and money can be exchanged at the two branches of Arion Bank, one at Arrivals terminal and the other at Departures; In addition there are 14 ATMs. You can also get tax refund on products purchased during your stay. For detailed information see the post about TRAVEL TIPS IN ICELAND, in the sections VAT RETURN and MONEY.
How to go from Keflavik airport to downtown Reykjavik?:
- Rental cars. Many are, with good judgment, those who choose these vehicles to travel Iceland. Avis, Dollar, Europcar, Budget, Sixt, Thrifty and Hertz are the international companies present at the airport. There are also other local ones, but with an acceptable reputation, the only one is Geysir. Some companies that rent motorhomes also have headquarters in the airport; Motorhome Iceland / Campervan Iceland has the best reputation.
- Bus. There are three options:
- Flybus. It is taken immediately upon leaving “Arrivals” terminal, where there is also an information desk. There is a bus after each incoming flight, and it leaves 40 minutes after having landed a flight. It takes 45 minutes to reach the BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik, stopping if requested at Viking Hotel in Hafnarfjörður and Aktu taktu in Garðabær. Adult tickets cost 2,999 ISK one way, and can be purchased on their official website, where we will also find the timetables in both directions. There are connecting buses to Reykjavik Airport.
- Airport Direct. Orange color, there is also one ready to leave after each landing. It arrives at its own bus terminal in Reykjavik, with a stop at Hamraborg, Kópavogur. It is possible on request to be dropped or picked up at some of the main hotels and bus stops for an additional fee, costing the normal ISK 2,499 fee per adult per trip. There is also a premium shuttles service for 8 people door to door that costs 4,999 ISK per person. Both services can be booked on their official website.
- Regular bus, line Strætó 55. It takes approximately 70 minutes to get to Reykjavík. It costs 1,680 ISK. Very infrequent, from 6:35 to 22:55, every 2 hours or one hour between 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm, and less frequent on weekends. The complete schedules can be consulted in this link. It has no support for transporting bicycles.
- Cab. There are at least 6 companies operating at the airport. The trip to Reykjavik could cost us an arm and a leg, at least 16,000 ISK. As of May 2019, neither Uber, Lift, nor other car sharing companies operate in Iceland.
- There is parking for private vehicles. The first 15 minutes are free, and then it costs 500 ISK every hour.
I include it here because technically it is also international, although its international flights are exclusively to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It is in the heart of the city, just one kilometer south of Hljómskálagarður Park.
GET TO ICELAND BY BOAT
- Smyril Line runs a ferry called Norröna, once a week on Saturdays (also on Tuesdays in high season) from Hirtshals, in Denmark (36 hours), through the Faroe Islands (19 hours) to Seyðisfjörður, in eastern Iceland. Come back on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Allows a stop-over in the Faroe Islands.
- It is very expensive, but it is very popular in summer since it is the only way to take our car. The price varies depending on the time of year and even on the web that we use to book it. To get an idea, the cheapest ticket for an adult without a vehicle is a bunk in a shared room without a window, costs around € 250, although it includes four meals.
- To check its official website in English, see this link.
GETTING AROUND IN ICELAND
CAR RENTAL AND MOTORCYCLE
Using a private vehicle allows great freedom, which is highly recommended in Iceland, being a country eminently focused on nature. Public transport does not reach all points of interest, or does not arrive during the low season, but renting is expensive, and many people choose to bring their own vehicle on the Smyril Line ferry.
- Keflavik Airport is the place with the largest number of car rental and vehicle rental offices in the country, as mentioned in the previous section. There are offices in Reykjavik and in most domestic airports.
- As for the state and type of roads, almost all tourists will drive the Ring Road, the coastal circular road 1200 km long that runs almost the entire island and passes through most points of interest; Usually, a normal vehicle is enough. If we intend to go to places with difficult access, like all F roads, we will need a 4WD (the insurance does not cover normal cars on F roads). Usual roads, whether paved or dirt tracks, are in good condition, but fog is frequent even in summer and in some places ice can be generated. In winter, a 4WD is always recommended. Shoulders are almost nonexistent. Sheep cross frequently.
- A motorhome comes to be profitable from 3 occupants or more. It is mandatory to spend the night in campsites and other designated places, but they do not need to book in advance, so freedom is even greater than with a car.
- Maximum authorized speed is 90 km (56 miles)/h on asphalt, 80 km (50 m)/h on a dirt track and 50 km (31 m)/h on urban roads.
- Many gas stations are completely unattended, there are only automatic dispensers to pay using a credit card.
A means of transport with increasing popularity, although not for everyone. Iceland is a rainy, cold and windy country, and cyclists must be very well prepared physically, mentally and as far as equipment is concerned, and assume that more than one section will end up done by bus, that always has support for bicycles, although some charge transportation separately. My own father talk on this topic in his cycling association after touring it in July 2014, that he called “Iceland, no country for bicycles”.
It is strongly recommended to bring your own bicycle, since renting or buying one would be very expensive. They can be transported on Smyril Line ferry for € 20, or on any plane, paying a supplement and being properly packed.
It is the option that I used, since I was not an experienced cyclist and I was alone, having rented a car would have been very expensive, but it is not the most advisable means of transport due to its low frequency:
- I went in June 2009 and there was a bus in the morning and another in the afternoon between Reykjavik and Skogar in the south and Reykjavik and Akureyri in the north. More to the east there was only one a day, and in Westfjords there was only one minivan every 2 or 3 days.
- This frequency increases in July and August and decreases in the rest of the months, and some places there is no bus, but I do not mean recondite natural parks: To go to Húsavik, on June 17, I had to hitchhike, because until July there was no bus from Lake Myvatn.
- Although there are more and more tourists, the frequency of buses is decreasing. To date of 2018, there is an excellent interactive web that tells us the routes, the companies that make them, the price and their schedules, in this link. There are several companies to highlight Trex, Sterna, Iceland On Your Own and above all Straeto, which is by far the one that covers the most territory.
- Some popular destinations such as Landmannalaugar are on F roads, so buses are 4WD type. It is amazing to see how they cross rivers.
- There is a bus pass that allows you to make the Ring Road in one direction or another, making as many intermediate stops as you want, which is what I used. It is very useful for those who want to visit many places, but those with little time, the following means of transport may be more useful.
Iceland is planted with small airports in its small cities and towns, which allow domestic flights, although they are often affected by the weather. Icelanders use them frequently, especially in winter, as roads may be cut off. Eagle Air and Air Iceland (not to be confused with Iceland Air) are two of the main local domestic companies. From Reykjavik, some of the most frequent destinations are:
- Akureyri: 5 a day, 45 minutes, from 15,000 kr.
- Egilsstaðir: 3 a day, 1 hour, from 13,000 kr.
- Isafjordur: 2 a day, 40 minutes, from 10,000 kr.
Iceland is considered the safest country in the world in terms of crime. Hitchhiking is an extended, safe practice and at some point even essential; It could be the only way to get to some places out of high season, as happened to me on the way from Lake Mývatn to Husavik: as of June 17, the bus route between these two towns had not started, and in Mývatn Tourist Office recommended me to hitchhike, what shocked me, as it was the first time that an official organization recommended to me this practice. The experience was positive, a driver took me from the campsite to the intersection and another took me from the intersection to Husavik, even stopped by the road a few minutes to show me a river outlet where locals practiced fishing; Both drivers were very friendly, in keeping with the attitude of every Icelander I met.
The only problem of hitchhiking is that locals will pick us up, but most cars in Iceland in high season will be driven by foreign tourists, who will not. If this happens on a cold and rainy day, waiting just 20 minutes can become a very bad experience.
Travelers planning to use this means of transport should let other travelers in their accommodation know where they plan to go the next day. This also happened to me: I got off the bus in Djupivogur, a place known for its abundant birds, to go on a bird – watching boat tour, but when I got to the counter, the boat was full, there were no more buses until the next day and I did not want to miss two days for the tour, so I asked for a ride to a couple who were the night before in the same room as me in Höfn hostel and had just parked their rented car next to the Tourist Office; The three of us pretended to arrive at Lake Mývatn that day, so they allow me to go with them, and that way, not only I did not lose a day, but I met two of the backpackers that I fondly remember from all the trips I have made.
There are few ferries to travel in Iceland. Most cover only round trips to a specific island. Two of the most usual are:
- Dalvik (near Akureyri) – Grimsey Island. The company is Samskip; has boats that go at 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; They return at 4:00 pm in summer (at 2:00 pm in winter). Three hours per trip, 3500 ISK one way.
- And Stykkishólmur – Flatey – Brjánslækur:
- One a day from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., another one comes out at the same time in the opposite direction and they cross each other.
- In high season there is also one in the morning, from 12:00 to 14:30. This allows us to spend a few hours on Flatey Island. In the opposite direction it also leaves at the same time.
- From 4,460 ISK (passenger without vehicle).
A final option is advisable for those with very little time available in Iceland, to hire a tour from Reykjavik, either through an agency or online:
- The most popular includes the so-called Golden Circle (Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir) in a single day. There are multiple operators, usually costing around 5,500 ISK per person.
- Another frequent runs the southern coast to Skogafoss, stopping at waterfalls, black sand beaches and nearby glaciers. It costs around 10,000 ISK.
- And a marathon trip to Vatnajokull that includes the amphibious vehicle ride in Jokulsarlon, from 15,000 ISK.
- Westward, the most demanded is Snaefellness Peninsula, incredibly popular since the peak Kirkjufell appeared in the series Game of Thrones (where they created the White Walkers and appears in the seventh season in the expedition to Beyond the Wall). From 12,000 ISK.
Most offer to end the day with a visit to the Blue Lagoon for an additional fee.
In Iceland there is no train.