Public Transportation in Iceland

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Some like to travel a lot while others see it as an activity that is good enough to be done once in a while. Every traveler is different which means that their preferences are different as well. Some like to travel in the comfort and freedom of their own or rented cars, some like to keep it a bit more luxurious and choose helicopters as their preferred mode of transportation, and some find hitchhiking to be the best way to travel and experience the true beauty of a place. Then others find public transport as their ideal mode of transportation. Iceland is a place where every single kind of traveler can find a place for themselves. No matter what you are seeking or how you want to experience, there is always one option or other waiting for you to explore.

Strætó, Public Transport in Iceland

Iceland and Public Transportation

There are two plausible scenarios where you would use public transportation in Iceland: when hitchhiking through the country or you just want to experience the public transportation system of the country. Another time you can or would want to use public transport is when getting from one place to another within the same city.

But being in a foreign country where everything is new and you do not speak the local language, it can be hard to get on track with the schedule and time table of public transports. Be it the public buses, taxies, or airlines, some guidance is required so that you can navigate through the system efficiently. This brings out the need for a simple guide book that can help you get familiar with the possible public transportation options that you have when you are in Iceland and ways to get the best out of them to make your travels easy and happy.

The Options Available at Your Alter

There are several different modes of public transport that you can choose to take when you are spending time in the country. To make the best of public transport is that you can combine them at your convenience. Most tourists like to use public transports to reach places they can not reach via cars or campervans. Another most common use of public transport includes exploring the city. In the end, no matter how you are planning to use public transportation during your travels, you must know about all the important things that there are to know about public transport so that you have everything ready in your fingertips as soon as you land on an airport or arrive on a port.

Strætó Buses

Strætó, Public Transport in Iceland

The lack of subway or any other kind of train/metro system in the capital city of Reykjavík is completed by the infamous Strætó Bus system. All buses in the capital are owned and regulated by a company named Strætó BS which is run by the city itself in partnership with some other neighboring municipalities. This monopoly has gained the buses the nickname Strætó. Extremely comfortable and reliable, these buses can be recognized from a huge distance due to their bright yellow-orange shade. The frequency of the buses is quite high in the city with a bus running every 10-15 minutes. The buses cover a total of 27 routes in the capital and 21 routes outside the capital.

• Timings

The usual time for the buses to start the day in Iceland is 6:30 am on weekdays, 7:30 am on Saturdays and 9:30 am on Sundays and public holidays. You can find them running till midnight generally. There are special night buses which run at night but only on the weekends i.e. Fridays and Saturdays. So, if you are planning to travel at night, you can choose to go on night buses. There are a total of 6 routes which are covered by Strætó night buses – 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, and 111 with 3 journeys on each route.

• The Stops

You can easily board Strætó buses from any of the bus stops scattered across the capital city as well as other towns and cities. You will see the Strætó bus logo on the stops where the buses stop along with a red and yellow “S”. You can identify whether your bus will make a stop at a certain spot by these indicators. Always indicate that you would like to board the bus that is coming to the stop since buses generally do not stop if no passengers are looking to board. You can stick out your hand or make a different gesture.

• Tickets

The general fare for the bus ride is 470 ISK for an adult passenger, 220 ISK for kids between the age of 6-17, and kids who are 5 years old or below can ride for free. You can use Strætó mobile application for getting tickets, making a payment, finding routes, and other things. The tickets can be purchased in advance and kept for later. When you finally want to use them. You can simply activate them and go. Once you activate a ticket, it stays valid for the next 75 minutes. The app is free to download and available on the app store and googles play store. The fare for the night buses is different from that of the normal buses. An adult ticket will cost you about 970 ISK. If you have a bus card, you can ride any buses, at any time though.

• Planning the Trip - The Stræto App

The easiest way to plan your trip with Strætó is to do it via the application or by using the website. The application comes with a complete map of the routes that the buses cover along with a trip planner to help you ensure the routes you need to travel and the buses you will have to catch to get to your destination. You can also use the app to listen to podcasts. The Strætó app is available in both Icelandic and English so you do not have to worry about language barriers here. Consider it a god-send for the users of public transports in Iceland.

Shuttles

Public Transport in Iceland (2)

Unlike buses that travel around all the routes in the capital city and even outside, shuttles generally function for rides that include transporting from the airport to accommodations and hotels and vice versa. Shuttles are a great choice for public transportation if you are carrying a lot of luggage with you and do not want to deal with the crowd of the public buses but also don’t want to spend a fortune on cabs and taxies. Almost all the shuttles are available with free WiFi service in them just like the public buses along with charging points and some other amenities. The amenities change with every shuttle company but you can rest assured that you will travel quite comfortably. The shuttles offer services to and from the airport to the hotels, hostels, and other accommodations.

The first option is the Flybus. The tickets coast 2,950 ISK for adults, 1,475 ISK for teenagers between the ages 12 and 17 while children below 11 can ride for free. The general shuttle from Flybus takes you to the BSÍ bus terminal which takes about 45 minutes. If you are looking for a shuttle, or Flybus to be precise, which takes you to your hotel directly then you can choose the Flybus+ option that comes with a fare of 3,950 ISK for an adult ticket and 1,975 ISK for teenager fare while the children below 11 rides for free. The best thing about Flybus is that they always move continuously. If you happen to miss your shuttle by a minute then you don’t have to worry because the other one will line within minutes on the boarding spot.

The second great option for you is Gray Line shuttle services. The pricing of the fares is almost the same as Flybus at 2,180 ISK for general shuttle services. Although, just like Flybus, you do not have to travel to the bus stop and then head to your accommodation. You can simply choose the service that Gray Line provides which connects right to your destination. So, whether it is the hotel that you require as your end spot or someplace else. Although you will have to book in advance for Gray Line shuttles.

Another notable service of the same nature is provided by Airport Direct. One thing you need to take care of when traveling in one of these shuttles is that your luggage can not be more than 23 kgs. There are several types of trips available for you to choose from. The fare starts from 2,390 ISK and the drop location is the Old harbor in Reykjavik.

Taxi Services

taxi in Iceland

A bit more convenient option of public transportation for you to try, taxies are a great way to roam around in and outside of the city if you do mind spending a little more on your transportation expenses. Taxies in Iceland can cost a bit higher in comparison to other countries. You can find these taxies in the cab ranks very easily. It is also possible to hail a cab when on the road if it empty. Just like bus drivers, the cab drivers respond well to hailing. Although it, not a surety that your cab driver will be very good at English. While most people in Iceland speak English, it is not a pre-requisite for the employees to do so to get the job. If you know your way around communication and the city, you are good to go.

In case you are not able to book a taxi by hailing and also not able to find a cab rank then you can use the official phone numbers of the two taxi/cab providers of the country which are Hreyfill Bæjarleiðir and BSR. You can reach Hreyfill at +354 588-5522 and you can reach BSR at +354 561-0000. Hreyfill also has a mobile application that you can use to book a cab at any time of the day. The application is available for both iPhone and Android. If you are hoping to find Uber or some other familiar cab service then you will be disappointed as they are not functioning in the country yet but the cab service that Iceland has is very efficient and reliable.

Bikes

Bikes, Public Transport in Iceland (1)

Yes, you read that right. It is very common to use bikes as a public transportation system in Iceland, especially the capital city. This mode of transportation is cheap, it is extremely easy to access, and can be very fun for you to try on. If you know how to ride a bike properly, it can be one of the best and the cheapest way to travel around the capital city and other towns and explore.

If you have already been to Iceland before, you would have noticed the shiny bikes lined up, flaunting beautiful vibrant colors like Pink, Purple, and more. These are the bikes that a local companies offer. They are easily available across the country. A half an hour ride on the bike will cost you about 350 ISK with 500 ISK for every additional half-hour. The best part is that you do not have to have special hailing skills or book a ticket on the website to access these bikes. The bikes use a simple docking system station where you pick them up, run your errand, and dock the bike back. Then you can simply pay on the spot at the station. If you are planning to take a lot of rides around the city and assume that biking is not going to be a one-time thing then it is smart to get the long-term pass that you can get for 3,900 ISK which lets you keep the bike for a month. Yearly passes are also offered but they are more suited for locals instead of tourists. 

It is also possible to bring your bike to the country with your luggage. Most airlines allow it if the bike is neatly packed in its box. There is a dedicated facility right outside the airports where you can assemble your bike and start riding to the city. It is also possible to carry the bike on a ferry if you are traveling via that method.

Boat

Northern Lights dancing above the skies and the peace tower on the Northern Lights Luxury Cruise tour
Photo from the Luxury Norther Lights Cruise

Traveling by boat is sometimes an option and other times it is the only way to get to some of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. While cruises and private yachts are more of a personal and luxurious mode of transportation, boat rides like ferries count as a means of public transport. Several places in Iceland are accessible via boats and ferries only which makes them a very crucial part of the system.

And here’s the twist. You can not only travel in and around Iceland in ferries but also travel to and from Denmark and Faroe Islands to the country on a ferry. No air ticket to go abroad, fun right? There are several different routes that the ferries follow and you get to experience many different places on each of these routes. Some ferries even offer the option of taking your rental campervan with you so that you can travel with ease on the other side of the route.

Main places that you can take a ferry to or from including the Westman Islands, Westfjords to get to the southern parts of the fjords, Hornstrandir through Ísafjörður, Grimsey island, Hrisey island in the Eyjafjörður fjord, Papey island and Videy island from the capital city. There are two different routes you can try when getting to the Westman Islands. One passes from the port of Landeyjahöfn and the other Þorlákshöfn. The first one takes about 35 minutes to reach the Westman Islands while the other takes about 2.5 hours.

Most of these islands are car-free and lie in a remote location. The most popular places where people travel to via ferries are the Westman Islands which are famous for their puffin population and historical monuments, the Grimsey Island which is the farthest island of Iceland and is a part of the Arctic Circle, Papey Island, and the Westfjords.

Walking

Reykjavik city Iceland

Last but not the least, walking is the only mode of transportation which is absolutely free and very much helpful especially when it comes to getting around the capital city. Many attractions in the capital city of Reykjavík are only at a walk away. Many people, locals, and tourists alike prefer to walk up to their destination. It not only serves the purpose of living a healthier but also gives people a chance to experience the surroundings in a very different light. The only drawback to walking could be the ever-changing weather of the country. If the weather is pleasant, it could be the best walk you have ever taken but if take a turn for the worst, it is better to take shelter or hail a cab.

Things to keep in Mind

  • Always be prepared before you set out to catch a bus or a taxi. Every kind of public transport has a different set of requirements that you need to take into consideration when choosing a means of transportation.
  • You must plan your trips if you are hoping to go on a long trip via bus. Planning can be done by tracking routes and the timings of the bus.
  • It is smart to either carry a card or pay online when you book a bus ticket because the bus driver generally won’t have a chance to give you if you pay in cash.
  • If you are out in the night partying, you must note that you will not get any buses and cabs may also be a bit scarce to hail and you may find a line. Be prepared for this on your endeavors.
  • Biking and walking come with their own set of challenges – weather. While they are two of the most pleasant ways to get around, it can be messy if the weather is not that rewarding.
  • Always be prepared for the weather and keep the emergency app of Iceland handy so that you have the means to get help if you face any troubles along the way.
  • Public transportation is not so great if you are looking to travel around the country and explore all the beautiful places on the way. If you take the bus out of Reykjavik, you will usually just drive straight to the next town, without exploring all the beauty on the way. 
bus in Iceland, Public Transport in Iceland
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