Getting Around Reykjavik
The best ways to get around Reykjavik are by foot, car and tour bus. Although rates are often higher for organized tours, traveling by tour bus comes without the headaches of driving on unfamiliar and sometimes icy roads. If you'd rather keep your travel expenses low and roam freely without sticking to a set schedule, car hires are likely your best option. Neither, however, is suggested for exploring central Reykjavik, which is small and walkable. Taxis and public transportation are available as well but are generally more expensive. To travel between the city center and Keflavik International Airport (KEF), consider using a local tour bus operator like Gray Line Iceland and Reykjavik Excursions.
|On Foot||The easiest (and most affordable) way to explore central Reykjavik is to walk. Downtown's hotels and sights – including Hallgrímur's Church , Harpa and Laugavegur – can be reached on foot from one another. However, you'll often have to pay extra to stay in the heart of the action. If you opt for a hotel outside the city center, you'll need to rely on another form of transportation. Using a car or joining an organized tour will also be necessary for daytrips away from the capital.|
Reykjavik's limited public transportation and the long distances between attractions outside the city make renting a car one of the best ways to get around. All U.S.-issued driver's licenses are valid in Iceland and locals (like Americans) drive on the right side of the road, but there are some key differences between driving in Iceland and in the U.S. Rental car drivers must be at least 20 years old, distances are measured in kilometers and gas is available by the liter. Most streets only have one lane per direction (or just one shared lane) with few (if any) gas stations. Additionally, road signs are generally posted in Icelandic, though markers for popular destinations often have English translations.
When driving in Iceland, it is best to stick to posted speed limits. Streets are notoriously slick in the winter, and tourists regularly block sections of roads to snap pictures of sheep and Icelandic horses (which we strongly advise against). Plus, speeding is strictly enforced here. Most major thoroughfares have cameras to take pictures of license plates on speeding vehicles.
Car rentals are available at Keflavik airport and at several agencies in Reykjavik. (Many agencies without booths at the airport will offer complimentary airport pick-ups and drop-offs.) Fees vary by company, season and car model, but expect to pay at least 6,900 Icelandic króna ($67) for a one-day rental. Car hires for multiple days often come with lower day-to-day rates. Before choosing a car, be sure to check for mileage limits.
If you want to avoid navigating Iceland's roads on your own and you're willing to stick to a set itinerary, joining an organized tour is worth considering. Though you'll pay approximately 4,990 to 56,500 Icelandic króna (or roughly $48 to $546) per person for each daytrip, depending on the tour operator and group size, you'll avoid driving for hours in unfamiliar territory. Plus, your driver (or guide) will give you additional information about each attraction you visit while traveling around the Golden Circle , South Iceland and other regions.
In addition to providing half- or full-day sightseeing trips, some tour operators also offer multiday excursions that include accommodations and select meals and activities. What's more, transfer-only options to and from the airport and Blue Lagoon are available as well. When booking a tour, most companies will give you the choice of being picked up from and dropped off at the tour operator's bus depot or your hotel in Reykjavik. Many Blue Lagoon excursions also feature an airport pick-up or drop-off option. But remember, Reykjavik's downtown area is compact and does not permit large buses on its roads, so skip the tour bus when checking out central sights.
To get to and from Reykjavik's major towns and city center, visitors can use Straetó, the country's public bus system. Straetó's yellow buses make multiple stops within downtown Reykjavik but are more commonly used by locals for commuting to and from work. Most central bus routes run every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes outside of rush hour. Buses start operating at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays and public holidays; most end service around midnight.
Cash, bus passes and bus tickets are accepted on all buses as forms of payment. Cash fares cost 440 Icelandic króna (less than $4.50) per adult and 210 Icelandic króna ($2) for each child between 6 and 18. For unlimited rides in the capital, one- and three-day passes are sold for 1,560 or 3,650 Icelandic króna (or $15 to $35) per person. Or, travelers can purchase a 20-pack of tickets for 8,300 Icelandic króna ($80) per adult. Reduced rates are available for seniors and children ages 6 to 17; each bus ticket is valid for one ride on any route. Visitors who purchase a Reykjavík City Card from one of several city locales will receive 24, 48 or 72 hours of complimentary rides on Reykjavik bus routes.
Reykjavik has taxis, but they are an expensive way to get around downtown and to reach outlying areas like the airport. Taxi services throughout Iceland are metered, with rates starting at 630 Icelandic króna ($6), plus a fee of 250 Icelandic króna per kilometer traveled (or about $4 per mile). Reduced rates may be offered for rides between the city center and the airport. Keep in mind, taxis can only be hailed on the street from a designated cab queue; if you cannot find a cab line and will not have a working cellphone while staying in Reykjavik, ask a local or your hotel concierge to call one for you. Taxis are available 24 hours a day.