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Do You Need a Car in Iceland? 5 Things to Know

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Say you’re traveling to Iceland this year. Are you prepared for the surreal beauty of the Land of Ice and Fire? Even if you think you are, this post will be a good refresher, especially about transportation around Iceland – not to mention the awe-inspiring locations. 

Known for its towering glaciers, moonscape craters, and Aurora Borealis, Iceland is a place of fairytale beauty! Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is the least populated country in Europe

Because of its enormous glaciers and volcanic activity, Iceland is often called “The Land of Ice and Fire.” Additionally, it is a place that inspired many of Tolkien’s short stories and was once used for practicing moon-landings. 

Plus, the people are charming, hospitable, and proficient in English. Many of Iceland’s features make it an “other-worldly” tourist destination, and travel freaks flock to it every year. 

Iceland landscape

Nevertheless, many tourists wonder: Do you need a car in Iceland for tourism? As per popular belief, the sheep is the only traffic in Iceland. So what about Iceland’s public transportation?

In this guide, we’ve compiled a few answers to all the questions regarding a tour to Iceland with or without a car. 

Do You Need a Car in Iceland?

buildings city iceland

A famous saying goes, “A trip to Iceland is a trip to the center of the Earth,” but do you need a car in Iceland when you reach there? 

You can easily travel in the country with or without a car. Your travel preferences will primarily determine the need for a vehicle. There could be several reasons you would want to take a car. 

If you are on a short trip and want to make the most of your tour, exploring Iceland with a car might be the best option. Also, if you are traveling with kids or a family member with a disability, a vehicle will make your tour much more convenient. 

However, living in Iceland without a car is possible because you have other options for traveling across this tiny country. 

You can board a bus, get a taxi, or rent a car to get around Iceland easily. Also, if you do not want to travel by public transport, you can still explore the Land of Fire and Ice through other means.

See Related: Things to Do in Iceland & Places to Visit

Is Iceland Public Transportation Good? 

Iceland cars

A place with world-famous attractions and outstanding sights of natural beauty shouldn’t compromise on its public transportation. Luckily, Iceland’s public transit system is a reliable, fast, cheap, and convenient way to move around the country, visit your favorite destinations, and make the most out of your tour. 

Domestic Air Travel

Domestic air travel is, by all means, the fastest way to reach the desired destination. And when you’re in Iceland for a limited time, this may be the best option to explore as much as possible.

Iceland’s domestic air travel is integral to its public transport system. You can fly from Reykjavik airport to any domestic airport in Iceland.

These regional airports are connected to the nearby towns, thanks to local bus companies. This means you’ll never miss a thing, even with domestic air travel. 

Bus

The Straeto Bus System is the main form of public transport around Iceland. These reliable and comfortable buses can be recognized from afar because of their vibrant yellow and orange livery. 

You’ll find a bus running every 10-15 minutes in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. The Straeto Bus System covers 21 routes outside the capital and 27 routes within it. 

Although reliable and cheap, the bus system starts its services pretty late in the day compared to other countries and cities. From Reykjavik, services begin:

  • Weekdays (6:30 a.m.)
  • Saturdays (7:30 a.m.)
  • Sundays/ Public holidays (9:30 a.m.)

The bus stops of Straeto buses are spread across the capital. You can easily recognize the stops by noticing the Straeto Bus logo or bus stop sign with an orange and a yellow S. 

Reykjavik Bus Station Iceland

The price of tickets is also reasonable. The general fare for an adult passenger is around $3.7, kids between 6-17 pay $1.7, and kids below 5 years of age ride for free!

You can purchase your fare from a bus stop. Nevertheless, you can also book a ticket from the comfort of your hotel room. You only need to download the Straeto app, enter information, and buy the ticket. 

PRO TIP: If you want to avoid peak rush days, try touring on weekdays!

Airport Shuttle

If you’re wondering about Iceland’s public transportation from the airport, know that Airport Shuttles provides an easy way to travel to and from the airport. 

Unlike buses that travel across the city, shuttles typically function for rides from the airports to your hotel or any other location. 

If you have a lot of luggage, carrying it around on a public bus can be hard. In such a scenario, Airport Shuttles are doable. You get comfortable seating, free WiFi, and an easy ride. 

Iceland Airport

If you’re considering an Airport Shuttle, Flybus is the first option to consider and is the most popular across the capital. The ticket costs $23 for adults and $11.7 for kids between 12 and 17. 

What else is good? Children under 11 ride for free!

Taxi

Taxis are another convenient transport system to roam around the city without worrying about travel expenses. 

Hailing a taxi is pretty straightforward. You can find one in the cab ranks easily. Otherwise, you can get one from the road. As soon as you see a taxi approaching, lift your hand in the air, and if the cab is available (and if the driver spots you), they should pull over.

Most Icelandic cabbies will speak good English, but some won’t, so it’s best to keep a smartphone with an active internet connection for quick translations.

Boat

the-port-boats-iceland

While private yachts and cruises can add to the expenses, you can hop on a boat like ferries and get going. Ferries and water taxis are the best way to explore Iceland.

If you visit Iceland during summer, you can book a ferry line to tour different islands and explore the breathtaking beauty of the country.   

PRO TIP: In addition to traveling across Iceland, you can travel to and from the Faroe Islands and Denmark and pay no air ticket to go abroad! Cool, right?  

Westman Islands, Grimsey Islands, Hornstrandir Islands, and Videy Island are famous nearby places you can visit on a rental boat, ferry, or water taxi. 

Do You Need to Rent a Car in Iceland? 

iceland-mountains-lake-country

If you do not want to use local transport, you can rent a car in Iceland. However, whether or not you rent a vehicle depends on your preferences. 

There could be several reasons why you may wish to explore the country in a rental car. For instance, you have social anxiety, or you might have small children who create a fuss in a public transit system, or you prefer the independence of having a car. 

Hence, renting a car might be a suitable option for you. While locals typically believe that rental cars are expensive, KAYAK offers affordable car deals. So you can choose the right deal and get going!

Today, renting cars has become even more accessible. For instance, companies like Rentalcars allow you to book a ride from the comfort of your home. You can select the time, date, and location you need the car, and the driver will drop off the car at your doorstep within no time. 

What are the Other Ways to Get Around Iceland Without a Car?

If you want to avoid the hassle of public transportation and not have your car, know that you can still get around Iceland.  Below, we’ve discussed how you can explore Iceland without a car. 

On Foot

Walking is perhaps the only mode of transportation that is free around Iceland. You can easily roam around the cute villages and unique capital city. 

Iceland Mountain Landscape

Strolling across the city streets or tourist attractions in Iceland also has downsides. For instance, the weather constantly changes, and you never know when a snowstorm will hit. However, with careful planning, you can make the most out of your tour. 

Make sure you wear a warm outfit; think of fleece hoodies, sweaters, gloves, caps, snow boots, and scarves, and carry an umbrella with you. 

While an umbrella might not be useful in a severe snowstorm, it may help in light rain.  If you’re not a big walker or are new to hiking, walking across the more rural areas of Iceland will be a big challenge. The terrain varies in terms of incline and what’s underfoot, but most of it is pretty rough trekking.

Scooter

Electric scooters have swiftly gained popularity in Iceland lately. You can rent an electric scooter from Hopp and discover new sites in the Land of Ice and Fire! There are also several guided scooter tours around Iceland to try.

Nevertheless, renting a scooter comes with a few restrictions. For instance, you must abide by the company’s rules and not take the scooter to far-flung places; you are only allowed to travel within the company’s service range. 

Bike

Bikes are pretty common in Iceland. Also, they are cheap and provide easy access to your desired location. If you’ve been to Iceland before, you might have already seen the vibrant bikes (pink, blue, purple, and more) in the city.

You can bring your bike with your luggage to Iceland. Most airlines will carefully pack your bike, and traveling to Iceland by bike or ferry is easy, so bringing your two-wheeler is a realistic option. 

Nevertheless, if you do not have a bike, you can rent one from one of the many bike rental companies in Iceland. The typical rate for an hour’s ride would cost you around $2, with $3.9 for every additional hour. 

Exploring Iceland Without a Car: Is It Possible?

Yes, exploring Iceland without a car is possible. Many Icelanders believe the country is best explored and discovered without a car.  Below, we’ve discussed a few stunning and breathtakingly beautiful places to visit in Iceland without a car. 

The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis 

Northern Lights Iceland

There are only a few countries in the world where you can glimpse the Northern Lights; luckily, Iceland is one! The pink, yellow, blue, green, violet, white, and orange Northern Lights are a majestic spectacle, and Icelanders believe them to cast a magic spell on their viewers. 

I’m doing my best here, but words are not enough to describe the beauty of the Aurora Borealis. This captivating sight during nighttime brings pure joy.

Some scientists believe the Aurora begins on the sun’s surface when solar activity produces gas. There are many hotels in Iceland that host viewings of the Northern Lights at night. 

Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss Waterfall Iceland

The 45-meter-tall and 100-meter-wide Dettifoss is one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. Located in the North of Vatnajokull National Park, the waterfall is a perfect example of nature’s fantastic splendor and the power it possesses. 

Walk across the landscape or sit quietly and watch the torrenting water cascade down these majestic falls.

Askja Caldera

Askja Caldera is a geothermal pool between the Dyngjujokull Mountains. The mountains surrounding it were formed due to volcanic activity millions of years ago. If you’re the sort of person who wants to say that you’ve taken a dip in a live volcano, this place is for you! It’s plenty warm!

Iceland Mountains

Akja’s origin can be traced partly to an ash eruption that collapsed the magma chamber of a central volcano. The pool’s water temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius and is frequented by locals and tourists for warm dips that allegedly have medicinal benefits.

Note that the rocks around here can be super slippery in wet weather. 

Mount Esja

If you love hiking, Mount Esja is the place to go! The 914-meter mountain is a popular site among hikers. Once you reach the top, the view of oceans and surrounding landscapes is incredible. 

If you aren’t an experienced mountaineer, you do not need to worry; the path is simple and easy to get around. If you’re new to hiking, give this one a miss.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Icelanders believe your tour is incomplete if you haven’t visited the Blue Lagoon! This otherworldly site is a geometrical spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Southwest Iceland. 

Thousands of tourists flock to this popular attraction for the time of their lives. The water is blue and misty and looks even more beautiful in the sunshine. Put on sunscreen, dive into the Blue Lagoon with your travel companions, and make unforgettable memories!

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