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 with reagards to 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 totally charming, hospitable, and pretty proficient in English. Many of Iceland’s features make it an “other-worldly” tourist destination, and travel freaks flock to it every year.
Nevertheless, many tourists wonder: Do you need a car in Iceland for tourism? As per a popular belief, the only traffic you see in Iceland is the sheep. 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.
Table of Contents
- Do You Need a Car in Iceland?
- Is Iceland Public Transportation Good?
- Domestic Air Travel
- Airport Shuttle
- Do You Need to Rent a Car in Iceland?
- What are the Other Ways to Get Around Iceland Without a Car?
- On Foot
- Exploring Iceland Without a Car: Is It Possible?
- The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
- Dettifoss Waterfall
- Askja Caldera
- Mount Esja
- Blue Lagoon
Do You Need a Car in Iceland?
A famous saying goes that “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?
Well, you can travel with and without a car in the country with relative ease. The need for a vehicle will primarily be determined by your travel preferences. 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 out of your tour, exploring Iceland with a car might seem like 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.
Is Iceland Public Transportation Good?
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 an integral part of their public transport system. You can take a flight from Reykjavik airport to any domestic airport of Iceland.
Each of 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.
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 pretty 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.
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. All you need to do is download the Straeto app, enter information, and buy the ticket.
PRO TIP: If you want to avoid peak rush days, try touring on weekdays!
If you’re wondering about Iceland public transportation from airport, know that Airport Shuttles provide 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, it can be hard to carry it around on a public bus. In such a scenario, Airport Shuttles are doable. You get comfortable seating, free WiFi, and an easy ride.
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 12-17.
What else is good? Children under 11 ride for free!
Taxi is 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 there are always some that don’t, so it’s best to keep a smartphone with an active internet connection for quick translations.
While private yachts and cruises can add to the expenses, you can hop on a boat like ferries and get going. In fact, 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?
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.
Another reason you may opt for a rental car is for safety during the unprecedented chaos created by COVID-19. Staying safe and responsible during this deadly pandemic is always worth it.
Hence, renting a car might be a suitable option for you. While locals typically believe that rental cars are pretty 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 do not have your car, know that you can still get around Iceland.
Below, we’ve discussed how you can explore Iceland without a car.
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.
Strolling across the city streets or tourist attractions in Iceland has its downsides too. For instance, the weather is constantly changing, 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 fleece hoodies, sweaters, gloves, cap, snow boots, scarves and carry an umbrella with you.
While an umbrella might not come in handy 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 is going to be a big challenge. The terrain varies in terms of incline and what’s underfoot, but most of it is pretty rough trekking.
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 have to abide by the company’s rules, and you cannot take the scooter to far-flung places; instead, you are only allowed to travel within the company’s service range.
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 travelling to Iceland with a bike by ferry is easy-peasy, so bringing your own 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 that 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
There are only a few countries in the world where you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, and luckily, Iceland is one!
The pink, yellow, blue, green, violet, white and orange Northern Lights are a majestic spectacle, and they are believed by Icelanders to cast a magic spell on its 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 that the Aurora begins on the sun’s surface when solar activity produces gas.
There are many hotels in Iceland that host viewings for the Northern Lights at night.
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 she possesses.
Walk across the landscape or sit at a quiet place and watch the torrenting water cascade down these majestic falls.
Askja Caldera is a geothermal pool between the Dyngjujokull Mountains. The mountains that surround 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!
Akja’s origin can be traced partly to an ash eruption that collapsed the magma chamber of a central volcano. The water temperature of the pool 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.
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 are just incredible.
If you aren’t an experienced mountaineer, you do not need to worry as the path is simple and pretty easy to get around. If you’re new to hiking, give this one a miss.
Icelanders believe your tour is incomplete if you haven’t visited the Blue Lagoon! This otherworldly site is a geometrical spa on Reykjanes Peninsula in Southwest Iceland.
Thousands of tourists flock to this popular attraction to have the time of their lives. The water is blue, misty, and looks even more beautiful in the sunshine.
So, put on your sunscreen, dive into the Blue Lagoon with your travel companions and make unforgettable memories!