Planes, (No Trains) And Automobiles – How To Get Around Iceland On A Budget

Planes, (No Trains) And Automobiles – How To Get Around Iceland On A Budget

Main photo by
Art Bicnick
Timothée Lambrecq

Travelling is awesome, especially in a country like Iceland with its amazing scenery and picturesque little villages. Driving in another country, however, can be stressful, and you might not want to risk your relationship or health while trying to navigate, just to eventually get stuck on some “road” that leads to an awesome location you found on Instagram. You can do that, of course, but be prepared to be on the cover of a newspaper as yet another “dumb tourist” cautionary tale. If you’re dead set on avoiding that fate, however, here are a few alternatives to driving you can bear in mind.

A hitchhiker’s guide to Iceland

Relive your favourite movie, where some hipster dude with a cardboard sign travels the world and spends almost no money on transport. You, too, can do exactly that, getting to know kind strangers while sitting in their car—or, if it’s an unpleasant experience, while confined to a small space indefinitely with a weirdo. Either way, you’ll have a great story to tell. Hitchhiking is a dope way to get to know locals and can be very handy if you get stranded in some small town. Maybe, just maybe, you could even meet the love of your life.

Be prepared for a long, cold wait, though, because Iceland is remoteness overload. Some areas are so far off the beaten track that even if you get a ride there, you should start looking for a way out of all that beautiful solitude earlier that you think. Unless you want to set free your inner Bear Grylls, and you brought a load of energy bars, a parka, and a winter-proof outdoor survival kit with you.

Busses

Let’s take that trip down memory lane; remember running after the school bus, or waiting for it just to realise it won’t show up? It’s not like that in Iceland, don’t worry. Busses are actually a pretty neat way to travel the island. Strætó takes you to almost every ‘bigger’ town, such as Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Vík, or Hólmavík. You can connect with other busses that take you a little further… you know how that works. If it’s summer, and you want to go to Landmannalaugar but can’t rent the clunky 4X4 vehicle needed to drive there, busses are your go-to. (Note: this area is closed completely in winter).

Landmannalaugar

So far, so good—but life would be boring without a little ‘but.’ Let’s face it, it’ll take a looong time to reach your final destination, with toilet breaks and passengers loading on and off. But then again, Iceland is pretty nice, so looking out of the window shouldn’t get too boring. Otherwise just play some car games, like counting sheep or spotting the tree (which will prove to be more difficult than you might think).

Also, bus rides aren’t dirt-cheap here, like in other countries with fancy rail options. Travelling from Reykjavík to Höfn (a gorgeous little town, an hour past the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon) will cost you about 14,000 ISK per person one way—or, around €107. But at least you don’t have to pay for fuel, it’s more environmentally friendly, and you can take as many naps as you want. Win-win-win.

Flying

So, let’s consider the quickest, fanciest and—surprisingly—reasonably affordable mode of travel. Road conditions? Who cares about those. You’ll be up in the air, possibly flying over a glacier or a flock of sheep. And didn’t you always want to land on a really small <1km country field… I mean runway? Taking a plane from Reykjavík’s domestic airport is the best way to do exactly that. The prices could be a surprise, since—if you get lucky—you might find a flight for less money than you’d spend on a bus ticket, or refuelling your rental car.

There are two airlines taking you to places like Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Húsavík and Höfn. Air Iceland Connect gives you a lift up North, whereas Eagle Air goes South as well. A flight from Reykjavík to Akureyri for example can be as cheap as 11,000 ISK (around €87) each way; Egilsstaðir and Ísafjörður even less—we found flights for around 9,000 ISK (€68) each way. Friendly locals are sometimes up for giving you a ride into town, or just book a cab or tour pickup straight from the fiel…airport.

One of the flights you should definitely look into is the one to Heimaey in the Westman Islands. For ticket prices beginning at 16,000 ISK (€122) you can fly to one of the most magical places you’ll ever visit—a tiny volcanic archipelago. You’ll save money on the ferry, and it’s so small that you don’t need a rental car anyway.

So…?

Well, it’s up to you. There is something suitable for everyone, whether you want to rent a car or not, combine different possibilities (you can fly, and then rent a car at most airports, if you’d like), or just not take any advice. But one thing is for sure—examining all the options can take you a long way.

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