Insider Tips for Getting Around Iceland

Though fairly small, much of Iceland is sparsely populated, rugged, and remote. Nomad Katie shares her advice for seeing the sights, whether by bus, rental car, or guided tour.

Route 1, or the Ring Road, is a 828-mile (1,222 km) national road that circles the island and connects the main towns. Though many of the most popular attractions can be seen by bus, a rental car or guided tour is recommended if you want to get off the beaten path.

Bus Travel

Buses are an easy, affordable way to get to and from Keflavik Airport, around the Ring Road and Golden Circle, and to larger towns throughout the country. Service is far more frequent in summer – in winter, routes are greatly reduced, if running at all. In high season, many long-distance buses stop at tourist attractions, take a short break at the final destination, and then return to Reykjavik, so you can use the bus as a DIY day trip from the city.

Traveling around Iceland by bus. Photo credit: iStock

Internal Flights

Internal flights depart from Reykjavik’s domestic airport, near downtown, and serve several areas of the country all year round. Flights last under an hour and typically cost kr. 7,230-10,330 (US $70-$100) each way.

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Taxis

Taxis are easy to hail and safe to use in Reykjavik, but rarely practical outside the capital region. Fares are standardized and tipping is not expected. They’re not cheap, though. The 30-mile (48 km) ride from the airport to Reykjavik will run around kr. 12,920 (US $125). A 10-minute ride from Reykjavik’s downtown to the outskirts will be around kr. 2,070 (US $20).

Rental Cars

Several companies offer rentals ranging from compact cars to monstrous 4x4 vehicles. Rates vary from kr. 3,100 (US $30) per day for a small manual transmission car up to kr. 20,670 (US $200) or more for a Land Rover suitable for the highlands.

Campervans

Save on hotels as you roam the country. These range from kr. 10,330-31,000 (US $100-$300) per day, depending on the size and season. Note, it’s illegal to sleep in a campervan outside campgrounds or urban areas without the landholder’s permission.

Self-Driving vs Guided Tours

It’s easy to see much of Iceland independently by car, stopping at every spectacular vantage point without being beholden to a tour guide’s schedule. However, in certain areas (like the remote interior) it may be safer to leave the driving to someone more experienced. If you’re planning a trip to the interior, or want to do a lot of exploring off the Ring Road – especially in winter – a guided trip is best if you aren’t used to driving on unpaved roads, and saves the expense of renting a 4x4 vehicle.

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