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Getting Around in Iceland

Though Iceland is a small country (about the size of the US state of Ohio) it can be expensive to get around in. There’s no rail service, and few roads through the interior (which is completely inaccessible in winter) so to get from one side to the other, you’ll need to fly or drive around the 830-mile Ring Road, the main road that encircles the country and which was only completed in 1974. Here’s what you need to know about getting around in Iceland

Downtown Reykjavik  – the 101 – is compact and easily walkable. If you need to venture further afield, you can use Reykjavik’s clean and efficient bus system, which costs 280 ISK (a little over US$2) each way, in exact fare (bus drivers don’t give change). You can check out timetables and route maps online. Otherwise, you’re only option will be a taxi which you can easily hail on the street; fares are standardized and all taxis are required to have a working meter. Tipping is not expected

When it comes to getting around elsewhere in the country, driving is your best – though most expensive – option. Expect to pay about 10,000 ISK per day;  gas is about 200 ISK per liter. A compact, manual transmission car is the cheapest, and prices go up considerably if you need an automatic or a larger 4WD vehicle, which is required for the interior of Iceland. If you don’t need the car for your whole trip, you can arrange (usually for just a few extra kronur) to drop it off in a different location than where you picked it up.

Driving in Iceland is pretty easy, as long as you use caution on gravel roads, on one-way bridges, over rivers, and around blind curves. Icelandic drivers are courteous and drive on the right side of the road. Main roads are well-maintained, but in less-traveled areas you will encounter more potholed gravel roads that require slow going.

>> more on driving in Iceland
>> more on car rental in Iceland

If you don’t want to rent a car to travel long distances, you can fly or take the bus. There are dozens of different bus companies operating throughout the country. Schedules change with the season, and prices are based on the distance traveled (and on the season). Tickets can be purchase on the bus or at BSI bus terminals. Tickets are fairly expensive, especially when compared with the cost of flying, so if you can fly from Reykjavik to your destination, it may be the best bet.

>> more on bus travel in Icleand

Flights within the country are short and inexpensive if you buy in advance; one way fares can be as low as 5,000 ISK. Air Iceland offers flights from Reykjavik to 13 destination in Iceland and Greenland.

If your plans involve visiting Iceland’s islands,  the Vestmann Islands, Grimsey, and Hrisey., you can fly or book a ferry trip. Just book ahead in summer, as the ferries do sell out. And if you’re partial to sea-sickness definitely take some dramamine – the seas can be quite rough.

For budget travelers, hitchhiking is a popular option. Iceland is a very safe country and the people are friendly, but you still might have time finding a ride in some parts of the country, simply due to a lack of passing cars. You may have to wait several hours, so dress warm, bring snacks and always have a contingency plan.

Photo by sarah sosiak