When taking a holiday in exotic places, it’s not always easy to know how to get around in the best way. How to get around Iceland is no exception. And since there are so many things to see and the island isn’t that large, it’s incredibly important to find these things out. Iceland is a scarcely populated place with extraordinary nature, so you want to see as much of it as possible without any hassles.
With an incredible coastline and nature to die for, Iceland tops the bucket list for many travelers around the world. Adventure calls as soon as you step off the airplane in Keflavik. And when you embark on your life-changing journey, it’s important to know how to get around Iceland.
In this article, we talk about the most common, and uncommon, ways of traveling the country.
How to Get Around Iceland
Getting to Iceland will be an easy ordeal since you have the option of either going the airway or the waterway. When it comes to how to get around Iceland, on the other hand, your options are way more diverse.
Gettting Around Iceland in the Winter
Many would be cautious when getting around Iceland in the winter, but if you drive safely and adjust to the winter roads, you will be fine. All professional drivers in Iceland are also used to the conditions. They will be a safe option for anyone who is not that keen on driving the roads by themselves.
When you check the options for how to get around Iceland in the winter, you’ll quickly realize that it’s the low season of public transport and most tours. On top of that, you’ll see that some of the roads, like the F-roads in Iceland, are completely closed. Likewise, other roads are recommended to keep away from in the wintertime.
When you check how to get around Iceland in the winter, remember that you will also need to have the right snow tires in Iceland. It will ensure that you stay on the road and don’t make an impromptu visit to a ditch or a farmer’s field. This is extra important when driving in the dark and on remote roads. Iceland is scarcely populated, so getting stuck in the snow will become an issue, regardless of the situation.
Going over your options for transport, renting (or lending if you know some locals) a car will be the most popular and available option. This doesn’t come as a surprise, since the number of cars on the island has outnumbered the number of Icelandic residents since 2017.
You will find an abundance of car rentals in Iceland to accommodate your needs for travel, and driving yourself is generally considered the best way to get around Iceland. Renting a car is a good basic option for anyone who wants to see the country on their own terms and keeps an eye on where they can get the best accommodation. Before you get to that point, though, you should check out the best road trip cars in Iceland and see what suits you the best.
When it comes to how to travel around Iceland on a budget, you can pick an economic model and find cheap accommodation. This is not recommended if you are more than 2 people in the company. However, it is perfectly good for any young couple or pair of friends that can trade comfort for a better travel budget.
Campervans have become popular these last few years and are an excellent way for traveling around Iceland. It’s a mode of transport that is best suited for those who are a fan of the camping holiday but are not interested in pitching a tent every day. Campervans are great if you are actually planning on camping, but not worth the money if you are planning on any hotel, motel, hostel, or farmhouse stay.
Many camping sites in Iceland will offer electricity, water, and most amenities. You will surely be able to have a comfortable stay in any Icelandic province. Having a campervan also allows you to take the car out at night to see the Midnight Sun or Northern Lights without having to worry about getting back to your accommodation.
A campervan can also be the best way to travel around Iceland. You won’t have to worry about finding specific accommodation or looking for restaurants. Most campervans will have a small kitchen or camping kitchen, so you can make Icelandic nature your 5-star restaurant!
If you want to see the highlands, we recommend renting a 4WD campervan and hitting the Icelandic F-roads. Just make sure to time your stay, so you don’t get there in the spring, fall, or winter when the roads are closed.
By Bus and Public Transport
Iceland, however amazing it may be, doesn’t have any railroads or trains. This type of infrastructure was simply never built, which makes this country incredibly reliant on buses. Several buses are going between the towns in Iceland, making it a good option if you are looking at getting around Iceland without a car. Some routes will even go through the Highlands!
The bus company that operates in Reykjavík, Stræto, also has routes all over the country but doesn’t offer any hop-on-hop-off deals at the moment. The system works by zones, so you will pay for each zone you go through.
Between Reykjavík and Keflavik, there are 4 zones that accumulate to ISK 1 960 for adults. A trip from Reykjavík to Akureyri goes through 22 zones, which is why it will cost up to ISK 10 780. If you simply stay within a zone (for example Reykjavík) then it will only cost you ISK 490. If you stay within Akureyri, the bus local public transport will be completely free!
There are plenty of stops and frequent departures in the high season. Therefore, buses might be the best way to get around Iceland without a car if you want to experience how to get around Iceland for a cheap price.
The luxury variant of any travel in Iceland is to go with the tours. There are plenty of tour companies that will offer to take you on multiple-day trips around the country or in specific regions.
Whether you get one multi-day package or design your own itinerary, going with organized tours will be the pricey option. It will, however, also provide you with a lot of knowledge and local know-how that would be hard to get on your own. This is also one of the best ways to get through east Iceland and experience everything you can experience there.
For many, choosing to stay in one place and go with tour packages from that location is a perfectly fine way to tackle how to get around Iceland. Still, know that you will likely be a little bit restricted. Yet, you will have the benefit of kicking back and relaxing as other people do the planning and pathfinding for you.
If you go with any tour that takes you around the country, this is arguably the best way to get around Iceland without a car. It will take some time and cost one or two Íslensk Króna, but it is the perfect option for anyone who isn’t too keen on planning trips themselves.
By Plane (Domestic Flights)
Presently, Iceland only has one international airport, Keflavik. However, there are plenty of smaller, domestic airports scattered around the island. If you’re looking to get around Iceland without a car in a quick manner, flying will be your best option. Most flights will be under an hour long, and there are often daily flights to most locations, so you will be able to take a nice day tour to multiple places.
Even though flying is the quickest way to get around Iceland, it will require you to also use some other transportation upon arrival. This is why most visitors tend to avoid domestic flights if they’re not staying in a single location for a longer time and will be a limiting factor.
Flying is definitely not the cheapest way to get around Iceland compared to any other type of transport. It is often not preferred, partly because of the high price, but mostly because you don’t get the benefit of seeing the country when you travel.
An average ticket from Reykjavík to Akureyri will cost about USD 70-100, depending on the season and day of the week. On top of this, you also need to add on the cost of transportation at your destination, which might get pricey (unless you take the bus in Akureyri).
Do you want to explore this option of how to get around Iceland? Then the airlines you must choose from will be Icelandair, Eagle Air, Norlandair, and Niceair. Keep in mind that you might want to check all of them out since they cover different parts of the country, i.e., not one airline will cover all of Iceland.
Other Options to Travel Around Iceland
Other options are way less popular in Iceland for various reasons:
Taxis are great if you are traveling short distances, but not a good option for seeing any substantial part of the country. If you don’t want to drive, we suggest getting around Iceland by bus instead of a taxi.
Hitchhiking will only be a viable option in the summertime when you don’t risk freezing your thumb off in the hard wind. With that said, Iceland has an incredibly low crime rate, so hitchhiking is still a safe option. Albeit incredibly boring and probably unsuccessful if you’re not on Ring Road 1 in Iceland. This can be a perfectly fine way to deal with how to get around Iceland if you are max 2 people in the company.
Walking is only an option if you are packed very lightly or intend to take on the Highlands. This is preferably best with a nice walking partner and very good shoes. As a mode of how to get around Iceland, walking is a terrible choice.
Biking in Iceland is steadily increasing in popularity, but is best suited for short trips, like around Iceland’s South Coast. However, it is usually possible only in the short summer. When it comes to how to get around Iceland, you can take a bicycle around the island, but that is for the seasoned biker only.
Getting Around Iceland: FAQs
If you are still curious and wondering how to get around Iceland, check out the FAQs below and see if they satisfy your curiosity:
Can I Travel Around Iceland Without a Car?
Yes. When it comes to how to get around Iceland without a car, you have plenty of options. Taking the bus will be a cheap and scenic way, while traveling by plane will be a pricey and quick option.
What's the Cheapest Way to Get Around Iceland?
Honestly, the cheapest way to get around Iceland is going to be walking. You spend nothing but energy and time, but your mode of transport is free. This is a terrible choice if you don’t like really long walks in harsh weather. Otherwise, a bus or a very cheap rental will be a reasonably cheap option.
Do you Need 4WD to get Around Iceland?
No. You will only need to rent a 4WD when you are traveling along the F-roads. Many will feel more comfortable with a 4WD on gravel roads, though. On roads like those in the Westfjords in Iceland, or when traveling long distances in the Icelandic winter.
Is There Uber in Iceland?
No. Uber in Iceland is a topic that has been under discussion for quite some time. Instead, buses, taxis, car rentals, or bike rentals will be your best options.
How to Get Around Iceland; Many Transportation Options
Regardless of your preference, there are many ways to get around Iceland. The only (otherwise) common means of transportation that isn’t available is the train. However, there's an incredibly high number of cars available, as well as the great bus and plane network. Under these circumstances, trains are hardly needed as a means of transportation.