Fancy visiting Iceland? Why not? It is high on every traveller’s list of places to go. I hope that this guide, Getting to and Staying in Reykjavik, Iceland: the Preliminaries will be useful as you plan to travel to the country sooner or later.
The Reykjavik-bound Easyjet plane my wife, our son and I boarded at London Luton airport reached and settled in its maximum flying altitude. Almost hypnotically or so it seemed, my thoughts flew back to the time when I first heard of Iceland.
Reykjavik was hosting the World Chess Championship dubbed as the “Match of the Century.” It was inevitable that the Russian defending champion Boris Spassky will lose his crown to American challenger Bobby Fischer. It was in the early 1970’s and also the height of the Cold War. I was a young boy then and hence, was excitedly learning the wonderful game of queens protecting lazy kings, galloping knights and advancing foot soldiers. Probably due to my innocence and naivety then, I thought of Iceland as a country covered in ice all year round.
Fast forward to spring of 2010 – my family was on holiday in the US when this Icelandic tongue-twister name of a volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted. Volcanic ash spread mostly across European’s skies. As a result, airports were forced to shut down. Flights were cancelled stranding thousands of passengers including us. Iceland is not only a country of ice, it has volcanoes as well – fiery ones and they are in abundance (as I would know later).
My recollections were disrupted when the pilot announced that we will be landing shortly at Keflavik International Airport, Iceland’s main hub for international air travels.
Thud! We had just arrived in the land of ice and fire!
Getting to Reykjavik
There are several ways of getting from the airport to Reykjavik city centre – by bus, taxi or rent-a-car. We booked via online our return bus journeys at FlyBus several days before our departure. It cost us 12,000.00 Icelandic Krona or ISK (around £70.00). It takes about 45 minutes of travel time from the airport to the bus terminal. You may book a bus trip from the airport to your hotel/guesthouse and/or a pickup from your hotel to the airport. For the bus timetable, transport fares and other information, please check FlyBus’ website.
Staying in Reykjavik
We stayed at Bus Hostel Reykjavik for 4 nights – a prize I won in a travel writing contest. The prize was for two people so we paid for our son’s dorm room. The hostel was about 15 minutes’ walk from the bus terminal. What we most love about the hostel is its kitchen where guests can cook proper food. As you may or may not know, food is very expensive in Iceland. Therefore, cooking our own food in the hostel’s kitchen saved us a lot.
To find other places to stay in Reykjavik and other parts of Iceland, click here.
Housed in the hostel is the office of its car rental partner, SadCars where we booked a vehicle which we will use for our two-day road trip. The company claims to be the cheapest car rental in Iceland. I couldn’t agree more as their fleet of cars has almost seen better days. We rented a Toyota RAV 4×4with a little over 265,000 km. mileage, a deep dent on the right side and some rusty body parts but is still a beast of a machine. The company offers a 10% discount and a further 10% for hostel guests. Hence, we paid 98 euros (about £80.00) for “Sly.”
Packaged Tours or DIY?
A lot of packaged tours are on offer in Iceland but we opted to do our own. It’s cheaper to hire a vehicle to tour the country. In addition, we have all the time to ourselves and can go and explore as many places as we want. If you wish to stretch your budget, it is advisable to rent a car instead of availing packaged tours. Furthermore, it’s better to hire a 4WD which we did so you can drive in rough terrains which small cars may not be allowed to.
It was nearing noontime and check-in is not until 3 pm. We left our backpacks in a secured place in the hostel. Afterwards, we set off to a local bank in the city centre for one final and important task – to exchange our sterling pounds for local currency. During the time of our visit (last week of April 2016), the rate was at £1.00 to about ISK 177.00.
Lunch at Reykjavik
We have a quick walking and sightseeing tour of the city. After checking out some random shops, we found ourselves near Old Harbour. We stumbled upon Reykjavik Fish Restaurant whilst searching for a place to eat. Once inside, we were welcomed by a giant menu board you will not find anywhere outside of Iceland.
A friendly staff explained to us those unfamiliar food items. “Plokkari” is fish pie served in a sizzling skillet with rye bread and butter. Rotten shark is an Icelandic delicacy which is buried for up to six months in the sand while “brennivin” is a local spirit distilled from potatoes and flavoured with caraway seeds.
I can still remember that as we are about to finish our lunch, an Eagles’ song was playing in the air.
And I got a peaceful easy feeling
And I know you won’t let me down
’cause I’m already standing on the ground
I know Iceland won’t let us down.
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