Getting to and Staying in Reykjavik, Iceland: the Preliminaries

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.

Reykjavik

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).

Eyjafjallajökull erupting in April 2010
Eyjafjallajökull erupting in April 2010 (Photo credit: patrickmn.com)

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!

Keflavik International Airport
Keflavik International Airport

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.

Snow covered mountain range and lava fields
Snow covered mountain range and lava fields greeted us out of the airport

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.

Bus Hostel Reykjavik
Bus Hostel Reykjavik
Hostel’s lobby
Hostel’s lobby

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.”

“Sly” – the 4WD Toyota RAV4
“Sly” – the 4WD Toyota RAV4 we rented

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.

Exchanging Currency
Our £240.00 in Icelandic Krona

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.

Reykjavik Fish Restaurant
Rotten shark, anyone?

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.

Simple lunch
Simple lunch: gastronomical delight at an astronomical price (plokkari costing £13 on the bottom left)

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

It’s time to move on and explore. First of all, we have two days for Reykjavik. Also, a day for the Golden Circle and Southern Iceland and finally another day for Western Iceland.

I know Iceland won’t let us down.

Do you find this guide helpful? Anything you may want to add? or want to know?

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Getting to and Staying in Reykjavik, Iceland: The Preliminaries

20 Comments

  1. An amazing account of your Iceland tour. I agree that hiring a vehicle would be more convenient however package tours have their own plus point. At 98 Euros for 2 days, I think it is a great deal for the SUV. I have always wanted to go to Iceland. Dunno when the time will come 🙁

  2. It’s terrifying indeed when volcanoes erupt. I remember being in Argentina about 8-9 years ago when a volcano in Chile erupted and all the flights in the area had been canceled. I wasn’t aware that ashes from Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption spread all over Europe. That sounds very scary. I would love to visit Iceland someday. Your pictures look so inviting.

  3. I’d love to visit Iceland too and this will come in pretty handy in the future. A DIY tour sounds pretty cool (and a lot cheaper). Guess it’ll be more nicer if I’ll be staying longer just like you did. Definitely something to consider! 🙂

  4. A self drive is always a good idea anywhere. So much flexibility it offers. And Iceland definitely needs that kind of flexibility. So much to see there. Nice to read about your experience of the same.

  5. I was fascinated reading about your reference to the Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer epic clash. Being a chess buff this is indeed one of the most historic and iconic chess matches ever. I didn’t realize that the match happened in Reykjavik. Iceland for us is indeed a city of dreams for many reasons. Of course, it is the gateway to the wonders of Iceland, but on top of the list for us is the Northern Lights. Hope to get there someday and the information in this post is going to stand us in good stead.

  6. We were going to go to Iceland for our honeymoon! We changed our mind in the end to tour California, but I have the Iceland itinerary ready to go for when we do decide to visit! Your photos certainly capture the essence of Iceland beautifully. Can’t wait to go!

  7. Iceland is one of the top countries that I want to visit this year. Your pictures piked my interest even further. Hopefully this summer it should happen. I had no clue the Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer epic clash happened in iceland.

  8. It was good to be reminded of Eyjafjallajökull erupting _ I actually got stranded on holiday in Cyprus when that happened, but ended up having a great extended holiday! Anyway, Iceland has been high up on my list for ages, but budget has put me off. It was good to see your DIY trip was possible and also more budget friendly so maybe I’ll get there soon!

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