Fancy visiting Iceland? This guide will help you about the preliminaries on getting to and staying in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital.
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 and it appears the Russian defending champion Boris Spassky will lose his crown to American challenger Bobby Fischer. It was in the early 1970’s and also, it was the height of the Cold War. I was a young boy then and hence, was excitedly learning the wonderful game of 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 of a volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted. Volcanic ash spread across Europe. As a result, airports were forced to shut down. Furthermore, 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 have 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 costed 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 wish to book a bus trip from the airport to your hotel/guesthouse and/or a pickup from your hotel to the airport. In each case, the transport cost will be slightly higher. For the bus timetable and a list of hotels where drop-off/pickup services are available and for 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 10-15 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.
Housed in the hostel is the office of its car rental partner, SadCars where we booked a Toyota RAV 4×4 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. The company offers 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 want 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 are not allowed to.
It’s nearing noontime and check-in is not until 3pm. 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 to local currency. During the time of our visit (last week of April 2016), 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 found Reykjavik Fish Restaurant while 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 sizzling skillet with rye bread and butter. Rotten shark is an Icelandic delicacy which is buried for up to six months in sand while “brennivin” is a local spirit distilled from potatoes and flavoured with caraway seeds.
It was worth remembering 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 to do that in 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.