Remember how just two weeks ago we got so much snow we ended up stuck in our house? It’s all gone now. Spring seems to have arrived to Iceland all of a sudden. Days are growing longer, ravens are gathering in large groups (I hear it’s called “unkindness of ravens” in English) before they head out of the cities for the summer, the first crocuses are up and Icelanders are walking around with their coats open. I’m not, it’s still way too cold for me, but as I’m not a native this may be excusable.
Spring notes also the beginning of the best travelling season, so I decided to put together an updated info post on the local public transport system. This means only buses I’m afraid, and they run sparsely: twice in an hour, four times during the peak hours, and this is within the capital city region. In case you want to travel a longer distance, for example to Höfn on the east coast, I advice you check the timetables well in advance. The buses may be going there only on two days per week.
The capital city region bus, strætisvagn or just strætó in short, is easy enough to recognize, or should I say yellow enough. The long distance ones are called langferðabíll or rúta (loan word from Danish rutebil) and are often white or blue+yellow in colour. The bus stops can look almost like anything – they’re bright red, dark green, concrete grey, or there may be only a small traffic sign marking them. The driver will stop if they see someone at the bus stop, regardless of whether you flag them down or not, and other buses will take this as a sign of you getting onto that bus and will just drive past without stopping. Good luck if you see three buses arriving in a row and yours is the last one!*
My favourite type of a bus stop, the only kind that can protect you against the wind.
If your idea is to travel between downtown Reykjavík and the suburbs you’re all set and good. There are often several buses that will take you there, perhaps with a little bit of variation to which way they go, so if you’d like to visit for example Breiðholt you can choose between a scenic route by the seaside (bus 12) and another, more urban one that goes past one of the most popular malls, Kringlan (bus 3). However, the routes are somewhat troublesome if you want to travel between suburbs or municipalities, so once again pre-planning is golden. The website of Strætó is very helpful for this. They also have an English option if you think your Icelandic isn’t quite there yet, and even though the search option only works if you write the names 100% correctly it will give you prompts of what you may have meant to write, if it doesn’t recognize the word.
Here’s the latest, most up to date price list. Taking a bus can be costly especially if you’re planning to travel daily, so it’s always good to consider the day and month cards. You cannot buy tickets or cards at the buses themselves, but you can pay for one trip, in which case you’ll need exact fare. For the cards etc. your best place to buy would be a bus station – BSÍ, Hlemmur, Mjódd – any of the larger ones you’ll no doubt pass on your way.
The white text on pink is somewhat difficult to see, but it says:
Mánaðarkort (Græna) (= one month card, green)
Þriggja mánaða kort (Rauða) (= three months card, red)
Níu mánaða kort (Bláa) (= nine months card, blue)
Eins dags kort (= one day card)
Þriggja daga kort (= three days card)
Underneath the cards there are prices for tickets, small pieces of paper, really easy to lose. Every time you need to use one you’ll just drop it in the see-through box at the driver’s side where you also put your coins in case you’re paying with cash. Let him know if you need a change ticket and he’ll print you one, which will then allow you to get on a bus within one hour’s time.
Fullorðnir (9 miðar) (= adults, 9 tickets)
Unglingar 12-18 ára (20 miðar) (= young people 12-18 years old, 20 tickets)
Börn 6-11 ára (20 miðar) (= children 6-11 years old, 20 tickets)
Öryrkjar og aldraðir (20 miðar) (= people with disabilities and the elderly, 20 tickets)
The last one on the list is
Staðgreiðslugjald (= a single fare bought at the bus)
The white and grey boxes each note one area. The first one for example is Höfuðborgarsvæðið (= capital city region) and unless you’re planning to leave Reykjavík this is the only one you need to know of. The others note prices for cities within a couple of hours driving distance: Akranes, Borgarnes, Hveragerði and Selfoss. The left column gives you the price of the whole thing that you’re going to buy and the right one the actual price per travel. In case of the day and month cards these are but estimations based on a theory that you’re going to take the bus twice a day every day. In reality no one’s going to stop you from using the card as many times per day as you want to, so in the end the price of one trip might be even half or less of the estimated amount shown on the list.
Lastly, here are some handy sentences you might want to use while traveling by bus in Iceland. Have a nice trip!
*There’s a solution to this, though: do a wild “I DON’T WANT TO GET ON THIS BUS”-dance for the first two and then flag down the third one.