Icelandic Language Blog

Traveling by bus in Iceland. Posted by on Mar 24, 2013 in Icelandic customs

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Icelandic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!


  1. Liv:

    I’m not studying things like in a correct order, but I find your blog very helpful. Thank you!

    • hulda:

      @Liv I’m glad for all I can do for you! Don’t worry about the order of learning, main thing is learning itself. 🙂

  2. Lisa:

    Hi there. I have a trip booked for iceland in December to see northern lights. I have a few days to explore iceland and wanted to get the 3 day bus pass. Are there different schedules for winter time???

    • hulda:

      @Lisa The schedules for winter and summer are different, but in the winter there tends to be more buses than in the summer so it should be all good for December traveling. 🙂 You can always check your bus schedules online at

      The one day and three day passes are only sold for the Capital City area so should you want to travel further than that you may have to buy your tickets separate. However, the Capital City area itself is rather large, reaching f.ex. all the way to Esjan!

  3. Anto:

    Hey there! I’m going to Iceland in August and I was thinking about taking bus trips…one hot question: what happens when a bus drops you off in, for instance, Vík or Höfn? Do you need to rent a car to get to see things around or what deserves to be seen is usually at a walking distance from the bus station?

    Thank you very much!


    PS: sorry for the other msg misspelling 🙂

    • hulda:

      @Anto Depends a little on how much time you have and what kind of sights you’re after. Renting a car will allow you a much larger viewing area and isn’t all too expensive (at least in comparison to the price of bus tickets). However, both Vík and Höfn are very small and the towns’ most interesting sights are by default near you. The black beaches and the rock formations in the sea that Vík is famous for are definitely within walking distance – check the Bryðebúð downtown too, they may have interesting exhibitions going on.

      Höfn is hiking-sized as well and in fact has some really interesting routes! The only sad thing is that Jökulsárlón is a little too far to walk to unless you’re a seasoned hiker, it’s amazingly beautiful a place and well worth a visit.

  4. Nabila:

    hi, i am thinking on going to explore iceland in august. I want to ask about this bus service to go out of reykjavik. for example in this price list link:

    it is written also the number of tickets needed if I want to go to other cities. For example, if I want to go from Mjódd to Akureyri by bus 57. Is it possible that instead of buying the ticket on bus, I buy lets say 22 tickets in a BSI station and then give my 22 tickets on board?

    it is cheaper to buy packages of nice tickets.


  5. Nabila:

    whoops, i meant: packages on NINE tickets

    • hulda:

      @Nabila I assume it is! At least based on their website it should definitely be possible. I’m not entirely sure if it’ll be cheaper though: 22 X 350kr = 7700kr, which is the same price as a bus ticket to Akureyri. Besides tickets are sold in packages of ten (although I’ve found that the ticket sellers do make exceptions when an obvious foreigner only needs f.ex. four tickets).

  6. Rob Shaw:

    Hi Hulda,

    I’m looking to bump around Iceland for about three months next year – probably Sept-Dec. Is there an option to purchase an unlimited card(i.e. good for any route at any time during a three month period)? I know of the unlimited Ring Passports offered by some of the tourist bus companies, but would like to know if the same is available for the strætó and rúta.

    — Rob
    Oklahoma, USA

    • Rob Shaw:

      @Rob Shaw Some additional:

      I’ve downloaded all the strætó and rúta schedules. I don’t (yet) speak or read Icelandic, but I can usually figure out the words — and they don’t seem to indicate seasonal changes – just days of the week and schedules for days of the week.

      Yet, when I go to the automated trip planner, and ask for a schedule between e.g. Raykjavik and Egilsstaðir, no trips after September are available. I’m assuming some bus routes stop for the winter?


      • hulda:

        @Rob Shaw Let’s see… far as I know there’s no unlimited pass available for strætó and rúta both, but there are options depending on the areas you want to travel. A three month pass might therefore not be your best option if f.ex. you want to travel between the capital city area and south coast, or north. The people at the bus station speak good English though and will likely be able to help out.

        There definitely are seasonal changes in bus schedules. Strætó has some routes it drives more often in the winter, rúta sometimes drives some routes less often, but usually (unless the weather turns suddenly really awful) the routes are never entirely cut. However, there are changes such as the route south via Vík – in the winter the buses are fewer and you’ll want to make sure that the day you take the bus it goes further than the aforementioned Vík. The connections to Höfn and onward are sometimes only available for Tuesdays and Thursdays, if my memory serves.

        Another option to taking a bus might be renting a car. My little brother claims it was not much more expensive and that it made his travels a lot easier, not having to count everything on the bus schedules. 🙂

  7. tereza:

    hello there:) i have booked to travel to iceland in january for a week and i was wondering whether the bus lines are still operating during that time, if it is safe to travel with the bus or would you recommend renting a car ? thank you in advance for your help! im quite desperate being trying to look everywhere 🙁

    • hulda:

      @tereza Buses operate throughout the year, no worries! That said there may be fewer of them in the winter and renting a car might be totally worth the comfort of traveling exactly when it best suits you. 🙂

    • Ruth:

      @tereza Thank you Tereza and Hulda, I had exactly the same question as I too am coming to Iceland early January. I just wonder if there’s a website anywhere for visitors to “buddy up” for a hire car, if they had the same dates and interests, eg in seeing the coast, villages, etc

  8. Laura:

    Hi Hulda,
    I’m so in love with the beautiful pics I saw about Iceland! In March next year I’m going to travel there. I want to see anything but there’s a big Problem: all the bus passports are only available during the summer months, right? Are there any possibilities to travel around the island in march? Or am I stuck in Reykjavik?._.
    I really Need your help…
    Thank you!

  9. Anne:

    Hi would you be able to advise how expensive it would be for me & my 3 children (aged 11, 16 and 19) to travel around by bus (we are staying in Reykjavic but want to visit several places in the south etc). I am a bit scared to hire a car & driving on the other side & right hand drive car etc – are there many roundabouts and does Reykjavic get much busy traffic? Many thanks