Aircraft in Iceland are like buses or trains elsewhere – they’re the main form of internal travel other than the roads. Be warned though, that the ride can be a bit bumpy if you’re entering one of the fjords like Akureyri.
Domestic flights from Reykjavik operate from Reykjavik Airport, a different airport located closer to the namesake town. Scheduled service to nearby destinations, including Greenland and Faroe Islands, is provided by Air Iceland, Atlantic Airways and Eagle Air.
A car offers the most flexibility for travel around Iceland. Numerous agencies rent vehicles, and ferries allow individuals to bring their own car with them. Rental prices are high – expect to pay at least kr 4000 per day for a two wheel drive vehicle, and upwards of kr 12,000 per day for a four-wheel-drive vehicle; these prices include basic car insurance, but additional insurance may be purchased to protect against damage from gravel or other common mishaps.
A four-wheel-drive car is needed only in the interior, which is open only in the summer. Renting cars in advance is often cheaper than doing so on-location. Off-road driving is strictly forbidden in Iceland and punishable with fines in the range of kr 300,000 to 500,000. Icelandic nature is sensitive and does not recover easily from tire tracks.
Driving in Iceland is on the right side of the road. Headlights and seat belts for all passengers must be on at all times. There is a single main highway, Route 1-Ring Road, which encircles the country. Because of Iceland’s ever-changing weather, one should keep extra food and know where guesthouses/hotels are located in case of a road closure.
Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer because of wet and muddy conditions which make them totally impassable. When these roads are opened for traffic, many of them can be passed only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. The roads requiring four-wheel-drive (and possibly snow tires) are route numbers with an “F” prefix, e.g. F128. Some roads that were previously signed with an F have since been upgraded and assigned a number without an F. In general you can trust those designations in both cases.
The general speed limit on Icelandic rural roads is 90 km/h (56 mph) on paved surface and 70 km/h (43 mph) on gravel, in urban areas the general speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph). Driving on gravel can be a challenge, and loss of control on cliff-side roads can easily be fatal. Speed cameras are posted around the country, and fines are kr 5,000-70,000. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%, with a minimum fine of kr 100,000 – don’t drink and drive.
Drivers in Iceland should familiarize themselves with road signs and be prepared for Iceland’s unique driving conditions. The roads in Iceland are of a medium to low quality, typically made from slightly rough black basalt. There are two signs in particular that foreigners should pay attention to. First, “malbik endar” means that the road changes from a paved road to a gravel road. Slow down before these changes, for one can lose control easily. Also “einbreið brú” means that a one-lane bridge is approaching. Arrive at the bridge slowly and assess the situation. If another car has arrived at the bridge first allow them the right of way.
If you are traveling by road a great site to check is the Iceland Meteorological Office who have an excellent set of pages including the Icelandic Road Administration on all of the main roads.
The Route 1 road that encircles the island nation is a staple for tourists who wishes to see the diverse geological features of Iceland, from waterfalls, icebergs, fjords, to volcanoes.
Scheduled trips between Icelandic towns are operated by Strætó bs. Tours to attractions are provided by scheduled buses from various companies, including Reykjavík Excursions (who also operate the FlyBus), Trex, Sterna, NetBus and SBA-NORÐURLEIÐ. Long distance bus travel can cost several thousand kronur and is sometimes more expensive than flying. For example, a one way trip from Reykjavík to Akureyri costs kr 10,340, while flying costs kr 8,925 ISK (as of May 2019). It is possible to go from the eastern part of the country to the western one via bus in one day, but only a few trips are served every day. All public transport services are listed on PublicTransport.is.
Some tours to the interior, in special 4×4 buses, can be a cheaper and more relaxing alternative to driving and serve most major locations (e.g. Landmannalaugar, Thorsmork, Aksja). Tours to the interior are scheduled only for the summer months.
Golden Circle day tours are available from Reykjavík from many tour operators which will take you round the Gulfoss waterfall, geysers, the crater and the Mid-Atlantic rift/place of Iceland’s first Parliament. Although you don’t get much time at each stop, the guide will tell you about Iceland’s history and some general information. Cheaper tours (~€55) will be a full-coach whereas more expensive tours (~€80) will be small minibuses or vans. The currency for booking tours can vary from euros, to dollar to krona, so make sure to double-check before booking if you need to.
The capital area bus system, run by Strætó bs., is an inefficient and expensive mess that can not be relied on. A single fare costs kr 470 (as of May 2019). Bus drivers do not give back change, so if all you have on you is a kr 500 bill, do not expect to get the difference back. You can also buy a set of twenty tickets for kr 9,100 from major bus stops, also from the driver (as of September 2016). Once you have paid to the driver, you will not get a ticket, unless you ask for one. If you get a ticket, it is valid for any other buses you take within 75 minutes.
All buses stop running at midnight, with some stopping earlier, some as early as 18:00. Buses start running at 09:30 to 10:00 on Sundays. Fares to zones 2 and upwards (extending all the way to Höfn and Egilsstaðir) are higher, although all of Reykjavík, Garðabær, Hafnarfjörður, Mosfellsbær, Álftanes and Seltjarnarnes fall within zone one, where the regular fare of kr 420 is valid.
Cycling is a good way to experience Iceland, and provides a very different experience to other means of transport. You should bring your own touring bike, as buying a bike locally can be expensive. Traffic in and out of Reykjavík is heavy, otherwise, it’s OK. You can cycle safely on the Ring Road, or take the bike on the buses (which are equipped with bicycle racks) serving the Ring Road and do side trips. However, if going self-supported, considering the weather and conditions, it is strongly advisable to have a previous touring experience.
When cycling in the winter use studded tyres and dress yourself up in lightweight but warm layers. Bicycle maintenance is typically not a concern, brake pads for example tend to last for 12 months or more, depending on the quality of the brakes.
For trips outside of a town or a city, bring food with you. Icelandic towns can be 100-200 km apart. Food that cooks within 10-15 minutes is preferred. Foraging blueberries and herbs is possible, but do not rely solely on that as a food source.
More information and routes can be found on Cycling Iceland.
Check Samferda.is for carpooling options.
In the past few years, ATV travel has become popular among adventure travel enthusiasts. Several companies offer ATV tours of various parts of Iceland, check