Not every road trip has to be done by car. For those who prefer to be driven rather than to drive themselves, buses are a wonderful option in Iceland. There are well-developed bus lines along the Ring Road as well as in larger cities.
Yes, you can. However, there are a few things to consider. Buses do not run in a 5-minute interval, so it’s important to check the schedule ahead of time. In addition, bus services in Iceland operate on both summer and winter schedules. During the winter, connections are severely limited.
Most bus companies divide the Ring Road into four parts: West (Reykjavík and surroundings), North (Akureyri, Hsavik & Myvatn), East (The fjords, Höfn and surroundings) and South (Vík, Jökulsarlon). Each route is usually served at least once a day, but buses may be cancelled in bad weather. During the summer, there are often 2 or 3 buses a day.
The cost of the round trip depends on how far you want to travel and which company you use. For example, IcelandByBus offers an all-inclusive ticket for 33,000ISK (230€), which allows you to circumnavigate the entire island in one direction. Alternatively, they also offer a West and East ticket, which allows you to travel the corresponding half-circle. These tickets cost 20,000ISK (135€) and 39,500ISK (270€), respectively. There is also a Highland Pass that takes you to the highlands for 12,500ISK (85€).
Reykjavik Excursions currently offers seven different passes:
- Hiking on your own – 12,500ISK (85€)
- Circle – 42,000ISK (280€)
- Combo – 58,000ISK (390€)
- Beautiful South – 24,500ISK (165€)
- Beautiful South Circle – 22,000ISK (150€)
- Highlights – 46,500ISK (310€)
- Highlands – 44,000ISK (295€)
In addition, you can also book and customize individual sections here. For example, the route from Reykjavik to Vik costs 7500ISK (50€). Here you can find all the tours that Reykjavik Excursions offers.
Another option is the buses from Straeto. These buses offer inner-city bus rides in Reykjavik, but also rides across the island. You can find a very detailed price list here. A trip from Reykjavik to Akureyri, for example, costs just under 60€ and a trip to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is about 68€. The buses stop at many popular destinations, but as far as I know, a complete circumnavigation of the island is not possible with Straeto as there is no connection between the northeast and southeast!
All companies offer payment by credit card. However, it is still advisable to book ahead, ideally through the website of the respective provider. With Straeto buses, it is quite common to get on and off dynamically. With Sterna and RE, the tours are often planned in advance, and those who want to ride along on a whim may be out of luck.
Not much, but there are 1-2 peculiarities to keep in mind. For one thing, when taking inner-city rides, always position yourself at the bus stop where the driver can see you. Especially when it’s raining or snowing, tourists like to hide in the shelters, and the bus just drives by them. It always helps to look out or otherwise make yourself noticeable. Most bus drivers are pretty good at spotting passengers at bus stops.
Furthermore, as a hiker in Iceland, you can flag down a passing bus to stop. So, if you’re not keen on sticking strictly to the schedule and are feeling adventurous, you can hope to catch a passing bus along a particular route. You can pay directly to the driver, and off you go.
Similarly, in Iceland, you can ask the bus drivers to drop you off at a spot that isn’t an official stop. If you ask nicely, the driver will be happy to drop you off at any spot of your choice. However, you should be a little cautious, as often there won’t be another bus for the next 24 hours, so be prepared for an overnight stay. If you’re traveling with a tent and sleeping bag, you have the freedom to choose, but if you’re reliant on a hotel, you should check the area beforehand and possibly book a room.
During the winter, buses operate on a significantly reduced schedule, so it’s essential to check ahead of time whether your intended travel route is feasible during the specific season. The highland roads are also closed to buses in winter, so highland tours are not offered. It’s best to check with your chosen provider in advance and generally pay attention to weather conditions. You can check the current weather, weather warnings, and forecasts for Iceland at any time here.
For a city trip, you don’t need a rental car or bus. If you want to experience the city, you should explore it on foot, which is easy to do in all the cities in Iceland.
However, if you want to travel to the suburbs or have booked a hotel far, far away, you’ll be glad not to have to walk the transit routes every time and can instead use the inner-city buses. Straeto offers these buses, and the yellow buses are easy to recognize. A ride costs 400 kroner, which is just under 3€, and you can ride in one direction as long as you like. The buses operate in 15 or 30-minute intervals, and the fare must be paid in cash. Only the buses that go to the countryside have a card reader for credit cards. The main terminal in Reykjavik is called Hlemmur and is located in Reykjavik’s city center.
If you’re in Akureyri, you can even enjoy a free inner-city bus. You can view the timetable and stops on this page. The buses operate from 6 am to 11 pm on weekdays and from 12 pm to 6 pm on weekends and holidays.
I have only taken the city buses in Reykjavik a few times and otherwise have always traveled on the island with a rental car. I never had any problems and always found the rides pleasant. The rides to or from the airport were also always good.
Many friends and acquaintances have taken trips with Reykjavik Excursions, and the feedback has always been very positive. The buses were always punctual, clean, and in perfect technical condition. Some loyal Iceland travelers also told me that despite their vast experience, they often prefer to switch to the bus instead of renting a car because the drivers know their way around better, and you arrive more relaxed. So, if you’re planning to go to the highlands, consider whether a day trip might be an option.