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Iceland Travel Guide

Getting Here and Around

Air Travel

Because so much of Iceland's central region is uninhabited, domestic air transport has been well developed to link the coastal towns. It isn't particularly cheap—round-trip fares for open tickets range from ISK 10,000 to ISK 20,000—but discounts are available, particularly for those under 25. The longest domestic flight takes just over an hour.

In summer, Air Iceland (Flugfélag Íslands) schedules daily or frequent flights from Reykjavík to most of the large areas, such as Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Höfn, Ísafjörður, and Vestmannaeyjar as well as several destinations in Greenland. Bus connections between airports outside Reykjavík and nearby towns and villages are available.

Eagle Air also flies from Reykjavík to Höfn and Vestmannaeyjar, as well as to Bíldudalur, Gjögur, and Húsavík, in the summer months. Icelandair operates regular direct flights—which take around 6½ hours to the nearest destinations—to Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York's JFK Airport, Orlando, Seattle and Washington DC. The frequency of flights depends on the season. Icelandair also operates regular flights to and from numerous European destinations, with even more flights during summer. The flight from London takes three hours. WOW, the country's low-cost carrier, flies several times a week to London's Gatwick Airport, and also flies to several European destinations, expanding to other destinations in summertime.

Contacts

Air Iceland (570–3030. www.airiceland.is.)

Eagle Air (562–4200. www.eagleair.is.)

Icelandair (505–0100 in Iceland; 800/223–5500 in the U.S. www.icelandair.com.)

WOW air (Reykjavík. 590–3000. wowair.com.)

Airports

Virtually all international flights originate from and arrive at Keflavík Airport 50 km (31 miles) south of Reykjavík. Reykjavík Airport is mostly a domestic airport, although some flights to Greenland, Vestmannaeyjar, and the Faroe Islands leave from there.

Contacts

Keflavík Airport (Reykjavík. 425–6000. www.keflavikairport.com.)

Reykjavík Airport (424–4000. www.isavia.is.)

Boat and Ferry Travel

It is possible to sail to Iceland on the car-and-passenger ferry Norröna, operated by Smyril Line. The Norræna plies among Hirtshals in Denmark and the Faroes and Seyðisfjörður on Iceland's east coast. Special offers for accommodations may be available through Smyril Line, and special fly-cruise arrangements are available through Smyril Line and Icelandair.

The town of Seyðisfjörður on the eastern side of the country is the arrival port for the ferry from Europe. It's a short drive to join the Ring Road and head either to the north or south from this quaint seaside village with 18th-century buildings and Norwegian-style wooden houses, either with a car rented in town or brought on the ferry.

The Baldur car ferry sails twice daily in summer from Stykkishólmur, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, across Breiðafjörður Bay to Brjánslækur, via Flatey Island. Ferries run daily between Landeyjahöfn on Iceland's south coast and Vestmannaeyjar on the ferry Herjólfur.

Contacts

Baldur (433–2254. www.seatours.is.)

Herjólfur (481–2800. 481–2991. eimskip.is.)

Seyðisfjörður Tourist Information (Ferjuleira 1. 472–1551. www.sfk.is.)

Smyril Line (Passenger Dept., Box 370, Yviri við Strond 1, Tórshavn, FO–110. 298/345–900. www.smyril-line.com. Stangarhyl 1, Reykjavík, 110. 570–8600. www.smyril-line.is/.)

Bus Travel

An extensive network of buses serves most parts of Iceland. Services are intermittent in the winter season, and some routes are operated only in summer. Fares from Reykjavík range from ISK 2,100 for a one-way trip in summer to  ingvellir, to ISK 11,800 for a summer round-trip to Akureyri. The bus network is operated by Bifreiðastöð Íslands; its BSÍ terminal is on the northern rim of Reykjavík Airport.

Contacts

Bifreiðastöð Íslands (Vatnsmýrarvegur 10, Reykjavík, IS-101. 580–5040. www.bsi.is. Daily 4 am–11 pm.)

Car Travel

The Ring Road, which generally hugs the coastline, runs for 1,332 km (827 miles) around Iceland. Although most of the road is paved, a stretch across the Möðrudalsöræfi highlands and stretches in the east are still gravel. Much of Iceland's secondary road system is unpaved. Take great care on these roads, as driving on loose gravel surface takes some getting used to and is not for the timid motorist. Be careful of livestock that may stray onto roadways.

Caution pays off when driving in Iceland's interior, too. The terrain can be treacherous, and many roads can be traversed only in four-wheel-drive vehicles; always drive in the company of at least one other car. Unbridged rivers that must be forded constitute a real hazard and should never be crossed without the advice of an experienced Iceland highland driver. Most mountain roads are closed by snow in winter and do not open again until mid-June or early July, when the road surface has dried out after the spring thaw. Most car rentals won't insure you for river-crossings.

Use extra caution when approaching single-lane bridges or blind hills (blindhæð). Before driving any distance in rural Iceland, be sure to pick up the brochure Driving in Iceland from any Tourist Information Center, if your rental agency hasn't already given you one. It has informative tips and advice about driving the country's back roads.

Emergency Services

The general emergency number, available 24 hours throughout Iceland, is  112.

Gasoline

Gas prices are high, about ISK 240 to ISK 260 per liter (¼ gallon) depending on octane rating. Service stations are spaced no more than half a day's drive apart, on both main roads and most side roads. Service stations are usually open daily until at least 10 pm; the cheaper, unmanned ÓB stations are open later and have multilingual credit-card machines. For information on the availability of gas off the beaten track, call Vegagerð Ríkisins (Public Roads Administration).

Contacts

Vegagerð Ríkisins (Borgartún 5–7, Reykjavík, IS-105. 1777 Road Conditions; 522–1112 (emergency number) for 24-hr road status in English. www.vegagerdin.is/english/road-conditions-and-weather/.)

Road Maps

It is essential to have a good map when traveling in rural Iceland. Don't be fooled into thinking all site names on some maps are active settlements. Many of these sites (Icelanders call them Örnefni) are landmarks or farm sites, and some have been abandoned. They may have historic significance but in general lack service stations or food stores. Consult the Icelandic Road Administration website for up-to-date information, images, and text concerning road conditions.

Rules of the Road

Traffic outside Reykjavík is generally light, but roads have only one lane going in each direction; stay within the speed limit: 90 kph (55 mph) in rural areas on the Ring Road, 80 kph (50 mph) on secondary open roads, and 50 kph (30 mph) in urban areas; the slower speed limits also apply near schools or in denser neighborhoods. Drivers are required by law to use headlights at all times. Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers; child seats are mandatory.

Car Rentals

Renting a car in Iceland is relatively expensive in the summertime; it may well be worth arranging a car in advance over the Internet or through your travel agent, who may be able to offer a better deal. A typical price for a compact car with basic insurance during the summer months is around ISK 7,000 per day, with 100 km (62 miles) free, plus about ISK 50 per km, or about ISK 13,000 for a compact with unlimited mileage and all insurance. A four-wheel-drive vehicle for rougher roads will cost about ISK 14,800 per day, with Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and 100 km (62 miles) included plus ISK 100 per km. There are many car-rental agencies in Iceland, so it is worth shopping around for the best buy. If you plan to explore the interior, make sure you rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle. As elsewhere in Europe, many car-rental agencies provide cars with standard transmission unless you specify automatic (which shouldn't cost extra).

Avis, Budget, and Hertz operate offices in the Leifur Eiríksson Terminal at Keflavík Airport. Hasso and Saga are competitive car-rental options, but require an advance reservation.

Contacts

Budget (Vatnsmyrarvegur 10, 101. 562–6060. www.budget.is.)

Hasso Car Rental (Smiðjuvegur 34, Hafnarfjörður, IS-200. 555–3330. www.hasso.is.)

Hertz (522–4420 Both Airport and Reykjavik Desks.)

Saga Car Rental (Keflavík Airport, Blikavollur 3, Keflavík. 515–7110. www.sagacarrental.is.)

Cruise Travel

Ships dock at Skarfabakki Quay in Reykjavik, which sits 4 km (2½ miles) from the city center. The Cruise Visitor Welcome Centre has a range of facilities, including currency exchange, V.A.T. refunds, car rental, a shop, Internet access (including Wi-Fi), and toilets. Free shuttle buses transfer passengers downtown, but taxis also generally wait to meet the ship. If you want to walk, it is an easy stroll into town, but you can never be sure of the weather.

A car rental is expensive in summertime per day for a compact manual vehicle. All the international companies have offices in the city. Many roads outside the capital are hard surface but not asphalt, so a car is necessary if you want to explore on your own. Driving can be difficult in snow and ice.

There are many companies in Reykjavík offering group or individual tours, including Iceland Total, but the costs for these activities can be high. Tourist information centers in Reykjavík have many brochures for day tours. Taxis can also perform tour services. Prices may be fixed or, for shorter journeys, metered, and taxis accept credit cards.

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