What are the different transfer options available between Keflavík International Airport and Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík? How often do bus transfers leave, and is it possible to book your transfer in advance? Is it recommended to hire a rental car, and how long does the journey take? Read on to find out all you need to know about how to travel between Keflavík Airport and Reykjavík city centre.
Unless you are entirely convinced of the dangers of air travel—in which case, we’ll see you as your ferry docks at Seyðisfjörður—almost all travellers to Iceland will pass through its one major transportation hub, Keflavík International Airport, the only airport of its kind in the country.
Keflavík Airport saw an increase in traffic in recent years, yet it still feels much quieter and calmer than many of its counterparts across the world. Even so, it is always wise to be aware that the airport, whilst still a place of budding excitement or genial reflection, can also be inherently stressful for people...
...you have to check in your bags, keep your passport handy, wait in queues, get frisked by a stranger, handle a difficult toddler, find the right gate, stand in more queues... the last thing you need to worry about on top of all that is successfully transferring from the airport to your accommodation.
Thankfully, a Keflavik International Airport transfer is an easy affair, made all the easier by the various transfers available. It is, however, a good idea to get a general understanding of the transfer process in Iceland before your arrival.
Found nestled within the harsh, volcanic fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula, it is almost impossible to imagine Keflavik International’s humble beginnings, first as a solitary landing strip at Garður (a little way north to the current site), then, in 1942, as Patterson Field and Meek Field respectively, a two-runway project by the US Military, and finally, as Naval Air Station Keflavik, under the command of NATO.
Today, the airport is run by an enterprise of the Icelandic government, measuring out at 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi) with three runways in total. The airport's main carriers are Wow Air and Icelandair.
Credit: Jeff Hitchcock.
Without prior research, it is safe to assume that many prospective travellers to Iceland will be somewhat surprised to find the country's only international airport is found not by its capital, Reykjavík, but 1.7 nautical miles west of its “Capital of Rock ‘n Roll”, Keflavík, a town of just under 16,000 people.
Regardless of the close proximity, it is, generally, a rare occurrence that holiday-makers choose to transfer directly to Keflavík. The airport lies 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Iceland’s quintessential capital city, Reykjavík, which boasts far more options regarding accommodation, cultural opportunities and tour departures. The journey between the airport and the capital takes approximately forty-five minutes by car.
Those who choose to explore the town of Keflavík will often do so on a day when they are tackling the whole of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Thankfully, the transfer between Keflavík International Airport and Reykjavík runs through the Reykjanes Peninsula on Road 41, meaning you will gain immediate insight into this land's rugged and fantastical landscapes.
Most passengers can’t help but spend this hour enraptured by Iceland’s majestic introduction; to the right, fields of jet-black lava rock and distant, blue mountain peaks strike an appealing contrast to the vehicle’s left side view, an ever-changing panorama of grizzled coastlines and sleepy fishing settlements.
Many guests, either on their arrival or departure day, choose to visit the world-famous Blue Lagoon Spa, renown for its soothing azure waters, healing silica mud and geothermal energy. It is particularly cherished by those who deal with skin disease (i.e. psoriasis), as the Blue Lagoon Spa operates its own Research facility, examining new ways to treat skin ailments.
Of course, the Blue Lagoon is just as much loved by visiting guests who jump at the opportunity to take a dip in one of the country's most iconic attractions. Not only will guests here have the chance to engage in some rejuvenating activities such as getting a face mask or massage, but they can also enjoy some fine dining at the Spa's bistro.
The Blue Lagoon is found between both destinations, roughly fifteen minutes from the airport and thirty minutes from the capital, and makes for one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. With the recent addition of a luxury hotel to the Blue Lagoon in 2018, guests here can elongate their stay indefinitely. Visit the Spa on a winter night for a chance to watch the Northern Lights as you bathe.
Appreciating not only the fine landscapes but also the lack of traffic, visitors will find that, by the time they have reached the hotel, their jet lag has almost entirely dissipated—this is particularly true after bathing at the Blue Lagoon, and made all the truer if you boast a private hot tub at your accommodation.
Of course, not everyone will be arriving in the same manner, nor intending on the exact same type of holiday, meaning some clarification is needed as to what type of transfers from Keflavik are available. To keep things simple, we'll break down the three major options first.
Your first option, and perhaps your likeliest given an extended stay in the country, is to simply drive the route yourself. If you've been planning on renting a car from the get-go, it's more than likely that you will be picking it up and dropping back off at the airport anyway.
Having a car in Iceland is a great way to get around and explore the country. It means you can explore sights such as the Golden Circle, South Coast and East Fjords, without feeling constrained. Take a self-drive tour if you want the freedom to travel as you please, but would like help to plan your itinerary.
Rental car operators are by no means few and far between in Iceland. Big-name operators such as Hertz, Budget Car & Van Rental, Europcar and Avis Car Rental can all be found here, and in fact, keep a permanent booth open at Keflavik International Airport. This makes picking up your vehicle upon arrival easy and accessible.
As a side-note, remember that whatever cars you'll be renting should be fitting the criteria of your interior. For instance, there is no use considering going into the Icelandic Central Highlands if you are not in possession of a 4X4 rental vehicle (or if you are coming in wintertime) and if you're not in ownership of the right insurance.
Flybus services, as operated by Grayline and Reykjavik Excursions, are one of the easiest means of getting between the airport and the city, with a scheduled transfer occurring directly after each flight.
More often than not, these Flybus transfers will travel to the main BSI bus terminal in Reykjavik, before splitting the passengers into smaller groups, then taking them individually to their respective hotels. With just one cross-over during this transfer, those considering forsaking their own vehicle this time around will often find this the most efficient and cost-effective option.
It is also worth pointing out that BSI is found only a ten-minutes short walk from downtown Reykjavik, where most of the city's hotels can be found. This means, considering the hotel's location, that you may be able just to walk the last leg of the journey yourself.
Note that there are some restrictions as to where the buses can drive you in central Reykjavík, so if your hotel is extremely central, you will be dropped off at one of the nearby bus stops and will need to walk for 1-2 minutes to reach your hotel.
Prices for the Flybus vary depending on passenger age, and it is possible to have this pre-booked in advance or to simply purchase it upon arrival in Iceland. Adults are charged 3000 ISK for a hotel pick up, and 2500 ISK if picked up from BSI.
Those lucky, youthful travellers between 12 and 17 pay just 50% of the adult fare, whilst children 11 years old and below ride for free.
Granted, this option is not for everybody, but those with the cash, or the inclination to avoid other humans, might opt-in for one of Iceland's private airport shuttles, taking them between the airport and the capital. With your own personal driver/guide, tinted windows and a complimentary glass of bubbly, there really could be no more a luxurious way of beginning your trip abroad.
A private shuttle offers a level of intimacy and comfort that is, perhaps, not so easily found on more public transportation. It allows you to pick the vehicle model and size you have in mind. You will also have the benefit of listening to your driver as he tells you, and you personally, about the history and culture of Iceland.
Of course, because it's a private shuttle, you can also choose to entirely ignore them, pulling up the shutter so that you can sit back and enjoy in delirious solitude.
Another great benefit of taking a private shuttle is that, once you meet your driver, your journey is ready to commence. As an added security, they will be following your flight path during the journey, making sure to arrive on time regardless of whether the aircraft arrives early or late.
This can sometimes be a problem with the Flybus service, which will often hang on for an extra fifteen / twenty minutes in an attempt to fill up all remaining seats. This can be a little frustrating if you're looking to shoot off as quickly as possible, but, then again, no one wants to leave a holidaymaker behind.
Another option, though this one no doubt, comes with a degree of hassle, is utilising Iceland's public transportation system, Strætó. No doubt, upon a few days in Iceland, you'll instantly recognise these canary yellow buses as they make their routine stops around the country. If you actually take some time to use them, their cleanliness and reliability are also bound to make a lasting impression, no doubt drawing comparisons to the bus systems back home.
Those who choose to use these Strætó buses, for airport transportation while in Iceland or just for travel around the city, should be aware that it is possible to book tickets and schedule journeys on the companion mobile application.
Costing 1800 ISK for a single ticket, Bus 55 does back-and-forth journeys nine times a day, leaving at the following times (be aware that this journey will likely require further transfers to reach your specific accommodation.):
Keflavik to BSI, Reykjavik:
06:35, 07:42, 09:55, 13:42, 14:42, 15.42, 16:42, 17:42, 18:42
BSI, Reykjavik to Keflavik:
6:25, 7.57, 8:25, 14:25, 15:25, 16:25, 17:25, 18:25 19:25
However, you choose to transfer from the airport to your accommodation is entirely up to you and heavily dependent on the adventures ahead. As mentioned previously, it is possible to arrange this transfer upon arrival in Iceland, though it is highly recommended to do so beforehand.
If none of the above options suits you, there is always the option to take a taxi. The taxi fares are the same at any time of day, and around 15-16 thousand ISK for up to 4 people, or around 20 thousand ISK for 5-8 people one way between the airport and a central hotel in Reykjavík (rates from 2018). So taking a taxi is only feasible from a budget perspective if travelling with a large group of people.
Alternatively, you could try and bag a free ride for yourself from someone with their own rental car. Either way, to avoid the pressures that come with the arrival in a new country, we cannot stress the benefits of our major options enough.
Did you find our article about airport transfer options between Keflavik International Airport and Iceland's capital, Reykjavik? Which Reykjavik airport transfer did you utilise when you arrived in Iceland and were there any obstacles to your trip? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the comments box below.