What is the protocol after you purchase a package holiday to Iceland? How much money will you need for each day? What simple problems do you need to worry about before arriving here? Is there anything you may have overlooked? Read ahead for a breakdown on package holidays to Iceland.
If you are looking for a stress-free, personalised, affordable holiday to Iceland, there is no wiser decision than booking a package. Guide to Iceland has a huge array of options for both summer and winter, which allow visitors to prebook everything from a long weekend to an exploration of the whole island over twelve days.
After booking one, you don’t need to worry about organising separate tours, renting vehicles, and in most cases, finding accommodation; all is sorted for you. While this is a great relief, many still have a few apprehensions about details of how their holiday will go.
How, for example, will you get from Keflavík International Airport to your hotel in Reykjavík? What do the buses you will travel in look like, and how can you be sure you won’t miss one? Will there be any hidden costs you need to worry about?
This article will answer common questions like these by taking you through a traditional package, from arrival to departure, and hopefully will put any fears to bed.
The package that will be used as an example is a classic 7-Day Summer Package, but the majority of the information will be applicable for totally different options, such as this 5-Day Winter Package to the Ice Caves, or this 13-Day Highlands Photography Workshop.
This guide is intended only to answer questions about possible confusion after you have arrived in Iceland. For queries on flights to and from Keflavík International Airport, please see this Ultimate Guide to Flying to Iceland, and for a resource on what to pack, see What to Pack for Travel in Iceland.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Jeff Hitchcock
Most packages begin at Keflavík, where you will have to get yourself to Reykjavík using the FlyBus voucher you were provided with. The thought of finding the right place to depart from can, straightaway, be a daunting one, but thankfully, it couldn’t be easier.
Keflavík International Airport is small and very easy to get through, with few queues, especially in Arrivals. After disembarking your aircraft, you simply have to follow the signposts through security to pick up your bags, before emerging into the Departures Hall.
Here, there are two easy-to-locate desks where you can exchange the Flybus voucher you received when booking your package for a transfer ticket: the Airport Direct desk or the Reykjavik Excursions desk. Tell the staff which hotel you are staying at to receive the correct coloured ticket, as many buses stop at the BSÍ Bus terminal where you will transfer into a smaller vehicle to get you directly to your accommodation.
Photo from Reykjavík Excursions
Many travel packages provide you with the option to go to the Blue Lagoon on your arrival day; if so, show the staff this voucher, and you'll get two tickets, one to get you to the lagoon and the other to complete your journey to the capital. Buses depart regularly from both locations to minimise your waiting time.
After collecting your tickets, you will head outside the doors right beside the offices, and you'll find all buses to your right. A member of staff will be waiting by the next one to depart and will help you stow your bags away. You can then board, and another member of staff will check your ticket before you set off to make sure you are on the right vehicle.
Once you are boarded on your FlyBus, you’ll be taken to one of two destinations, based on your decisions while booking: the Blue Lagoon or the BSÍ Bus Terminal in Reykjavík.
The Blue Lagoon is just twenty minutes away, and the journey will be made without stops. Once here, you can disembark, enter the Lagoon, and relax in the healing, azure waters; just make sure you take your bags with you, as well as your ticket. After all, you’ll be using it to join another bus when you have fully enjoyed the Spa, which you will find in the same place you disembarked.
Please note that you are very unlikely to be able to adjust your plans on the day and just go to the Blue Lagoon; tickets need to be bought well in advance.
The BSÍ Bus Terminal is just over forty-five minutes drive from both the airport and the Blue Lagoon. Once you arrive, you will either collect your bags and walk to your hotel, or, if you have an advanced ticket, be taken on to your accommodation.
If you have arranged a hotel drop-off, be sure to listen in to what the guide on board the bus says as you arrive at BSÍ. The colour of your ticket will be called out, with instructions to either stay seated or to move into another vehicle heading in the direction you need.
If you have any questions, there is a desk in the BSÍ Terminal that is staffed day and night, and those working at it will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
After you arrive at your hotel and check-in, you’ll have a great opportunity to get your first taste of Reykjavík.
Reykjavík is an easy city to explore, being small, contained, and home to countless attractions. Deciding what to do with your limited time here, however, can still be quite overwhelming, especially if you have concerns about budget or specific requirements for your group.
To get help you out, we have a Reykjavík Guide, which has a wealth of information on everything from what to do with young kids to the best bars for craft beer, from where to find the best street-art to the city's best swimming pools.
If you have a fair amount of free time on your first day, and you will not have another chance to do so, you could book a 24-Hour Reykjavík City Card, which will grant you free admission into many galleries and museums, and provide considerable discounts at a range of shops, restaurants and other attractions.
There are two things that most returning from Iceland say about the country: that it is beautiful, and that it is expensive. While it is true that prices for most goods are well-above average compared to other countries, there are many ways to avoid the biggest tourist traps.
If you want to experience the nightlife, it is highly recommended that you buy alcohol at the airport rather than at the government-run alcohol shops and the bars. You can then have a few drinks before heading to the bars, in the Icelandic tradition of cutting costs on a night out.
The average price of a standard beer is over 1000 ISK (above €8 or $10 USD) in most bars, which adds up after a couple, and the alcohol shops, called Vínbúðin, sell booze for about double the airport price.
Food is similarly pricey if not bought with care. A restaurant meal usually costs in excess of 3000 ISK, and even a burger somewhere more casual will often exceed 2000 ISK. Food in such establishments is most often fresh and excellently prepared, but those seeking to save money should instead head to a local supermarket.
Bónus is the cheapest, while Nettó, Hagkaup and Krónan are very affordable. Avoid the mistake of going to 10/11, as this chain is extortionate and raises its prices at night.
In terms of what to do in the evening outside of eating and drinking, there are regular events going on, many of which are free or cheap. You can look at this article which lists weekly events and annual festivals. You can also simply go sightseeing, which is both entertaining and free.
Whatever you do with your first night in Reykjavík, make sure you don’t go so overboard that you are exhausted for your trip the next day.
After enjoying a night in Reykjavík, you are ready to hop on a bus to enjoy the first day of your package. But where should you meet your guides and group, and when?
The short answer is that it will be written on your voucher for the day. You'll be told the pick-up time for the tour, and where you are to meet your guide. Always make sure that you are at your pick-up location at least fifteen minutes before the official starting time of the tour, as guides often have to make multiple stops dotted around Reykjavík in a short amount of time, and can’t wait around.
As to where your pick-up location is, it will be one of two places. In many cases, you will simply have to meet your guide outside the front doors of your hotel. Please note that even if it is raining, you will need to be outside, because as mentioned, guides have a tight schedule and are not likely to have time to search the lobby for you.
If your hotel is in a busy downtown area, you will have to walk to a nearby meeting point (as the city is working on easing traffic in these parts of Reykjavík). If you don’t know where this meeting point is, you can ask at your hotel reception, just be sure to give yourself enough time.
Keep your voucher in hand (or on your phone), so that your guide can identify you quickly. Guides, most likely, will be dressed in clothes representing their operator, in vehicles bearing the company logo, but this is not always the case.
Please be aware that Guide to Iceland does not run these tours themselves, so you’ll be looking for a different company name, found on your voucher.
Although it is very unlikely, there is a very small possibility that your guides may not be able to find you or may forget you. If you believe this to be the case—the usual sign being that they have not arrived for thirty minutes after the start of the pick-up time—then call the operator or Guide to Iceland as soon as possible. They will, in turn, contact your guide before relaying what they were told back to you.
The most usual situation is simply a delay, and they’ll grab you in a few minutes.
You’ve boarded the bus for your tour, and now are wondering: ‘What can go wrong next?’ So long as you listen to your guide and ask whenever you are unsure, the answer really is very little. You are in safe hands, and can simply relax and enjoy your day.
Each tour is a little different, however, so below, the days of the aforementioned 7-Day Summer Package will be discussed in detail, so you can see the kind of budget you will wish to prepare for each day.
Day Two of this package (Day One being your arrival day) takes you on a sightseeing route that almost all other packages also visit: the Golden Circle. This beautiful trail takes you around three spectacular sites before you are taken back to Reykjavík.
The main thing to consider for this day tour is food. At either the waterfall Gullfoss or the hot spring area at Haukadalur, you will stop for lunch; both destinations have a cafeteria-style restaurant, with treats such as traditional lamb-soup, fries and cakes.
A decent meal can be bought for around 2000 ISK. If this is still too expensive, you can grab sandwiches and snacks from the service centres that you stop off for about half the price, or, of course, bring a packed lunch.
In terms of drinks, it is highly recommended that you bring an empty bottle, and fill it up with tap water throughout this tour, and every other. Bottled water in Iceland is not only environmentally destructive but sourced from the exact same places as the water that runs through the pipes.
Days Three and Four of this package take you along the South Coast, meaning you won’t be returning to Reykjavík on the third night. Worry not, however, as your accommodation is sorted for you prior to arrival.
It does, however, raise a few concerns for dinner. For lunch on Day Three, you can either dine at the stop in Vík or, like the day before, bring or buy food en route.
At one of these service centre stops, the budget-wary will want to buy extra for the evening, as your accommodation is in a remote part of the country, so the only restaurant available is likely to be at your hotel.
While no doubt delicious, it is also likely to be pricey, at around 3,000 ISK, to say nothing of drinks.
On Day Four, you’ll receive breakfast at your hotel, which is included in the package (the majority, but not all, hotels out in the country offer this to guests). You’ll set off again after it.
You may have opted into tours such as a glacier hike or boat ride on this day. In such a case, do not fear missing it; your guides will be fully aware of your plans and will ensure that you are both dropped off and picked up from them in the right place, in a timely fashion.
You’ll arrive back in Reykjavík late, so will likely have little time for extravagant plans on this evening.
On Day Five of this package, you can take one of two tours, neither of which take the full day. Have no doubt, however, that both are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, as you are offered to either descend into the magma chamber of a dormant volcano or enter the ice tunnels carved into Langjökull glacier.
Lunch on these tours should be brought along or bought en route, as there will be no stop for dining on either.
Your penultimate day in Iceland on this package also has two options: stay in Reykjavík, or go on a Super Jeep tour to Landmannalaugar. Both will provide excellent experiences, although the budget-wary should clearly go for the former unless this is the one time they want to splurge.
Those that chose to stay in the city should make sure that they don’t end up spending as much as they would have taking the alternative tour, which is actually remarkably easy. Food, drinks and shopping are expensive, and a poorly planned day can result in you spending much more on things like museum entry than you ever needed to.
As mentioned above, the Reykjavík City Card provides an excellent way to avoid such pitfalls. It is, of course, still possible to have a fun, cheap day in the capital without one.
You can also enjoy a tour within the city. When booking this package, you can arrange a whale-watching excursion into Faxaflói Bay or a guided sightseeing tour, both of which will be very rewarding and only take a few hours out of your day.
All holidays most sadly come to an end, and this package does on the seventh day. So how do you get back to the airport?
Basically, you do everything you did when you arrived in reverse. You will either be picked up from your hotel or hotel area for transfer to the BSI Bus Terminal, or can make your way there yourself, and here can change your voucher for a ticket. You will then board a coach, and be taken to the airport.
You can reach the airport via the Blue Lagoon if you have time and did not on your first day.
It is highly recommended that you allow at least two hours to get through customs at Keflavík; though, as mentioned, it is a small airport, queues tend to be longer for those departing, and certain terminals are further from the main shopping area than may be expected.
Photo by Jason Eppink
Taking a package cuts out many hidden costs; almost everything is paid for before arrival, so the very budget-wary can limit what they buy entirely to food. If you buy shop bought snacks en route to your tours for breakfast and lunch, drink tap water throughout the day, then have a cheap meal out with a drink or two, you can be expecting to spend about 5,000 ISK per day.
On a seven-day tour, therefore, you could get away with spending under 40,000 ISK (€319 or $384 US).
Most travellers to Iceland will want to be a little more lavish on their holiday, however. Realistically, you may spend another 20,000 ISK on souvenirs, 5,000 ISK on drinks at the airport, 5,000 ISK on entry to events in Reykjavík if you go to two standard shows and 4,000 ISK (approximately) on a Reykjavík City Card. You are therefore looking at a general budget of about 75,000 ISK (€598 or $720 US).
Whether taking a package on a shoestring budget or without a care for the expense, however, it does not matter; you are sure to have an incredible, stress-free holiday tailored to your needs and desires in the Land of Ice and Fire.
At Guide to Iceland, self-drive tours and vacation packages are meticulously planned, and the companies that run excursions you may book on them are reliable and respected. Even so, however, it is the way of the world that things can occasionally go wrong.
One of the most common problems people encounter is with air travel. Whether it be due to weather conditions, personnel strikes or just mismanagement, flights can be delayed. If you have booked a package, a few hour delay will most likely not be a problem. Most of these packages have the first day in Reykjavík, so while unfortunate, the worst-case scenario is usually missing out on a bit of city sightseeing or some time in the Blue Lagoon.
If your flight is nearly a day late or longer, however, your package may be impeded. In such a case, it is crucial that you contact Guide to Iceland as soon as possible, by phone or email. Staff will do all they can to rearrange activities and trips according to your new needs so that your itinerary does not fall apart.
It is important, however, that you contact us as soon as you realise your arrival will be delayed. The longer we have to make arrangements, the quicker we can get your holiday back on track. Please don’t wait until you land at Keflavík to tell us you’ve missed the date for your Flybus, check-in at your hotel and the departure for your first tour!
Guide to Iceland will be of great service in the example of your package itinerary having to change quickly and smoothly. Any problems encountered when your holiday starts, however, will be better handled by the operator responsible for that element of your trip.
If, for example, you have problems with your rental car, the company that rented it to you should be the first point of contact. Similarly, if you have booked a tour and your guide is late picking you up, or you lose them on the trip, then call the tour operator.
Guide to Iceland is a sort of ‘middle-man’ in such situations and will slow down any solutions. We would simply put you through to those responsible and thus best positioned to help.
Information on all your operators, including their contact details, will be provided to you after booking your package. You will also receive a wealth of information about the package you have booked, with information on both practical issues and the amazing sites and adventures you will experience.
If something goes seriously wrong on your holiday, such as an injury, a car accident or getting trapped out in nature, then, of course, call emergency services immediately. The emergency number in Iceland is 111, and operators all speak English.
Do you have any questions about packages to Iceland? Have you done one already, and do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.