In an ever globalized world, with McDonald’s and H&M on every street corner no matter where you go (except Iceland, for the time being at least), it sometimes feels like the destinations you travel to all look and feel the same. With Google Maps and Streetview you can get familiar with even the most exotic places before you ever travel there and gone are the days of confused head scratching and upside down paper maps on street corners.
Thankfully, if you look beneath the surface, every country still has little details and nuances that will give you that dazed tourist feeling and judging by all the questions I get on my tours regarding the subject, taxis in Iceland are a constant cause of visitor bewilderment.
Question: How do the taxis work in Reykjavík / Iceland?
Before you ask: No, there is no Uber or Lyft in Iceland so you will have to rely on good old-fashioned taxis for that kind of transportation. If you are staying downtown, you probably won’t need a taxi much but let’s just assume for the sake of this post that you do.
Taxis in Iceland don’t look like anything in particular. They are not all yellow like in New York or black and oddly shaped like in London. Back in the day, the taxis would often be luxury brands like a Mercedes and BMW, but nowadays they are of all brands and sizes. Therefore, if you are traveling with some odd shaped luggage or something that might not fit in a smaller car, it’s good to mention that when you book the taxi so they will send a car that fits your needs. The taxis all have yellow taxi signs on top of them, except in October when the signs are pink (for breast cancer awareness month).
In Iceland you don’t hail a cab, you call for one. If you are downtown, there are also a few taxi stands where the cabs wait in line for the next tour and you can also get one from there. If there’s nothing special going on, or if it’s not in the middle of the night on the weekend, it usually doesn’t take them long to get there when you’ve called.
On the weekend, when the nightlife is at its peak, the rules kind of go out the window. There’s a taxi line that you are supposed to go to but sometimes you can skip the line by hailing a cab in the right places. Not all of them will stop, though, the rule-abiding ones will probably go straight to the taxi line.
There are two major taxi companies in Iceland, Hreyfill Bæjarleiðir and BSR, and a few smaller ones that I personally never use. The number for Hreyfill is +354-588-5522 and BSR +354-561-0000. Every Icelander (older than 25) knows these numbers because of ads these companies ran some years ago where they made the numbers into songs that just stuck to your brain. You know, like the new emergency number on the IT Crowd.
Hreyfill also has an app you can use to book a taxi but I never use it so I don’t know whether it’s worth it.
Taxis in Iceland run by the meter, and they accept all major credit cards. If you are taking a taxi from the airport, they will have a set price for that and also if you are traveling out of the city. They are more or less all priced the same so it doesn’t matter which company you call. I usually use Hreyfill but it’s more a matter of habit rather than an actual preference.
Taxi drives in Iceland are also mostly very nice, and you don’t have to worry about them accidentally “getting lost” or driving around in circles to scam you. In my experience many of them will happily have a chat with you, if they are given a chance, and some will chat with you even if you’ve most politely tried to make it clear that you’re not in the chatting mood. This seems be the same everywhere you go though. More or less.