If you have booked a tour with a pickup from Reykjavík this summer, or if you’ve been reading the English language news sites here in the Iceland for the last few weeks, you may have heard about the proposed bus-ban in downtown Reykjavík.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the quick 2-min explanation:
For many years now, if you have booked day tours out of Reykjavík most of the tour companies have offered to come pick you up at your hotel as opposed to you having to find your own way to a bus terminal. Some companies have included the pickup in the price, while others have charged you a little bit extra for the pickup.
Although offering this extra service is a nice and noble idea in itself – the increased number of tourists and hotels in the downtown area has started to cause problems for the locals. The buses stop traffic, block locals that need to get to work and such and take up space on the sidewalks that should be reserved for pedestrians. The city is just not built for this amount of bus traffic and at some point, the interests of those who actually live in the city have to be taken into consideration too.
Last year (or maybe it was the year before that – I can’t keep track of everything darn it) the city decided to ban big buses in parts of the downtown area but smaller buses and jeeps were still allowed. This was not enough though because at a city council meeting earlier this month it was proposed to ban small buses and super jeeps also and make the restricted area bigger. It’s expected that the ban will take full effect in late June.
Despite the fact that these new rules have not come into effect yet – most of the day tours companies in Reykjavík have already altered their pickups so guests that are staying inside the restricted area have to book pickup at one of the designated bus stops that are scattered around the downtown area.
This has caused some confusion, understandable, which is why I decided to write this post.
But where are the bus stops?
On this map you’ll find all the current bus stops but if the ban will be fully realized 3 more stops will be added.
As you can see – this area is not big but it’s where the majority of the hotels and guesthouses in the downtown area are located. The good news though is that Reykjavík is extremely walkable and the distances are much shorter than what they look so no matter where you are staying inside of the restricted area – it shouldn’t take you more than 5-7 minutes to walk to the nearest bus stop.
Please note that if your hotel is in the center of Reykjavík, outside of the banned area, pickup might still be offered at your hotel.
The red area is where no buses are allowed and the purple bus icons are where the bus stops are located. If you are more of a visual person you can also click on the bus signs and see photos of the sign and the surrounding areas.
A few practical points about your Reykjavík pickup
It’s not just important to know where to go for your pickup – you also have to know a few practical things to ensure a smooth ride. Below are a few common causes for pickup befuddlement.
The pickup is not always included
Although pickup is often included in the tour price this is not always the case. With activity tours (like snorkeling, ATVing, horse riding and whale watching) you often have to pay extra for the pickup. People don’t always realize this and forget to book the pickup and then get a rude awakening when they miss their tour.
Most of the time it’s mentioned in the tour description whether or not you need to pay for the pickup so it’s it’s always a good idea to read it though before you book.
Most companies give a pickup window
If you book a tour at 10:00, for example, the pickup might happen anytime between 9:30 and 10:00. You might be the first pickup or the last pickup – but you always have to assume that you’ll be first and be at the designated pickup place when the pickup starts.
If you book through us you’ll find all the info about your pickup on your ticket that came as a PDF with your confirmation.
Every tour and company has different pickup rules
Let’s say you book two tours that both have a departure time at 10:00 but they’re with two different tour companies, A and B. Tour company A might start pickup 30 minutes before departure and give a pickup window between 9:30 and 10:00 whereas company B will pick up between 10:00 and 10:30.
There are no rules or reason to this and the only way to know what’s what is by checking your ticket.
The company you are going with might not be the only one doing pickups
Pickups can be confusing and chaotic. If you are staying at a busy hotel there might be dozens of guests waiting for pickups from equally many tour companies in the morning and if you’re not careful it’s easy to jump on the wrong bus.
Just a few days ago I got a phone call from a company here in Reykjavík that had accidentally picked up a guest that was going on a different tour with a completely different company and they were desperately trying to figure out how to get this guest on the tour he had booked.The guest didn’t ask and the driver apparently didn’t either. This guest was lucky that someone figured this out as he could a wounded up in a 6 day round trip around Iceland instead of a leisurely afternoon tour around the Golden Circle.
So it’s important that you know who you are going with (the buses are usually marked) and that you read the pickup info carefully. When you book with us you’ll have the name of the company you’re going with, their logo and contact info in the top right corner of your ticket.
With this new system, where people staying at several hotels will have to gather at a few selected bus stops, I don’t anticipate that this process will become any less confusing.
When the bus finally arrives it has a limited time to stop
When you get picked up for a tour the driver will probably have to go to a number of hotels and guesthouses to pick up guests. To keep things running smoothly they can only stop for a couple of minutes before they carry on. Some companies literally will only stop for 2 minutes. So you have to be on the top of your game and keep your eyes open. And be on time!
They do this because they need to keep a schedule but at the new bus stops they also only get five minutes at each stop so they don’t hold up traffic. And if you’re not there at the designated time – they will leave without you. Not because they’re trying to be mean but because they just can’t wait.
It’s your responsibility to be at the designated pickup place at the right time
Every now and again we get phone calls and e-mails from guests that are furious over the fact that the tour they were booked on left without them because they were waiting at the wrong pickup place or were only 10 minutes late. Although I totally understand their frustration, unfortunately, 80% of the time the situation could have been avoided if they had just read the pickup info and followed it.
It depends on the company how they will deal with a situation like this. If it’s their fault that you missed the pickup (like if they forget about you – which sometimes happens in the height of summer when everything is in full swing – they’re only human after all) they will, of course, refund the tour and try their best to make the best out of the situation. If you miss your pickup and they were there at the designated time, however, they are sometimes less inclined to help. In some cases, it’s just policy but in others, especially popular tours that have limited availability, they just simply can’t accommodate you on another tour.
To keep better track of their drivers, some of the bigger companies have GPS trackers on their buses and can tell you with some precision when they arrived at the pickup place and when they left it again.
Most companies have in their terms and conditions that if you are not at the pickup place at the designated time they consider you a now show which means you’re not eligible for a refund.