So, you’ve decided to visit Iceland. Fortunately, I have also decided to make your life easier by suggesting some easy-to-use and useful apps to install on your smartphone. They may even save your life, too.
My Aurora Forecast & Alerts
I have worked in tourism long enough to know that those who come here are understandably obsessed with the northern lights. Beautifully coloured lights in the sky are just about as good as it gets. The only problem with the Aurora Borealis, however, is that they can be as evasive as they are beautiful.
The question then: how do you find them? Well, you can drop by the offices of What’s On in downtown Reykjavík and ask about the conditions and whether tours are running (there are a lot of different tour options). Or, if you are desperate to make a go for it yourself, I recommend the Aurora app.
Aurora is free, highly accessible, and chock full of vital information (e.g. where the lights are expected to be visible). Keep in mind that a variety of factors affect the visibility of the northern lights, meaning that the app cannot guarantee that you will see the lights. The app will, however, definitely improve your chances. Given that you need a clear sky to have any chance of seeing the lights, Aurora includes information on cloud coverage with screenshots taken directly from the Icelandic Met Office’s web site, www.vedur.is.
Incidentally, www.vedur.is is also a highly beneficial resource during your stay in Iceland, which leads me to my next tip.
Iceland is famous for serving up all types of weather in the shortest possible time. Oh, it’s sunny, you say? Well, not for long. As soon as you step outside to enjoy the clear blue skies, you may be slapped in the face by horizontal rain or hail. But don’t you worry. The website of the Icelandic Met Office, vedur.is, stays one step ahead of things and helps you stay inside when the rain or hail or whatever bad weather starts to throw punches.
And so, given the unpredictable weather, if you’re planning a trip around the country, you must be mindful of your safety.
Every now and then the weather in Iceland gets a little crazy, briefly shutting down the entire country. Roads, stores, and anything else you can think of close their doors. People stay indoors, excepting the search-and-rescue teams, who go around saving anyone who didn’t get the memo (or decided The heck with it and travelled anyway). If you don’t want to be one of those people, idiotically propelled into the side of a building in hurricane-force winds, then please respect the warnings when they are issued. We’re not kidding around over here.
For instant updates on weather warnings and road conditions, visit Safetravel.is (the site also provides information on hiking trails). Safety alerts are updated daily in English, Icelandic, French, German, and Chinese. Anyone leaving the city can leave their travel plan on www.safetravel.is, which makes it easier to track people in need.
And like I said: heed the warnings, please.
Another app that’s useful for safety is 112, named after Iceland’s emergency hotline. It’s one of those apps you hope you won’t have to use, but it is good to download it just in case. When used, 112 can help the emergency services pinpoint your location (you can also call 1-1-2 directly, and 9-1-1 works as well).
This is how the app works: The first option is calling for help by pressing the red Emergency button. When pressing the button, your location will be sent by text message to the 112 response centre. Even when your phone doesn’t show a signal, it’s possible that the text message will be sent. The second option is pressing the green check-in button. With this option, you send your location to the 112 response centre, so they can act faster in case something happens. Only the last five locations are stored and when you press the button, you’re not disturbing anyone – the data is just stored on a computer and accessed if necessary.
Only a year ago, getting around was so much harder in downtown Reykjavík. To get from point A to point B, you had to do stuff like … walk. Ugh. But not anymore! Now we have two different electric-scooter apps, in addition to a bike-rental app. These apps allow you to jump on, hurry along, and then leave them wherever you like, which is extremely handy.
Scooter- and bike-rental apps
The two scooter apps are called Hopp and ZOLO, and the bike-rental app is called DonkeyRepublic. If you are staying in the downtown area, I can’t recommend these three apps enough.
Another app you should have is Strætó (Straeto), which allows you to buy tickets for our public transport on the go. The annoying thing about our yellow buses is that you can’t pay on the bus using a card, and if you pay with cash, you won’t receive change. The Strætó app allows you to sidestep those two issues nicely. If money “ain’t a thang” then you can also, of course, take a taxi. The Hreyfill Taxi is the app for that.
Apps for parking
If you have a rental car and need to park in the centre, you can use either Leggja or PARKA as they also allow you to pay for your parking without having to look for a parking meter. Personally, I’ve always used Leggja as it works just fine, but I checked out the PARKA app for this piece, and it looks even more modern and fancy.
Last but not least
What’s On Event Calendar
The What’s On Event Calendar is the best source for everything that is going on in Reykjavík. Check out this website regularly to get ideas on how to spend your days!
All in all, however, I hope you enjoy your stay in Iceland and that these selections of apps will help make your stay even more enjoyable.
Don't hesitate to Contact us if you have any questions.