If you‘re staying in Reykjavík for any period of time, you might want to get acquainted with the public transportation system, Strætó. We don’t have trains, or an underground system, only our beautiful yellow public buses. They‘ll take you anywhere you need to go, but I understand that it might be a bit confusing to figure out how the system works. If you’re looking for some tips to make your life easier on the streets of Reykjavík, here’s how to take the bus in Reykjavík:
Where can I buy tickets and how much does it cost?
(Updated September 2022)
The single fare price for adults is 490 ISK. Children 11 years and younger are free, the disabled pay 147 ISK, and seniors and children 12-17 pay 245 ISK. You can buy a ticket on the bus, but only if you have the exact amount in cash (the drivers don‘t have change). At 490 ISK, many people go ahead and pay the 500 ISK and accept the loss of 10 ISK.
Paper tickets used to be available at local stores and swimming pools, but Stræto has discontinued these as of March 2022.
What if I don’t have cash or exact change?
You can pay for your fare through the Klapp app. Using only your smartphone, you can pay for one-time fares for individual rides, purchase Klapp 10 (10 tickets), or buy a one-month or a one-year pass. It should be noted that you will need to use data or WiFi to make this transaction and use it on the bus. Luckily, Strætó has free WiFi as well!
Here’s where it gets complicated:
If you are staying in or travelling to the countryside via Strætó, the Klapp app won’t work for you. Strætó only recently began using Klapp. Previously, there was the much-loved Strætó app. The way to get around this, you will have to visit the website or download the old Strætó app onto your phone.
NOTE: This app is no longer usable in the city! However, it still features a live map that is incredibly useful – something the Klapp app lacks.
The Reykjavík City Card Option
What happens if you don’t have cash or don’t have a smartphone?
There is another option – the Reykjavík City Card. It‘s available for 24, 48 or 72 hours and gives you access to all of Reykjavík‘s public museums (and discounted access to the private ones), geothermal pools, the Reykjavík Family Zoo in Laugardalur, as well as the bus system. There is a lot you can do with the card in a short time!
So if you do not care to fool around with the apps, the Reykjavík City Card will allow you to take the bus as many times as you want during the given time period.
Okay, so the fare is sorted. Next question, how do I know when my bus arrives?
The timetables can be found on the Strætó website, and each bus stop has the departure times for the buses that stop there. The Strætó app also has the departure times and will calculate your route for you. Generally, the buses start running before 7 am on weekdays (slightly later on weekends, but still before 10 am) and run until around midnight, depending on routes.
Wait, the bus doesn’t run after midnight? What if I have to get places during the night?
After a long hiatus, the Night Bus is back. For anyone planning on partying downtown during the weekend and wanting to take the bus home, a small selection of routes is available, so make sure you plan ahead before you start drinking!
The other options for late-night travel are taxis and the city’s abundant amount of electric scooters. If you’re downtown, there are queues for taxis at Ingólfstorg and Lækjartorg. You can also stop them in the street if you see one with the lights on. Outside the city centre, it’s best to call for one. Taxis in Iceland are well regulated, clearly marked (with lights on top) and generally safe.
The electric scooter quickly became a favourite mode of transportation for citizens of Reykjavík. You can usually find them dotted all over downtown – the different colours matching the different companies operating them. The only way to ride them is to download the appropriate app, plug in your payment information, and zoom off into the night! (Please don’t operate a scooter while inebriated!!)
The apps also include a live map of available scooters, just in case you have difficulties finding one.
Okay, so I’ve got my ticket, and I know which bus to take and when it arrives, but there are bus stops on both sides of the street with buses going in opposite directions! How do I know if I’m heading the right way?
When deciding which bus to take, get the route number and the terminus. While you’re waiting for the bus, check to make sure you’re waiting on the right side of the street. On a little sign right next to the bus stop you’ll find the timetable for your route. Above the timetable, you’ll find the names of the bus stops on the way (the one you’re on is specially marked) with the terminus at the end of the line, make sure it matches the one you’re supposed to take.
If it doesn’t, cross the street. When the bus arrives it will also be clearly marked with the route number and the terminus. Occasionally the bus drivers forget to change it at the end of the line, so just in case, it doesn’t hurt to ask the driver. They can also help you figure out when to step off the bus.
What do I do if I have to change buses on my route?
Just ask for a “transfer ticket” when you enter the bus. The ticket is valid for 75 minutes, and you can show it to the bus driver when you enter the next bus.
If using the Klapp app, you will also have 75 minutes to use your ticket. Simply scan the same ticket on the bus you are getting on, and it will work exactly the same.
What if I want to get out of the city? Do you really have no other modes of public transportation? No trains?
Nope, if you’re not renting a car it’s Strætó all the way. When you’ve mastered how to take the bus in Reykjavík, it’s time to learn how to use it to get out of the city. Strætó has routes outside of the city, with destinations such as Akureyri, Hveragerði, Vík and Jökulsárlón (the Glacial Lagoon). Prices differ, depending on where you’re going, and buses going out of the city take credit cards (but don’t use the Klapp app!).
However, if you’re travelling long distances, you might want to consider flying instead, especially in the winter, since the weather can cause interruptions.