Chill & Grill, Salt & Sour

Gunnar Karl Gíslason, head chef at Dill

In the rhythmic flow of seasons over the stony Icelandic landscape, where the North Atlantic winds carry tales of resilience and the terrain demands a symbiotic dance with nature, a culinary legacy has emerged – a testament to tenacious farmers, brave fishermen, and the profound respect for the resources that grace their doorsteps. Finding stories […]

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Does Uber exist in Iceland?

Taxi in Iceland's capital, Reykjavík

Simply, no. Uber – and also Lyft – do not exist in Iceland. But don’t worry, there are other ways to get around Reykjavík.

The Icelandic "Uber"

The closest thing to Uber in Iceland would be the relatively new taxi service by Hopp, mostly known for their electric scooters all over the capital area. Recently, Hopp also launched a new taxi service, where you can easily book a ride, get a detailed fare estimate, and track your taxi in real-time, just like with Uber or Lyft.

Taxis in Reykjavík

The most used and available option is the classic taxi service. There are several 24-hour taxi companies in Reykjavík, like Hreyfill, BSR, and Borgarbílastöðin. All taxis have official mileage meters and standard taxi fares. Please take into account that taxis can be quite pricey in Iceland. For instance, a taxi from the International Airport in Keflavík to Reykjavík (45min drive) can range from ISK 16,000-30,000 [€110-250 / $120-270]. There are special airport taxis available that offer special fares on those transfers.

The Stræto bus system

The cheapest way to get around Reykjavík and the suburbs is by bus. The bus company Stræto serves the capital area of Reykjavík and you can basically get around to most places. The fares range from ISK 315 for young people below 18 and seniors to ISK 630 for adults [€2,12-4,25 / $2,30-4,60].

To pay on the bus, you need to use the app Klappið on your phone – keep in mind that it sometimes has issues with foreign credit cards. You can also pay with cash on the bus. Make sure to give the exact amount, as the bus drivers can’t give any change. As of the moment, NFC solutions like Apple or Google Pay are not offered on the bus system. 

If you’re interested to read more about the public transport system in Iceland, check out our in-depth article here

16% Year-On-Year Growth in Overnight Tourism Stays for 2023

Tourists walk carefully during extreme weather in Reykjavík

In 2023, overnight stays in Iceland increased by 16% year-on-year, with Icelanders accounting for 22% of these stays. Looking ahead, 2024 is forecasted to be a record-breaking year for tourism, potentially surpassing the previous peak in 2018.

Icelanders accounted for 22% of overnight stays

According to initial figures for overnight stays in 2023, there were nearly 10 million overnight stays at all types of registered accommodations, compared to 8.5 million in 2022, representing a 16% increase year-on-year, Statistics Iceland reports

Overnight stays by Icelanders accounted for about 22% of all stays, or approximately 2.1 million, which is a 9% increase from the previous year. Overnight stays by foreign tourists were about 78% of all stays, or around 7.8 million compared to 6.6 million the year before.

In 2023, there were about 6.6 million overnight stays in hotels and guesthouses, and 3.4 million in other types of registered accommodations (apartment rentals, holiday homes, campgrounds, etc.). The total number of hotel stays was about 5.3 million, a 12% increase from the previous year. As noted by Statistics Iceland, all regions of the country saw an increase in overnight hotel stays.

Moderate increase expected in 2024

In a letter published on December 31, 2023, Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir, Chairperson of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF), noted that forecasts predict a moderate increase in tourists in 2024. If these predictions hold, 2024 will set a new record in tourism in Iceland, exceeding the previous record from 2018.

“The year that has just concluded was predominantly positive for the Icelandic tourism industry. It seemed poised to become the first year since 2018 without major disruptions to the sector’s operations, a much-needed respite after the challenges of the preceding years. However, towards the year’s end, seismic events in Reykjanes cast a shadow over this progress. As a result, demand fell, and tourism companies in the vicinity of the seismic activity had to temporarily shut down.”

Hvalur Seeks Whaling License Renewal Amid Legal Claim

Whaling ships

Hvalur hf. has requested a five-year renewal of its whaling licence, highlighting its constitutionally protected employment rights. The company emphasises its advancements in whaling technology and methods, expecting a prompt decision on its application.

Claim filed against the Icelandic state

Last week, Hvalur hf., Iceland’s only active whaling company, filed a claim against the Icelandic state, citing significant financial losses due to a temporary whaling ban imposed by the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir last year.

The claim, supported by the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s conclusion that the ban lacked legal basis, seeks compensation for the company and its employees. The ban took effect on June 20, 2023, and remained in place until September 1 of the same year.

Read More: Sea Change (from Iceland Review magazine)

In addition to the lawsuit, Hvalur hf. has also filed for a renewal of its whaling licence for the next five years, with a formal request having been sent to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture yesterday, Mbl.is reports.

In the request, Hvalur hf. refers to the aforementioned opinion by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, emphasising the company’s constitutional employment rights, a freedom that can only be restricted by parliamentary legislation.

As noted by Mbl.is, Hvalur maintains that the company has worked on and invested in the development and improvement of whaling equipment and methods, based on technological innovations and advancements in the field. “This work has led to significant and positive changes in the last whaling season,” the application claims.

The company expects a prompt response to their licence renewal application.

Iceland to Address Natural Disasters with New National Fund

Minister for Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

Finance Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir plans to propose a bill establishing a national fund, financed with dividends from the operations of Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s National Power Company. The fund would be used to address unexpected challenges in the nation’s economy, such as those that have recently arisen following the geological unrest in Grindavík.

New urgency to old ideas

In an interview with RÚV earlier this week, Sigurður Kári Kristjánsson, former MP and current chairperson of Iceland’s Natural Disaster Insurance, stated that it was necessary for the government to establish a national fund to manage unconventional challenges, such as those facing the town of Grindavík (recent geologic unrest and a volcanic eruption in January have greatly damaged the town’s infrastructure). Such a fund would also be useful for unforeseen challenges related to climate change. 

Asked about this issue, Minister of Finance Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir told RÚV yesterday that she agreed with this assessment and that she intended to present a bill for a National Fund (Þjóðarsjóður) that would undergo parliamentary processing this year. 

As noted by Mbl.is, the idea for such a national fund is not new. Former Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson proposed the establishment of a national fund in 2016 and that proposal was also included in the government coalition agreement of the Independence Party, the Left-Green Movement, and the Progressive Party in 2017. 

Þórdís Kolbrún herself delivered a speech at the annual meeting of Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company, in February of 2019, where she underscored this commitment to a national fund and explained how it would be financed:

“As you know, there has been discussion for some time about allocating dividends from the operations of Landsvirkjun to a National Fund, which will be used to respond to unexpected challenges in the nation’s economy. A bill regarding the National Fund has now been presented to Parliament, and I wholeheartedly support that we Icelanders show prudence and foresight in this manner.”

As noted by Þórdís Kolbrún, there were plans to present a bill about the national fund during the 2018-2019 parliamentary session, but it did not materialise.

Resolving the treasury’s debt first

Þórdís Kolbrún noted that the fund would not be established until the state’s debt situation following the pandemic improved. 

“We have dealt with a pandemic and now natural disasters, which Icelanders have, of course, experienced in the past. This is, nevertheless, an unprecedented situation,” Þórdís Kolbrún told RÚV, again underscoring that the fund would be financed by the profits of energy companies. 

“The idea is that these additional revenues from dividends from energy companies would, for example, go into the fund,” Þórdís continued. She observed that the fund was already on the parliamentary agenda and that she would present the bill again so that it could undergo parliamentary processing this year.

(Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company of Iceland, is a state-owned entity that generates between 60-70% of all electricity used in Iceland. The company operates a total of eighteen power stations across Iceland, which include fifteen hydropower stations, three geothermal power stations, and two wind turbines. Landsvirkjun’s financial results for 2022 were exceptionally strong, marking the best financial results in the company’s history. In a recent interview with Mbl.is, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson stated that now was an opportune time to put the strong financial results from Landsvirkjun to good use in the form of a national fund.)

Hazardous Driving Conditions Expected Today in South Iceland

winter tires reykjavík

Strong westerly winds and snow showers are expected to make for hazardous driving conditions in South Iceland today; yellow weather warnings are in effect. Roads may close without much notice, and travellers are advised to stay updated on weather and road conditions.

Hazardous driving conditions

Westerly winds will blow across the country today, with speeds between 8-15 metres per second (m/s) and scattered snow showers. By noon, that wind is expected to turn into a strong gale or storm in South Iceland, peaking between 4 and 5 PM in the capital area.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office warns that these conditions, especially with brief heavy snowfalls and drifting snow, could make travelling dangerous in South Iceland; yellow weather warnings have been issued. As noted on the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration:

“The Icelandic MET office has issued a yellow weather warning today, January 31 for the western part of the country therefore many roads are on a level of uncertainty from 9 AM to 8 PM and may close at short notice. Travellers are asked to familiarise themselves with the conditions and check weather and road updates because conditions can change fast.”   

Travellers can monitor road and weather conditions by visiting the websites of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) and the Icelandic MET office.

Milder weather tomorrow, storm on Friday

Tomorrow, warmer air will approach Iceland, bringing milder weather. There will be a southwesterly wind at 8-15 m/s with some light showers or snow showers, but generally, it will be dry, especially in the northeast. Temperatures in the afternoon will be between 0 to 6°C.

By midnight tomorrow, rain or sleet is expected in many parts of the country. On Friday, a strong southwest gale or storm is predicted. The weather will get colder with heavy snow showers in the southern and western parts of the country.