BSÍ: Reykjavík’s Main Bus Terminal

BSÍ Bus station in Reykjavík Iceland

BSÍ is the main transportation hub for tours and travel within the country. BSÍ stands for Bifreiðastöð Íslands, or “Iceland’s vehicle station.” It serves as the headquarters for Reykjavík Excursions. The terminal is a departure and arrival point for various tours, the Hop On- Hop Off Reykjavík sightseeing bus, airport transfers, and public buses connecting the city, suburbs and rural areas. The station also offers free Wi-Fi, camping equipment rental, taxi services, car rentals, refreshments and luggage storage. A range of information is available at the travel desk, including maps and guides. BSÍ is located just 1.5 km [0.9 mi] from Reykjavík Domestic Airport in the city centre. 

The history of BSÍ

BSÍ opened in 1965. Apart from being the country’s primary hub for coaches, it was a place people would gather after a night of partying, as the famous BSÍ drive-through kiosk was the only place selling food 24 hours a day. After the bars closed, people would reconvene at the kiosk and eat Icelandic delights such as hot dogs, sandwiches with smoked meat and pea salad, or sviðakjammar (smoked, boiled sheep’s heads). The classic combo of a boiled sheep’s head, mashed beets and Coca-Cola remained the shop’s signature meal until it closed in 2017, leaving behind enough stories to last a lifetime.

Sviðakjammi
Photo: The smoked, boiled sheep’s head was BSÍ’s kiosk’s signature meal.

In Iceland, it was customary for children and teenagers to be sent to the farms in the summertime to help with chores, as the schools were closed from mid-May to the beginning of September. Parents would drop their children off at the corresponding coach at BSÍ at the beginning of the summer and then pick them up from there shortly before schools started up again. 

What buses depart from the BSÍ bus terminal?

Local buses for Reykjavík and its suburbs depart from the bus stop on Gamla Hringbraut road, one block north. The routes that stop there are 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 15, in addition to the public bus that takes you to Keflavík Airport, Route 55. The Flybus airport transfer departs and arrives at the BSÍ bus terminal by the other coaches.

BSÍ is the place to start if you want to go on an excursion, rent a car or seek general information to get the most out of your trip to Iceland. It conveniently has lockers and luggage storage, making it easier to explore Iceland while you await your airport transfer or accommodation check-in time.

Lockers

You can rent luggage lockers at BSÍ for up to three days between June 1st and September 14th and up to 30 days from September 15th to May 31st. The price is per 24 hours and is determined by size and total rental period. As of 2024, the price ranges from a key-locker at ISK 490 [$3.60, €3.30] to an extra large locker fitting two suitcases and a backpack for ISK 3,990 [$29, €27].

BSÍ Luggage Lockers
Photo: The luggage lockers at BSÍ Bus Terminal.

Electric Car Share Launches in Reykjavík

Hopp car share Reykjavík

There’s a new way to get around Reykjavík for residents and visitors: shared electric cars. Transportation app Hopp, which introduced shared electric scooters to the city in 2019, has now added ten electric cars to its fleet of vehicles. Users can rent a car through the app, drive it from A to B, and park and leave it anywhere within the active zone.

“People are calling for a variety of forms of transportation and the environment is calling for us to change our travel habits,” a Facebook post from the company reads. “We believe that the time is now; city residents are calling for diversity in transport, and by offering shared cars, we are bridging a certain gap. People can take public transport to work and then take a shared car if they need to run an errand during working hours. Families can therefore do away with the “extra car” and use a shared car when needed.” The shared cars are also useful for those who do not own a private car but need to run errands that are more difficult to do on public transport or a bike, such as making a trip to big box stores in the suburbs, the company points out.

The Hopp cars cost a flat fee of ISK 300 [$2.33; €2.11] to rent, and ISK 45 [$0.35; €0.32] per minute to drive, meaning a trip between the University of Iceland and the Grandi harbour area would cost around ISK 660 [$5.12; €4.63]. It costs ISK 10 [$0.08; €0.07] per minute to “pause” a rental, for example, to run an errand while the car is parked. Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson was the first to try one of the vehicles last week, as seen in the pictures below.

Authorities Look to Raise Fines for Off-Road Driving

The best weapon in the fight against off-road driving is education, according to Minister for the Environment, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. He says more people are conscious of the damage caused by off-road driving and wants to look into raising fines.
Evidence of off-road driving can take a long time to disappear naturally. Nature lovers have resorted to fixing damage where they can but if the vegetation is damaged, that can be impossible to fix. Off-road driving is a growing problem in Iceland, as travellers disregard laws. Recently, a Russian social media influencer bragged about his off-road driving. He was prosecuted, however, and had to pay a hefty fine.

This summer, damages have been discovered when mountain roads were opened again for the season. Recently, the Environment agency reported off-road driving in the geothermal area by Sogin in the Reykjanes nature reserve to the police but the tracks will be wiped out in the next few days.
Government agencies put a lot of work into stopping off-road driving, according to Guðmundur Ingi. “I believe education is our main weapon when it comes to off-road driving. But there are also rules and the nature conservation law states that off-road driving is subject to fines, and also that vehicles can be impounded and offenders can even face jail time.”

The police consider every individual case. The minimum fine for off-road driving is 350,000 ISK (€2,477, $2,781) and fines higher than that amount are often issued. “I believe that the basis of the rules is good. It may be that we should raise the fines, and that’s something which I’m very ready to inspect,” minister Guðmundur continued.

The task of educating drivers is mostly handled by rangers. 200 million ISK (€1.4m, $1.58m) were added to the budget for land protection this year, and an extra 300 million ISK (€2.11m, $2.37m) of funds will go towards the cause next year.

Authorities charged individuals for 40 instances of off-road driving in 2018. “Truth be told, the overall management of this matter has improved in the last 5 or 10 years. Both the police along with search and rescue squads, which have started to be more prevalent in the highlands. So rangers, search and rescue teams, and the police are collaborating well in this field. It’s an infinite task which we will just have to continue to fight,” Guðmundur said.

Head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions and what is considered off-road driving.

Car Rental Company Introduces Driving Safety Test for Tourists

A pilot program at a Reykjavík car rental is asking tourists to take an informational driving test before leaving with their vehicle. RÚV reports that the test is intended to prepare visitors for Icelandic road conditions and thereby increase safety for all drivers. Although the test is not mandatory, people involved with the pilot hope that it may be made so for all tourists renting cars in Iceland as early as this fall.

The driving test is being offered to tourists renting cars from a single Hertz location on Flugvallavegur road in Reykjavík. (Implementing the pilot at the Keflavík airport would have simply been too difficult given the number of tourists renting cars there.) Although it’s intended to be educational, the driving test is designed in such a way as to hopefully be fun for the takers. It’s composed of ten questions related to the biggest dangers that drivers may encounter when driving in Iceland. These are taken from a database of 73 possible questions and can be changed according to the season, when driving conditions change. The wrong answers to each question are notably absurd, making the right answer is more than obvious.

The test is the brainchild of Ingi Heiðar Bergþórsson, Hertz’s Director of Services and Human Resources, and is being administered in collaboration with the Sjóvá insurance company and ICE-SAR, under the aegis of the Safe Travel program. Ingi Heiðar said that although the pilot test isn’t mandatory, 80% of the tourists who rent from the Flugvallavegur location opt to take it and, in many cases, are thankful for the information it provides. He explained that information placards with much of the same information included on the driving test have been placed on the steering wheels in rental cars for years, but many tourists do not take the time to read these before driving. He took inspiration for the test from similar ones that are administered in New Zealand, where tourists are sometimes even offered discounts on their rental or insurance costs if they take an educational driving test before setting out.

Since the test began being administered in May, Ingi Heiðar says that damage to cars rented at the Flugvallvegur location has gone down, although it’s not possible to say if this is a direct result of the test.

Ingi Heiðar hopes that tests like the one he’s designed will be soon made mandatory as part of the regulations on car rentals in Iceland.

Number of Rental Cars Still Increasing, But Not as Fast

The number of registered rental cars on the road continues to increase in Iceland, although data from Statistics Iceland shows that this increase is slowing considerably and that rental figures still largely depend on the time of year.

Mbl.is reports that there were 21,544 rental cars registered in January 2019, as compared to 7,280 in January 2013. That’s an increase of 196%. However, while there was also an increase from January 2016, when there were 13,963 rental cars on the road, to 2017, when there were 17,350, this only represents a 24% increase.

There was only a 16% increase in rental cars on the road between January 2017 and January 2018. And between January 2018 and January 2019, the difference was smaller still: only 7%, in fact.

The data also reflects obvious fluctuations in car rentals depending on the season. The most rental cars are on the road in July, August, and September. The most rental cars so far—26,575—were on the road during August 2018. This is a 125% increase when compared with the pinnacle of car rental figures five years previous, namely 11,801 in August 2013.

 

Fined 1.4 Million for Off-Road Driving

A group of 25 foreign tourists were fined ISK 1.4 million ($13,000/€11,000) for off-road driving by Jökulsá river and in a protected area by Grafalönd on the road to Askja caldera, RÚV reports. On one of the sites, damage covers an area of six hectares (15 acres). Authorities say it will take years for the marks to fade.

Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland due to the fragility of the sub-arctic environment. Nevertheless, many off-road driving incidents have been reported this summer.

Stefanía Ragnarsdóttir, a land warden in Vatnajökull National Park, says it should be possible to better inform travellers of driving laws and their environmental responsibility. “I mean we are living on an island. You come here by boat or plane so it should be possible to reach you and this is a lot of responsibility that we need to take on much better,” Stefanía remarked. “This maybe lies most with car rental companies. They need to really step up.”