Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solution to Visiting Iceland Without a Driver License: Bus Passport

"Hi, your Iceland posts inspired us a lot, thank you. I have a huge problem, I hope you can give me some suggestions: I don't have a driver license... but it seems to me that my trip would be ruined without one. My friends keep telling me to learn now, but the thing is, I am really afraid to drive in a foreign country... Is hitchhiking easy in all of Iceland? Is there any other choice for us? Thank you in advance..."
Solution: Bus Passport!
Iceland Bus
When I read this message from a reader, I totally felt her. That was my exact predicament 3 months ago. I immediately booked my flight to Iceland when I saw the $113 (RM500) "to and fro" promotion (departure from Europe), without having a concrete plan. 

I was alone, did not have my driver license, so I posted on the Malaysian traveler's community group to look for a travel buddy. After the failed attempt, I turned to the Icelandic CS community for advice . What they told me gave me panic attacks: hitchhiking in the South would be fine due to the huge influx of tourists but in the north... It would be a whole new different story. Fortunately, one of them told me about the Icelandic bus system which I happily looked into. 
Iceland Bus Passport
After much consideration, I had chosen the "Iceland on your own: Highlight bus pass" by Reykjavik Excursion and SBA-Norðurleið. Below are the reasons to justify my choice: 
1. The Bus Passport is run by one of the largest tour operators in Iceland-- Reykjavik Excursion, in collaboration with SBA-Norðurleið. Hence, I had high expectation on the service provided. 
2. It was my first time in Iceland and I wanted to cover all the touristy in the South. (all covered by Reykjavik Excursion's network).  
3. I will be alone so I was going to say no to long hikes. (I changed my decision when I got a travel buddy)
4. It includes a very extensive route coverage in the North, including Akureyri to Húsavík, Ásbyrgi, and Dettifoss (making good use of SBA-Norðurleið's network).
5. I am quite used to Interrailing in Europe, and this Bus Passport reminded me of it... let's call it the Icelandic Version of Interrail. (with rooms of improvements of course.) 
6. The flexibility of hopping on and off anytime (provided there are buses).
7. What? The bus rides are also environmental friendly? Sold! From what I was told, they are working on increasing the number of coaches running on biodiesel, promoting green travel. 

Details

Price for 7 days: 46500 Kr
How I booked the bus passport: RE Website
Where did I pick up the bus passport: BSÍ Bus Terminal, 101 Reykjavík, +354 580 5400
Iceland on your own


What I liked about the bus rides: 

1. Strong free Wi-Fi
2. Punctual
The buses departed on time. They were so punctual to the point that one of them left us behind in Gussfall for being 1-minute late. We "hitchhiked" another Reykjavik Excursion bus to catch up with our initial bus. 
3. Spacious, clean and well kept
The reclining seats were comfortable and equipped with safety belts.
4. Air condition and heating system worked well
Ventilation was good, we felt at ease on the bus even when it was fully seated.  
5. Sufficient leg room.
Especially important on longer rides, we were able to stretch.
6. Friendly and experienced drivers
One of the drivers taught us Icelandic and told us some fun facts along the road. Another driver allowed us to go on the bus for free because our bus left us with all our stuff on board (including our bus pass). But again, everyone is friendly in Iceland. 
There were a few stretch of the road where the bus needed to cross fast-flowing glacier rivers... Yes, your bus will go directly INTO the river like all those city duck tours. I felt safe all that while because I knew that we were in good hands.  
7. Informative
The buses do not only deliver you to your destination, you'll learn about the geology and landscape of Iceland throughout the ride with live commentary.
8. BSI opened 24 hours
Reykjavik Excursion buses usually depart from BSI (Bus Station Iceland) and it is opened 24 hours. So if you have an early bus to catch, you might as well just spend a night in the station to cut cost.   
9. Fast response and good customer service
Reykjavik Excursion was very responsive on facebook and email. My questions were all answered within few hours, sometimes minutes! 
This company puts customers first and is willing to go all out to help. I actually wrongly confirmed a "Hiking Pass" reservation and the staff was happy to help replacing it with a "Highlight Pass". 
Reykjavik Excursion


Bus Passport vs. Car Rental

In fact, I found out that traveling by bus actually wins against renting a car in the following aspects: 
1. When rock-strewn roads or windy river are involved. It would be such a relieve to know someone professional is handling the wheel. Imagine how scary it would be to drive into a fast-flowing glacier river while you are not experienced in driving across rugged wilderness. 
2. You will be able to rest in the bus. Finally, eyes off the road and possibly take a nap between destinations. 
Reykjavik Excursion Bus


8 Tips To Use the "Iceland On Your Own" Bus Passports 

1. The 'Bus Passports' are only available in Summer (June-September). 
2. Some less popular routes only run once per day so you might be locked into a time restriction. Hence, it is very important to plan ahead. Be sure to pick up a bus schedule booklet at the BSI counter, or download it here. 
3. You can book the bus passport in advance online. 
4. You do not need to pre-book every leg of the ride. Just show up with your bus passport and you will be allowed to board right away.
5. In extreme weather, bus cancellations can happen.   
6. I used some longer distance bus rides as day tours. Some of the buses don't just go from point A to Point B, they stop at various tourist destinations en route for 15- 90 minutes, allowing you to quickly check them out before arriving at your destination. 
7. Always double check the pickup point. Although most of the buses start their journey from BSI, some start from the Reykjavik City Campsite. 
8. If a particular route is not included in your Bus Passports, try to look up for bus service from the public transportation company Strætó.  
Iceland bus scenery

The ‘Iceland On Your Own’ Bus Passport is perfect for those who don't own a driver license like me or those who just want to relax and let others do the driving. There are a few more other bus passports besides "Highlight Pass" I used, including Circle PassportHighland Circle PassportCombo Passport
iceland best waterfall hikes
Iceland colorful mountain

Going to Iceland? 

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Thank You for Reading! 
Miss Happy Feet was a guest of Reykjavik Excursion and SBA-Norðurleið, who provided my "Iceland on your own: Highlight bus pass".
However, all photos and opinion are as always, my own. 

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