Yesterday I spent 11 hours and 25 minutes sitting on a bus counting passengers so it’s only natural that today I write a post about the Reykjavík City bus system. The Reykjavík City buses have been getting a lot of heat lately for terrible service but it’s hard to know whether the service is bad because no one uses the buses or whether no one uses the buses because the service is bad.
The city buses in Reykjavík are yellow. The Icelandic word for them is strætó, which is short for strætisvagn (street car). They are the only form of public transport in the city, if you don’t count the taxis, and there have never been any plans to add a tram or a metro system. The same company operates all the buses, Strætó BS, and it’s owned by the city and the 6 municipalities surrounding it.
In 2011, a single fare is 350 ISK for adults and children over 6 years of age. The bus driver cannot give change and they don’t accept credit cards so it’s important to have the exact amount ready before you get on the bus. Once you pay the fare you can ask for an exchange ticket that allows you to exchange buses as often as you need in 75 minutes. If you have to use your exchange ticket more than once, for example if you need to take three buses, make sure you just show your ticket to driver instead of handing it over. The Reykjavík Welcome card doubles as a bus pass while it is valid which is another good reason to buy it.
Different discount cards are available:
24 hour card for 700 ISK
72 hour card for 1700 ISK
30 day card for 7000 ISK
90 day card for 15900 ISK
9 month card for 38500 ISK
Discounted tickets for adults, youth, children, elderly and disabled are also available. You can find more information on the pricelist on straeto.is. The website will also tell you where you can buy the cards and tickets.
The routes are somewhat confusing, even for a local. There doesn’t seem to be much logic to the numbers or the routes and you really just have to study the schedule to figure out where you are going and how to get there. If you run into troubles understanding the schedule, which many people do, they nice people at straeto.is have put together a user guide to help you figure it out. Why not just make it simpler so people don’t need a user guide?
A very helpful tool on the straeto.is website is the Journey Planner. There you just put in where you are and where you want to go and at what time you want to leave or arrive. The planner will tell you which stop is the closest, how long approximately it will take you to walk there and which buses to take. Beware though that during rush hour the whole schedule can be completely off and you might miss your connection.
Strætó has recently introduced a new system in all their buses that tell you on a little screen in the front which stop is next. This is very helpful when you are traveling in a neighborhood you don’t know too well and you’re not sure of the stops.
Please note that the buses offer limited services during the weekend and at night. For example, there is no bus before noon on Sundays.
In Thailand I was told that you always give up your seat on a bus for a monk and in Ljubljana in Slovenia I got yelled at by a bus driver for not choosing the right seat as you are expected to go to the back of the bus. There are no such rules on the Reykjavík buses but the seats in the front are usually reserved for the old and disabled. You are not allowed to eat or drink on the bus but the drivers will normally not tell you off if you ignore that. They might, however, deny you access if they see you with a open drink can or ice cream for example.
The bus doesn’t stop at the bus stop unless you have pushed the button to let the driver know you are getting off and you can only enter it in the front. Unless you have a stroller or a bike and then you can enter in the back and then go to the front to pay. You are kindly asked not to talk loudly on the phone or disturb your fellow passengers in any way but like with many other rule,s most locals tend to not obey them.