Hitchhiking in Iceland Tips and Advice
Iceland has to be one of the easiest countries in the world for hitchhiking. The society is generally trusting, accommodating, and, best yet, they stop for hitchhikers. In fact, thumbing a ride is a very common way for travelers to get across Iceland, and none of the hitchhikers that I have met there complained about this mode of transport — especially as buses often cost over $15 per seat hour.
Though there are two major, though related, challenges to hitchhiking in Iceland:
- Outside of Reykjavik — especially out of the summer months — Iceland can be a very remote country. If you are trying to thumb through the interior, you may be in for some long waits. It is not that the people won’t pick you up, it’s that there are no people. In many parts of Iceland it is possible to wait for hours, if not days, for a truck to pass. The good thing is that when someone does pass, it will be almost a given that you will be picked up.
- The landscape and climate of Iceland is extreme: a sunny day can turn into a wind and rain storm in a moment. There is truly no gauging the weather and it shifts and turns so quickly. This means that hitchhikers needs to be aware of where their rides are going to drop them off. It may not be a good idea to take a ride that is going to leave you off at some obscure intersection in this country.
Tips for hitchhiking in Iceland
- Be prepared for any shift in weather. As far as clothing for Iceland goes, wear synthetic inner and outer layers and always be prepared for rain. Do not let your rain jacket get out of arm’s reach.
- Don’t try to hitchhike out of Reykjavik. Exiting this city by thumb is extremely difficult, as the highways are narrow and the traffic moves fast. These roads are also are full of cars and trucks, and, as any hitchhiker learns quickly, city traffic does not usually make for good hitchhiking. One of the only places that hitchhikers commonly get “stuck” in this country is when trying to exit Reykjavik. It is a much better strategy to take a bus to the city limits and then ask for rides in person at a gas station, or just take a bus to the next town and start hitching from there.
- Stand on the side of the road as the traffic that is moving in your direction. The US/ European “thumbs up” is the proper sign for hitchhiking in Iceland.
- Carry camping gear. Having your own shelter means that you can make a home just about anywhere in this country. If there is not a fence flanking the road, it is generally alright for you to camp in the fields. Though there are campgrounds all through the countryside, and they are almost too easy to get to. Another option is to request permission to sleep in farmer’s fields.
- Carry food. It is amazing how few resupply stations there are in rural Iceland. In point, you can go for long stretches without finding a grocery store, so stock up.
- Carry cooking gear. This is almost a given, carry some way to cook food with you. Camp stove fuel — whether it be butane, propane, or alcohol — is very common in Iceland. More on how to eat cheap in Iceland.
- Be as self sufficient as possible. Iceland can be an extremely expensive country if you are not prepared to fend for yourself. Bring clothing from home, shop at Bonus supermarkets, cook your own food, and camp, hitchhiking, and Iceland can easily be traveled well for under $20 per day.
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