Traveling alone in Iceland can be an expensive proposition so finding people to share rides with is key to saving money on your trip. Also, the shared goal of getting around Iceland is a great way to make friends. There are other avenues to meeting people if you just want to chat with some locals. Here I’ll review the tools I used on my recent trip.
Ridesharing – There is a Carpooling in Iceland website used by travelers and locals alike that’s pretty popular. People post when they have space in their car, and they also post listings asking for a ride. I found a few options for traveling around the country that matched my trip dates on this site (more here on why I didn’t end up traveling with any of them and how I instead just hitchhiked around the country). Also on there I met a guy who ultimately ended up hitchhiking around the country. We arrived on the same day and enjoyed a day of Reykjavik sightseeing and jet lag together before he set off hitchhiking.
Travbuddy – This was my first time using Travbuddy, a site for travelers to connect with others who will be at the same place on the same dates. I posted my Iceland trip and pretty much forgot about it. Posting trips is free but you have to pay for a membership if you want to contact other members. Travbuddy sent me emails when someone’s trip matched mine, but I didn’t do anything with this information. However, I was contacted by a Swedish woman who is in Iceland for an internship and was looking for folks to drive around with on her off days. She was able to borrow a car from some friends and we explored the region north of Reykjavik for a day together. She has had great luck with this site, finding a few other people to join her for day trips. Based on my experience I think the one time $9.99 fee is a great investment and I plan to join this site and use it more in the future.
Couchsurfing – Iceland has a very active couchsurfing community, especially around Reykjavik. Travelers sometimes post ride requests as discussion topics, though not nearly as many as on the carpooling site. In addition, many folks on couchsurfing indicate they “want to meet up” with travelers on their profiles. I reached out to a few of these folks to see if any locals wanted to hang out while I was in Reykjavik. One woman responded quickly and we ended up going out for a beer and some Icelandic lobster soup. I got a lot of great local info from her, in addition to enjoying a lovely evening.
Hostels – One evening I decided that I wanted to rent a car the next day and drive the golden circle, a common tourist route near Reykjavik. But I didn’t want to pay for the rental alone. So I went to one of the local hostels downtown for a beer to try to meet other travelers who might want to join me on this adventure. The drive I had in mind can easily be done on a tour bus, but it costs about $80 for one person, which is more than the cost of a rental car + gas, so even with 2 people we could save half the cost. I met an American woman at the Loft hostel bar who was accidentally stuck in Iceland for 2 nights because she didn’t get on her standby flight, and she was eager to join my driving tour. She ended up being great company for the day long drive and sightseeing tour.
It turns out locals also hang out in some of the city hostel bars, which have good food and drink deals and nice views and/or outdoor decks. In addition to finding my Golden Circle tour buddy I met a local guy who was having a beer while doing some work from the bar at the hostel. He had just recently started investigating traveling through home exchanges and so we had an interesting conversation about that. And my tour friend met a few other locals later that evening at the atheist lecture the hostel hosted, and joined them for drinks at one of their flats. This limited experience suggests just a little friendly conversation at the hostel bars is another good way to meet locals in Iceland.