Tips for Hitchhiking to Iceland

Tips for Hitchhiking to Iceland

Dear Casa,

tonight I want to share with you some tips that I collected during my last trip to Iceland. I recently had a conversation with Jass, which I have re-organized here; and wrote a story on RandomRoads, that I hope will soon be reviewed and published. I heard that some of you are thinking about doing this trip, and of course I can't but recommend it, because it's truly awesome. I hope you will find this info useful!

As you might know, there is only one ship going to Iceland, by a Faroese passenger and cargo company called Smyril Line. The ship is called Norrøna (aka Norræna when said by Icelanders), and sails all year around from Denmark (Esbjerg in low season, Hanstholm in high season, to Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland via Tórshavn on the Faroes). The first tip I want to give you is: since you CAN'T possibly hitch a ride on board (prices are not per car, and people in cars don't pay less than foot passengers, and there are no trucks, only containers), go when it's cheaper. If you check the sailing schedule, you'll see that they start sailing all the way to Iceland in April, which (weird but true) is not the case. Because of changing wheather conditions, they don't say they can sail to Iceland, but if the weather is OK, they actually do, even in the middle of the winter. This is also the period when it's cheaper to sail. This time I paid 78€ one way, (55€ + 23€ for a berth in a 4-man cabin). Already in May, the price goes up to 100-120€ and in June-July to almost 200€ (which is about the average price for a one-way flight).

Faroese CouchSurfers told me that basically all people looking for couches in the winter are actually trying to go to Iceland, but get stuck there. The Faroes are lovely though, and the people even more, and they are not so foggy and rainy as the story goes! You can even easily find some short-term job while waiting for the next ship. I love Faroese people, they're my absolute favourite among the Nordic folks. They're true sailors though, and beware when they drink, because you might have never seen someone who drinks like they do...

If you're penniless and daring, you might try to sneak in. This is much more possible from April on, since there are lots of cars and people around the ferry and you can easily pass unnoticed. You can try to ask people and sneak into one of the cars queued up, or even directly into the ferry. The easiest (and safer) way, though, is paying for one-way to the Faroes, where you have to wait for about 7-8h before sailing further to Iceland. You get there at 4:30 a.m. and you're just in time to dumpster-dive for breakfast: Tórshavn has great dumpsters, because when the ship comes with the new goods, they throw all away! At around 1 p.m., you have to get back on board. Choose a time when there are several people, you can walk unnoticed past the old lady that checks your key card to the cabin. If they call you, say that you forgot your ID in the ship (I heard it works, I know it's ridiculous because they don't even care about your passport, but...). Your key card that you have used until now will most likely still open your cabin (in fact, even a very old one, because they never get deactivated!). There are way fewer passengers between the Faroes and Iceland, and very few (or even none) get on in Tórshavn, and if they do, the bunks are dealt in such a way that it is almost impossible that another person will be given your berth. If that should happen, there are plenty of places where you can hang out (and since the cabins are very small, nobody will ask you why you're keeping your luggage with you).

If you're a good busker, you can apply to play for a ride (not sure if you can get paid, too). In the ship's bar there is always someone playing for an hour or so every night, and it looks like they only do it once.

Of course, on board the ship is a perfect spot for finding a ride from Seyðisfjörður to anywhere in Iceland. If you're lucky (and in a hurry), you can even get a ride all the way to Reykjavík (about 800km). This is best done when you're alone, as most drivers have (or can make) barely room for one extra passenger in their car. Most of them are Germans and Danes, some Dutch and French, Poles and other Scandinavians/Baltics sometimes too. If you don't get a ride all the way to your destination, you might prefer finding a hitchhiking buddy and hit the road instead. You can end up waiting for hours in the middle of nowhere, and it's nicer being with someone to keep the mood up (I have talked to horses sometimes). Doing Seyðisfjörður-Reykjavík along the North Coast is perfectly possible in two days, with a stopover in Akureyri, the "Capital of the North", and nearby beautiful Mývatn.

Reykjavík has a cool, vibrant scene even during the coldest months, and hotsprings are available all year round. I suggest to go around March, when it's still cheap, and you can watch the summer coming. Already in mid August it's "blue season" again, so it gets cheaper to take the ship back.

From Reykjavík there is a cargo ship going to Halifax, Canada, and much further, even to China. I am not sure it's still taking passengers, but if it does, it sure costs a shitload of money. A friend of mine got a one-time job on board and sailed being paid, which is not bad...

Góða ferð!
(= have a good trip)