I remember a time before we had mobile phones or any kind of GPS device. To navigate to new places, you had to use a physical map and plot your route. You had to pay attention to road signs and landmarks if you didn’t want to get lost.
You had to watch the news the day before to receive a weather forecast. All of that has changed; with a powerful computer at our fingertips, directions, forecasts and travel tickets are just a click away. On my travels around the world, apps have been useful to help me pinpoint exactly what I’m looking for and where, and Iceland is no exception. There are some great travel apps here that make your Iceland adventure a whole lot smoother. Let’s take a look at some.
Safe Travel Iceland App
Safe Travel is a project created by the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue. Its website has great advice about driving and hiking in Iceland, and updated weather and road conditions. They list alerts that travelers should be aware of, such as storm warnings.
Their app, 112 Iceland, is a useful app both for emergency situations and to inform them of your GPS location should something happen. It’s named after the Icelandic emergency number; 112. It’s simple to use; the red button is labeled ‘Emergency’ and the green button is labeled ‘Check in’. You can check in as often as you want and only your last five locations are stored on their database.
Clicking the emergency button will send your location via text message to the emergency services response center. The app is only available for Android and Windows phones, so iPhone users can log their travel plan on the website.
There are some other apps that facilitate safe traveling in Iceland. Veður (search for Vedur on your app store) is the app of the Icelandic Meteorological Office. It’s the go-to weather app for travelers and locals alike. The Met Office provides updated information about the weather conditions around the country; this is something you should be vigilant about checking before embarking on a trip.
If you haven’t heard, Icelandic weather can be fairly extreme, particularly in the winter months. On the day this is being written, the Met Office issued a red alert because of strong winds, and people were advised to stay indoors. So, for those visiting Iceland in the winter, spring or autumn, allow flexibility in your itinerary, just in case the weather isn’t ideal.
Be aware also that in some weather conditions, and at some times of the year, certain roads will be closed. Veður is the place to check that you aren’t planning a trip to somewhere that isn’t reachable. You can also find all the information on their website.
Best Iceland Apps
Straeto is the app for Reykjavík’s bus service. On this app, you can buy a single journey ticket using a debit or credit card, at a cost of ISK480.
The ticket will then last you for an hour and 15 minutes. It’s worth purchasing a ticket this way, as you can’t use a bank card to buy a ticket on the bus; only at the bus terminal. You can pay with cash on the bus but no change will be given, so save yourself the trouble and use the app. Reykjavík’s bus service is fairly limited once you leave the city, so if you want to explore more of Iceland it’s best to either hire a car or book yourself onto a coach tour.
The Reykjavík Appy Hour App is the best way to find out about the city’s happy hours; when, where and how good they are. You may have heard that alcohol in Iceland is expensive; use this app to save money and to ensure you are where the party is. Some bars in the downtown area will have happy hours that last for three hours. Make the most of this; in Iceland, opportunities to purchase alcohol from shops are more limited than you may be used to.
If you’re venturing to Iceland in the winter months, download the ‘My Aurora Forecast’ app. It will tell you where and when are the best places to see the northern lights. This app isn’t just great for Iceland; it will provide information for all of the countries where you can see the aurora borealis. For those that are keen to learn more about this natural wonder, the app offers statistics of solar activity and visual imagery of the sun. The app will even notify you for free when northern lights activity is expected.
Hiking/Road Trip Apps
For road trips, grab the Iceland Road Guide app. It’s more effective than Google Maps because it will explain what road signs mean for those that don’t understand the language or can’t decipher the symbols used. It’s the best app for Iceland road trips, as it contains detailed information about ‘Iceland’s 3000 most important places’ as the app describes it.
It also helps you find important amenity buildings such as gas stations, hotels, and restaurants. Two great hiking apps are Wapp and Locatify SmartGuide. Wapp contains hiking routes which can be downloaded and used as offline maps. Some routes are free, some require an in-app payment.
The app will also recommend other routes close to your location. Locatify SmartGuide offers audio guided tours for some of Iceland’s best spots, such as the Golden Circle and Vatnajökull, and even features a Reykjavík Downtown Walk guide.