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6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

Reykjavik is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and we will tell you the tourist traps to avoid in Reykjavik for your next trip.

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a charming city known for its unique culture and natural beauty. However, as with many tourist destinations, there are certain tourist traps to be aware of. Here’s a guide to help you avoid them and enjoy a more authentic experience.

Read here for things to know before visiting Iceland, best Iceland sim card for tourists and 9 Day Iceland Itinerary

What Is The Best Way From Reykjavik Airport To City Center?

The best way from Keflavik airport to city center is by shuttle bus with FlyBus to BSI Bus Terminal (located in Reykjavik city center) for €25 and you can book online.

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General Tips to Avoid Tourist Traps

Research and Plan Ahead

Use travel blogs, forums, and review sites to find recommendations from other travelers and locals.
Websites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews can provide up-to-date information and reviews.

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Engage with Locals

Ask locals for their favorite spots to eat, shop, and visit. They often know the best places that are not in guidebooks.

Explore Lesser-Known Areas

Venture into neighborhoods like Grandi, which is known for its emerging food scene and local markets, or Vesturbær for a more residential feel with local cafes and shops.

Avoid Peak Times

Visit popular attractions early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the biggest crowds.

Use Public Transportation

Reykjavik has a reliable public transportation system that can take you to most major attractions. Consider getting a city pass for unlimited travel.

Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik

1. Overpriced Souvenir Shops

Trap: Souvenir shops, especially those along Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street, often sell overpriced items.

How to Avoid: Instead, shop at local markets like Kolaportið, Reykjavik’s flea market, where you can find unique Icelandic goods at more reasonable prices. Look for authentic Icelandic products such as handmade crafts and local delicacies.

2. Blue Lagoon Crowds and Costs

6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

Trap: The Blue Lagoon is world-famous but often overcrowded and expensive.

How to Avoid: Consider visiting less crowded and equally beautiful geothermal spas like the Secret Lagoon, Reykjadalur Hot Springs, or Myvatn Nature Baths. These alternatives provide a more serene experience and are often cheaper.

3. Expensive Restaurants in Tourist Areas

6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

Trap: Restaurants in highly touristic areas like around the Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja often charge premium prices.

How to Avoid: Dine where the locals go. Try areas like Grandi Harbor or the Old West Side for more authentic and reasonably priced meals. Restaurants like Kaffivagninn and Sægreifinn offer local dishes at fair prices.

Read here best restaurants in Reykjavik and best breakfast in Iceland

4. Puffin Shops

Trap: Many shops sell overpriced puffin-themed merchandise aimed at tourists.

How to Avoid: For more unique and meaningful souvenirs, look for items from local designers and artisans. Stores like the Nordic Store and Hrím offer high-quality, locally made goods​​.

5. Northern Lights Tours

6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

Trap: Northern Lights tours can be expensive and there’s no guarantee of seeing the lights.

How to Avoid: Check the aurora forecast and head out on your own if the conditions are favorable. Places like Grótta Lighthouse and Þingvellir National Park are excellent spots for viewing the Northern Lights and are easily accessible from Reykjavik​​.

6. Whale Watching Tours

Whale Watching Tours, 6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

Trap: Some whale watching tours are overpriced and can be hit or miss in terms of sightings.

How to Avoid: Choose reputable companies with good reviews like Elding or Special Tours. They often have knowledgeable guides and higher success rates for sightings. Additionally, consider the time of year, as some seasons are better for whale watching than others​​.

How To Avoid Tourist Traps in Reykjavik

1. Research and Plan Ahead

    Why: Being informed helps you avoid overpriced or low-quality attractions.

    How: Use travel blogs, forums like Reddit, and review sites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews for current and reliable information. Websites like I Heart Reykjavik offer local insights and tips.

    2. Dine Where Locals Eat

    Icelandic Lamb, 6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

      Why: Restaurants in tourist-heavy areas often charge higher prices for lower quality food.

      How: Explore dining options outside the main tourist zones. For example, visit restaurants in neighborhoods like Grandi Harbor or the Old West Side. Highly recommended local spots include Kaffivagninn for traditional Icelandic dishes and Sægreifinn for seafood​​.

      Read here Icelandic food and best vegetarian food in Iceland

      3. Shop Smart for Souvenirs

        Why: Souvenir shops in tourist areas can be overpriced and offer generic items.

        How: Buy souvenirs from local markets like Kolaportið, Reykjavik’s flea market, where you can find unique Icelandic goods. Alternatively, shop at stores like the Nordic Store and Hrím for high-quality, locally made products​​.

        4. Avoid Overcrowded Attractions

        6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

          Why: Popular sites like the Blue Lagoon can be overcrowded and expensive.

          How: Consider visiting alternative geothermal spas such as the Secret Lagoon, Reykjadalur Hot Springs, or Myvatn Nature Baths, which are often less crowded and more affordable​​.

          5. Be Selective with Tours

          6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them

            Why: Some tours, like Northern Lights or whale watching tours, can be pricey with no guarantees.

            How: Choose reputable tour companies with good reviews. For Northern Lights, check the aurora forecast and try spots like Grótta Lighthouse or Þingvellir National Park for self-guided viewing​​. For whale watching, book with well-reviewed companies like Elding or Special Tours​.

            6. Use Public Transportation

            6 Tourist Traps to Avoid in Reykjavik (Travel Guide) And How To Avoid Them, Iceland Travel Tips, things to know before visiting Iceland, facts about Iceland

              Why: Tourist buses can be expensive and less flexible.

              How: Reykjavik’s public transportation system is reliable and cost-effective. Consider getting a city pass for unlimited travel on buses. Walking or renting a bike are also great ways to explore the city at your own pace​.

              7. Engage with Locals

                Why: Locals can provide the best recommendations for hidden gems and authentic experiences.

                How: Ask locals for their favorite spots to eat, shop, and visit. They often know the best places that are not in guidebooks or travel sites​.

                8. Explore Lesser-Known Areas

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                  Why: Lesser-known neighborhoods offer a more authentic experience with fewer tourists.

                  How: Visit areas like Grandi for emerging food scenes and local markets, or Vesturbær for a more residential feel with local cafes and shops​​.

                  9. Avoid Peak Times

                    Why: Visiting popular attractions during peak hours can lead to long waits and overcrowded spaces.

                    How: Go to popular sites early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the biggest crowds​.

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