Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Icelandair and Keflavik International Airport

Some of the selling factors for choosing Iceland were the fact(s) that: a) we could get a direct flight from Chicago; b) it was only about 6 hours each way; and c) it wasn't crazy expensive.

The cherry on top was that Icelandair was a pretty legit airline. Upon boarding, they give you a bottle of Icelandic bottled water (no need to wait 40 minutes for them to come around with a cart), the seats were comfy, they had foot rests (!), a USB port to charge your phone and free in-flight entertainment which included a variety of movies, TV shows and some weird commercials. 

They are so fly.

One thing I didn't expect was that we would be deplaning directly outside and taking a shuttle to the airport. I was kind of wearing flip flops (because it was hot in Chicago) and KEF was pretty chilly and windy when we arrived. Luckily, we weren't outside very long, but it was definitely brisk out there.

Keflavik International Airport itself was decent. Passport control was like a herd of cows. PRO TIP: If there is a crowd of people lined up to hand over their passports to the agents, go all the way down to the right (furthest from the entrance). It was clear the first several windows suffered from a traffic jam. Don't get caught in it.

The first thing we did was wait for our bags. That took a little while and people didn't know how to get out of the way. If I had to do it again, I would go to that market which is right next to baggage claim to get the ever important prepaid SIM card. Go straight to a cashier and ask for one. They will offer you at least two options. I think we went with the one that was around 1999 ISK (approx. $16). It ended up being a perfect amount of data. Don't forget to bring a paperclip with you if you have one of those phones where you need a pin to eject the SIM card slot.

Get the prepaid SIM card from the cashier, yo!

Once we got our bags and phone situation settled, it was time to get the car. We rented from Avis. Do not rent from Avis. I kid you not: we waited at least 45 minutes in a line where there were 4 people in front of us and there were 3 agents. I have no idea how it took that long. One customer - a very elderly fellow - was at the counter the entire time we were there. I was actually concerned that he was going to be on the same road at we were. 

Not so fly.
Avis tried to get us to buy their full insurance package for an extra $50 a day. We booed that. We did spring for the "sand storm and some other lava bullshit" protection (I can't recall the exact name). Turns out there weren't any sand storms, but I guess it's better to have insurance and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

Warning: Inspect the vehicle before getting in. Our guy said the car was in mint condition as he handed us the car inspection sheet. When we circled the car, it had some pretty gnarly gashes on the rear bumper. We took some photos, went back inside and had him initial the areas on the form. Don't want to get dinged for something we didn't do.

Rental car was not fully fueled up!

Warning: They claimed that the car had a full tank of gas. It didn't. We realized this about 5 km after we pulled out. I guess we felt accomplished after having discovered those gashes on the body of the car that we forgot to double-check that it was all gassed up. We snapped a picture of the fuel gauge + mileage and brought it up when returning the car. They hemmed and hawed about not being able to refund us any money because we had already pre-paid, but after some vigorous typing and consulting with his fellow agent, the dude gave us a slight refund. 

GPS is pretty worth it.
Now, if you know anything about Iceland, it's that there's one main road that goes around the entire island (Route 1 or "the Ring Road"). So, how can you possibly get lost in Iceland? It's pretty hard to do unless you're venturing into the wilderness (which we didn't do). We mainly depended on the GPS whenever the road got super winding (especially on the sides of cliffs). Another added feature was that our GPS warned us when there was a speed trap and we were going over the limit. Bring you GPS - or rent one. It was definitely useful.

Anywho... that was about all the fun we had landing into Iceland and getting ready to make our way into the "big" city of Reykjavik. But that is a story for another time.

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