Expensive Layover in Reykjavik : Blue Lagoon and Puffins.. and Why I’ll Never Use WOW Airlines Again

I couldn’t resist a stop in Iceland; on my way to Europe, I booked two long layovers to make the most of my four week trip to Europe and North Africa.

WOW Air
: No Frills budget airline.  Not sure if it was necessarily a cheaper flight (I booked everything in a hurry) but I was intent on stopping in Iceland.  Simple (uncomfortable) seats, food and drinks for purchase (VERY limited selection, bring your own food and drinks – I asked for the pizza on the menu and they tried to sell me cup o noodles), and no in flight entertainment (download your own movies and music before the flight).  On one flight the USB sockets didn’t work.  Keep your expectations low. Bring a water bottle and refill before you board because they won’t even give you water on the plane.

On my flight home from Paris to Reykjavik, the check in staff charged me 58 euro to bring my carry on. Apparently you’re only allowed one check in bag and one hand carried personal item.  I checked in my luggage, had a small backpack, and had one carry on item.  I asked the check in guy if my second paid item would go straight to my final destination and he said yes.  I paid the 58 euro and as I was leaving the counter but he called me back to get my paid second luggage.  He told me he made a mistake of only charging me for a carry on, not a checked bag which was only a few euro more, so I still had to hand carry it instead of checking it in like I had wanted.  After admitting he made a mistake, he offered to charge me a second time for the checked in bag price of 65 euro without refunding the original charge, or charge me an extra 24 euro to check in the carry on he already charged me for (!?!?!?!?).  I called for the manager who was just as unhelpful and incompetent as the check in boy.  They told me to contact the airline for a refund. Apparently the direct customer service is also just as bad and nearly non existent, so I don’t anticipate any response from the company.

In the end it was more like WOW…. NO, never again.  Avoid this airline if you can.  There are plenty of other reviews with worse experiences.

Iceland
First two things I noticed: the drinking water on tap is delicious and the air is so clean!

The Blue Lagoon : Treat Yo SelfPre book your tickets and try to go early at opening time if you can.  Later during the day, the buses pour in the tourists in hordes.  I got the basic package and that was all I really needed. Bring your own towel so you don’t have to rent one.  The more expensive packages include a robe.. I suppose the robe makes you feel fancy. Remember to pre hydrate and pre load your hair with the provided conditioner!

My only gripe was that there were literally only ten lounge chairs in the relaxation area for the entire place.  During my breaks from going in the water, I chose to sit on the floor on a towel since there was always a wait for the lounge chairs.  I left earlier than anticipated because there was no place to just relax and chill.  The cafe area was a zoo filled with tourists that didn’t want to go into the water.

The food at the Lagoon and the airport is really expensive (entree $20-50+), but I had to indulge in the salmon.  I’m assuming (hoping) that it’s antibiotic and dye free, unlike the farmed freaks of nature that we have in the States.

My second long layover required an overnight stay with much less time for exploring than my first layover.  Most of the layover time is overnight, so that kills much of my time spent in Iceland.  The cheapest and most practical accommodation I could find just to lay my head down was at Hlemmur Square for about $50ish a night.  I landed at 11:30pm and my head finally hit the pillow about 1:15am.  Transportation to and from the airport to anywhere was limited to two bus companies, both about the same $$$.  I was hoping to be able to do some quality nature nerding, but I was only able to fit in an express one hour boat tour to say hello to some local puffins with Special Tours, then a couple hours  of exploring downtown Reykjavik before catching a bus back to the airport.  In retrospect, I could’ve skipped the second layover entirely.  I spent as much in one fast day of doing very little as I did in my whole adventure in Morocco (apples and oranges, I know, but still).

Puffin Express Tour with Special Tours Reykjavik – me on three hours of sleep

Reykjavik
The small itself itself is pretty “meh”.  To me, every experience is an experience and I appreciate every moment and place for what it is.  I couldn’t figure out this city.  I saw lots of construction, hotels, bars, restaurants, and some small shops.  There were few landmarks to see like the two churches (I skipped one) and sculpture by the bay.  It mostly felt like a fairly new town constructed for tourists.  I didn’t do much research about Reykjavik, so if I’m totally off, please enlighten me, but I saw no real culture bedsides the Viking references.  All the food is expensive everywhere.  I almost treated myself to some Pad Thai (I’ve been in Europe and Morocco the past month and needed something different), but I couldn’t justify paying $23 for rice noodles.  I will go nuts with pizza and thai as soon as I get back to NYC!


**My personal favorites in Reykjavik**

Brauð & Co. – 16 Frakkastigur
I smelled this place down the block and had to come in.  I ended up ordering a cinnamon croissant that was heavenly fresh, crisp, and buttery. Cost me about $5 and was totally worth it.

Ida Zimsen – Vesturgata 2a, Grófin, 101
A super cute, lovely little cafe and knick knack shop where you can just relax and have a proper espresso or caffeinated beverage of choice. Apparently it’s also a bar at night.

Overall, my long layovers in Iceland turned out to be much pricier than expected.  If you have the money to burn, why not.  It can be a lovely place and you’ll leave with some memories.  To see the real magic if Iceland you’d definitely need more time than the advertised layovers.  Between the $$$ and my experience with WOW Airlines, sadly, I have no desire to come back, not even to see the Northern Lights.  If I’m spending this type of money on a trip it better be someplace mind blowing like Japan.

Approximate $$$$$$ 
Blue Lagoon – $100
Airport/Supermarket sandwiches -$10
Real food at a restaurant- $15-70
ex:–yogurt with granola $16
—- hamburger $23
—–entree $40
—–appetizer $17
—–soup $15
—–seafood buffet $70
(ended up never eating in a restaurant)
Bus transfer to Reykjavik/Airport -$23 each way
Hostel -$50+ one night
Breakfast buffet at hostel -$17 (did not indulge in this)
Puffin tour- $55
Souvenir magnet -$10-20

My sad dinner purchase from the supermarket for my flight back to NYC. I’m ready to go home and eat some real food!

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