How to survive Keflavik Airport

Sóley Björk Guðmundsdóttir
Sóley Björk Guðmundsdóttir

As airports go, Keflavik Airport is pretty nice. But as Iceland’s tourism industry blooms the airport is getting more and more crowded. Don't get me wrong, they are doing their best. It's hard to keep up as the number of people travelling through Keflavik rises rapidly, as soon as one extension of the airport is finished, another one starts.

Here are some tips on how to make the best of it when you are leaving Iceland.

  • Queues in security are usually not long and go fast. Queues in check in/bag drop... well let’s say it depends on the airline.
  • Check ahead, if there are few planes leaving at the same time as yours. Well good for you, plenty of seats and the queues are not long.
    However, if there are many planes leaving at the same time as yours, the airport will likely be crowded. But no worries, you can prepare:
  • Eating on a budget? That’s actually no problem. A container of skyr at the Gourmet Food shop is a cheap and delicious meal. Pretending that candy from the same store is a proper meal and eating that instead (last chance to get to know the sweet part of Iceland’s culinary scene) can sometimes be a great idea as well.
  • Food allergies? A tad more problematic. Packing a bite before you head to the airport is the best way to go. There isn’t even a fine dining restaurant you can have as a backup plan, where the staff would have time to listen to your needs.
  • Packing a bite isn’t a bad idea if you know the airport will be crowded and you want to avoid the queues. It’s also cheap, which is important if you’re travelling on a budget. Of course everything liquid is off, but sandwiches, crackers with cheese and paté are fine.
  • If you were going to buy some strange food item to bring back but forgot it, you might find it at Keflavik Airport. Which is great, what other nation puts its eccentricities right there on the table for people to see? These items, like canned green beans and cereals, are something that Icelanders themselves grab as a gift for other Icelanders abroad. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of gourmet food and drinks you can grab with you from the airport if you’re not into the godknowswhytheyeatit food. And if you realize 5 minutes later that a person you bought it for doesn’t really deserve it. Eat it yourself!
  • There’s one bar in the airport, and it’s not all that big. You can buy a drink at the “diner”, or whatever to call it, but all the seats easily get taken on a busy hour. This might bother Icelanders more than foreign travellers as there’s an unspoken rule to have a drink at the airport before a flight, but don’t worry, there is a way. And it’s pretty simple, a sixpack of beer is very cheap at the airport (cheaper than outside of it anyway). You can’t buy a smaller pack in the Duty Free and likely you won’t drink them all before your flight, but drinking two and saving the rest for coming-home present is brilliant. There are also these lovely mini bottles of wine and strong drinks you can buy in the shops. You can even have unique local brews in these mini bottles. And there are plenty of seats that aren’t a part of any restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy.

Arriving in Iceland?

  • Almost every Icelander returning stops at the duty free and shops a bit before leaving the airport. The reason in simple, alcohol there is almost half the price as in the rest of the country, and in some cases even more. If you’re planning on having drinks in Iceland, and not in bars, a stop in the duty free is a great idea.
    It will also save you a trip to Vínbúð, the state run liquor store, as alcohol is not sold in supermarkets in Iceland.
  • If the airport is crowded and you have to wait for your bags, a walk through the store (yes, there is only one) is nice. And they sell plenty of candy.




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