Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in Europe. The good news is the U.S. Dollar – Icelandic Krona at 1 USD = 121 ISK is the most favorable exchange rate in more than two years. The exchange rate in April 2018 was down to 1 USD = 99 ISK, so the dollar is 20% stronger now. The US Dollar is at its best exchange rate in Iceland since July 2016.
When I booked a San Francisco to London round trip ticket for $270 on Icelandair in May 2018, the lowest fare deal required staying 27 hours in Iceland on the return flights. Or pay more, $330 for a round trip SFO-LHR ticket with no overnight in Iceland.
This would be my second time traveling from Keflavik Airport for an overnight in Reykjavik after flying to Iceland in April 2017 on a $69 WOW Air one-way ticket. I was mentally prepared for Priceland.
I figured the $60 airline ticket savings would cover the bus ride between Keflavik Airport and the FlyBus Reykjavik BSI station ($44 USD and the price of a cheap meal at the grocery store) on an overnight stay in Reykjavik.
My hotel cost could be free with points at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel Reykjavik (44,000 points).
That was my plan.
Until I changed my Iceland plan four days before departure.
How much are nightly room rates in Reykjavik, Iceland?
- Hostel shared room with shared bathroom $25 to $60.
- Independent hotel private room with shared bathroom from $60 to $100.
- Independent hotel private room with private bathroom $90 to $150.
- Major chain hotel with private bathroom $175-$400+.
The hotel reward night part of my plan was not satisfactory to me due to the price of the Radisson Blu Nordica at $194 USD per night meaning I was only getting $4.41 per 1,000 points redemption value.
My general hotel strategy is pay for rooms when the redemption value is too low and save points for when and where I find high value redemption opportunities. I aim for $7.00 per 1,000 points when redeeming Radisson Rewards points.
But I don’t pay $200 for a hotel room unless there is a huge points rebate associated with spending that much money. Since this was a solo trip in Reykjavik, I decided paying for one cheap hotel night would be the better way to stay and save my 44,000 Radisson Rewards points for a better redemption opportunity.
My red line is I don’t do shared bedrooms. I can handle sharing a bathroom, but I want a door to lock and be left in my own private space when I sleep.
REK Inn Reykjavik
There are many choices of accommodation in Reykjavik priced from $60 to $110 for a private room. My issue was that many of the places were unavailable two weeks before my arrival date when I actually looked to book an inexpensive room in Reykjavik.
Familiarity with Reykjavik motivated me to limit my room search to areas within 25 minutes walk of city center. I have walked outside city center in Reykjavik and I did not find much happening in residential parts of the city a couple miles away from city center.
I also wanted a room within 25 minutes walk of the BSI bus station where FlyBus Keflavik airport transportation arrives and departs in Reykjavik.
REK Inn Reykjavik looked like a good choice at 6,826 ISK for one night, which converted to $57.09 for my room night. REK Inn on TripAdvisor ranked #59 of 110 B&B/Inns in Reykjavik. Recent reviews on TripAdvisor are generally highly positive.
Google Maps showed REK Inn as a 23 minute walk from BSI Coach Terminal and a 23 minute walk to The Drunk Rabbit Pub, a location I remembered as being at the far western end of Austerstraeti, the major tourist area for restaurants and pubs and the government liquor store. The location looked fine for its proximity to the bus station and the primary tourist area for Reykjavik.
The clincher in choosing REK Inn was seeing a grocery store located next to the room. Buying food at the grocery store would cut my food expense by at least half. Plus, REK Inn offered shared kitchen facilities.
Arrival at REK Inn Reykjavik
I was off my flight and out the door of Keflavik with a round trip FlyBus ticket I purchased on the Icelandair flight from London for 5,200 ISK / $43.31 USD.
The first bus to Reykjavik departed full and the second bus I boarded left with only one vacant seat. The temperature was 35 F/1.5 C standing outside with a 15 mph windchill. I was cold.
When we arrived at the Reykjavik BSI coach station 45 minutes later, I pulled out my gloves, beanie cap to cover my ears and put on a long sleeve shirt under my sweater and coat before heading outside for my walk to REK Inn.
The contact for REK Inn emailed an access code to open the outside door with directions stating the key would be found in the open door room.
Room #001 REK Inn Reykjavik 72 square feet of room space
Room 001 window at the head of the bed is the same window seen in the photo showing the outside of the hotel and REK Inn name on the window. The entire REK Inn looked to be a single ground floor apartment subdivided into three private rooms. One double bedroom has a private bathroom and two single rooms share a bathroom.
This room ranks as one of the smallest rooms I have ever stayed. I measured the space as 11.5 feet long and 6 feet wide. The room consisted of a twin bed, hard plastic chair, small table with lamp and plug outlets on opposite ends of the room. The counter by the window was a plus.
The head of the bed set a few inches away from the room radiator heater was a minus. There was no way to sit up against the head of the bed comfortably, which meant either sitting in the chair and placing my feet on the bed or sitting on the bed with my back against the wall and placing my feet on the chair to sit and stretch.
REK Inn hotel website provides this descriptive statement:
Rek Inn welcomes guests to soundproof rooms appointed with satellite TV, pay TV, a microwave, a writing desk and a trouser press. They offer bathrooms fitted with a shower, terry bathrobes and bath sheets.
One of my primary complaints about the room I stayed in was the lack of soundproofing. After hearing a couple arrive to REK Inn while in bed with the front door about 4 feet from my head and the room wall between us, I felt I could hear them as well as if they were standing in my room beside the bed. I wore earplugs for the night.
The wall in room 001 seemed to be a makeshift metal partition and the entire place looked like an apartment that had been partitioned into three separate private bedroom spaces.
There was nobody I saw in the place when I arrived. Two other doors with room numbers were on the other side of the apartment entry way with one double bed room offering a private bathroom ($84).
A couch and two stools in the small living room. No TV in the room.
The best feature of REK Inn is a kitchen space with refrigerator, microwave, toaster and dishwasher.
There is no stove top for cooking. A hot plate is in the cabinet.
Dishware is available in cabinets. A bag of coffee was on the counter and a French press.
The door to the double room with private bath at REK Inn is seen to the left of the kitchen.
Hot plate on top shelf, pot and pan and a microwave for guest use.
REK Inn Shared Bathroom
Nobody was ever in the bathroom when I needed to use it. In fact, other than hearing people come into the hotel, I never saw anyone else until a bizarre incident at 6:30am the following morning.
Bonus Grocery Store next to REK Inn
Bonus Discount Store is one of Iceland’s main grocery store chains. The Skipholt store is the one adjacent to REK Inn and is a large market. They had most items, but I did not find any hot food there. I have been to other grocery stores in Reykjavik selling hot grilled chicken.
Bonus Store photo above is a different store than the one by REK Inn. My photo is the Kjörgarður Bonus store on Laugavegur, the main street for shops and restaurants in central Reykjavik that you will undoubtedly find is the primary populated street as you walk around downtown Reykjavik.
Bonus Store opening hours are limited so plan accordingly.
- Mon – Thu 11:00 – 18:30
- Fri 10:00 – 19:30
- Sat 10:00 – 18:00
- Sun 12:00 – 18:00
I lucked out in getting to the store just before closing on a Thursday evening to buy dinner and then leaving REK Inn at 10:00 on Friday just as the store reopened to buy yogurt for breakfast.
- Chicken salad 698 ISK = $5.82 USD
- Super grain crackers 319 ISK = $2.66 USD
- Dark Chocolate coffee beans 198 ISK = $1.65
6:30am at REK Inn Reykjavik
I probably had the best night’s sleep in a week at REK Inn. I was tired after walking around cold Reykjavik that evening and I fell asleep around 22:00 with my computer on my chest in the process of downloading photos from my camera card. Aside from having to get dressed and go to the bathroom around midnight, I slept until 5:30am.
In the morning I showered and made a pot of coffee and sat down on the couch to write in the quiet space of the common room.
Around 6:30am the front door opens and a woman wheels her luggage into the hallway. The door to my room 001 opened when she opened the front door. She walks in, looks at her phone and stands at the doorway of 001 looking at my room.
She says that she has booked the room and shows me her phone confirmation.
I notice her reservation is for Friday, which means her check-in time is 15:00 and not 6:30am. I tell her I won’t be leaving for several hours. Reykjavik is dark and cold outside and I am sitting comfortably on the couch writing and drinking warm coffee and perfectly content to hang out a few more hours at REK Inn.
She tells me she arrived from Canada and she will hang out. She spends about half hour sitting at the kitchen table, then joins me on the couch.
She pulls her hoodie over her head and stretches her legs out on a stool like I have and falls asleep, while I continue writing. After about a half hour, not feeling the same quiet ambiance I had been enjoying before company arrived, I decided to go back to room 001 and continue writing there.
And writing occupied my time for the next couple of hours before leaving REK Inn Reykjavik at 10:00.
I spent the next four hours wandering around Reykjavik pulling my roll aboard around the city. The weather was cold, about 34 F, but clear and warmer than the day before due to less wind.
Factoid from Icelandair flight: Iceland is the third windiest place on the planet and far more populated than the top two windiest locations. The factoid did not mention the other two windier locations.
All in all, REK Inn is basic accommodation at a discount price compared to average room rates for Reykjavik. I would not take my wife there. The situation is far too basic for her travel style.
While the Radisson Blu Saga Reykjavik would have certainly been more comfortable accommodation, I think I will find much better value for those 44,000 Radisson Rewards points when I need a hotel somewhere and there are no $60 alternative lodging options available.