Losing your baggage in Iceland
You’ve finally landed. As you saunter past immigration, you Instagram that cool stamp on your passport – baby, you’ve arrived in Iceland! All you have to do is pick up your bags and you are on your way to explore this magical place.
Thirty minutes later, you find yourself standing standing there watching the conveyor belt slowly move. That gut wrenching feeling over weeks of research and $$ looms over you. You pray to the travel gods – let this not be you. This is how I imagined my friend was feeling at the time this happened.
Unfortunately, this is quite the possibility in Iceland. It is one of the worst places to lose your stuff. Though this did not happen to me, I feel duty bound to write about this experience to help others prepare for such calamity. Plus I think it's a good exercise to think about this now in case this does happen to me in the future.
Please note this will not apply to you if you have:
- No budgetary limits
- Excessive amount of time planned to explore the island
The Service Counter
This is a necessary evil in order to begin the proceedings of reporting your lost luggage and you must do it immediately. They are located on the far right corner of the baggage claims area opposite of the Duty Free store. You'll notice that the counter will be surrounded by a line of forlorn bags. Proceed with caution.
I like to chalk it up to language barrier because their tone can be quite cold - let that not stop you. Calmly state your inquiry. Any hints of panic or hysteria in your voice will not earn you any sympathy - I think it's a tough love thing. This is why these Icelandic people are so strong and resilient. This is no place for coddling as expected of American customer service.
You will need to fill a form which requires you to outline your whereabouts. This is needed so that when they locate your baggage, you have the option of having it delivered to you. It will likely take them about 2 - 4 days to locate the luggage. They offer delivery to your location depending on where you are on the island.
Make sure you secure a copy of all forms you filled out and get a receipt which indicates the date you reported the lost luggage. This will be important later when you fie a claim. Also, get the telephone number for their lost baggage claim office. You will need to contact them to follow up on the status of your lost luggage. They will tell you that you need to contact your airlines, but I would insist on getting this information from them as well.
The Baggage Service
This is another spot in the airport that might be worth going to. Everyone we spoke to called it "Lost and Found". There will not be any signs for this place. Instead, look to your right after exiting baggage claims. It is located next to the snack store. The guys in the snack store do not speak English well. You will subject yourself to several minutes of head shaking and gibberish pointing if you inquire about a nonexistent lost and found - please be considerate and skip this step because you'll be holding up the line for customers waiting to pay.
The Baggage Service Area is basically a wall with a tiny window as indicated by the feature photo of this post. There is a monitor next to the window with a title of "Baggage Service". The window will always be closed, do not let that trick you into thinking nobody is there to help. You must persevere. If the infamous note is still there, it is definitely worth a read.
In the midst of our hunger and panic, we completely missed this place. It may have helped locate the luggage or maybe not. We only found out about this when we came back to later pick up the lost luggage. Though I haven't found much information online, I still think it's worth the effort to try.
The Rule of 3's
This is assuming you did not check-in your jacket and walking/athletic/hiking shoes + toiletries such as shampoo and soap is provided in the places you plan to stay. This is what I would have acquired if I had been the one who lost my luggage and had to get by for a 10 day trip. A lot of people would opted for less, but this is my minimum requirement to at least be comfortable:
- 3 shirts
- 3 undies
- 3 pairs of socks
- 2 pairs of pants
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- hair brush
- laundry detergent (pref powder)
- contact solution (if applicable)
Pants always go a long way, though I would always air it out after every use. For shirts, undies and socks, I use the Rule of 3's. This is something I learned while shopping for socks from a salesman in Sports Basement:
Day 1 - wear sock #1 then wash
Day 2 - wear sock #2 then wash, sock #1 is still drying
Day 3 - wear sock #3 then wash, sock #2 is still drying, sock #1 will be dry by day 4
Things to keep in mind when shopping in Iceland:
- It will be expensive and you will not have the luxury of having many choices - so stick to the basics.
- There are 2 major shopping centers in Iceland which are both located in Reykjavik: Smáralind and Kringlan. Outside of Reykavik, your option dwindles down to the shops in Akureyri - this is on the other side of the island.
- Please note that stores in Iceland close early.
- Keep a receipt of everything you purchased.
Day 1 took us to Kringlan, which we didn't find much. Though this is closest to the city center, I would suggest skipping it and heading straight to Smáralind.
Smáralind had nicer and more recognizable stores to us such as Zaras, Levis, Body Shop, etc. To get your basics such as underwear and socks, the best place is Debenhams in terms of price, selection and size variety. Smáralind also conveniently has a grocery store, Hagkaup to stock up on toiletries.
During our trip to Smáralind, we found ourselves in the middle of men's night. All the stores offered canapes and wine. While outside the stores an assortment of vendors had tables set up for free liquor, wine, beer, chips, soda, cheese, haircut and shaving. We had a great time table munching and hopping from one vendor to the other.
Experiencing Iceland would not be complete unless you take a dip in the geothermal pools. With that in mind, places such as the Blue Lagoon conveniently offers rentals ranging from $10-$20. If you are willing to shell out the money for a swimsuit, make sure to take care of this in Smáralind. I did not see much swimsuits being sold in shops in Iceland.
If your hotel/AirBnB/hostel do not offer this, there's only one place in Reykjavik that is available: the Laundromat Cafe. Kerri from Travel Junkies wrote a great post about their time hanging out at this place.
I would suggest getting some laundry soap in Reyk to take along with you on the road to freshen up your clothes.
Recovering your expenses
Sadly, most airlines do not offer sufficient compensation for your expenses. This was exactly the case for Wow airlines. I think my friend got little to nothing back from Wow airlines. A lot of airlines impose time restrictions for submitting claims. Make sure to do this as soon as possible.
Losing your luggage is unavoidable, the best that you can do is anticipate and take steps to mitigate its impact so that you can continue and still enjoy your trip. These are lessons I learned from this trip that I've since applied to all my trips:
- I book all my trips on my travel credit card - Chase. It has a comprehensive coverage on unforeseen travel events such as trip cancellations, interruptions and lost luggage. Take the time to inquire with your cc's to see if this is a benefit that you can take advantage of.
- Note down the airline and arrival airport's contact information for lost luggage. You will need this information to track you luggage.
- Carry-on my luggage as much as possible - this means packing light. If I must check-in, my carry-on always includes:
- Clothes, jackets and shoes which will be required for the trip + expensive/hard to replace.
- An extra set of undies and shirt that will get me through Day 1.
- A small set of toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes, deodorant and contacts solution).
We were lucky to have been able to pool our resources together to help supplement our friend. I have to give her a lot of credit for maintaining her enthusiasm throughout the trip while going through this. Remember that these things happen. You will find a way to get through the days without the things you think you need.