I swear that’s all I said. I didn’t deserve what came next.
The head of Ragnar, our tour guide and bus driver for the company Bus Travel Iceland, snapped round and he glared coldly at me. “I can not give you information about Iceland on this tour if you will not listen to me” he declared. He turned back to face the road. The lecture continued. “If I have to stop for you to talk then we will miss things that I must point out to you…it is very rude of you to talk when I am talking”.
Stunned, I listened to his diatribe, replaying the comment in my mind. What had I done to deserve such censure? By now the others on the bus were asking what had happened, they hadn’t heard a thing. I felt embarrassed and the atmosphere became tense.
Before long, however, the beauty of Iceland once again captivated me and I put my feelings towards our less-than-friendly guide aside to enjoy the trip.
After an hour or so, Ragnar removed his microphone headset and the bus lapsed into silence. There were five of us in total and we started to chat amongst ourselves. We talked about travel and shared tips for Iceland—the awkward atmosphere gradually melted.
Suddenly Ragnar turned to my friend and I again. “I have already told you not to talk when I am. Why do you come on my trip when all you want to do is party, party, party? When we get to the next stop you can move to the back of the bus. I will not have 800km of this!” He did not direct any of his comments towards the others, who had been equally part of the conversation.
Gobsmacked, we all looked at each other. Did the guide really just say that to us? He had taken his microphone off; he hadn’t even been talking to us! Why was he picking on my friend and I when everybody had been talking? And what did he mean by ‘party, party, party’ when we had been talking quietly, not shrieking or screaming—we had barely even been laughing! We sat in stunned silence. Ragnar did not speak over his microphone again until we reached the next waterfall. When he spoke his narration was terse and clipped.
At the waterfall we convened with the other passengers out of Ragnar’s earshot. “What is happening?” we asked.
“I don’t know, but he really doesn’t like you two!” the others said. They assured us that his behaviour towards us was completely unreasonable.
As we walked back to the bus we decided that we would speak with him and try to clear the air. We were only two hours into a fourteen-hour trip. It would be a long day if we couldn’t get on with the tour guide. As we approached him, he tried to walk around the other side of the bus to avoid us. We followed him. Both of us hating confrontation we spoke to him politely and tried to explain that we did not mean to offend him but that we felt that we hadn’t done anything wrong either.
He threw his cigarette to the ground and shouted: “You are RUDE. I have only ever had two other people on my bus as rude as you are!” His face turned puce and he shook with anger. My friend, now furious, asked him if this was the way that he always treated his customers. “Do you think that you are customers?” he snarled. “Well, yeah, actually I do—I paid £100 ($165) for this!” she replied. He snorted and walked away.
Trying to retain some normality, a young man tried to engage Ragnar in conversation about the scenery. “How tall is the waterfall?” he asked. “I have told you that already” said Ragnar. “Why don’t any of you listen?” He got into the bus and started the engine.
Dutifully I climbed to the back of the bus; I didn’t want to sit so close to Ragnar any more than he wanted me there. An older couple from Yorkshire reluctantly agreed to switch places; in all honesty nobody wanted to sit near him.
After that Ragnar decided that he would continue the trip acting as if my friend and I were invisible. He wouldn’t speak to us, although he continued to glare at us in his rearview mirror—even angling it specifically to see us. He didn’t need to. From that moment on not a single word was spoken by anybody while we were in the bus. Periods of an hour, or longer, would pass without narration, but still nobody dared to utter a word. At the rest stops we would jump out of the doors like scolded children escaping detention, desperate to get away from him so we could talk.
Despite Ragnar the trip itself was enjoyable and Jokulsarlon, our destination, was breathtaking enough to take our mind off the unpleasant atmosphere in the bus. We enjoyed a Zodiac boat trip into the lagoon with a local guide who was charming, informative and pleasant. We wished he would swap places with Ragnar for the ride home.
On the way back, the skies became dark and the Northern Lights flickered faintly overhead. “Ragnar, could you please stop the bus a moment so we can take a picture?” asked another passenger. Ragnar’s response was to put his foot hard on the accelerator and drive like a maniac for the rest of the journey back to Reykjavik.
The next day I contacted the company to complain about what had happened. They apologised profusely for the behaviour of their tour guide and admitted that this was not the first time that he has behaved this way with customers (this is confirmed by other Trip Advisor reviews). They promised that the issue would be addressed. I did not receive an apology from Ragnar. Sadly, recent Trip Advisor reviews confirm that he still works for the company. I do not wish to be responsible for somebody losing their job, but I hope that he has received strong disciplinary measures.
It is a shame that he was so rude, as the tour was otherwise well-organised and one of the cheapest options available. They offer some of the smallest group tours that we could find. It was also one of the only companies that offered a tour to Jokulsarlon directly from Reykjavik. Without them, it would not have been possible for me to visit the place I most wanted to see in Iceland.
I would still recommend the company Bus Travel Iceland, but I would definitely avoid Ragnar!
Have you ever encountered rude and unprofessional behaviour when travelling? How did you deal with it?