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Spending 14 Hours With A Tour Guide Who Hated Me

[mks_boxquote align=”left” width=”150″ arrow=”0″]“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”[/mks_boxquote]Looking through the windows on the left-hand side of the bus, we could see the mountains rise dramatically from barren plains; the first snowfall of winter glinting from their peaks. I gasped and whispered, “it’s so beautiful here” to my friend sitting next to me.

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.

Ragnar exploded.

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.

One of Iceland's many beautiful waterfalls.
One of Iceland’s many beautiful waterfalls.

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. [mks_boxquote align=”right” width=”150″ arrow=”0″]“The others on the bus assured us that his behaviour towards us was completely unreasonable”[/mks_boxquote]

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.

[mks_boxquote align=”left” width=”250″ arrow=”0″]“The company 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”[/mks_boxquote]Bizarrely, Ragnar also has some very good Trip Advisor reviews and it seems that he can be an excellent tour guide when he wants to be, but not if he decides he doesn’t like you for any reason. But what that reason might be; Gender? Nationality? Age? Appearance? – who knows?

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!

Angry at Tourguide

Have you ever encountered rude and unprofessional behaviour when travelling? How did you deal with it? 

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  1. says:

    Wow, I cannot imagine how uncomfortable this must have been for you – and after paying a significant amount of money too! I’m so sorry you had to experience Jokulsarlon like this, but I’m glad you didn’t let it taint your opinion of Iceland – it’s such a beautiful country!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Iceland is too beautiful to be spoiled by one man. It was an unpleasant experience, but I will never hold it against Iceland or its people. Every other person I met there was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Jokulsarlon is too beautiful to let anything get to you, isn’t it?!

  2. Wow Ragnar sounds like an extreme odd ball! Can’t believe he didn’t even let people get a photo of The Northern Lights! Strange that they still employ such a loose cannon…

    Iceland looks epic by the way …

    1. Thanks for the comment. Iceland truly is epic, and so beautiful. Just don’t comment on its beauty if you have a psycho tour guide around!

      He may possibly have been worried about keeping to his schedule, or wanted to get home himself (it was almost 10pm), which would have been understandable. But he could have just said ‘Sorry guys, I have to be back at the office by a certain time but I will drive you back as quickly as possible so that you can look for the lights yourself’, instead he ignored the request and put his foot down.

      Strange, strange man!

  3. says:

    I’m sure this has already crossed your mind and it’s a bit obvious but all I could think was “the Basil Faulty of the tour guide world” except not funny…

    1. Yes, it was a bit like that (without the humour). After each thing he did I wondered if I had imagined it, but then it continued to get worse! 14 hours of being too afraid to speak is not that much fun!

  4. Jordan says:

    He really shouldn’t be working with the public. A bad experience worthy of an interesting blog post!

    1. Thanks for commenting. No, I don’t think he should work with the public either. Some reviews say that he is a very good tour guide, but it seems that he is unpredictable and that is not good. What if there were children on the tour – they probably would speak all through his narration. Would he scream at them too?

  5. I can’t believe Ragnar is still being allowed to give tours especially if they’ve received complaints before. Let’s hope there’s some nice ones in Iceland too.

    1. Thanks for the comment. We met guides on our other tours and they were all very nice people, so I think that Ragnar is an unusual species! I, too, am surprised that the company would keep him on. He was not just unpleasant, but very frightening. His anger was so real, I have never had anybody so angry at me before. If I deserved it, that’s one thing, but for somebody to be so angry at you for nothing is a horrible situation to be in. The more we tried to reason with him, the more angry he got – and anybody who knows me will say that I don’t shout at people so I did not even raise my voice when speaking with him. I am actually quite shy and will try to avoid confrontation. He actually screamed at us, it was quite humiliating really.

  6. My god that is absolutely shocking! How is that man still employed with this company? They must know word will get around and give them a bad name? I would have demanded every single penny back along with that apology! (maybe you should send them a link to this post?) ;D Glad you enjoyed the scenery at least!

    1. They did offer me a free tour as compensation, and I would actually use the company again – as long as they didn’t send Ragnar as the tour guide!

  7. Horrifying. Ragnar sounds deranged. I do have to say I’m disappointed that company has not dumped Ragnar before he goes all Ragnarok on other paying guests. In my opinion all should steer our travel spend and influence to their competitors. ”Sorry, bit of a loon, here’s a refund or a nice discount on your next visit, maybe Ragnar is off that day” is pathetic customer service, not something to be complimented.

  8. I agree. It seems crazy that they would keep employing a man who can go crazy with his customers. Even if he’s not like it most of the time, it’s too much of a liability the one time that it happens! Crazy man.

  9. says:

    Too bad I wasn’t on that tour with you, I’m GREAT at confrontation! Seriously, though, everyone has a bad day, but if you’ve chosen to be in the service industry, you have to be better at it than most at hiding it. I probably would’ve banded the five together and did a mini class-action by asking for a 50% refund. But then again, when you’re in a dream destination, no amount of money can re-do an experience.

    Two thumbs down for Ragnar!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I agree that he could have just been having an off-day, but he does that trip all the time: I will probably never do it again, and that is the memory I am left with. Thankfully, I am pretty thick-skinned, so I think of it as a funny story now (it was far from funny at the time, though).

      To be fair to the company, they offered me a free tour with them to compensate. I would have taken them up on it, but I had already left Iceland.

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